Canon PowerShot S90 Review

November 10, 2009 | Gavin Stoker | |

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#1 gifts for men

All of Canon’s professional (1D/1Ds) bodies are black. Most of the L lenses are black. The telephoto L’s are white ostensibly to reduce heat absorption, but this coincidentally makes them stand out at sporting events.Personally, i’ve felt that the silver consumer slr bodies look like toys, but probably because they’re silver-colored plastic, rather than polished metal (which would be kind of bad-ass). Then again, a mirror-finish slr body would accomplish two things: become an annoying bright spot in reflective surfaces and scream “SHINY! STEAL ME!”.

12:05 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#2 oluv

what a pity that you didn’t provide any raws of the detailed landscape-scenes at low iso (like image 3, 6, 16, 19 etc.)
i wanted to see how much more detail one can squeeze out from the files, because i think canon’s NR is still to aggressive even at base iso.

if you managed to upload 3 or 4 further raws, i would really appreciate it!

thanks a lot, o.

1:41 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#3 oluv

btw, there is something weird with some samples. what happened to the squirrel-images? they look as if they were upscaled from a 800x600 image.
also the following images up to image19 were taken with 6mp only, have a look.

2:13 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#4 Pierre

I would appreciate a direct comparison with the G11. Looking at the specifications, the two camera appear almost identical, the S90 being even better because of the 2.0 aperture.

So if we could have the same image quality as the G11 with a rather smaller body, it would be a great improvement.

3:19 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#5 Sky_walker

“€519.00 / $429.99” - nah…. I just love to see such things… why US people get everything cheaper? >_< That’s just sad….

4:16 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#6 cba20k

I’m surprised that the Panasonic LX3 is not listed as a main rival of this camera.  The two are both 10mp with fast lenses in approximately the same price range (msrp, not street) and close to the same size.

6:16 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#7 Frank S

You guys are like the James Brown of camera websites guys; in other words, the hardest working guys on the web. I get dizzy trying to keep up with your output. Is it possible that you might in the future compare the S90 with the G11 side by side (exact same pictures)? Lastly, I am wondering why you did not shoot any cityscape shots. Your waterfront shots with the bridge and cityscapes with lots of buildings really seem to bring out both the qualities and limitations of a camera, so I put a lot of stock in what I see when they are enlarged. Thanks much.

6:58 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#8 The Bat in the Hat

“So to the (other) major obstacle in the S90’s way: its retail price, which matches that of an entry level DSLR.”

A perfectly valid comment. The only thing that puzzles me is why your didn’t come to the same conclusion when reviewing the significantly more expensive G11? Where is the consistency? As I see it the G11 pretends to be a pro camera when it quite simply isn’t. At least the S90 has no such pretentions. It just claims to be a very good compact camera, which is what it is. And the faster lens than the G11 will be worth more to many photographers than any of the fripperies to be found on its more expensive sibling.

The G11 seems to me to be a camera for the gadget enthusiast, while the S90 is a compact camera for the photography enthusiast.

Nice one Cannon. Now there just remains the small matter of the older, but equally capable LX3…

9:51 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#9 Ewan S

I got mine for $470 Australian(including postage) online, including a spare battery and 8GB SD card.
It also came with the full (single language) user manual that’s also on the disc.
Could this be EU evironmental regulations discouraging paper waste for all models sold there? I understand, for example, the Sony A700 European model came without a grip sensor because of similar European regulations.
I read that the S90’s barrel distortion is automatically removed by cameras software, or the supplied RAW converter; I’m then surprised you were able to see any.

9:59 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#10 Dana

You are one of the first reviewers to have the s90. Good work…your timely efforts are much appreciated.

The s90 is a disappointment. From the samples in your review, it seems to have less noise than my TZ5, but in all other respects, sharpness, color, “presence”, the TZ5 is much better.

Now I know why the TZ5 is rated as ‘Essential’ while the s90 is at least a step lower than that.
I also agree with your value assessment on both cameras.

11:24 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#11 Norwegian Blue

“I read that the S90’s barrel distortion is automatically removed by cameras software, or the supplied RAW converter; I’m then surprised you were able to see any.”

You can’t *remove* barrel distortion electronically, all you can do is distort the image the other way. In doing so you will introduce some other damage to the image. It’s so much better to use a lens that doesn’t distort in the first place.

