Handling a camera is what you do all the time so you will have to be comfortable with it! It takes some time to get accustomed to a new camera – to find your way around all the settings! Sitting down with the camera in one hand and the manual in the other is usually a very good thing and well spent time! (except that it is very hard to try out things with the manual in one hand… 😉 ) It will help you get the most out of the camera! Recommended!
Holding the camera
It would be wrong to say that the S95 is a small camera – when both Canon and others have much smaller cameras! Still it is not a big camera – well … it is compact! The S95 has no special bumps or ridges or handle to help you get a good holding grip on the camera. It is still quite OK to hold it! That said I would have prefered it to have some sort of ridge along the righthand side – and I have seen a grip that can be added. You might say that the little “shelf” under the mode dial on the back of the camera could serve as a resting place for your thumb but I think it is too small to be of any real use. The camera has a special “sandy” finish that is improving the not-drop-camera factor a little. The fluted barrel ring also helps in holding the camera as it gives a little support for the long finger. Picture: My new S95-adapted “camera grip”! 😉
Still (to me) the most irritating thing with holding the camera is the push-up flash! I have not dropped the camera yet – but I still get a real unpleasant surprise every time the camera pushes the flash up – or down! … and at the same time pushes my fingers away – because that very place is my favorite place for holding the camera! The flash motor is quite strong!
The wrist-strap is not as good the Ixus ones – which has a little “lock ring device ” to tighten the wrist-strap around … your wrist! The S95 wrist-strap is so loose it falls off the wrist far too easily! TIP: My recommendation is to add a little homemade “lock ring” to it! In the picture on the left I have used a ring from the middle of an old ballpoint pen. Any type of ring will do – just be sure that it is tight enough to not slide around by its own will! (There you have it – the reason to never throw away old ballpoint pens… ;-))
Switch-on is rather quick! Just 2 seconds to extend the lens, focus and take the picture! And even slightly faster at switch off. That is fast for a point&shoot camera!
Taking pictures in continuous mode is not that impressive but OK – at almost 2 pictures/sec without focusing in between. With focus for each picture its only 0.7 pictures/sec – that is one picture every 1.4 second. Here cameras like the Samsung WB2000 really outrun the S95 with ease at 10 full resolution pictures/second – admittedly for just a second – but still…! It seems as the S95 can go on “forever” – or at least till the memory card is full! I liked that but I will probably never use it!
Zooming from full wide to full tele takes around 3 seconds which is quite alright! Most zooms on compact cameras are not fully continuous but rather has a number of steps – the S95 has 9 zoom steps to choose from. Not that many steps really – but the zoom is just 3.8 x so I have not felt any limitation in finding a suitable focal length!
I have already mentioned that I think the shutter release button is well located – but is too small! Also the mode dial is far to difficult to turn – the dial itself is a little small and the click-stops are too stiff. The barrel ring click stops are also too stiff! But on the other hand I am not sure that it matters that much – there are mostly other ways of adjusting the settings offered by the barrel ring. It will be exciting to see in 6 months if I have grown to like it!? It would have been very handy with a dedicated movie recording button* – or at least be able to reprogram the PictBridge button with this. One more very small thing: the click-sound from the small buttons on the back of the camera is very “high-pitched” – good or bad I do not know – but they sound a little cheap in my ears…
Handling the S95 in cold weather is quite alright – but be sure to use the wrist-strap as it is easier to drop it with your gloves on. My first concern was how would the mode dial work with gloves on. At least with Thinsulate fleece gloves it was (to my surprise) quite alright! It almost felt better than without! The on/off button is much more difficult to find as the surface feels completely even! The zoom moves as swiftly in the cold and the other controls – and the camera itself – work well in cold temperatures like the -10 °C (14 °F) that I tested it in. (I do not work as well! 😉 )
(* I have to add that a dedicated movie button like this on the back of the camera is both good and bad! The good is easy and fast access – and in the case of the S95 due to the not so good mode dial – it would have been extra handy! The bad is that it is very difficult to start recording without an initial shake and also to fight the built-in reaction of your fingers to start recording with your shutter button finger… )
I feel I have been kind in choosing not to show the red “empty battery” symbol! It would have been appropriate! The S95 eats power – or the battery is not powerful enough! The Canon NB-6L Li-ion battery has a capacity of typically 1000 mAh (min 940 mAh) and it runs out very quickly. As I have had the S95 for such a short time yet I have no real world figure for the number of pictures you can take on one charge. Judging from how little “playing time” I have gotten out of the charges so far – it will probably just be around 200 pictures – so I have bought TWO extra batteries (compatibles). Read my test of them here!
The S95 has HD filming at 720×1280 24 pics/sec – this is an improvement over my old Ixus and over the S90 which just had VGA 640×480 but it is a step down from the Samsung WB2000 which sports full HD. The movies are not bad at all – the image stabilizer works well during filming and even out most small vibrations! Exposure is well handled during filming. The zoom does not work during filming – the digital zoom does but spoils the quality! Worse is that the focus does not work during filming! Because of this the S95 can not really be fully used as a movie camera replacement! Still it is great fun to be able to film in HD – but a little limited because of the inactive focusing. Having no zoom during filming is easier to accept – I think.
Well, you know by now that I do NOT like the push-up flash! Except for that the flash seems to work alright. Actually a lot better than just alright! Probably the best flash I have seen on a compact camera! At the lowest ISO (80) and F2.0 it easily lights up a decent size room. No problem at all with 7 meters/23 feet distance indoors – maybe even longer – but my testing room is not any longer! Could be that it is as good as this because of its f2.0 lens… And still it will not blow out pictures at just 15 cm! Is this the advantage you get for having a push-up variety? 😉 Dpreview just put up their review of the S95 and according to them the flash is underpowered – I beg to differ on that one!
In bright light the focus is fast and responsive! As it grows dimmer the focus goes slower and much more particular on what it focuses! In low light conditions the amber/orange Auto-Focus Assist beam will assist the focusing a little – but it is not super. Also, it generally can not focus on just a horizontal line – common with a lot of cameras! Just tilt the camera a little – and it will be able to focus!
(Sat 27th of November) I have added one snowy sample picture from the Canon S95. (Click on it to show it full size!) I put it up mostly to show you the weather and to give something while waiting for the proper samples. This picture is taken through the car windscreen so you can not go by it so much concerning sharpness. BUT it is impressive how well it handles the night scene. 1/30 sec, F 2.0 and ISO 640. Generally I think the S95 handles weak light well – and the f 2.0 lens helps a lot! It is f 2.0 just at the wide angle setting but – to me – that does not matter that much. I like the wide angle end of the lens – even if my newly bought 55-250 mm for my Canon EOS 550D has brought on a new interest in tele pictures…