Canon PowerShot S95: Performance

September 29, 2010 by Howard Creech Reads (14,141)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


The S95 is a first rate general purpose digicam and it will dependably produce beautiful images not only for photo enthusiasts, but also for travelers, hikers, backpackers and casual shooters. The S95’s strongest appeal may be to straight-shooters (documentarians, street photographers, and environmental portraitists) because it is almost perfectly designed for reactive photography. The elegant little S95 is seriously compact (not intimidating to subjects), very responsive, unobtrusive (flat black with an easy grip non-reflective body surface), and dependably generates first rate images.

I took the S95 to a zombie walk, a local farmer’s market, and the first art show of the fall season. Here’s a selection of street/documentary shots and environmental portraits that show just how capable the little S95 is in “street” mode.

Canon S95 Test Image Canon S95 Test Image

Shooting Performance
Timing and speed are some of the most important considerations when assessing digital camera performance. The S95 isn’t the quickest digicam in its class, but it is more than quick enough for its intended audience as a general purpose digital camera.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.01
Canon PowerShot S95 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.26
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 0.27
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.28
Canon PowerShot S95 0.36

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 10 11.2 fps
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 3 2.6 fps
Nikon Coolpix S8000 10 1.2 fps
Canon PowerShot S95 0.9 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The S95 features the same TTL Contrast Detection 9-point AF system as its predecessor. It has three AF modes: Face AF, Tracking AF, and Center AF. In all exposure modes, the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which AF point is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. The S95’s default face detection AF mode is linked to the camera’s exposure and WB systems. The S95 automatically finds, locks focus on, tracks and then optimizes exposure for up to nine faces or shooters can lock on a single face and track it through a crowd. The S95’s Center AF option is good for traditional landscapes and even better for street shooting, because serious shooters don’t want the camera deciding which face in the crowd to focus on. AF is dependably quick.

The S95’s super tiny multi mode pop-up flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including auto, flash on (fill flash), flash off, and slow synchro plus menu flash options including flash exposure compensation (+/- 2EV in 1/3 EV increments), first and second curtain synch, red-eye correction, red-eye lamp, and Safety FE. According to Canon, the maximum flash range is about 16 feet, which seems insanely optimistic given the miniscule size of the flash. Based on my very limited flash use, the S95’s flash recycle time is between 3 and 4 seconds.

The S95’s optical image stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom lens to compensate for minor camera movement. Image stabilization allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without it. Image stabilization can also be useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate. The S95 is the first Canon digicam to feature Hybrid Image Stabilization which corrects for both angle and shift shake for sharper images at slower shutter speeds and in dim light.

According to Canon, the S95 is good for about 200 exposures (without flash) or 300 minutes of video on a freshly charged Lithium-ion power pack. That’s noticeably fewer exposures than average for cameras of this type.

The Canon PowerShot S95 supports SD, SDHC, MMC, MMC+, HC MMC+ and the SDXC format (for memory cards larger than 32GB), but provides no internal memory for back-up.

Lens Performance
Like its predecessor, the svelte S95 is built around a fast f/2.0-4.9, 6.0-22.5mm (28-105mm equivalent) 3.8x zoom lens. Most point-and-shoots offer zooms with maximum apertures of f/2.8 or slower, and the S95’s f/2.0 maximum aperture lets in twice as much light. This allows for faster shutter speeds (in dim light) and shallower depth of field for less distracting backgrounds.

Canon PowerShot S95

When the S95 is powered up, the zoom extends from the camera body automatically, and when the camera is powered down, the lens retracts into the camera body and a built-in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is smooth and relatively quiet. Minimum focusing distance (in macro mode) is just shy of two inches (5 centimeters). The S95 needs about 3 seconds to move the zoom lens from the wide angle end of the range to the telephoto end of the range.

The S95’s zoom is surprisingly good even though it displays some very minor corner softness, but there’s no vignetting (dark corners). Barrel distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is noticeably above average. The S95’s lens rendered this colorful mural beautifully, but the lamp post didn’t fare quite as well – there is an obvious inward tilt.

Canon S95 Test Image

Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow outward from the center of the frame) is virtually invisible at the telephoto end of the zoom. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is remarkably well controlled – essentially absent at both ends of the zoom range.

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