For $429, you can get a Nikon D40 kit, or for slightly more, a Canon XS/D3000 kit. For a point and shoot, the S90 is about as pricey as it gets (short of some Ricohs and Leicas). However, the S90’s price justification is in its size. You can’t always carry even a relatively compact D40 with you – you certainly can’t fit it in any normal-sized pocket. From the sample photos I’ve seen of the G11, the S90 has 90%+ of the image quality, a faster lens at the wide end, and is half the volume. When you get up to G11, I can’t help but think about the Olympus E-P1 or Panasonic GF-1. With a camera of that size, I want a larger sensor, period. Lots of manual controls are fantastic for usability, but when the images that come out of it are of the same quality as something less than half the size, I become uncertain of its justification, especially as it’s priced even higher than the S90, at $499.
Let’s put it this way, the S90 isn’t cheap, but in particular for a camera this small, with this level of performance, I believe it to be justified.
It’s clear that the S90 is popular. Over at the DPReview forums, nearly every second thread in the Canon section has to do with the S90. Perhaps an even better indication of the camera’s visibility is the amount of chatter about the S90 in the Panasonic section of the forums as well! LX3 owners far and wide are becoming defensive; there’s really no need for them to be, considering the 1.5 year old camera is just now being matched by something from another manufacturer. Best Buy, Amazon, and Adorama are all out of stock, for the moment, at the MSRP price, although B&H still has some available.
I haven’t run into deal-breaker issues yet with the Canon S90. It satisfies all my main requirements: size, image quality (relative), and manual controls. If you’re looking for a higher-end point and shoot that gives you room to grow into photography, take a look at the S90. If you’re looking for a pocketable complement to your hulking DSLR kit, like I was, take an even closer look at the S90.
- Size – it’s small enough to fit into a pants pocket
- Inconspicuous – you could nearly pass this off as your friend’s Canon Elph.
- Full set of manual controls
- Very good image quality for a camera this size (especially higher ISO)
- Fast lens at the wide end (f/2.0)
- Lens ring control – adds a whole dimension of control, in a very smart/efficient way
- Fantastic high-resolution 3.0″ LCD
- Reasonable focal range (28mm-105mm)
- Generally well-built
- Relatively pricey for a small-sensor digicam
- Holdability isn’t optimal – a bit slippery
- Shutter button is placed too far inboard – doesn’t naturally fall under the index finger
- Lens gets somewhat slow at the tele-end (f/4.9)
- Control wheel on the back of the camera is too loose
- No hotshoe
Find out all the specifications of the Canon PowerShot S90 on Canon’s website.