s90 hints, tips, issues & links

s90 lensUseful hints, tips, issues and links to information about the Canon s90 digital camera.

Hints and tips for using the s90

Histogram– the histogram can be displayed in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes. However, it is not on by default. Enable it via the Custom Display menu. Fortunately, when the histogram is displayed in these modes, it doesn’t take up a lot of the LCD real estate.

Shutter speed – the s90 sometimes selects surprisingly low shutter speeds in P Mode when the camera is set to ISO. If you’re a P Mode user, raise the ISO or zoom out to increase shutter speed.

s90 control dialWatch those settings!! – the Control dial on the back of the s90 moves easily. If you touch it while taking photos, important settings may change without you realizing it. This happened when I was shooting in bright sunlight and, unbeknown to me, the camera switched to ISO 3200. Not good! With more practice and keeping an eye on settings on the LCD, I’m hoping to get a handle on this!

Fast lens not always so fastF-stop quickly increases when zooming; to take full advantage of the fast lens, shoot at wide angle. You can crop when editing.

Shooting RAW – To shoot RAW files, you must to select it the option via the Function menu. If you want to shoot RAW + JPEG simultaneously, you must select the combo from the Menu area. When shooting RAW+JPEG, and the shot to shot time is longer than shooting JPEG only.


Barrel distortion was automatically corrected (right image) with Digital Photo Pro.

Barrel distortion was automatically corrected (right image) with Digital Photo Pro.

Wide angle barrel distortion – If you shoot RAW at the widest camera angle, you will see a large amount of barrel distortion when photographing subjects with straight edges near the side of the frame. The camera does no RAW processing in the camera.

Lens distortion can be corrected via the Lens Aberration Correction control panel using the Digital Photo Pro software that came on the CD. Other photo processing programs may correct lens distortion too. Good news for JPEG only users, JPEG files do not show a large degree of the distortion as the files are processed in-camera.

Lens “sweet spot” at wide angle – The sweet spot of the lens at 28mm is between f2.5 and f4.5. Corner softness is minimal at these settings and at some f-stops in this range, images are very sharp.

White balance – In my experience, the s90 white balance is quite accurate, maybe too accurate at times. When using Automatic White Balance, it may not adjust correctly after previewing images on the LCD if the camera is pointed at something other than the next subject. The solution is to frame the new subject, click the shutter button halfway to reset the white balance, and then press the shutter button half-way again to lock focus and exposure prior to taking the shot.

LCD brightness– To view the LCD at maximum brightness, depress the DISP button for a second. To return the LCD to the same level of brightness set via the Menu, hold the DISP button down again for another second.

Deleting image files from a memory card – Unlike many current digital cameras, the s90 gives you the option to delete just RAW files, delete just JPEG files, or delete both RAW + JPEG.

Digital zoom

Use the digital zoom with caution

Digital Zoom – The choices are 1.4x, 2.3x and Standard, which goes to 15x. In a pinch and in decent light, 1.4x and 2.4x are okay. There is degredation of image quality but images are passable  if you reduce them in size or make small prints. Personally, I keep the digital zoom to OFF. View sample image (large file).

Low light mode – up to ISO 12800. Resolution automatically drops in this mode and there is a significant loss of image quality. Use as a last resort.

Memory card – the s90 takes up to a 16 GB card. I use Sandisk Extreme III.

Filter adapter – if you buy a third party filter adapter, it may block the flash at wide to mid angles, causing shadows in one or more corners. This happens whether or not a filter is attached.

Issues on some s90 cameras that may need repair

Clicking sound from loose cover – Some report a loose cover that makes a clicking sound when the area is pressed down (top left side of the camera where it says “PowerShot S90 Image Stablizer”). This does not concern some owners; others exchange or return the camera. My s90 does NOT have the problem. If it did, I’d exchange it. However, I’d keep the camera until the store got me a problem-free replacement. I’d test the new one before I left the store since sometimes defects like this come in lots.

Optically decentered – don’tch love the word?! A few owners say that their s90 is decentered: One side of an image is blurred much more than the other side. The problem is rare and not unique to the s90. Some admit that most users won’t even notice the problem. So, if the problem isn’t readily evident, why go looking for it?!

Canon information and support

A collection of resources regarding Canon s90/95 Tips & Accessories.

Visit Gail’s pbase gallery for sample photos taken with the Canon s90.

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