Canon s90

s90 control dial can ruin photos

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Functions are automatically assigned to the s90 Control Dial, depending on which function is assigned to the Control Ring. Unless you keep a watchful eye, photos can be ruined.

Cute, huh?!

Cute, huh?!

One thing about the the Canon s90 continues to frustrate me, and evidently some professional reviewers find it frustrating too.

In my case, I’ve ruined some photos because the camera changed the ISO without my knowledge and consent. Initially, I couldn’t figure out why.

I’ve taken several photos and a good number were unusable because the camera had, unbeknownst to me, changed to ISO 3200. Hey, the s90 does very well at most high ISO settings but ISO 3200 generally sucks.

Finally it dawned on me that it was the rear Control Dial that was changing the ISO. The Control Dial rotates easily, too easily, on my camera and it can rotate if I touch it while taking or previewing photos. For some who keep their camera turned on, the dial may move if the camera is carried via a neck-strap.

Initially, I couldn’t understand why the Control Dial changed the ISO setting. There is no where in the menus to assign a function to it, like you can with the front Control Ring and the rear Shortcut button.

Functions automatically assigned to Control Dial

Then I read page 98 in the manual. I did read the manual but somehow missed this.

Functions are automatically assigned to the Control Dial, depending on which function is assigned to the Control Ring. I primarily use P Mode and had set the Control Ring to Exposure Compensation. When the Control Ring is set to EC, the dial automatically is set to adjust ISO (even if the Shortcut button is set to ISO).

Oh, great.

Serious flaw

I personally consider this scenario a serious flaw. First, as already pointed out, the Control Dial moves too easily. When you should be concentrating on composing and exposing shots, you have to think instead about keeping your fingers away from the dial or constantly keep an eye on the lower right-hand corner of the LCD to monitor the setting.

s90 with a twist

Obviously, I can’t keep the Control Ring set to Exposure Compensation. I’ve now switched it to ISO. When the Ring is assigned to ISO, the Control Dial is set to Exposure Compensation. At least, if the dial moves, I can more readily see if the exposure changes on the LCD.

I’ve also inserted a twist, as shown in the accompanying photo. Looks terrible, but it stops the Control Dial from inadvertently moving while not interfering with other functions such as changing the flash mode and  self-timer.

I hope Canon comes up with a firmware solution to this though I doubt it. Maybe future S cameras will get it right. Too bad for those of us who paid over $400 for the current model.

To keep or return the s90

I’ve personally decided not to return the s90 because I like the image quality and high ISO performance.  I’ll  just learn to live and work with the Control Wheel. But there are others like me who consider the problem so annoying that they’ve returned the camera.

It’s important to point out that there are s90 owners who do not consider the free-wheeling Control Wheel a problem.  They’ve described ways to hold the camera to avoid touching the wheel. Personally, I consider most of them very non-intuitive. I’ve owned over a dozen digital cameras, and used plenty of others. The s90 is the only one I’ve had to fuss with in this manner.

If you’re considering the s90, think about how much you are willing to babysit a camera.

s90-grip-closeupUpdate: a good solution to the control wheel problem

For those who have problems with the control wheel, consider purchasing the custom grip for the s90 made by Richard Franiec. I’m very enthusiastic about it because I can now take photos without having to worry about the dial moving! [Read why]

Other methods to “fix” the loose s90 control dial

Some creative individuals adjust the friction of the loose control dial by removing the inner ring and wedging a thin piece of material, such as plastic, between the two rings. Those who have used one of these methods say it’s easy to implement. Others express concern about voiding their warranty. Read the entire thread before deciding.

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


  • Chris, with all my hanging out in photography forums, I was unaware of this the s90 Control Wheel Solution until your comment here. I’ve ordered it and will post a review of it as soon as it arrives. I got an “out of office” reply from Lensmate so it won’t be shipped until the 26th. Hope it works and, if you have the time, share your our experience about the Solution with us.

  • Correction:  The product is called “s90 Control DIAL Solution” at Lensmate.   Does anyone know if it would affect the camera’s warranty?

  • Has anyone tried the metal ring sold as the “s90 Control Ring Solution” on the Lensmate site?  I just ordered one along with Richard’s custom grip (at the same site) so hopefully my “freewheeling” days will be over soon.

  • For I am a Mechanical Engineering student, I think the dial need a stop motion mechanism. Just like the one in the mouse wheel with comparatively  high damping.  The engineer should not make this minor mistake in it’s high end compact camera.

  • Hi all – have any of you had issues with the control dial not working? Mine was working and is now seemingly stuck and won’t budge. Not sure what is causing this. Any fixes?

  • Yes, evidently the Control Wheel moves more easily on my s90, as it does for many others. Glad yours is not as sensitive. I will send mine to Canon to take a look after the holidays. Otherwise, I’m very pleased with the camera.

  • Hola again Gail, you know I’ve read so much about the control dial’s fluidity and after reading it here, I decided to play a little and while I do notice free movement of the outer ring, (0n mine at least) it takes some degree of pressure to change a setting whether in P, Av or TV. I didn’t experiment with M. I can lightly run my finger completely around the dial multiple times in succession without changing a setting. Is yours more sensitive than this? In P mode I have it set -1/3 stop and it hasn’t varied yet unintentionally.

  • As pointed out in my article, the degree of free-wheeling of the s90 Control Dial varies. For some, like me, it is moves easily at the slightest touch and is particularly problematic when taking photos in rapid succession such as when I recently photographed go-carters. I did not return the camera but sure am going to send it back to Canon to take a look after the holidays. Glad your camera doesn’t have the problem to the degree some of us do.

  • I also have an s90, which performed beautifully on a two-week trip to Bali.  After one or two experiences where the back dial slipped settings, I simply learned to check before shooting. It’s really not a big deal, and certainly not returning this little gem because of it.