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Is the Canon PowerShot S95 a worthy update to the S90?

Canon's standout enthusiast compact, the S90, gets updated with HD movie capture, but little else.


Over the past year I've had several readers tell me various reasons they didn't buy Canon's enthusiast compact, the PowerShot S90. Everything from no HD movie capture and the lack of an optical viewfinder to no righthand grip and not enough zoom range. (I agree with the first two, no so much the latter two.) Well, the S95 was announced Thursday, and though there are a couple worthwhile "improvements," it looks like S90 owners might want to stick with what they've got.

The S95 uses the same larger-than-usual 1/1.7-inch type high-sensitivity CCD sensor found in the S90, and well, the bulk of the remaining features and design are pretty much the same, too, including the f2-4.9 28-105mm-equivalent lens and poor flash placement. It does have new Hybrid IS image stabilization, which "employs both an angular sensor and an accelerometer, enabling it to suppress both the blur caused by the angle of the camera and the "shift blur" that happens when your subject moves parallel to the camera, a problem that is especially noticeable at large zoom factors." The S90 is a nice camera for close-ups, so this should make the S95 an even better macro shooter.

So really the only significant difference is the addition of 720p HD-quality movie capture and two mics for stereo sound. There's also a new HDR mode that combines three shots at different exposures into one photo with better highlights and shadows. but that's not much of a reason to upgrade. (It apparently needs to be on a tripod to do this, too.)

Look for the PowerShot S95 in late August for $399.99. By the way, Canon called the S95 a sibling to the S90 in the press announcement, so it's possible the S90 will stay around a little longer at a lower price.

Compared to Panasonic's LX5, the S95 is sort of a letdown, though. It is slightly larger than the S95, but it's a more flexible camera, if only for the fact it has add-on viewfinder options. What do you think? Is the S95 a worthy update after a year?

Editors' note: I messed up. In my original post I said the S95 has a BSI CMOS sensor. It does not. It uses the same high-sensitivity CCD sensor found in the S90. Thanks cgawlak for the heads up!