The Canon SD4000 and S90 have a few things in common but they are quite different digital cameras. The SD4000 is slightly smaller and lighter, and much more sleek. It has less features than the S90 but is also less complicated to use.
If you’re trying to decide which of the two cameras to purchase, this practical look at the SD4000 and S90 will provide you with helpful insights.
Look and feel
Two things struck me when I first took the SD4000 out of the box: it’s sleek, minimalist design and that it was heavier than expected.
But when holding it, it feels good and solid. Unlike the slick surface of the s90, the matte black textured surface of the SD4000 gives confidence that it won’t easily slip out of your hand.
The Control Dial
I can’t discuss the s90 without warning others about the free-wheeling rear control wheel. I’ve written extensively about my displeasure with it, as many others have, so won’t repeat myself here.
Suffice it to say that by comparison, the SD4000 control wheel is a pleasure to use. It doesn’t move when you inadvertently touch it when taking photos. Thankfully, settings don’t change unless you want them to. The control wheel on the s90 is made of better material, but what’s the advantage if it doesn’t work correctly without spending money on fixes such as a custom grip and control wheel device.
Menus and buttons
The names of some functions typically engraved on the back SD and other cameras are missing from the SD4000 (eg. the trash can icon for deleting images). So you must take time to learn to navigate.
For Canon camera users, learning to access functions via the menu will be quick and easy. For those unfamiliar with the Canon interface, it will take a bit more time. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it intuitive and a pleasure. Instructive, on-screen prompts appear when you press the rear control dial (the prompts can be shut off).
By comparison, the S90 is a much more complex and feature-rich camera, with buttons and dials to access key features without going into a menu. Photo-enthusiasts and serious photographers love these bells and whistles. But casual photographers, and enthusiasts who simply want a camera to enjoy and easily carry in a shirt or pants pocket, will appreciate the simplicity…and image quality…of the SD4000.
If you’re looking for a small camera with lots of sophisticated features such as full manual control, flash compensation and the ability to shoot RAW, the SD4000 is not for you. But it does have a higher degree of control than many digital cameras in its class, such as Aperture and Shutter Priority modes.
What the SD4000 has that the S90 doesn’t is a much faster continuous shooting mode at full image resolution. Parents and grandparents who want to photograph fast-moving children will find this a most welcome feature. The SD4000 also has High Definition video with stereo sound. Unlike the S90 (VGA), you can use the optical zoom while recording movies.
The S90 has about every advanced feature that is possible packed into a small camera, except a hot shoe. If you’re looking for a similarly equipped camera with a hot shoe, take a look at the Panasonic.
The SD4000 LCD
The specs for both cameras claim that the screen size is 3″ color with wide viewing angle and it’s true. The SD4000 has 230,000 dots and the S90 has 461,000 dots.
But unless you’re shooting video, the viewing area of the SD4000 LCD is actually only about 2.5.”
The right and left sides are darkened so you can frame photos in the correct aspect ratio. Subjects appear smaller than those viewed on the S90. However, the screen on the SD4000 appears brighter so it’s not difficult to see or use. Most display information, such as shooting and exposure modes and ISO, are located in the two darkened areas rather than overlaid on the image.
The built-in flash
The flash on both the SD4000 and the S90 are typical of built-in flashes on compact digital cameras: small and not very powerful. But the flash on the s90 is slightly better and the output can be adjusted (flash compensation).
The flash on the SD4000 is built-into the front, left side of the camera – easy to cover with your fingers. The s90 flash, located on the top left, pops-up automatically if not set to OFF. Initially it may startle you as your fingers are unexpectedly and abruptly knocked upward.
With both cameras, you must be aware of the flash when needing it, and adjust your camera grip accordingly.
Price: Are the SD4000 and S90 really the “same” price?!
As of this writing, the Canon S90 sells for about $100 less than when I bought it about a year ago. So currently, the S90 and SD4000 are close in price.
Keep in mind that, like many, you may end up having to spend approximately $45 (including shipping) for a custom grip or control wheel device to improve the ergonomic flaws of the S90.
Let’s hear from you
Do you own either the SD4000 or S90? Share your thoughts about them in the Comment section below.
Sample photos taken with the sd4000: