I recently pre-ordered the Canon s90 despite the fact that it lacks two features I’ve always considered top of the list when purchasing a digital camera: it has no viewfinder and the maximum zoom reach is only 105mm equivalent. This is at least two times less than any small, compact digital camera I’ve purchased during the last few years. Yes, it starts at a moderately wide angle (28mm equivalent), but a longer reach has always been more useful to me than a wider area.
So why am I buying the s90?
In two words: sensor size.
The s90 sensor is 1/1.7.” Most cameras in it’s class have smaller sensors, which means taking photos in low light is a challenge and often results in images full visible of noise.
While certainly not on par with a digital single lens reflex camera, judged on the sample images I’ve seen, the s90 should do exceptionally well at high ISO numbers up to 800 and produce very good images at ISO 1600.
Contributing to the improved high ISO performance is the fast f/2.0 aperture at wide angle. Few compact digital cameras have an aperture this large. For those who like taking photos with shallow depth of field to blur a background for close-up and portrait shots, the f/2.0 lens provides that creative control.
The camera has sensitivity up to ISO 3200 and a Low Light scene mode with an astonishing 12,800 ISO! I seriously doubt images taken at these numbers will be very usable.
No viewfinder, short zoom
Though I mourn the loss of the viewfinder, the truth of the matter is that I hardly used one when framing shots with a sub-compact or small camera. I use the LCD, except on rare occasions.
The LCD on the s90 has almost twice the resolution of my other cameras: approximately 461,000 dots. Couple that with a three inch wide viewing angle screen, and image stabilization, I think I’ll be just fine.
As to the short zoom, I’ll simply have to move in closer to a subject with my feet. When I can’t, I’ll have to “zoom” in when editing photos by cropping.
Interesting feature: s90 control ring
The s90 has an interesting feature, a customizable control ring for quick access and operation of manual and other creative shooting settings. According to Canon, focus, exposure, ISO, step zoom, and white balance can be adjusted more precisely. The control ring works by rotating it in a similar fashion as when rotating the lens on a DSLR.
Other s90 features
The Canon s90 also has a host of other features found on other digital cameras: Scene modes, Face detection, Panorama mode, Special effects and Movie mode. It’s been designed to be cold-resistant and shock-resistant.
Unlike most compact digital cameras, the s90 has manual and semi-automatic controls. It also takes shots in the RAW file format.
The s90 will be my carry-at-all times camera. As soon as I receive and get a chance to use the s90, which hopefully will be mid-October, I’ll post my findings. Based on the flurry of interest in photography forums all over the net, there is a waiting list for the s90. If you’re interested, pre-order and wait in line.