With an estimated 53 million digital cameras sold in 2004 and 15% growth rate for the foreseeable future, manufacturers will continue churning out models to meet every photographer’s need. While the quality of the average digital camera has risen dramatically over the past few years, some camera will continue to stick out from the pack with exceptional images, handsome designs, and intuitive controls. The Canon Powershot A95 is such a camera in a long line of excellent cameras from Canon.
The A95 is the successor to the popular A80. The most obvious improvement is the inclusion of a 5 megapixel CCD, which is suitable in most cases for prints as large as 8″x10″. It features a 3X optical zoom, a 4.1X digital zoom, a larger 1.8″ LCD for photo review, and an improved movie mode. The A95 will find itself at home with anyone interested in doing point-and-shoot photography with inklings to explore to the more creative side of photography. This camera will do well with families, travelers, as well as budding photographers who don’t want to take the plunge into a more expensive SLR.
- 5 Megapixel 1/1.8 in. CCD
- 3x Optical, 4.1x Digital zoom
- LCD: 118,000 pixel 1.8″ diagonal
- ISO: 50, 100, 200, 400
- AutoFocus: 9-point AiAF, Flexizone, Fixed to Center
- Aperature: 2.8 — 8.0
- Shutter: 15 — 1/2000 sec
- Movies: Up 640 x 480 @ 10 fps, 3-minute maximum length
- Media: Compact Flash Type I (32 MB card included)
One of the most deceptively useful features of the A95’s design is the flipout 1.8″ LCD on the back. The LCD is larger than previous generation Powershots and it contains more pixels (118,000) to render your photos. More pixels and a larger display mean that you can finally take a photo and know whether you really did capture your nephew, Jack, with his finger up his nose or in his mouth. The trend with the current generation of cameras is LCDs pushing the 2″ mark. While not quite 2″, the A95’s display is noticeably larger than that of the A80. The flipout feature itself makes taking pictures over a crowd easy. Point the camera at the subject of interest and pivot the display to meet your needs. Further, if you point the camera at yourself and twist the display around 180 degrees the image will flip vertically, so you can frame yourself correctly. It takes narcissism to a whole new level.
The A95 has a great feel to it. It’s solid and compact being made out of a combination of metal and plastic. The camera will certainly fit into a coat pocket or purse, but is larger than the most compact of cameras that will fit in a shirt or pants pocket. What you sacrifice in size you’ll gain back in image quality and creativity options. The only watchout is the plastic door that covers the Compact Flash card. If you’re the type of person to switch cards frequently take time to open the door properly so it doesn’t crack or break.
The A95 weight creeps across the 12 oz mark with batteries installed, which is light enough to not be uncomfortable to carry around. Some people lament, but I praise the use of AA batteries. They give the flexibility of using a rechargeable battery while allowing you to use ones off the shelf from a store in a pinch. With a proprietary battery your only option is to purchase additional (and expensive) ones.
Compared with many cameras in the A95’s price range, the speed at which the camera focuses is fairly quick. If you’re pre-focused on a subject the time from button press to image capture seems to be a tenth of second or quicker. If you’re not pre-focused it can be longer. The speed of focus is further enhanced with an Autofocus illuminator that shines an orange beam in low-light situations to enhance its ability to capture the image. This feature is great and you should demand it out of any camera you purchase since not all do.
The image quality of the Powershot A95’s 5 megapixel CCD is excellent. You’ll see it with every image you take whether it’s a bee on a flower in Macro Mode or a glorious and fiery orange and red Maui sunset. Some other reviews on the web will mention purple fringing in certain images. Specifically, images that have sharp dark and light transitions will show a few purple pixels before making the transition. I can tell you that for all of the photos I’ve taken (several thousand), only in two did I see any fringing. Then again I specifically went looking for it. So, if you’ve read this in other places, don’t be concerned. Images from this camera are gorgeous.
Focusing on these gorgeous images is handled by one of four options:
- AiAF Auto Selction — This mode evaluates nine points in the image to determine what to focus on. Many times this works, but it can be tricked on occasion.
- Center Selection — The middle of the nine points is the focal point for the camera, allowing the photographer to choose.
- FlexiZone — In FlexZone the photographers chooses which part of the scene should have focus. This mode will work well when you need to compose a photo, but the focal point is not the middle and AiAF isn’t working well.
One place the A95 definitely falls short is its Movie Mode. Compared with many cameras that now capture 30 fps (frames per second), this Powershot’s 10 or 15 (depending on resolution) feels paltry. If you need good movie capabilities look elsewhere or invest in a digital video camera. If you want to take great images with creative flexibility look at the A95.
Ease of Use
The Powershot A95 succeeds in helping the photographer take good or great pictures. In fully automatic mode the camera is similar to others in its category. But spin the dial on top of the camera for quick access to the more modes used by photographers:
- Auto — Fully automatic mode
- Program — The camera determines the proper aperture and shutter speed and you determine the rest
- Shutter Priority — User selects the shutter speed; All else is automatic
- Aperture Priority — User selects the aperture size; All else is automatic
- Manual — The camera is in full manual mode leaving all the details and creativity to you
- Custom — Create a custom set of camera settings that are remembered when you switch to this mode.
