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Canon PowerShot S95 photo samples

Although I wish the JPEG files were less compressed and better optimized--raw looks visibly better in many cases--the Canon PowerShot S95 still delivers some of the nicest photos we've seen in a camera its size.

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Lori Grunin
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1 of 11 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

Noise

The S95's JPEG photos are exceptionally clean and relatively usable up to ISO 400; plus, you can probably squeeze out a stop more if you shoot raw. That's a lot better than your typical ultracompact.
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2 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise, S95 vs. S90

These shots were taken a long time apart, so they're not identical, but I think they're close enough to see some subtle tweaks to the noise reduction between the S90 to the S95, for the better. (1/20 sec, f2.5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, AWB)
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3 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Raw vs. JPEG

You can get significantly better image quality out of the S95 if you shoot raw (here processed with Canon's DPP software, as Adobe's ACR support isn't available yet). It's disappointing that Canon uses the same set of JPEG options in the S95 as its consumer-focused PowerShots, namely there's no low-compression JPEG option (formerly Superfine): the best is about 1:12. (1/20 sec, f2.5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, AWB)
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4 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise and exposure, ISO 800

Comb-over and stage lighting notwithstanding, the S95 did a pretty good job for a compact camera. Despite the high-contrast light and high-ISO sensitivity, it preserved the dynamic range and color saturation. (1/80 sec, f4.9, ISO 800, spot metering, AWB)
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5 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Distortion

Given that the S95's lens is a relatively narrow 28mm-equivalent at its widest, there's a fair bit of asymmetrical distortion.
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6 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Wide aperture

Just a reminder, this is one reason why an f2.0 lens is so nice: it's a close-up wide angle shot, but still manages to have a nice shallow depth of field. (1/1,600 sec, f2.0, ISO 100, spot metering, AWB)
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7 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Color

Though our quantitative test results report that the S95 has relatively accurate color, the camera seems to push the saturation aggressively.
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8 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Color, raw vs. JPEG

Here you can see the effect of the camera's oversaturation in the JPEGs; the yellow is pushed so much you lose detail. (1/1,600 sec, f2.0, ISO 100, spot metering, AWB)
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9 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Sharpness

Overall, the S95's lens is pretty good, and it certainly displays better edge-to-edge sharpness than most compacts. This probably would have been even sharper if the wind hadn't been blowing. Though it looks like it was shot with flash, it wasn't.(1/60 sec, f5.6, ISO 100, spot metering, AWB)
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10 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Midrange detail

Unfortunately, the S95 is just as bad as most compacts when it comes to resolving detail in the middle-to-end of the zoom range. Part of the muddiness can be attributed to the overzealous JPEG compression as well. (1/60 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, evaluative metering, AWB)
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11 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Fringing, raw vs. JPEG

Though the S95 doesn't produce a lot of fringing, there is some. It's fixable if you shoot raw, though. However, you can also see the big difference between the best-quality JPEG results and just a little tweaking of the raw. Though the two shots were a simultaneous raw+JPEG capture, applying distortion correction using the DPP software results in a mismatch between the two (that's why you can see a bit of scaffolding on the left for the raw shot).

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