Canon PowerShot S95 – The Features

I will cover a lot of the functionality of the Canon PowerShot S95 in this review but I will skip over some of the more common features. I will cover them with my view to how design and handling should be implemented! I do realize that you might not agree with me on all of my comments but at least you will be aware of  another way of seeing things! The S95 has a myriad of different settings and modes and I would point you to the very good  dpreview  site to read (when their S95 review arrives) about all of these features! I will focus on, what I consider to be, the most important and interesting features of the Canon PowerShot S95.

The Menu

As many compact cameras the Canon PowerShot S95 actually has two co-working menu systems. One is accessed via the “Func set” button and the other via the “Menu” button. The menu systems are important so I will give you a quick rundown of the features/functions and settings of the dual menu system!

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! On the left all the different settings will be shown – scroll down to see more – and along the bottom all the values to choose from is shown. In the picture to the left you can also see the hint that is shown for a few seconds after you select a new setting. This hint can be switched on or off in the Menu settings below. What settings you can adjust depends on which mode you have set. Here I will list the settings in the “P” mode.

  • Dynamic range correction. Will correct overexposed and underexposed areas. (This affects the selectable ISO values.)
    Great idea – will be interesting to try it out!
  • ISO value. Auto, 80-3200
    Max ISO value is selectable for Auto ISO! Good! See below!
  • White balance. AWB, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Flourescent lighting white and daylight, Flash, Underwater, Custom (measure)
    You can also manually set the white balance for the amount of Amber-Blue and Green-Magenta you want
    One concern is how it will handle “shade” – which usually is little different from the one setting for “cloudy”…
  • My colour. Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, B/W, Positive film, Lighter + darker skin tone, Vivid blue, Vivid green, Vivid Red, Custom (manual setting of contrast, sharpness, saturation, RGB and skin tones)
  • Bracketing. Both exposure and focus bracketing
    Focus bracketing is new to me – will be interesting to try it out!
  • Drive mode. Single, Continuous, Continuous with focus
  • Metering method. Evaluative, Center weighted average, Spot metering
  • Aspect ratio. 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, 4:5
  • Image. JPG, RAW or Both at the same time
  • Resolution. 10 Mpix,6 Mpix, 2 Mpix, 0.3 Mpix

The “Menu” button will bring up a traditional menu system – tab and line based. Move the highlight to the line/setting you want to adjust with up/down arrow and select the value you want with right/left arrow. The last line can be used for a short hint and tip of each selected line in the menu. This menu system 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”. I will only mention the ones you get in “P” mode.

  • Auto focus frame. Center, Face, Tracking
  • Auto focus frame size. Small, Normal
  • Digital zoom. Off (GOOD!), Fixed 1.4x, Fixed 2.3x, Standard (extends after optical zoom ends – up to 15x total)
  • Auto focus point zoom. On, Off. Enlargement of focus area. After you have focused a box with the focus area enlarged will appear in middle of screen.
  • Servo auto focus. On, Off. continually refocuses while shutter release if half-pressed. 
  • Auto focus assist beam. On, Off
  • Manual focus point zoom. On, Off. Enlargement of middle area will appear in middle of screen.
  • Safety manual focus. After you have focused (roughly) manually the auto focus will adjust a small distance at each half press of the shutter button
  • Flash settings. Shows a sub menu: Flash exp comp +-2 steps, Shutter synch 1st  or 2nd curtain, Red-eye correction (processing after the shot is taken), Red-eye lamp, Safety FE (save blown highlights)
  • ISO auto. Set max ISO value to 80-1600. Set how fast change is to happen.
    I truly like being able to set this! Good!
  • Review. Off, 2-10 secs, hold
    Review is terminated as soon as you touch the shutter release button – so you can go on and take the next picture even if you have a long review time set.
    I would very much have liked to have had the really handy Ixus feature of showing the just taken picture – for as long as you held the shutter release button pressed.
  • Review info. Off, Detailed, Focus check
  • Blink detect. Will issue a warning (Blinking icon) if camera detects closed eyes in a photo
  • Custom display. Set up what info you want to see in the two “Disp levels” mentioned above: Detailed shooting info, grid lines and focus check.
  • Image stabilization. Off, Continuous, Shoot only, Panning
  • Date stamp. Writes/stamps date with yellow digits on to the lower right hand corner of the picture
  • Set shortcut button. Custom program the PictBridge button to access 1 of 20 different settings in camera mode
    This is GOOD – use it! I think this is the only way to have a switch to shut off the display…
  • Save settings. Custom settings is saved – can be used with the “C” mode

Before leaving the menus – there is one more feature of this camera that you could have some use for:The Favorites Tab or My Menu Tab! Just select the from ordinary menu items and they will appear in the “Favorites Tab” – the star marked tab! If you have registered items on this tab it will also be the tab that is always shown whenever you press the “Menu” button.

