Canon s90

Canon designs better rear control dial

Written by Gail Bjork

The rear control dial of the Canon s95 features a more pronounced ‘click’ mechanism that prevents unintentional changes to settings. For some, better late than ever.

Good news…but not for current Canon PowerShot s90 owners. You’ll have to buy the recently announced s95 to have a rear control dial that works the way it should.

Countless numbers of s90 owners have been frustrated by the much criticized free-wheeling control dial, which can be moved so easily that settings change without realizing it until too late. In a number of calls to Canon tech support, they told me that’s the way the dial was designed and there was nothing they could do to fix it.

One year later, Canon admits the problem by announcing it is fixed in the s95. According to their press release:

“The handling of the Multi-Control Dial has also been redesigned following feedback from owners of the preceding model. The dial now features a more pronounced ‘click’ mechanism, preventing any unintentional changes to settings.”

Thanks Canon. I spent $429 for my s90 plus it has $45 worth of accessories to fix the ergonomic and usability problems.

Current s90 users can still improve their control dial experience by purchasing an inexpensive device from Lensmate. But, in my opinion, we really shouldn’t have to do so. The dial should have worked.

Not going to upgrade

The s95 has some nice improvements but not enough for me to upgrade. However, for those who have been holding off buying the s90, the year-long wait for its successor has arrived.

s95 ergonomic improvements

The s95 has some much needed ergonomic improvements, though there still no grip to improve handling. And for some reason Canon removed the thumb rest on the rear of the camera.

The slip-resistance coating should make it easier to keep the camera from slipping out of your hand. As one photography forum participant put it, the s90 feels like a “slippery eel.”  This is one of the reasons many s90 owners purchased a custom grip.

Many will be pleased that the position of the ‘Ring Func’ and ‘On/Off’ buttons have been reversed on the s95.

Notable features and refinements on the s95

  • Sensor – Same size as the s90. According to Canon, the s95 has a High Sensitivity System that provides exceptional low light performance even better than that of its predecessor.
  • Faster shot-to-shot time – The s95 is far from a speed demon (Approximately 1.9 shots per second vs.  0.9 fps for the s90)
  • Auto ISO mode now lets you set the maximum ISO between 400 – 1600. You can also adjust the Rate of Change to Fast, Slow or Standard.
  • Hybrid Image Stabilization – refinements to the IS system prevent image blur during macro photography, counteracting angular and shift shake that becomes more pronounced when taking close ups.
  • Tracking Auto Focus mode – offers the ability to select objects from the center of the frame and track them if they move, or if the frame is recomposed. If it works as promised, nice.
  • High Dynamic Range shooting mode – improves the dynamic range in photos, with smoother transitions between darker and lighter colors. Three shots are taken at different exposures then combined together in-camera. This is similar to a technique used when editing photos. The camera must be mounted on a tripod and, according to the manual, image stabilization should be turned off.
  • High Definition video with stereo sound (720p/24 frames per second)
  • Correcting White Balance: Change the white balance in-camera after a photo has been taken. This has the same effect as using color temperature or color compensating filters.

Which to buy: s90 or s95?

Early user reports indicate that the image quality of the s90 and s95 are on par with one another, with a few mixed opinions that one is better than the other.  If I didn’t own the s90 and were buying today, I’d get the s95 because of the improvements. If you decide to buy the s90 and have problems with the ergonomics, plan on spending another $45 to get the camera into shape.

Will the s90 grip fit on the Canon s95?

No. Here’s more information on the grip for the Canon s95.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • Policeman0077.  The 300HS/SD4000 is a fine camera. A CMOS sensor is fine; in fact has a faster shot-t0-shot time than CCD sensors found in most small and subcompact digital cameras. I was very happy with the image quality from the SD4000. You can see some photos taken with it in my pBase gallery. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the camera.

  • My cousin want to buy a compact camera these days. And I recommend her both  Ixus 300HS and  Fujifilm F200EXR. Because of the apperance, she prefer the IXUS 300HS.
    But recently, someone told me that the image quality of CCD senor is better than that of CMOS sensor, espicaly in textile of the color and vibration of the color(I don’t know how to describe the difference.). What’s your oppion,Gail?

  • The Canon IXUS 300 HS (also known as the IXY 30S and PowerShot SD4000 IS depending on what country you live) has a much better control dial than the s90. However, the control dial on the newer model, the s95, is improved. I see you found the article on the SD4000 that explains several of the differences and similarities.

  • I saw another article by you, Gail. And find the main difference is the sensor.  The SD4000/IXUS 300 HS uses a 1/2.3 cmos sensor for fast speed in order to take 720p video.

  • How about the IXUS 300HS? It uses almost the same hardware though,the appearance and the control layout have a bit difference.

  • Christine, there have been one or two reviewers and several by those who have purchased the s95. I’ve looked at many photos and can’t tell the difference between them. The image quality of the s90 is excellent for a compact camera, and I expect the s95 to have the same. Even if it’s a tad better, you’ll be hard pressed to see a difference in normal viewing. A few other things: the textured surface has much improved the grip of the camera; still there are those who want to get Richards grip for better ergonomics. The flash is the same though has slightly rounded edges. So the impact of the whack when the flash pops up should be less. The s95 also has a faster shot-to-shot time, though it won’t bowl you over. If I didn’t own the s90 and was choosing between the two, I’d get the s95. Image quality appears to be the same and some of the improvements are worth it. Richard is developing a new grip for the s95 as the current one is not suitable. So if you get the s95 and decide you want a grip, wait until it’s available.

  • Hi Gail,
    You mention “mixed opinions about the tweaked s95 sensor” – I know it hasn’t even been 2 weeks since you wrote this, I’m trying to make a purchasing decision – is that still the case or have you heard any updates on this front?
    Also, you mention uncertainty on the relative image quality of the s95 with the s90 – have you heard anything to indicate either way?
    Thank you.

  • “The PowerShot S95 also offers Multi-Aspect shooting, with 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 4:5 formats supported.”  Would be nice to get an update that adds this to the S90.