11:46 pm - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#12 Frank S

Re: Dana #10:

I think where the S90 would have an advantage over the excellent TZ5 would be be any shots over ASA 400; in other words, low light. I think good, small cameras with low light capabilities deserves to be taken seriously. I think serious photographers and hobbiests crave a small camera with low light capabilities.

1:19 am - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#13 Jason

The Canon S90 has a CCD chip not a CMOS.

5:02 am - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#14 Ewan S

“It’s so much better to use a lens that doesn’t distort in the first place.”

The G11 lens may have less distortion, but it is slower….
Therefore, you would have to compare pictures taken, side-by-side, between the G11 and S90 to see if there is very much difference, in image quality, after the S90’s processing.
My guess is there will be only a small amount of “damage.”
The only other solution would be a fixed prime lens as on the Ricoh GR3.
It is a fine camera too, but 28MM fixed focal length is not suitable for portrait capture, for example.
Also, Ricoh is asking too much as, for the price being asked, I want an APSC sized sensor.

10:23 am - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#15 David Wilson

Thanks for RAW files. Having processed one of the sunrise/sunset images (ISO 400) in ACR 5.5, for the life of me I can’t see what the big deal is about. Noise marginally less than my G10, marginally more than my LX3, once processed the final result is pleasing but demands more NR than the latter. By comparison, my D90 can get away with 0 luminance NR in similar conditions. This product is Canon playing catch-up with the LX3 which, at substantially less money, remains the obvious choice.

10:36 am - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#16 Norwegian Blue

@David Wilson

See what you mean about the LX3, but to be fair there’s not that much in the price. About £20 when you start digging. The LX3 is still (for me) the better camera. There is also the Ricoh GX200, which is even cheaper. And the Fujifilm S200EXR. Canon are latecomers to this particular party so you’d expect them to be trying that bit harder than everybody else.

@Ewan S

Why limit your choice to the S90, G11 and GRD III? There are plenty of other cameras on the market with similar features, those mentioned above would be a good starting point. If you object to the price of the GRDIII the GRDII is still around at well under £300. Either camera will knock spots off the S90 if you don’t mind being limited to one focal length, but that’s prime lenses for you.  If you really want a big sensor the Sigma DP1 can be had for £300-ish and I’m sure the DP2 will get cheaper once the newness wears off. Or how about an entry level Olympus DSLR? With the pancake lens they are tiny and they’re not what I’d call bulky with the standard kit zoom. Don’t limit your choices until you’ve looked at everything.

11:58 am - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#17 Steve B

“So to the (other) major obstacle in the S90’s way: its retail price, which matches that of an entry level DSLR.”

Oh how sad. How very, very sad.
Please grow up.

11:15 pm - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#18 Malte Wannerskog

I am pretty sure the macro limit is 5cm?

11:47 pm - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#19 MR

S90 vs G11 at night with pics:

2:07 am - Thursday, November 12, 2009

#20 zebarnabe

I just noticed that you have information wrong on third RAW image (the night foto with motorbikes)

where it is:
1/60 sec f/2 | ISO 1600

should have been:
1/25 sec f/2 | ISO 800

Considering it is a compact quality is quite awesome, but unless one is looking for something small… price is quite high… specially on my country where it costs around 780$ (520€) ...

Europeans get over-priced products most of the time but this is simply way too much… (makes me remember the DMC-GH1, in US costs around 1000$ to 1200$ here it’s 1800$ to 2150$)

Oh well, better keep my mobile phone for snapping some ugly photos, cos i ain’t gonna buy a camera at this rate… *sigh*

2:01 pm - Thursday, November 12, 2009

#21 urb

best thing with this cam is the ease of use. you got a great picture with auto mode,  but unlike the lx3, the manual mode is really manual and not “get lost in the menu, press this and after this button and after this button and after this button and after this button and ... get lost in the menu”. you got two direct ring control!  the only thing is about build quality: the control ring feels like plastoc, but works well… at least for now!
nothing to do with mobile phone or even tz5

2:33 am - Friday, November 13, 2009

#22 Ewan S

Canon had a long time to study the Lumix LX3 design, both it’s strengths (sensitive CCD sensor and bight lens) and weaknesses (limited dynamic range, convoluted menu system, limited zoom range)so of course the newer camera is superior in every criteria.
But it is only because of Panasonic’s original good design of the LX3 that the S90 is the greatest digital compact ever made.
One thing to note, even though I think the LX3 was agreat influence on the S90 design, its lens housing sticks out much further than the S90’s, even when fully retracted (also requiring, an easily lost lens cap), making it less ‘pocketable.’ Perhaps then the LX3 is more closely a G11 rival then.
Canon are a big fish, so I can understand why people might hate them, but with their
third-quarter operating profit increasing by 5.5% to ¥47.6 billion (U.S.$529 million), they must be doing something right.

