Canon Powershot S90
DSLR price and pretensions
The S90 delivers absolutely flawless photo quality with impressive noise characteristics, even at high ISO speeds. Apart from some mild luminance noise and softening of detail at the highest end, the level of noise favourably compares to some of the best entry-level DSLRs and is far above any other point-and-shoot or compact cameras. Colour quality was pretty accurate too, if a little bit on the cool side. Also, exposure and white balance were, in line with Canon’s tradition, generally first-class from the S90.
Excellent images, but at a price
With this backdrop of image quality excellence, it was rather disappointing that camera handling was not matched by a similar performance. The S90 is a slow shooter with one frame per second in continuous shooting and a significant shutter lag delay, half a second to focus and shoot in normal light conditions. This could be a real disadvantage, as it makes an otherwise brilliant and versatile camera totally unsuitable for fast moving subjects.
Another disappointment was battery life. The already diminutive 220 shots turned out to be far less during testing, to a level that is not quite acceptable considering that most compact cameras have double the battery life span of the S90. Finally some users might be put off by the Movie mode with its maximum VGA-quality, and at a time when HD video recording starts to make an appearance on mobile phones.
Using the S90, the combination of user-friendly technology, small size and sheer DSLR power is quite addictive. With this new S-series model Canon has raised the bar on compact camera technology, but there's more to a camera than circuitry and some handling issues need to be addressed. Yet, despite some design flaws and slow performance, you can't help but love this camera. ®
Catherine Monfils is a professional photographer specialising in portraiture, lifestyle and fashion.
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