Canon PowerShot S90 Review

November 10, 2009 | Gavin Stoker |

Canon PowerShot S90 Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

As we've found with nearly all Canon's semi pro compacts to date, when it comes to image quality there's very little to take issue with, aside from the fact that colours can feel a little cool when left on the camera's default settings, and, at maximum wide angle setting, some barrel distortion is evidenced, most prominently in our white brick wall test shots - along with softening of detail towards the corners.

Selecting iContrast in strong sunlight we found gave added definition and depth to a shot that could otherwise be left looking a little wishy-washy and hazy if the camera was entrusted entirely to its own devices. On that note though, Canon's point and shoot Smart Auto functionality works well, and reliably with it.

A lens that lets in plenty of light and a sensor not over-burdened with pixels also meant that we were able to shoot interior shots handheld and without the use of flash and avoid tell tale blur resulting from camera shake - aided further of course by on board image stabilisation.

Inevitably some pixel fringing is in evidence between areas of high contrast in outdoor shots, but it's kept well within acceptable levels and wouldn't be noticed unless zooming in to scrutinize detail like we were.

In terms of ISO performance the S90 excels in keeping noise down to acceptable levels. Even at ISO 3200, though detail has softened our test images reveal results that arguably, would give lesser compacts shooting at ISO 800 a run for their money, or certainly ones taking images at ISO 1600 if we're being particularly conservative.

For what appears at first glance to be a point-and-shoot camera with bells on, the S90 offers a level of sophistication that few can match - now our only worry is the price.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot S90. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon PowerShot S90 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Canon PowerShot S90 allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot S90 are Auto, On, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchro and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (105mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (105mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Canon Powershot S90's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/20th second at ISO 800. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)