Having started with the box this in this Canon PowerShot S95 review I will continue with the exterior design and handling. This is what I have noticed with my eyes still “new” – that is after just a few days of usage. Before I have gotten used to the quirks and doubtful design decisions – and all the good stuff also! 😉 As time goes by and as I get more and more familiar with the camera I will stop seeing and will just be accepting… 😉 This is a premium camera and you should be able to expect top-notch design and handling! Look out for my blue “Canon – please rework this!” – when I see something that I think Canon could have designed or implemented in a better way! Well, let us get on with the review!
Starting with the top (lens facing forward) this is a classy looking camera! The top being glossier then the rest of the camera that has a matte non-slip surface. On the far left is a hole for attaching the wrist-strap (Yes, there is one, probably more often used, on the right hand side as well!) then is the lid for the pop-up flash.
The flash is pushed up quite rapidly and pulled down as rapidly again by a motor making a sort of a little cute “oink” sound. My first observation – having used the Canon S95 for just a few days: this push-up flash is NOT so handy as it seems! Yeah, I can live with it but would certainly have prefered not to… I do hope that is because of a space problem or another constructional problem – and not by design! But on the other hand as most other compact cameras manage to find room for the flash on the front plate I wonder why this Canon has chosen this design solution for the S95?! It is quite annoying to have the flash pop up as you switch on the camera! The motor is quite powerful and also quite abrupt – pushing away your fingers in a very impolite way! The left hand corner is a very common place to place your fingers when holding the camera… Well, I assume that we S95 owners will have to relearn the way to hold our compact camera when we switch it on. 😉 At least it only pops up if you have switched on the flash in the menu! But if you forget to switch it off after use – you will have the unwelcome pushing-up-flash surprise (PUFS) when you switch the camera on again … Here comes the first: Canon – please rework this!
Continuing to the right we next find the button for activating the “Ring function”. The “ring function” is the ability to adjust a number of different settings by turning the grooved ring around the lens barrel. ISO value 80-3200, Exposure compensation +-2 steps, Manual focus 5 cm-distant, White balance red-blue, Zoom in fixed steps 28, 35, 50,85, 105 mm, Shadow correction off, auto, 200% 400% and “Custom”. In “Custom” you can select what settings you want to be able to control with the “ring function” – different settings depending on the photo mode (M, Av, Tv, P) you are in. This is quite handy but I still feel it is not implemented in the best way – probably because the ring is a tad to narrow for my fingers at least to turn easily – combined with that the click stops are a little too stiff! Having very much less stiff click stops probably would mean that you by accident could change settings … but maybe halfway …? (I will be returning to this “ring function” a little later.)
After that is the ON/OFF button which is not that easy to find with the finger – without looking – because it is flush to the top surface! Not much more to say about this – it works! 😉
Then is the shutter release button and zoom lever – surrounded by a raised ring – making it easy to find. At least to my finger length it is placed at exactly the right distance from the right hand edge. BUT … the button itself is a too small to my liking. The IXUS 860IS had a much better (bigger!) size button… This is after all maybe the MOST central button on any camera!
To the far right is the Mode dial with all the modes you could desire – Manual, Aperture value, Time value, Program AE, Auto, Low light, Scene and Movie. Once again I will have to point out that I think the click stops are too stiff! Changing the mode dial is something you can only do with one finger (the thumb!) on the fluted edge of the mode dial – and it is NOT easy enough to turn the dial! The ridges are absolutely necessary as the dial is not very high – and it is not easy to get a good enough grip to be able to turn the dial without pressing rather hard! Ok, it works – but this is a premium camera – so I expected better design than this! The Samsung WB2000 had a better design and implementation of this! Here comes the second: Canon – please rework this! I do hope it gets better by wear!
Considering the fact that the mode dial click stops are so stiff it would have been handy with a separate dedicated movie recording button! The Samsung WB2000 has this and it would have been extra handy on the S95. Also with the WB2000 you can take (a limited number of) full resolution still pictures during movie recording with minimal disturbance to the movie recording – quite handy when you both want to eat the cake and save it… You can not reprogram any other button to have this movie recording function either…
Moving on to the rest of the controls on the back – just below the mode dial is a small quad of holes for the speaker. There is a small green/orange LED – used to indicate a few things. Blinking green: access to the memory card, Steady green: focus ok, Blinking orange: shake warning and Steady orange: Flash ready.
