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Canon PowerShot S90 Review

written by: Stephen Ip•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/15/2010

With the release of the PowerShot S90, Canon has made the buying decision a little harder for those shopping for a high end compact digital camera.

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    Canon PowerShot S90 The Canon PowerShot S90 is a high end compact camera with advanced features for photographers looking for a pocket friendly companion to a DSLR. The shape and size of the PowerShot S90 is similar to the popular Panasonic Lumix LX-3 and has comparable features for those looking to get the best image quality from a point-and-shoot camera.

    This review will provide some of the key features of the PowerShot S90 along with the pros and cons of the camera. In addition, I will give my recommendation based on my own experiences with the camera and provide a quick comparison to competing models.

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    PowerShot S90 Features

    The Canon PowerShot S90 has the basic features that every photo enthusiast wants from a point-and-shoot camera. It has a 3-inch LCD screen, a 10.0 megapixel image sensor and a zoom range starting at a wide focal length of 28mm. Additionally, the PowerShot S90 has features to satisfy photographers looking for more control and improved image quality.

    The full range of manual controls on the PowerShot S90 allows users to determine the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings for each shot. The ability to focus manually is useful in low light situations where the camera's focusing system may have trouble locking on a subject. Shooting in one of the manual modes also lets the photographer decide when to use the camera's pop up flash.

    Canon's focus on image quality is seen in their decision to use the same image sensor in the PowerShot S90 as that used in the Canon PowerShot G11. Canon G Series cameras are often regarded as the best compact cameras available for serious photographers. The large 1/1.7-inch image sensor in both cameras were designed to provide excellent image quality and good high ISO performance. While the PowerShot S90 may not offer the image quality available from a DSLR, pictures taken with this camera are amongst the best from a point-and-shoot camera.

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    Pros and Cons

    As with any camera purchase, it is important to consider the pros and cons. Even though the PowerShot S90 is a great compact camera, there are a few downsides to take note of before making your purchase. Here are a list of pros and cons for the Canon PowerShot S90.


    • Large 1/1.7-inch image sensor
    • Bright 3-inch LCD display
    • Good high ISO performance
    • Wide angle lens with large f/2.0 maximum aperture
    • Compact and lightweight
    • The ability to capture images in RAW format


    • High MSRP of $430
    • No hot shoe mount for external flash unit
    • Limited 3.8x zoom
    • Shorter battery life than many compact cameras
    • No optical viewfinder

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    Rating Average

    I have used the Canon PowerShot S90 for a couple weeks now and my initial impressions are very good. The image quality is better than other lower end point-and-shoot cameras I have used. The wide angle lens and large maximum aperture make this a great camera for the type of photography I enjoy. While I have not tried much low light shooting with the PowerShot S90, reviews I have seen all suggest this camera does better in higher ISO situations than most compact models.

    As a former Panasonic LX-3 user, I have to admit the image quality is not as good as that of the LX-3. However, the Canon PowerShot S90 does offer slightly more zoom range in a more pocketable package.

    Since I have not used a PowerShot G11, I cannot make any direct comparisons between the two cameras. Reviews I have read mostly favor the PowerShot G11 in terms of image quality and high ISO performance. The downside of the PowerShot G11 is the size and weight of the camera.

    In the end, I think the PowerShot S90, PowerShot G11 and Panasonic LX-3 are all great advanced compact cameras. The decision to pick one over another will ultimately come down to the photographer's needs and preferences. Having held a PowerShot G11 and owned the LX-3 and PowerShotS90, my choice is the PowerShot S90. The combination of image quality, high ISO performance and portability make it perfect for my needs.

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    PowerShot S90 Sample Images

    Landscape sampleMacro sample