I spent two or three months doing tons of research to replace my old Canon SD870. Finally a month ago I decided to buy the S90 despite the fact that it didn't have 720 HD video, it was a one-year old model, and many reviewers disliked the looseness of the control dial. My S90 arrived in the middle of August and over the course of many days I learned how to use all the functions and was very pleased with the results.
And then on August 19 Canon announced the upcoming release of the Canon S95. I immediately returned my S90 and anxiously awaited the arrival of its successor. Earlier today it was delivered and I've been using it all day.
I must say that I wanted to love the S90, but the smoothness of the body annoyed me. I figured I'd just have to get used to the slipperiness. But now that I have the S95 in my hands, I can't believe what a difference the matte finish makes regarding secure handling. There's no way you can appreciate the difference if you haven't handled both models yourself. Honestly, that feature alone is worth the slightly higher price.
Control dial issues? No longer! Subtle click-stops have solved that problem.
Finger missing the shutter button on the S90? Well, the geniuses at Canon took care of that, also. You won't mistake the shutter button on the S95 for any other button due to the distinct and secure feel.
I'm in love with this camera. I won't go into details about picture quality because it's as good as its predecessor; there are examples all over the Internet. And of course the S95's 720 HD video is a big improvement over the standard video of the S90.
Only one "con" I can think of: The new, smooth, elegant display on the back is no longer recessed therefore you'll have to be careful if you place the camera face up on a flat surface. In that position it appears the screen will come in direct contact with the table's surface.
If you're looking for a pocketable camera that has reasonably high quality images, lets you control aperture, speed and focus and shoot in RAW format, this is it. I bought mine as an upgrade from a previous small but versatile camera, a Canon Powershot S70.
The Powershot S95 was introduced in August 2010 as a slight upgrade to the S90, which was widely praised for its image quality and excellent interface but criticized for being hard to hold ("like a bar of soap in the shower") and for having a control dial that turned too easily. The S95 fixes both problems and adds a couple of other features in a package that fits in the pocket of your jeans (if they're not super tight). The case is metal, and although there are no finger grips on the body, it's not slippery at all. It feels like it's covered with super-fine sandpaper (like 1000 or 1500 grit, for those you who know what that feels like).
The second major complaint about the S-90 was that the function selection ring on the rear moved too easily. The ring on the S-95 has a slight click when you move it, and it doesn't move unless you want it to.
There are a couple of other cameras of this type, including the Panasonic LX-3 and LX-5 and the Samsung 150. They all have let you control camera functions, and like the S95 they have 10 MP sensors that are almost twice as large as a typical pocket camera, so the pixels on the sensor are larger. That lets them gather light more efficiently, which reduces digital "noise" when you shoot in dim light. Image quality is noticeably better than photos from typical pocket cameras. You can make an 8 x 10 or perhaps 11x14 enlargement, although a digital SLR will be significantly better for larger prints. They also have f/2.0 lenses at their widest angle, although the aperture closes down as you zoom in.
The Canon has two advantages over the Panasonic LX-3 & LX-5. First, you really can put it in your pocket or in a belt case no bigger than the one you use for a mobile phone. Second, the interface is a brilliant re-thinking of how a very small camera with a full set of controls should work. There's not much room for buttons on the small surface, but you don't have to get into a multi-level menu on the LCD, and yet changing settings is fast and intuitive.
For example, there's a ring around the lens that you can grip easily to control zoom, or, shutter speed, or aperture, change ISO, or manually focus. You select what you want it to do by pressing a button on the top, and when you look at the LCD screen you can see what it's programmed for. There's a selection wheel on the back for other functions, and when you move it, a clear set of choices appears on the screen. The selections are context-appropriate, so they change depending on whether you've set the camera for aperture control, "Program" control, etc.
The two Panasonics have the same sensor as their Canon equivalents, but they offer a slightly wider lens (24mm vs. 28 for the S95). The LX-3 has a much shorter telephoto - only 60 mm. The LX-5, which was introduced a couple of weeks before the S95, has a 90mm telephoto, and you can buy an add-on optical viewfinder. It also has a flash shoe in addition to the pop-up flash, although you can buy a dedicated add-on flash for the S-95 to supplement its pop-up flash The LX-5 is about 25% more expensive than the Canon S95 (and 60% more with the optional viewfinder) and while it would fit in a coat pocket, you can't stuff it into a trouser pocket.
If you want a truly pocketable camera that gives you good image quality and full control over your photography, the S95 is an excellent choice.
The Canon S95 is my 5th Canon compact camera over 7 or 8 years. When I was looking for a new camera a few weeks ago I wanted one that offered more than just the standard point and shoot features but also one that I could easily carry in my pocket. I was torn between the S95 and the LX5 (Panasonic). The S95 won me over and here is why. First, the LX5 is not exactly "compact" but the S95 is the perfect size. It fits nicely in my front pants pocket, not to mention the finish on the camera is not slick so you can easily grip it without worrying about dropping it. The second thing I wanted was to be able to take good depth of field shots. I'm not a camera guru, but I know a little and the basic point and shoot just does not offer this and if it does I promise it's not as easy to use nor as good of quality as the S95. Next is the HD video. I took about 5 video's at a karaoke bar last night and they are awesome. I have an 8GB SD card which according to the camera can record over 50 minutes of HD (720) video. Also, when taking action shots just using the AUTO setting on the camera, the pictures turn out amazing. The ring function is probably another major reason I chose the S95. You can use it to zoom or change any of the settings (e.g., aperture) just by turning it. No need to go through the menu settings etc. The S95 is also a solid camera. You can tell this by just looking at the parts used and feeling the camera itself. I don't feel like I'm going to break it if that makes any sense. For the money you get a lot with this camera. The HD video is by itself worth it.