The most interesting features

Having gone through the two menu systems I will now focus on, what I consider to be, the most important and interesting features of the Canon PowerShot S95. It will be a mix of small and large – I suspect in no particular order – at least not when I write – I might arrange it in a “proper” order after I finish writing! If you have a request for me to write about a specific feature just put it in a comment and I will try to oblige!

The Scene modes
This has 19 settings that you can choose from: Portrait, Landscape, Kids&pets, SmartShutter, SuperVivid, PosterEffect, ColourAccent, ColourSwap, HDR, Nostalgic, FishEye, Miniature, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, StitchAssist left & right. The names are pretty much self-explanatory… Each of the different scene modes are set by pressing the “func set” button and selecting the desired mode. I will go through the ones I find most interesting. I am not a very frequent user of  these scene modes – but they come in handy every now and then – especially the StitchAssist! I mostly use P, Tv, Av.

SmartShutter is a fun 🙂 one – a built in photographer! It automatically takes pictures – if one of three different condition is met. 
– First is the Smileshutter. You just select this and put the camera down. When the camera detects a smile it will focus and take a picture. The S95 is a very keen photographer! It snaps off pictures when it feels like it – does not really matter if you smile or not! But mostly it reacts to a smile – a looong smile! Do not expect it to be very quick at reacting … but on the other hand you will not have to smile every time either!  And it will capture some of the funny faces you will be making when you try to make it take a picture! 😉 It will go on like this untill you switch it off…
– Second is the WinkTimer. It works in a slightly different way, more like a self timer that is triggered by a wink. You have to press the shutter button to start the camera detecting winks. As soon as the camera detects a wink it will start the self timer for a two second countdown and then snap off a picture. It is reasonably good at this – better than detecting smiles! You want it to take more pictures – then you have to press the shutter button again!
– Third is the SelfFaceTimer. It works as the WinkTimes – but is triggered by one more face entering the picture frame. You have to press the shutter button to start the camera detecting new faces. When this happens it will start the self timer for a two second countdown and then snap off a picture. Again if you want it to take more pictures – you have to press the shutter button again!
For all three conditions you can set the number of pictures (1-10) the camera should take at each time the selected condition is met. All three seems to work best if the face is in the center area of the picture and if there is plenty of light!

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is quite useful – for stationary objects and stationary camera! Swaying trees, moving water, moving people … camera movements all will more or less spoil the result so steady is the way to go! To get a predictable result – use a tripod or other steady object. With HDR set the camera will take three pictures in a “burst” and combine them into a single picture with extended dynamic range. The camera is not that fast so there will be a noticeable delay between the pictures – putting demand that the subject is still for just over 1 second. It is nothing at all like the impressive HDR pictures you can see all around the web – but it is quite handy in situations when you have a higher than normal dynamic range. I will add a couple of sample pictures soon.

FishEye distorts most of the central area of the picture in the standard fish eye fashion – with a clear barrel effect! You see it clearly in the sample pictures below taken with the medium setting! You can choose from Off(!), Low, Medium and High effect. You can certainly build up a nice collection of funny faces with this one – if you use the fish eye effect at close range on your friends – and ex friends! 😉


Miniature keeps a horizontal area of sharpness stretching over the picture and blurs the rest. This gives (on some motifs!) a very good illusion of a miniature. You can move the sharp area up and down over the picture – even if the best effect is usually achieved when the sharp area is in the lower half of the picture! It stays horizontal if you turn the camera vertical – just like it should!