Below it is the “PictBrigde button” – used to select pictures for printing (during playback) or it can be custom programmed to access 1 of 20 different settings in camera mode – quite handy! You decide what you want to access by a dedicated button! This is just one button but it is so good! (I have it set for White balance!)
To the right of that is the “Playback button” – as you probably guess this will play back/show the pictures and movies taken. Even when the camera is switched off it can be pressed for >1 sec to switch on the camera in playback mode (the lens does not extend) which is handy. By using the zoom lever you can go from the normal mode of showing 1 picture full screen to 4, 9 or even 36 thumbnails! The S95 handles the playback with ease and even use two different transitions when you change picture by pressing on the left or right on the fluted ring below – or if you rotate fluted ring. Zooming in and out of a picture is very fast and responsive! Jump directly to full screen from zoomed in by pressing the “Menu” – button. When zoomed in you can also move around by pressing on the fluted ring in any of the four directions. One handy feature if you want to compare several pictures zoomed in to a specific area – just rotate the fluted ring and the next or previous picture will show – zoomed in at the same spot!
Below those is the “Control Dial” – a combination of a rotating fluted ring and a button in the middle. (It has almost exactly the same layout as the Samsung WB2000.) It is used in many different ways. I will mention most of them but I do not claim to be complete. First of all is pressing the fluted ring by the printed symbols in the 4 main directions which will activate the following settings. Left: Macro, Normal or Manual focus. Right: Flash auto, Flash on, Flash slow synch or Flash off. Up: Exposure compensation +- 2 steps. Down: Self timer – quite advanced – set timer for 1-30 secs and 1 to 10 pictures taken. The fluted ring and the “Ring function” is used to adjust many of the settings. The fluted ring and the button in the middle (“Func Set”) is used to confirm many of the settings.
Pressing the “Func Set” button while in camera mode brings up the “Function menu” along the left and bottom edges with a lot of different settings. What settings you get depends on which mode you have set. (Look in Canon PowerShot S95 – The Features to see a description of the features.) If you hold the “Func set” button pressed for a few seconds in camera mode a crazy animated boxy clock display will appear… turn it into vertical position for an even more crazy effect!
Next is the “Disp” button which lets you select what information to show on the display. In camera mode it will switch between two customizable levels of displayed information. Via the menu you set up what info you want to see in each level: Detailed shooting info, grid lines and focus check. In playback mode you have four levels of displayed information: No info, Simple info, Detailed info and Focus check. The “Disp” button will also set the display at its highest brightness – if pressed for more than 1 sec.
The last – but not the least important button is the “Menu” button which will let you do a whole number of settings and customizations! The alternatives you get depends on what setting you chose from the “Mode dial”. (Look in Canon PowerShot S95 – The Features to see a description of the features.) The “Menu” button also zooms to full screen in playback mode – which is quite handy!
The display is a very good – 461 000 pixels. It is bright and has a very wide viewing angle – close to 180 degrees in all directions! It is good – but not as good as the Canon EOS 550D which has 1040 000 pixels on roughly the same size 3″ display (but the 550D is 3:2 and the S95 is 4:3) and a slightly better anti-reflex coating.
Moving further down we reach the bottom of the S95. It is equipped with four small bumps – serving as “feet” so that it stands reasonably steady on a table or other flat surface. Exactly in line with the lens is a metal tripod mount (half hidden in the picture above) – good for panorama pictures! Next to it is the spring-loaded lid for the battery and SD-card. To insert the SD-card you push it down. To remove it you push it again and it pops up enough that it easy to get a grip on – similar (but still very good!) solution seen in many other cameras! SD, SDHC and SDXC ar among the supported. The battery is also spring-loaded and held in place by a small brown plastic tab. Move the plastic tab to the side and the battery pops up for you to grip it reasonably well. The battery is a Li-ion Canon NB-6L 3.7 V 1000 mA capacity. I have not yet any figures for how many pictures the battery lasts but it seems to run out rather quickly when playing around with the camera. A second battery is definitely needed! (Look forward to a review of a NB-6L compatible battery soon.)