With full manual exposure control and the ability to save images as raw files, the Canon PowerShot S90 may be the perfect compact camera for the demanding enthusiast photographer

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Canon PowerShot S90

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Canon PowerShot S90 review


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Resolution, noise and sensitivity

With a maximum sensitivity of ISO 3200, the Canon PowerShot S90 is capable of taking images in low-light conditions. Unfortunately, the small sensor produces quite a lot of image noise. Much of this noise is removed via aggressive noise reduction, which causes image details to have a smudged appearance, particularly at higher sensitivities.

Below ISO 400 images exhibit far less chroma noise, but luminance noise is visible, although fairly unobtrusive. Raw files captured by the S90 tell a similar story. Without any noise reduction noise is present at all sensitivity settings, although again it isn’t really obtrusive until ISO 400. At ISO 3200, even when the luminance and chroma noise reduction sliders are both set to 100 in Adobe Camera Raw, noise is still very apparent, with clumps of blue pixels appearing randomly in the image.

However, a compact camera such as the S90 isn’t going to be used by photographers producing fine-art images or for competitions. In fact, most people who use the S90 won’t be producing prints any larger than A4, and I imagine the majority of the images will be printed at 6x4in size.

As most users of the S90 will only occasionally be pushing the camera to its limits, the noise it produces at high sensitivity settings shouldn’t be a concern – and it is certainly better than on many other compact cameras we have seen.

These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, still-life scene and a grey card. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

  1. 1. Canon PowerShot S90 at a glance:
  2. 2. Build and handling
  3. 3. White balance and colour
  4. 4. Metering
  5. 5. Autofocus
  6. 6. LCD, live view and video
  7. 7. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  8. 8. The competition
  9. 9. Our verdict
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  • Keith Tomkins

    I thought about getting the Canon 7D but the vari-angle screen on the Canon 60D did it for me. Being left handed this camera suited me
    Its Solid build and good balance great control positions with a lock button in the centre of picture setting type control knob,which for left handers works brilliantly as you can’t knock it with your hand like I used to do on the Canon 550D I had before upgrading also the NOSE print every time i took a photo! But not on the 60D which also has the view screen top right of camera for AF/drive/ ISO and metering meaning you know your setting with the screen turned inwards.
    Best camera I have ever bought, so I bit the bullet and got the 24-105mm IS USM, 50mm 1.4f USM and the 70-200mm F4 IS USM lenses
    The pictures I took at the London 2012 olympics made it all worth while

    Highly recommended 9.5 out of 10