Canon PowerShot S90 #3 Best High End Compact 2009

Canon PowerShot S90 - bronze prize, High End Compact Camera of 2009

Coming in at third place in our Best High End Compact 2009 awards is Canon’s sleek and bijou Powershot S90 digicam.

Considerably smaller than its chunkier and more expensive brother, the Canon G11, the S90 serves up a very similar prosumer-orientated  feature set, offering program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes – as well as the ability to shoot RAW files for the best image quality.

The 10MP  snapper packs a fast 3.8x wideangle zoom (28-105mm equiv, f/2.0-4.9), optical image stabilisation, a large 3″ LCD screen and a rather fiddly rear dial.

At 3.94 inches wide, 2.3 tall and 1.2 deep dimensions and 8oz weight mean that this is a carry you can carry in your pocket without suffering a Spinal tap bulge, although its £370 price tag means it’s not for the casual snapper.

Canon PowerShot S90 - bronze prize, High End Compact Camera of 2009Control Ring

Around the lens is an innovative Control Ring which can be usefully assigned to alter aperture, shutter speed, focus, zoom, white balance, exposure compensation, or ISO values.

Video fans should look away though, as the S90 can only muster a hugely disappointing 640×480 pixels at 30fps, and overall performance was found to be sluggish at times too – this isn’t a compact for sports fans.

Colour rendition, however, was excellent and photo quality was above average before things got noisy at ISO 400 and above.


Beautifully made – although a tad hard to grip – this is a lovely little camera offering a full set of high-end controls in a tiny body.

If pocket space is at an absolute premium, the S90 is one of the best compacts around, and is a worthy winner of our bronze award.

Buy it now on Amazon or read a review here.

Canon PowerShot S90 - bronze prize, High End Compact Camera of 2009

Full specs
10.0 Megapixel, 1/1.7-inch type Charge Coupled Device (CCD)
Effective Pixels Approx. 10.0 Megapixels
Focal Length
6.0 (W)-22.5mm (T) f/2.0-4.9 (35mm equivalent: 28-105mm)
Digital Zoom 4x
Focusing Range
Auto: 2.0 in./5cm-infinity (W), 12 in./30 cm-infinity (T)
Normal: 1.6 ft.-infinity/50cm-infinity
Macro: 2.0 in.-1.6 ft./5-50cm (W)
Autofocus System
TTL Autofocus
Viewfinder & Monitor
Viewfinder N/A
LCD Monitor
3.0-inch TFT color with wide viewing angle
LCD Pixels
Approx. 461,000 dots
LCD Coverage
Aperture and Shutter
Maximum Aperture
f/2.0 (W) – f/4.9 (T)
Shutter Speed
15-1/1600 sec. (settable in Tv and M)
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity
Auto, ISO 80/100/125/160/200/250/320/400/500/640/800/1000/1250/1600/2000/2500/3200 equivalent
(Standard output sensitivity. Recommended exposure index)
Light Metering Method
Evaluative*, Center-weighted average, Spot**
*Facial brightness is also evaluated in Face Detect AiAF
** Metering frame is fixed to the center/linked to AF frame
Exposure Control Method
Program AE, i-Contrast, Manual; AE Lock, Program Shift, Safety Shift, Auto ISO Shift
Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
White Balance
White Balance Control
Auto*, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater), Custom
*The colours of faces are evaluated in AiAF

Canon PowerShot S90 - bronze prize, High End Compact Camera of 2009

Built-in Flash
Auto, Auto w/ Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On w/ Red-eye Reduction, Flash Off; FE lock, Safety FE, Slow Synchro
Flash Range
1.6-21 ft./50cm-6.5m (W), 1.6-8.2 ft./50cm-2.5m (T) (when sensitivity is set to ISO Auto)
Recycling Time
10 sec. or less (battery voltage=3.7V)
Flash Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Shooting Specifications
Shooting Modes

Auto, P, Av, Tv, M, C, Portrait, Landscape, Special Scene (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Night Scene, Indoor, Color Accent, Color Swap, Kids & Pets, Underwater, Nostalgic), Night Snapshot, Stitch Assist, Low Light, Movie
Photo Effects
My Colors
My Colors Off, Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom
Activates shutter after an approx. 2-sec./10-sec. delay, Face Detection Self-timer, Custom
Continuous Shooting
Normal: approx. 0.9 fps; AF: approx. 0.6 fps; LV: approx. 0.6 (Low Light: 2.1 fps)
Storage Media
SD/SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus Card, HC MMCplus Card
File Format
Design rule for camera file system, DPOF Version 1.1
Image Compression
Normal, Fine
JPEG Compression Mode
Still Image: Exif 2.2 (JPEG)
Movie: MOV (Image: H.264; Audio: Linear PCM (Stereo))
Number of Recording Pixels
Still Image: 3,648 x 2,736 (Large), 2,816 x 2,112 (Medium 1), 2,272 x 1,704 (Medium 2), 1,600 x 1,200 (Medium 3), 640 x 480 (Small), 3,648 x 2,048 (Widescreen), 3,648 x 2,736 (RAW), 1,824 x 1,368 (Low Light)

[Canon US]

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5 Comments on “Canon PowerShot S90 #3 Best High End Compact 2009”

  1. I really like this camera – it’s small enough to fit in my handbag and has got lots of manual controls. I looked at the Canon G11 but it seemed massive in comparison.

  2. I bought the S90 a couple of weeks ago for my Christmas European vacation next week (Paris, Lucerne, Milan, Florence, Rome). It came down to a choice between the S90 and LX3, but I chose the S90 because it was really compact, it had a nice UI (in the lens control ring), and it had reasonable telephoto. I don’t think the S90 gives up any IQ to the LX3. And it has pretty impressive high ISO performance!

  3. Interesting.

    I’m after the best low light performance though. This is the only reason I want a camera of this size.

    LX3 or the S90…I don’t know which!

    Any advice?

  4. I would have liked a small grip on the front of the camera. It would have not disrupted the overall size, because the front function ring already goes out 1/4 inch. I like the more secure feel of a grip – but that is really a personal preferrence

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