3:09 pm - Friday, November 13, 2009

#23 Zardoz

Every camera will have HD video in about a year and this one will be obsolete.  No HD?  No buy.

3:47 pm - Friday, November 13, 2009

#24 Norfolk Turkey

Add HD video to a camera at a given price point and you will compromise the quality of the stills. I thought this was supposed to be about photography, not video.

If I want good quality video I will buy a good quality video camera. If I want second rate video I’ll buy a stills camera with video.

HD video? Avoid.

6:46 pm - Friday, November 13, 2009

#25 Ewan S

I would say avoid AVCHD video codec that is used in all HD capable digital cameras, it is very difficult to edit without an immensely powerful computer. MPEG2 is the oldest HD format, and still the best, but, unfotunately, is only avialable on the last tape based camcorder: the Canon HV40. The point is, digital cameras make poor video recorders; you would be better off buying a dedicated camcorder and taking still pictures with it. Have you ever tried to use a mobile cell phone as an in-car GPS? It does a very poor job, compared to a dedicated GPS unit.

1:19 pm - Saturday, November 14, 2009

#26 zebarnabe

@Ewan S
While it’s true AVCHD is hard to edit, you can easly convert it to MPEG4 on computer (with very little quality loss) and edit it later, converting from AVCHD takes a day or so for a 2h movie, but in the end you can edit the resulting MPEG4 without any problem in a average computer.
MPEG2 is the best for edition, if your computer is really old… MPEG4 is much better since it takes much less space and you don’t need a powerful CPU to handle it (there are some devices that allow croping and fade/overlay effects with MPEG4 recorded files).
True to be said, while some digital cameras are able to make wonderful videos, a dedicated camcorder is still the best option to get them. In future this might not be true.

In a few years (read 4 or 5 years) it might be possible that digital cameras, movie recorders and smartphones get merged into a single device, sure it still would not be as good as a dedicated device for each task, but might be enough for most of people.

Oh.. by the way… my mobile phone is a better GPS unit than most of dedicated GPS units! Sure that is not always true, but most of GPS units are in reality PDA’s with special software (most of them running windows mobile) and a GPS antena ... the problem is that most of them have a underpowered CPU (worst i’ve seen was one with a 200Mhz ARM) to handle GPS tasks…

1:46 am - Sunday, November 15, 2009

#27 BChau

I wish S90 would capture zoomable HD video. The only feature missing for this capable camera. As for the video format and codec, it should be mp4 (H.264). It is a highly efficient codec and cross-platform and supported by all major companies like Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, etc… Audio codec should be AAC.

2:00 am - Sunday, November 15, 2009

#28 Ewan S

Well, it is good to know there is a work around utilising MP4. I still would have made AVCHD disks, playable on BluRay players, using ordinary Mpeg-2 compression -M2TS Format. It is possible to get 2 hours of 1080P on a dual layer DVD, or 720P on a single layer DVD.
But I think my argument is becoming academic, as MPEG-2 is disappearing, with only the last tape based HD camcorder, Canon HV-40, supporting it, so I conceed you win on that point.
I understand, TomTom and Navigon are introducing new dedicated receivers for the iPhone in Australia to fix poor reception problems, but I’m sure Europe has fixed this problem a long time ago. We have a lot of roads, here in Australia, but less population and less competition.
But recently there has been laws banning smart phones in cars, for use as GPS, in some states within Australia.
It’s not hard to see the Sony WX1, with its excellent, backlit CMOS, becoming a smartphone; it’s already tiny; too tiny for ideal use (as a camera), actually.

3:48 am - Sunday, November 15, 2009

#29 Norfolk Turkey

We’re totally off topic here, but…

The reason most mobiles make such poor GPS units is because they contain such poor GPS antennae. Usually because the case is so packed with other unnecessary guff as a camera that there isn’t enough room. And to compound it most don’t have the capability to connect an external antenna.

GPS tasks do not need much processor power.

As for the supposition that most GPS units run Windows mobile, what parallel universe do you live in?


