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Reviews > Cameras > Digital > Canon S95 Powerseries Camera > Owner Review by Brian Hartman

CANON POWERSERIES S95 CAMERA
BY BRIAN HARTMAN
OWNER REVIEW
February 15, 2015

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid-weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

IMAGE 1
photo courtesy of manufacturer

Manufacturer: Canon, Inc.
Year of manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's website: http://www.canon.com/
MSRP: US $399.99
Listed weight (including batteries): 7 oz (195 g)
Measured weight (including batteries): 7.2 oz (204 g)
Dimensions: 3.94 x 2.28 x 1.18" (100 x 58 x 30 mm)

Other details provided by manufacturer:
Body type: Compact
Max resolution: 3648 x 2736
Effective pixels: 10 megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58 mm)
Sensor type: CCD
ISO range: 80 - 3200
Focal length: 28 - 105 mm
Optical zoom: 3.8x
Screen size 3" (7.62 cm)
Format: H.264
Storage type: SD / SDHC / SDXC / MMC / MMC plus / HC MMC plus card
Ports: HDMI and USB 2.0


DESCRIPTION

The Canon S95 (hereafter called S95 or camera) is a pocket-sized digital point-and-shoot camera that is part of Canon's Powershot S Series product line. It features an extremely compact design, full manual control, and great picture quality.

When first released by Canon three years ago, the S95 was in fact the smallest full featured compact camera on the market, measuring only 3.94 x 2.28 x 1.18" (100 x 58 x 30 mm). For comparison, it is smaller than my iPhone 5 in both height and width, though nearly twice as thick. With its ultra slim design, the camera easily fits in my pant or shirt pocket, although I typically carry it in a small leather belt case designed specifically for it by Canon. The case provides full protection for the camera and has a magnetic cover that makes retrieving it for spur-of-the-moment photos extremely quick and easy.

The camera sports a sleek, modern design with a solid black aluminum body, glass screen, and steel tripod mount. In keeping with its sleek design the controls and LCD screen are flush to the camera body and the lens only protrudes 0.34" (8.9 mm) when closed, a remarkable feat given the camera's 3.8x zoom lens. The aluminum frame and glass screen also make the S95 feel quite durable and rugged.

The S95 is loaded with everything I wanted in an ultra-slim, compact camera. The list of features is quite extensive and includes the following: a 10 megapixel CMOS sensor that utilizes Canon's DIGIC 4 processor for great image quality and low light performance. The 3.8x optical zoom has Optical Image Stabilization which helps compensate for camera shake to produce clear photos. The large f/2.0 lens gathers plenty of light for fast shutter speeds and shallow depth-of-field, enabling it to work perfectly for indoor portrait photography where natural light and soft backgrounds are preferable. The wide-angle lens also makes it easy to take group photos in tight spaces.

Adding to its list of features, the S95 offers a full range of manual shooting modes with RAW and JPEG format support for creative shooting. Auto focusing is performed via a 9-point system with options for face detection, subject tracking and center point, among others. The S95 also has the ability to shoot beautiful 720p HD video at 24fps in stereo sound and play it back on an HDTV via its HDMI output.

Speaking of stereo sound, the microphones are housed in two tiny holes located on either side of the lens. Given that they are no larger than a pinhole, the S95 captures surprisingly good sound in video mode. Just above and to the left of the lens is an AF (auto focus) assist/self timer lamp window. The motorized pop-up flash is nicely hidden on top of the camera where it rises automatically in AUTO mode or can be activated manually by the user. The HDMI and USB ports are located on the right hand side of the camera, beneath a plastic cover. The base of the camera meanwhile features a threaded hole for a tripod attachment and a sliding door, beneath which the lithium battery and memory card are located.

IMAGE 2
photo courtesy of manufacturer
In addition to the features mentioned above, the S95 has a host of advanced DSLR-style controls that I believe are aimed at serious photographers who don't always want to lug around a full size DSLR. The S95's controls are located on the front, top and back of the camera. For starters, there's a professional style control ring, located around the camera's lens, for manual control of focus, aperture, ISO speed, exposure, white balance and zoom. Adjustment of each setting is made by rotating the lens barrel left or right.

On top of the camera is the shooting mode dial which provides access to additional manual controls as well as scene modes. It is thumb operated and clicks into place at each of nine mode settings including Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual and Custom mode along with Auto, Low Light, Scene and Movie modes. In Program mode, for example, selecting the ISO icon provides a slide rule across the bottom of the screen which displays ISO speeds from 80 to 3200. From there I can simply rotate the scroll wheel or tab between them to select the desired setting. Quite remarkably, the S95 offers full image resolution at ISO 3200 along with 1/3 stop adjustments all the way from ISO 80 to its top setting.

The function/settings button is located on the back of the camera in the center of the control pad/scroll wheel. It allows for adjustment of all kinds of shooting parameters including ISO, white balance, color, exposure and focus bracketing, drive mode (single, continuous, continuous with autofocus), metering, aspect ratio, image quality, and dynamic range correction.

