Today's more advanced shooters are reluctant to accept auto-exposure-only compact point-and-shoots. Photography enthusiasts prefer digicams with manual exposure options; cameras capable of capturing opulently detailed images with vibrant colors. Last year Canon resurrected their venerable "S" series (discontinued in 2005) with the introduction of the Powershot S90. Canon's prosumer "S" series digicams were very popular, back in the day, because they were designed especially for photography enthusiasts and shared lots of features with Canon's top-of-the-line "G" series. Canon recently introduced the new Powershot S95.
Like its predecessor, the svelte S95 (3.93x2.30x1.16-inches) is built around a relatively fast f/2.0-4.9, 6.0-22.5mm (28-105mm equivalent) super-stabilized 3.8x real wide-angle to short telephoto zoom. The S95 also features 10 megapixel resolution, a 3.0-inch PureColor II LCD (with 461k-dot resolution), ISO 80 to ISO 3200 sensitivity, 720p high-definition video with stereo audio, a RAW mode, a more intelligent Smart AUTO mode, and (like the G11) Canon's Dual Anti-Noise System. Another exciting feature (unique to the S95) is Canon's High Dynamic Range function - enable HDR and the S95 captures 3 images (at different EV) with one push of the shutter button and then merges those three separate pictures into one enhanced image. The S95 is also the first Canon digicam to feature Hybrid Image Stabilization which corrects for both angle and shift shake for sharper images at slow shutter speeds and in dim light.
I've only had the S95 for a few days, but this camera was clearly designed by photographers for photographers - here are a couple of examples. The S95's compass switch (4-way controller) features Canon's "func" button for direct access to ISO and White Balance and other regularly changed settings, plus a rotary jog dial. Press the review button and use your right thumb on the rotary jog dial to quickly and easily scroll back and forth through your saved images - the S95 makes it easy to compare and assess a series of similar shots and winnow them down to the best image in the sequence.
The S95 (like the S90) also features a nifty manual control ring. The control ring surrounds the base of the zoom lens and enables users to adjust settings for a variety of functions by turning the click-stopped ring either right or left. The control ring can be used as a manual zoom ring with 28, 35, 50, 85 and 105mm steps. It can also be enabled to adjust ISO (in 1/3 stop increments), WB, shutter and aperture, or exposure compensation - I've used the control ring, so far, to give me direct access to the exposure compensation function to easily (and incrementally) lighten or darken images.
My photographic heroes have always been street-shooters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Street shooting is a sub-genre of documentary photography and is primarily concerned with capturing images of people in naturally lit and candid situations that evocatively depict or dramatically reveal some aspect of the human condition. The elegant little S95 is almost perfect for street photography - it is compact, responsive, unobtrusive, and dependably generates first rate images.
I saw this typical street image unfolding as I walked by and was able to capture the decisive moment without either of the subjects becoming aware of my presence. This image was shot near dusk in poor light and shows just how reliable the S95 is in Program mode.
According to Canon the S95 is an updated "sibling" of the S90 and not its replacement, which seems to indicate that the S90 will (at least for the time being) remain in Canon's product catalog. It looks as if the megapixel wars may finally be drawing to a close, at least for Canon, and that's a good thing because point-and-shoots with 12 and 14 megapixel resolution don't necessarily produce better pictures than cameras with 10 megapixel resolution - they just generate bigger image files. So far I'm impressed with the S95 and if I were buying a P&S right now - the S95 would definitely be on my short list. Check back soon for our full review.
Additional Sample Images