10:58 am - Sunday, November 15, 2009

#30 James


11:57 pm - Sunday, November 15, 2009

#31 zebarnabe

Without wanting to go offtopic, tomtom and ndrive gps units (the ones with screen, not the bluetooth modules that allow other devices or even a laptop to have GPS) have a Windows Mobile operative system, in my country those are the ones that sell most… (Route66 provides GPS software to WM as well)

Back on topic, i wonder if toshiba back-illuminated sensor will provide a bump in high ISO noise on compacts… i really hope so :3

12:01 am - Monday, November 16, 2009

#32 DavidT

The images by ebrandon on dpreview comparing the S90 to not one but two LX3s are conclusive as far as IQ. Raw processing should at this stage use Canon’s apps until the others catch up.

10:37 am - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#33 Eleanor Maw

The best two compact cameras there have been are the Canon G9 & Lumix LX3, as far as I can see the only thing the Canon S90 has over the G9 & LX3 is the control ring at the front, also how can Canon ask for for the S90 than the cost of the LX3 ?

6:54 pm - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#34 Malte

The control ring is really nice though….

7:04 pm - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#35 Norfolk Turkey


I would agree that the S90 is not worth more than the LX3. I would go further and say it’s actually worth less. Not because it is demonstrably a worse camera, but because they have omitted a very useful feature. Like most compacts the S90 comes with an inadequate built in flash, but it has no hotshoe. The LX3 has one.

On the other hand the S90 comes with a gimmick in the shape of the control ring. Well that’s really worth the money isn’t it? No? No.

Canon seem to be relying more and more on gimmicks . I suppose it could be argued that the control ring is a USP, but I would rather have a better camera with practical features. Than a rather pointless USP.

It seems Canon are relying these days on the Camera division to shore up their ailing finances.  There could be two ways to approach this; Consolidate their position as market leader by increasing spending on R&D an innovating and reducing unnecessary expenditure by simplifying the model lineup; or stifle innovation and try to attract buyers with a profusion of seperate models featuring gimmicks as selling points. I know which I’d go for in a cut throat market. It appears Canon are going for the other: the Mercedes strategy.

8:35 pm - Thursday, November 19, 2009

#36 wing

For some reason the s90 is actually about $70 dollars less then the LX3 in U.S.A so it is a better deal here price wise.

Also the s90 is a compact camera so it is much easier to take with you everywhere while the LX3 is closer in size to a G11. Not exactly compact. I compared both at the store.

The hot shoe is not a deal breaker for me since the whole idea of the s90 is so that I could take a good quality camera with raw ability,fast lens, and Dslr like functions with me whenever I can’t or don’t feel like lugging my Dslr around.  Carrying a external flash kills the idea of it being pocket-able.

Wish it had a more powerful zoom though.

1:15 am - Saturday, November 21, 2009

#37 Seasick Seagull


The prices are more or less the same in the UK for the two cameras. Initially the S90 retailed for something like £50 - £75 more than the LX3, but they are now about equal.

As for the size the LX3 is about 8mm longer and 3mm thicker than the S90 which is hardly significant. The G11, however, is 12mm longer, and about 20mm deeper and thicker than the S90 which puts it in a different world altogether. Having handled all three cameras at the same time I can report that the difference between the S90 and the LX3 is barely noticable, but the G11 feels like a brick in comparison to the others.

Indeed when comparing the performance and specs of the S90 and G11 it makes you wonder why the latter is so damned big.

I think there is little to choose between the LX3 and the S90, both are fine little cameras. The hot shoe does add that little extra value to the LX3 over the Canon. I think that, at the same price, most people would choose one over the other based on brand preference or which was available at the time.

The only fly in the ointment for Canon is that the LX3 has been around for well over a year, so it would be reasonable to assume the LX4 can’t be far away. It will be interesting to see what a replacement for the LX3 will bring to the party.

10:57 am - Saturday, November 21, 2009

#38 Ewan S

Luminous Landscapes have a S90 field report.

Check out ISO 200 shots, as well as ISO 1600.

“The Canon definitely seems to have a bit less luminance noise (no sharpening has been applied to either). Interestingly, the Canon also definitely appears to offer better resolution and acuity, at least at this speed, and likely due to the camera’s relative in-camera noise reduction.”

You will find that in a lot of studio comparisons between the S90 and LX3, the LX3 images will appear darker, this is because the LX3 deliberately underexposes to compensate for its limited dynamic range.

12:19 am - Sunday, November 22, 2009

#39 Andrew

The lens protrusion is much, much larger in the LX3, which isn’t accounted for in your 3mm figure. The LX3 only fits in a large pants pocket, while the S90 can fit in any normal pocket.