At the top, bottom, left, and right points of the control pad are selections for exposure compensation, flash settings, self-timer, and macro or manual focus. When in playback mode, the top and bottom buttons can be used to quickly sort through a number of photos or delete saved photos.

Finally, spaced symmetrically around the wheel are four buttons for menu access, display settings, photo playback, and photo printing via PictBridge. PictBridge is an Industry Standard technology that allows images to be printed directly from digital cameras to a printer, without having to connect the camera to a computer. A press of the menu button brings up the image capture, set up and 'my menu' folders. Within image capture, one can enable iContrast, auto red eye reduction, blink detection and image stabilization. The display button, alternatively, brings up a nine zone grid and simultaneous RGB histogram with additional on-screen info.

In addition to everything mentioned above, two new in-camera modes, Tracking AF and High Dynamic Range, were recently added to the camera. Tracking AF features fully automatic face and motion detection as well smart auto scene detection. When this mode is turned on, the camera automatically tracks fast-moving or unpredictable subjects like wildlife (or children) and automatically keeps them in focus. High Dynamic Range mode helps capture high-contrast scenes in vivid color. Lastly multi-aspect shooting lets photos be taken in a variety of formats including 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 4:5 for enhanced flexibility and creativity.

FIELD TESTING AND OBSERVATIONS

I bought this camera in preparation for a cross-country trip I made to the Southwest in the spring of 2012. I used the S95 extensively on that trip while hiking through Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park. Since then I have taken the camera on almost all of my backpacking trips and day hikes through the Midwest and South and even on a trip to Yosemite last spring. All told, I have taken thousands of pictures and hundreds of videos with this camera. As far as weather conditions go, I have used the S95 in sun, rain and snow and in temperatures from 100 F (38 C) to -10 F (-23 C). It has been used at sea level and at 11,000 ft (3,352 m) elevation.

For an ultra-slim compact camera, the S95 takes great photos. Although it works exceptionally well in Auto mode, I tend to be more hands-on, using most of the available settings. When backpacking on the trail I usually shoot in program mode with or without the auto timer as most of those photos are self portraits or landscape photos. When in program mode, I utilize the ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings to try to capture the best photos. When taking photos of backpacking gear in preparation for an Initial Report, I tend to work more so with the exposure, white balance, macro, manual focus, and aspect ratio settings to get the shots I'm after. In either case, getting to a particular setting or adjustment is intuitive as Canon has done a good job laying out their controls and software settings.

IMAGE 3
photo courtesy of manufacturer
One thing to note about the S95 is that because it's so small there is not much room to hold it while taking photos. This is complicated by the fact that the camera body is smooth and there is no grip on the front or sides of the camera. When I first got the camera I couldn't understand what other reviews that I had read were complaining about as I easily found a perfect spot for my left index finger on the top left side of the camera with my thumb beneath. What I didn't realize until I started taking indoor shots was that the motorized flash occupies that spot and I was inadvertently preventing it from popping up. Thankfully I didn't break anything. I have since found a way to hold the camera at the bottom that works but is dicey so I always wear the camera strap around my wrist just in case.

I must admit that I love movie mode and use it every chance I get. As mentioned previously the camera has a mini HDMI port that can be connected to an HDTV for playback of movies. Regrettably for the S95, resolution in movie mode is limited to 720p, and the optical zoom and auto-focus are not available during recording. This is a shame because the rest of this camera is so good and I don't think rival cameras are limited in respect to 720p resolution, zoom and focus. The LCD screen, however, looks and performs great. It's plenty large at 3" (7.6 cm) across and is high resolution and plenty bright in sunlight. Battery life for the lithium rechargeable is respectable. I can usually shoot for an entire day before the battery runs out and recharging is quick. However, I haven't had as much luck with the overall life of Canon's lithium batteries as I'm on my third one now. It seems like these batteries should be lasting several years each but I honestly haven't kept track of how many times I've charged them to know if they're lasting as long as they should. I just wish they weren't so expensive.

For the most part, I'm very happy with the responsiveness of the S95. It powers up quickly and is swift to focus at any focal length. The zoom is ok but it's not super fast and doesn't have extraordinary range. Most of the time this isn't an issue, but there are occasions when a long, quick zoom would be great. One such time was when I was hiking through the woods in Glacier National Park and came into an opening just as a large brown bear and her cub were walking across a log bridge over a fast moving stream. Before I could get the S95 zoomed in and focused, the bears were across the log and into tall grass. Another time was when I saw a bald eagle in the sky above me at the Grand Canyon but was simply too far away to get a photo. Granted these were just two occasions out of hundreds and maybe only a few point-and-shoot cameras could pull those shots off. When size and weight aren't an issue I'm quick to take my Canon 50D with its 70 - 200mm lens, but for all other occasions I rely on the S95. As my dad, an avid photographer once told me, the best camera is the one you take with you. In that respect alone, the S95 is a great camera because it's so small I take it with me everywhere.
IMAGE 4 IMAGE 5

SUMMARY

All in all, the Canon Powershot S95 is a fantastic compact camera. It is super small, loaded with features and has great picture quality. For a pocket-sized camera that can be taken everywhere, the S95 is a great option.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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