The Good: Compact form factor with manual control. Control ring gives a dSLR-like shooting experience. Excellent image quality for a camera of this class. RAW and JPEG shooting. Bright f\/2.0 lens. The Bad: No dedicated video record button. Pop-up flash can be obstructed by fingers. The Bottom Line: The PowerShot S95 is an excellent compact camera that will complement any photographer's arsenal, provided you don't need super-fast performance specs. There's an increasing demand for small cameras with manual controls, a demand fuelled by amateur photographers looking for a go-everywhere replacement for their digital SLR. Panasonic has had such a camera for a few years with the Lumix LX3, and its replacement the , and last year Canon answered back with the PowerShot S90, which features manual controls and a wide, bright f\/2 maximum aperture.\r\n\r\nWhile we really liked the S90, there were a few issues that this camera needed to resolve before making it a real contender for the crown. Enter the S95, then.\r\n\r\nDesign and features\r\n\r\nOne of the perennial complaints about the S90 was its tendency to slip out of the hand due to its polished surface. The S95 gains a textured exterior that helps allay any fears of accidentally smashing a $600 piece of kit to smithereens.\r\n\r\nLike the S90 before it, this camera features a rotating ring around the front of the lens that can be configured to change a number of shooting parameters, such as ISO, white balance and manual focus control. The button on top of the camera, labelled Ring Func., changes the parameter. A bright 3-inch LCD screen sits at the back of the camera; its resolution is 461,000 dots, but in use it's bright and very precise when reviewing.\r\n\r\nLens specifications are the same as the S90; 3.8x optical zoom with an f\/2-4.9 maximum aperture. There again is the annoyingly placed pop-up flash that rises underneath your finger when the camera is held normally.\r\n\r\nThe biggest gain that the S95 has over the previous model is HD video recording (720p) at 24fps with stereo audio. While there's no manual control for movie mode, white balance and colour mode adjustments are available. The S95 also adds Canon's new Hybrid IS technology, which corrects camera shake from a number of different directions thanks to a built-in accelerometer.\r\n\r\nSeasoned photographers will value the bracketing options: HDR-ready, which takes three shots at different exposures; and focus bracket, which takes three shots at different focal distances. Connectivity is taken care of via mini HDMI and mini USB ports. Note there's also an automatic HDR mode accessible from the scene mode menu.\r\n\r\nCompared to\r\n\r\nHere's how the S95 stacks up against these other do-it-all cameras:\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nCanon PowerShot S95 \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nOlympus XZ-1 \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n10-megapixel CCD sensor (1\/1.7-inch) \r\n12.2-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor (1\/2.3-inch) \r\n10-megapixel CCD sensor (1\/1.63-inch) \r\n10-megapixel CCD sensor (1\/1.63-inch) \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n3-inch, 461,000-dot LCD \r\n3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD \r\n3-inch, 610,000-dot OLED \r\n3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n3.8x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle \r\n4.2x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle \r\n4x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle \r\n3.8x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nHD video (H.264, 720p, 24fps) \r\nFull HD video (H.264, 1080p, 30fps) \r\nHD video (Motion JPEG, 720p, 30fps) \r\nHD video (AVCHD Lite, 720p, 30fps) \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nPop-up flash \r\nPop-up flash \r\nPop-up flash \r\nPop-up flash \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nPerformance \r\n \r\n \r\nGeneral shooting metrics (in seconds) \r\n \r\n \r\nTime to first shot \r\n \r\n \r\nJPEG shot-to-shot time \r\n \r\n \r\nRAW shot-to-shot time \r\n \r\n \r\nShutter lag \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nOlympus XZ-184.108.40.206.3 \r\n \r\nNikon Coolpix P3001.520.6 \r\n \r\nPanasonic Lumix LX220.127.116.11.3 \r\n \r\nCanon PowerShot S918.104.22.168.4 \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\nContinuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance) \r\n \r\n \r\nOlympus XZ-12.1 \r\n \r\nNikon Coolpix P3005 \r\n \r\nPanasonic Lumix LX52.6 \r\n \r\nCanon PowerShot S951.9 \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\nCanon rates the battery of the S95 at 200 shots, 20 less than the S90.\r\n\r\n\r\nImage quality\r\n\r\nThe S90's big strength was its image quality, and the S95 consistently matches it beat-for-beat. Colour rendition is accurate with particularly strong blues and greens. The camera seems to cope well with difficult exposures even in automatic mode, choosing to under- or overexpose using the exposure compensation accordingly.\r\n\r\nImages are clean and mostly noise-free up to ISO 400, though there is some digital processing visible on JPEG shots. The image stabilisation system does do well at slow shutter speeds, but it can't compensate entirely for shaky hands or low-light use without a tripod.\r\n\r\nLike the S90, the S95 is very competent with macro shots and the lens sharpness is very impressive, capturing clear detail across the frame.