1:59 am - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

#40 Mark

Canon needs a reality check with pricing.
The S90 cost is a joke.

5:32 pm - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#41 Chilled Chihuahua


Well I’m seeing the S90 at the £300 mark, which is the same as the LX3. So what’s your issue with the pricing?

6:58 pm - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#42 JoeS

When is Canon going to come out with a no compromise discreet point-and-shoot style camera for photojournalists who will get sniped if they pull out a DSLR?  If they ever do come out with a rugged weathertight ALL black pro version of the G10 (no delicate easily broken swivel screen BS and proper sized G10 control knobs), with 6mp of good dynamic range, clean ISO 3200, a flare resistant f/2 lens with equiv. of 28mm - 80mm range, built-in encrypted wireless satellite file transmitter, control ring (ala S90), fast low light AF, faster shutter release…........I will gladly pay $1500 for such a camera.

6:19 am - Monday, December 7, 2009

#43 YLK

S90 is USD470 here in China (just bought one for my wife yesterday), one of the most expensive P&S on the market here, but the quality of photos directly from the camera, friendly interface, the RING :), well, IMHO it is worth the price. Feels solid, unlike my Ricoh GX100, which often breaks (the lense mechanism) even if shaken a little bit (my kid dropped a P&S Canon on the stone floor by swinging it - and the camera was fine). Canon makes quality cameras that work very well in real enviroment, and it is not always fair to compare it to other ones that look similar on paper.

8:16 am - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#44 Adam

Utterly brilliant camera. Top notch low iso performance.  One of the best cameras I have owned. Sorry but, the TZ5 acnnot live with the picture quality of the S90. TZ5 nice but noisy overprocessed images. Canon S90 crisp detailed shots.  Auto white balance not so hot.

8:17 am - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#45 Petrolbonce

I’m a touch puzzled by the comparison with the TZ5. It’s in a completely different market to the S90, much cheaper and less fully featured. A valid comparison would be between the LX3 and the S90 and that’s much harder to call. In that case I’d come down in favour of the Panasonic. Yes, the S90 has a slight advantage on image quality, but the LX3 edges it on functionality. Such things as the hotshoe an a much faster (three times faster!) frame rate make the Panasonic a more versatile camera. And it’s still a little cheaper than the S90.

For me versatility in a compact means more than a slight difference in image quality. If I’m concerned about image quality I’ll be packing a DSLR and any entry level DSLR will whup the S90. On the other hand compacts are about convenience and the versatility of the LX3 makes it less likely to let you down when you need your camera.

Having said all that I don’t think I’d want to own either the S90 or the LX3. The GX200 may not equal the other two on image quality, but in terms of usability it’s way ahead, either my brain works like somebody at Ricoh or they have a knack for making cameras intuitive to use. And the accessory EVF makes it even more versatile. On a bright sunny day I will usually take a DSLR because I can see what I’m shooting, whereas with an LCD only compact I don’t have a chance. In the snow and sunshine yesterday I was carrying a compact and I was often framing purely by guesswork.

4:30 pm - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#46 Adam

My comparison with the TZ5 came from a previous post by Dana.  I agree that the LX3 is a better comparison.  I have to have picture quality over functionality (to a degree) but, its a matter of choice for thr individual.  I recently bought a Ricoh CX2 on the recommendation of several websites and magazines.  “Utterly brilliant” “super sharp detailed shots”.  I sent it back.  Super sharp it was not, pixelated over processed mushy pictures is what I got.  However many people are delighted with it. My S90 has taken a number of shots over this christmas and, I am amazed at the quality (and functionality of the the pictures).  Top camera but, pricey.

10:01 am - Saturday, December 26, 2009

#47 Petrolbonce

The comparison between the CX2 and the S90 is as valid as the comparison between the TZ5 and S90. They are very different cameras at very different prices (the difference being generally around 20% or more). The CX2 is a long zoom travel compact and as such you are never going to see the same sort of image quality from a 10x zoom packed into such a short body as you do a much shorter zoom. Price for price you can’t expect to get a 10x zoom and the manual controls of the S90 for significantly less than the S90.

Having said that I’m amazed you bought the camera given all the sample images you can find on the internet. If you’re so keen on image quality then the next time you buy a camera I suggest you download and view as many sample images as you can before ordering.

If image quality is everything to you then there are only three compacts on the market. Sigma’s DP1 and DP2 and Leica’s X1. The problem for all those cameras being that you can buy a DSLR for less.

11:15 am - Saturday, December 26, 2009

#48 Adam

It is fair that the CX2 and S90 are different but, having read reviews of the CX2 I decided that I may as well have the extra focal length if it is so good (it wasn’t). If you are a pixel peeper (and I am) then the S90 is the camera to go for in the pocket (small sensor) category. Dp1,Dp2 and the Leica X1 are more than I would pay for a pocket camera.

8:56 am - Sunday, December 27, 2009

#49 ken

Hi all,
So I’ve been researching and reading for three days straight…looking for a small point and shhot to replace (and upgrade)my old Cyber-Shot P10. My current fave is the Canon S90; however, I’m considering the Panasonics ZS3 and LX3, Fuji F200 or F70, and even the Sony DSC H2) or TX1 and Ricohs.
Whew…certainly a ton of research and reviews out there!!!
So, I’m liking the large image sensor (and lens)of the Canon for better overall image quality, as well as better low-light shots.
My first priority is image quality…making stellar prints-from 5x7 and 8x10 to larger perhaps 16x2o.
My main interest is landscapes…traveling all over…hiking, backpacking. Lots of sunrise, sunsets, and low-light shots. Haven’t used RAW, but seems nifty, especially for tweaking landscape/nature shots!
I grew up with a Minolta 35mm slr (film, baby!), so I might be into playing around with manual features, too!
So, basically, would love to hear from those of you with any of these cameras, and any info on these comparisons.

Thanks so much!

6:57 pm - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#50 kuri

Ken, what did you end up getting?  I’m looking at almost the same cameras you did.

8:08 am - Friday, April 2, 2010

#51 Vikdaddy

The only like-for-like comparison for the S90 is the Panasonic Lumix LX3. I wanted to purchase an advanced compact camera and narrowed it down to these two, and opted for the Canon S90. Here’s why.

I have used both and I have to say that the Canon S90’s controls feel intuitive and user friendly, whereas the LX3 felt a little cumbersome. Also, I’d take the S90’s portability over the LX3 any day. However, the rear dial on the S90 is definitely ‘quirky’, to say the least; it spins far too easily, although the LX3’s rear joystick isn’t the easiest to use either. As for the front dial on the S90, it’s an emancipatory revelation!

The LX3 does win in the video department, with HD video a bonus. However, I want a camera to be excellent at taking pictures and consider the video functionality of a camera to be something that I will rarely use, and if I want to film something, I would rather use a dedicated camcorder. So, the standard definition video of the Canon S90 is fine for me for making playful videos with my friends, and is more than adequate for Youtube.

The question is, do you value a wider focal length (24mm with the LX3) or a longer zoom (3.8x with the S90)? I prefer a longer zoom, as I felt restricted when I used the LX3’s limited zoom capabilities, but I acknowledge that this will be less important to some. If you take pictures of lots of landscapes, then perhaps the LX3 is more suited to your needs. For me, I prefer the versatility of the Canon lens.

The portability of the S90 is what wins it for me. When you compare the two side-by-side, the Canon S90 is clearly the smaller and more compact of the two. The LX3 is not huge, but it isn’t pocket-friendly; it’s bigger, has a lens that obtrudes, and a detached lens cap that would irritate the life out of me! However, I do feel that the Canon S90 feels a little cramped at times (such as the flash in the place where I’d normally place my left index finger), but I quickly got used to how I have to hold it. The lack of a grip isn’t ideal, but you can purchase a grip online that works wonders apparently. The lack of a hotshoe is no problem for me as it’s a compact - I am not going to use a separate flash, which to me negates the purpose of a compact camera! If I want to lug a flash around, I might as well bring my DSLR.

The Canon S90 is great if you want to supplement your DSLR with a camera that takes quality pictures and allows you a degree of manual freedom that is lacking in most compact cameras. It is also a great option for those of you that have outgrown or have become tired of your simple point-and-shoot camera’s limited functionality, but do not yet feel confident or cannot see yourself using a DSLR often because of its size.

1:58 pm - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

#52 Willy Hu

@ken: I’m interested to see where you’re going with this. I’m in the exact same dilemma, but I’m leaning towards the S90.

@vikdaddy: Thanks for the review. Is the user interface on the LX3 really that cumbersome? I also read this review, which more directly compared the S90 with the LX3

I’ve read the S90 wins out in low-light situations, while LX3 is better for landscapes. How do they compare in shooting macros?