- Movie — Shoot short movies
- Stitch Assist — Create panoramic landscape shots by take a series of photos that can be stitched back together later
- Scene Modes — Access other scene modes for various photographic situations (See below)
- Slow Shutter — Make fast objects look blurred
- Fast Shutter — Optimizes the camera for high speed objects
- Night Scene — Optimizes for night shots with little light
- Landscape — Allows you to take sharp photos of vistas
- Portrait — Focuses on your subject only with all else getting a slight case of the blurs
But it’s the Scene Modes that makes the camera stand out and let you take great pictures in a wide range of potentially difficult situations. Modes include: Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Kids and Pets, Foliage and others. These modes adjust the camera’s different controls to capture the best image in each situation.
Going digital inherently has some complexity drawbacks. No matter how simple you make a digital camera, the manufacturers will build buttons and an interface by which you make changes to various settings of the camera. Having used a number of Nikon cameras with non-intuitive interfaces that demand multiple button presses to change the simplest of features, you’ll appreciate the A95. Many of the Shooting Modes of the camera are built into the dial on top and many other features can be quickly guessed at if you’re not a religious documentation reader.
The battery life of the A95 is very good. I can take 150-200 images over a few weeks without any problem. I think the testament to good battery life is simply that you do not worry or think about it. In this regard, the A95 is brainless. It rarely complains that it’s drained. However, use common sense and charge your batteries a few hours before any important event and carry a set of Duracells for crunch time.
Extended Specifications (From Powershot.com)
- Type: 5.0 M pixel, 1/1.8 inch type Charge Coupled Device (CCD)
- Total Pixels: Approx. 5.3 Million
- Effective Pixels: Approx. 5.0 Million
- Lens Focal Length: 38-114mm, f/2.8 (W) – 4.9(T)
- Digital Zoom: 4.1x
- Focusing Range: Normal AF: 18 in./45cm – Infinity
- Macro AF: 2 – 18 in./5 – 45cm (WIDE), 9.8 – 18 in./25 – 45cm (TELE)
- Autofocus System: 9-point AiAF/1-point AF (FlexiZone, fixed to center)
- Optical Viewfinder: Real-image optical zoom viewfinder
- LCD Monitor: 1.8 inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD (with vari-angle function)
- LCD Pixels: Approx. 118,000 pixels
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 (W) – f/8.0 (W), f/4.9 (W) – f/8.0 (T)
- Shutter Speed: 15 – 1/2,000 sec. (Slow shutter operates with noise reduction)
- Sensitivity: AUTO*; ISO 50/100/200/400 equivalent
- Light Metering Method: Evaluative / Center-weighted average / Spot*
*Metering frame with Spot mode is AF point-linked/center fixed.
- Exposure Control Method: Program AE / Shutter-Priority AE / Aperture-Priority AE / Manual
- Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 stops in 1/3 stop increments
- White Balance Control: Auto, Pre-set (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H. Manual) or Custom
- Built-in Flash Modes: Auto, On/Off, Red-Eye Reduction is available
- Flash Range: WIDE: 45cm – 4.4m/1.5 – 14 ft.TELE: 45cm – 2.5m/1.5 – 8.2 ft.
- MACRO: 25cm – 45cm/9.8 in. – 1.5 ft. (When sensitivity is set to Auto)
- Shooting Modes: Auto, Creative Zone (P, Tv, Av, M, C), Image Zone (Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Fast shutter, Slow shutter), Special Scene Mode (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot), Movies, Stitch Assist
- Photo Effects: Off, Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia and Black & White
- Self-Timer: Activates shutter after an approx. 10 sec. or approx 2 sec. delay.
- Continuous Shooting: High Speed: Approx. 2.0 images/sec. Normal: Approx. 1.5 images/sec. (Large/Fine mode and LCD monitor off)
- Storage Media: CompactFlash (CF) Card Type I
- Print Order Format: Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) Version 1.1
- Image Recording Format: Exif 2.2 (JPEG)
- JPEG Compression Mode: SuperFine, Fine, Normal
- Number of Recording Pixels: Still Image: 2,592 x 1,944 (Large), 2,048 x 1,536 (Medium 1), 1,600 x 1,200 (Medium 2), 640 x 480 pixels (Small)
- Movie: 640 x 480, 320 x 240 or 160 x 120
The quality of the images is superb. The size and weight of the A95 finds a great blend between a solid feel and compactness. The range of control options (auto controls, scene modes, manual controls), allows the beginner to jump right in taking pictures and the more serious hobbyist surprisingly good control over the creative aspects of photography. If you know for a fact, you simply want to turn a camera on and push a button to take a photo, there are other less expensive, less button-filled choices with similar image quality. However, if you need simplicity part of the time and your creative side whispers in your ear to experiment, the A95 will simply not disappoint.
Great image quality
Lots of creative controls
Simplicity of a point and shoot
Good battery life
Mediocre movie mode
Focus and shoot is relatively quick, but could be faster
No RAW image mode to capture images w/o compression
Those who want point-and-shoot simplicity, but may want to experiment with the more creative side of photography