Canon PowerShot S90
ras, Canon has been playing catch-up of late, moving swiftly to match other manufacturers’ recent moves in the digital camera space. It used to be that they grappled primarily with the electronics powerhouse Sony on the consumer side, but that’s changed to the massive electronics manufacturer, Panasonic, a company whose digital cameras are in such high demand that people are paying full price and more for cameras like the LX3, TS1, and ZS3, even a year after their introduction.
But that’s good news for us, the consumer, because Canon’s also a massive company capable of turning on a dime to introduce an array of cameras to answer any challenge, giving us more choices. The PowerShot G11 should by no means detract from the Canon PowerShot S90, a camera whose features read like a laundry list of demands from technology editors like myself, cleanly wrapped into a small, pocketable format.
The S designation marks the return of the semi-pro moniker, last used by the S5 IS, but more importantly by the S40 through S80, very popular cameras among enthusiasts in their day.
More remarkable than that, though, is that Canon, the digital camera marketplace leader, is the first to take a step back in the megapixel race with both the G11 and Canon S90. Last year’s G10 had a 14-megapixel sensor, and most of Canon’s pocket cameras have 12-megapixels. Did they blink? I don’t think so. We’ve all watched with concern as megapixel counts continued to rise in even the smallest cameras — driven by perceived consumer demand. Our tests show quite clearly, though, that most of these cameras have more trouble with blurring that comes from the noise suppression necessary at such small pixel sizes. Worse, these lovely high-resolution sensors reveal more flaws in the optics, which requires camera companies to somehow mass-produce very high quality glass to go with these tiny, tell-all sensors, encased in cameras whose prices continue to fall. In short, the digital camera industry has fallen prey to the law of diminishing returns.
Now we can get back to the pursuit of photographic excellence, rather than the continued “bigger is better” contest. In theory, the Canon S90’s specs should deliver better image quality in low light.
The Canon PowerShot S90 has a retail price of US$430, but is available from some online retailers for less.