6:44 pm - Sunday, April 18, 2010

#53 Vikdaddy

@Willy Hu: The LX3 isn’t as intuitive as the Canon S90. I also own a Canon DSLR, so perhaps I’m a little biased as the interface is similar. However, Canon compacts are renowned for their menus being easy to use. It’s just easy to quickly learn where functions are.

As for shooting Macros, I have to say that I rarely do Macro shooting. If I was to, I’d use my DSLR. From what I’ve read, the LX3 is better as you can get up to 1cm away from the subject, whereas the S90 is about 5cm. 1cm is very close though!

9:05 pm - Sunday, April 18, 2010

#54 Willy Hu

The control ring is also very tempting…I wish there were a camera store nearby with both of these on hand!

1 cm is very, VERY close…how about on the opposite end of spectrum? The 24mm lens compared to the 28mm? The range of the S90 is impressive, but the wider angle offered by the LX3 has me rethinking everything again.

9:09 pm - Sunday, April 18, 2010

#55 Vikdaddy

That’s exactly what I did; I went to a shop and played vigorously with both! When the staff got sick of me I left and came back another day to do the same again, and did this a few times until I decided on the S90.

The S90 has a dedicated macro mode, which may sway you, by the way. The control ring is awesome. It seems a little gimmicky at first, but it doesn’t take long to find yourself using it for almost every photo you take.

As for the wide angle, that simply depends on the type of photos you take. If I’m going to take pictures of landscapes, I will take my DSLR. Do you have a DSLR? If you don’t, the LX3 might be a better alternative, seeing as it has a hotshoe and it will be the only camera you will use, so size is less of an issue. For me, if I’m going to carry accessories I might as well take my DSLR. I want the S90 to be with me daily, so 24mm is a sacrifice I’m willing to take for having a 3.8x optical zoom.

9:21 pm - Sunday, April 18, 2010

#56 Willy Hu

No, I don’t have a DSLR. I’m afraid that if I go for the wider angle that the LX3 gives me, I’d really miss out on the 103mm lens that the S90 offers. 60mm sounds much too inadequate for a lot of the shots I’d be taking, given my history of photography.

11:25 pm - Sunday, April 18, 2010

#57 Vikdaddy

Sounds like you’ve already made your mind up!

Both cameras are very good, so I’d go for the one that feels the most comfortable in your hands and the one that seems the easiest to use. Both will take very good pictures for compacts, so setting aside the squabbling about which camera is better, just go for the one that ‘feels’ right. I know that when I put my hands on the S90, I instantly knew that I preferred the camera, and I only played with the LX3 to confirm this. I wanted the LX3 to sway me, but I just knew that it was the S90 that I wanted.

PS The S90 has a maximum zoom of 105mm ;)

10:16 am - Monday, April 19, 2010

#58 Gerald Horgan

All I can say the Canon S90 is great.  Anybody deciding to buy the camera have a look at examples of pictures I took with the camera

11:30 am - Monday, April 19, 2010

#59 Willy Hu

@vikdaddy: Haha yeah, maybe. I’m hoping to get the chance to play with one of them in a few days, so hopefully that will help end my indecision. Thanks so much for your advice I really appreciate it.

3:20 pm - Monday, April 19, 2010

#60 ken

hi, all, I’ve been getting the updates….anyone considering the S90…just back from Moab, first time out shootin’ with the S90….awesome. loved it.  so glad I went with the S90; truly unbelievable.  joy to use; see moab set at my flickr page

12:34 am - Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#61 GHJones

Most of the shots seemed under exposed annd most were in need of some enhancement. The Boats onthe river showed up Canon`s Achilles heel by the Mushy reeds and trees. Which has been present over the years. I think some paintings can show more detail.
When the the photos you obtained with the Pentax Optio H90 are compared they came out crisp and sharp. And that is only a cheapo not a £285 wonder.

7:13 pm - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#62 anton

right… i spent nearly a week and i have an awful headache, so i need help (not doctors) The reason i need a compact is to bring out with me when i go out as my d60 will look like a bazooka on my shoulder. pany lx3? lovely in daylight as i understand but useless in low light? what about s90? would f200 do the best job with its ‘speciality’ as some people say? which one of these should i go for?