StitchAssist – helps in creating real high-resolution panorama pictures. The S95 has a very good – in my opinion the best type of  – support for this! You can use it to take panorama pictures going to the right or to the left. There is no support for up or down – that is with the camera in landscape orientation. As you take the pictures a part of the previous picture will guide you in achieving the best possible line up. (I have put a light white cast over that previous picture part – so it is easier to see what I mean.) Small jumps between pictures – like the jump in the middle of the black door – and much bigger ones – will be fixed in the panorama software! They matter very little to the quality of the resulting panoramic picture – but they reduce the height of the picture slightly – so try to keep the pictures aligned as best as you can! The camera locks the exposure and the white balance when you take the first picture (or rather when you half-press the shutter button on the first picture) so be sure to pick the best spot for the exposure and then reposition to start the panorama sequence. If your motif is evenly lit you can skip that part. You can take up to 26 pictures in a panorama sequence.

Canon names the pictures ST+a letter A-Z + “_” + a sequential 4 digit number. (Ex: STA_0123.jpg) This identifies both the sequence of picture and which picture in the sequence. BUT it plays havoc with an ordinary alphabetical file listing! Why Canon just did not name the Stitch assisted pictures like all other pictures IMG_0123.jpg – with the letter from above just appended to the filename? I do realize that with the STx_nnnn.jpg naming convention all the Stitch assisted pictures will be listed together – but in an amazing jumble… Anyhow you stitch them together with a software on your computer – and you might as well rename them while you are at it!

My recommendation for panorama software is the brilliantly easy to use ICE from Microsoft – it combines as many pictures as you have (up to several GigaPixels!) in a panorama sequence fully automatic – and it does it very well! I really enjoy taking panorama pictures and this is by far the best way to do really high quality panoramas! 🙂

A lot of cameras this season has something called “Sweep panorama” or something similar – in which you just press the shutter button and slowly sweep the camera sideways and then it automatically creates the panorama picture. As convenient and quick as this might be – and fun to see on the small 3″ display – as sad you will be at home on your 24″ computer screen – when you realize that what you got it is just a low resolution panorama! 😦 (To be clear about it – the S95 does NOT have this type of panorama!)
(I have written an article on panorama pictures – look here!)


  1. #1 by Zoe on June 17, 2011 - 04:49

    Thanks for all your detailed postings on the S95. These really helped me make a decision!

    • #2 by sfennl on July 3, 2011 - 23:06

      It is my pleasure! Glad you had some use of it!

  2. #3 by Oliver on July 5, 2011 - 11:04

    Hello! Would you offer this camera instead of the Olympus XZ-1? I’m trying to make a good decision and I’m got stucked now and cannot decide which one would be better for making pictures during my summer holiday. Thank you for your help in advance. Oliver

    • #4 by sfennl on July 5, 2011 - 19:27

      Hi Oliver!

      As time goes by and the different makers look at each others offerings they tend to copy each other to some degree and then introduce their own “twists”. I say this because cameras of that “above-average-class” we are talking about here have reached a very high degree of maturity and similarity when it concerns its picture quality. Differences still exists but are not that big and the selection process boils down to your own requirements… for the extra features each camera has.

      My take on these two cameras goes like this:
      Size – they are both compact cameras but the Canon is definately the smallest. This matters to me as I use my S95 as the camera to bring when my EOS feels too big… Is this important to you too?
      Lens – both cameras has similar (and very good lenses) with the Olympus definately having an edge due to its brighter lens at the tele range… Good both for shutter speed and for DOF!
      Picture Quality – both cameras are very good but I would hold the Canon for having a slight edge due to a better processing. (I think the Canon produces really beautifull pictures!)
      Controls – important for every day use. Canon has a few more buttons/controls… This might be very important – but it depends a lot on the way you use your camera! As you probably have read in my blog the correct choice depends a lot on you! Myself, I would miss some buttons on the Olympus that I use very often – like ISO and white balance – but this might not matter to you. I probably use auto settings with up to 70% of my pictures. Taking around 300 pics/day when on holiday I change settings for up to 100 pics per day – this makes this an important aspect for me – it has to be fast and easy.
      Similarity – what other camera do you have? I have a Canon EOS and that makes the Canon choice a little easier as both cameras will produce similar looking pictures (good when I swith cameras) and also the general design philosphy makes it easier to learn two cameras from the same maker I think.
      Finally – I think that you will be very satisfied with the either camera! But think a little of how you would use the camera and that might help you make the choice!

      Hope this was of some help! Good luck to you and let me know which you decide on!

      PS I would probably still pick the S95 – because of the above mentioned reasons but it is not an easy choice to make. DS

  3. #5 by on May 25, 2013 - 00:52

    Valuable information. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t happened earlier!
    I bookmarked it.

  1. Panorama pictures « Photoman Camera Reviews

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