Should Canon S90/95 owners upgrade to the S100?

Many current owners of the highly regarded Canon S90 and S95 wonder if they should upgrade to the newest model, the S100. In a few words: not necessarily.

Reading the press releases before the S100 came out could lead many to think that the S100 would have a dramatic improvement in image quality over it’s predecessors. Gee, it has a new CMOS sensor and new Digic 5 processor. Unfortunately, improvements to image quality are not that dramatic, though overall image quality is every bit as good as its predecessors.

There certainly have been improvements but nothing earth-shattering.

The S100 has slightly better dynamic range than its predecessors, and images taken at high ISO are a tad less noisy. Honestly though, all things being equal such as proper exposure, few eyes would see a huge image quality difference between the three cameras. For the majority of us who typically reduce images in size or don’t make huge prints, the difference is barely perceptible.

Decide based on features, not image quality

So how do you decide whether or not to upgrade from the S90 or S95 to the S100? If you’re happy with your current model, my advice would be to base your decision solely on features, not image quality.

The S100 has better overall ergonomics than previous models though it’s still not the most comfortable camera to hold. But there is significantly less chance for the camera to inadvertently slip out of your hands. It has a nicely textured surface and new front and improved rear finger rests. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t drop the camera so use the included wrist strap.

Other S100 features that should figure in your decision include things such as a wider and longer zoom lens, a built-in Neutral Density Filter, faster continuous modes, full HD video (zoom while recording) and Flexizone.

If you can really use any or all of the new features, then by all means get the S100. You won’t be disappointed unless you’re expecting the responsiveness and image quality of a DSLR.

Latest model not always the best choice

But if you won’t make full use of new features, save your hard-earned money and keep your S90 or S95. As outlined in the article about my first impressions of the S100, the camera still needs improvement, particularly a faster lens at the longer end of the zoom. The S110, maybe?!

Don’t misunderstand me. I like the S100 a lot and plan to keep it. While I’m disappointed there isn’t a more dramatic improvement in image quality, the S100 still meets my expectations for still images. I can make use of its increased focal length  and faster continuous mode.

Bottom line

Remember, the “latest” model isn’t always the best choice, even if it’s a good choice. Your best choice may be to simply keep your current S90 or 95.

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