8:49 pm - Monday, June 14, 2010

#63 zebarnabe


You may be looking for a camera like the Panasonic Lumix GF1 or some version of the ‘new’ PEN from Olympus…. the 20mm pancake that comes bundle with GF1 has very good reviews on it, and since it has a nice aperture you can take low light shots quite easily, it is also small when compared with d60…

Since sensor is bigger will behave better in low light when compared with LX3 or S90, but LX3 is not bad in low light, however you can’t pump up the ISO too much or noise will appear.

If i’m not mistaken LX3 has marginally less detail resolve and more noise than S90 (at least when comparing RAWs), BUT most of people wouldn’t notice it, JPEGs are another story…

S90 is more general purpose in my opinion, while wide angle LX3 is awesome for landscapes and such… they both have f/2.0 lens but at different focal lengths…

In the end is hard to tell… if i had the money i would go for a GF1 with 20mm pancake (40mm equivalent)... a little bigger than a compact camera, but lots of quality and impressive low light performance… and if you really like low light shooting you can always get some ‘cheap’ voigtlander manual lens and an adapter (well, now you have more options, as some companies start making mount compatible lens… you can go as low as f/0.95 ... just don’t expect the quality of the 20mm pancake) ;)

Please note: I do not own any digital camera (mobile phone and mustek webcam aside) this is just my opinion… in google for the pointers i’ve given to get more solid opinions :)

9:46 pm - Monday, June 14, 2010

#64 Canarytops

I saw in the Image Quality review the comment : “You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don’t like the default look”. Having had a brief check over in a shop I couldn’t find any Menu option for this.
Could someone point me in the right direction ?

9:07 am - Saturday, July 3, 2010

#65 senor neek

Please may i have some comments/views?

I had a P&S a few years back (Sony) and hated, hated, hated it, esp the lag.

Now I need something small to fill in when my D90 isn’t an option and for my wife who’s artistic but not great with tech.

Camera will be used for general purposes but MAINLY for snaps of people and kids, during day and at night. Ability to take photos of a 3y/o indoors, moving at high speed is a MUST.

My options are (I think):
1. s90;
2. g11,
3. F200EXR (fujifilm)
4. ?


4:40 pm - Thursday, July 22, 2010

#66 zebarnabe

@Senor Neek,

May i sugest the new Panasonic LX5?
LX3 is another contester… but LX5 has more reach and a brand new sensor… let’s wait for the reviews to come shall we? (a few test shots already show that LX5 gives some nice results at ISO1600 - enough to making me raise my eyebrow when comparing it to the bigger GH1)

S90 looks like a nice choice as well…
G11 has some extra versatility with the extra reach of the lens
I wonder if Canon will launch something new soon… (there are rumors about mirrorless stuff)

F200EXR is a different beast ... it’s a bridge camera ... a good one… HS10 is a bit less sharp… it’s arguably a better family camera… but night shots are a problem for any camera (specially bridges) ... from what i’ve seen F200EXR is a bit faster than HS10…

If you are to include F200EXR ... include Panasonic FZ100 ... it’s expected to have quite some enhancements on the sensor and has extra zoom when comparing with FZ35/38 ... but as is with LX5 it’s new and there are not many reviews or information about it…

i would wait a bit to see of the new panasonic cameras deserve a choice or not…

If you have some money to spare a GF1 (with 20mm f/1.7 lens for low light)is also a nice cameras since iA mode makes it behave as a compact… it’s a great snapper and since you own a D90 it would give you a nice backup with full manual modes and some HD video.. :)

Well… good luck ... check the review around the net to see what would fit the bill better…

12:36 am - Friday, July 23, 2010

#67 Xerkon the Great

Lot of pricks here. If you don’t like the S90, it’s price or spec then don’t ####### buy it.

I love mine. I think its great. I have the G11 and an EOS 40D. The S90 is very pocketable and discreet. Superb results for such a little camera. I love everything about it especially the step zoom. Yes, it’s expensive. I bought mine for £309 from inclusive of a spare Canon battery and a class 4 4Gb SD card. Not bad deal.

It really is a lovely camera that goes in a, say, jacket pocket and you don’t feel the weight. The ideal take anywhere shoot anywhere camera. Shoot in RAW and process with the advance noise reduction of Lightroom 3 and you’ll get some very good high ISO shots.

I can’t find anything to really criticise the camera. I love it all.

11:38 am - Monday, August 23, 2010

Entry Tags

review, 3 inch LCD, compact, wide-angle, manual, prosumer, 10 megapixel, 3.8x zoom, Canon PowerShot S90 Review, s90, canon s90

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