Canon S90 Best Compact Pocket Digital Camera for SLR Owners? (Review)

Canon S90 PowerShot is the best compact digital camera for SLR owners to buy as a backup to their SLR on photo expeditions and to keep in their pocket all the time for spur of the moment photos.

Canon S90 Best Compact Pocket Digital Camera for SLR Owners? (Review)

The reviews of the Canon S90 from photographer friends and reputable digital camera review sites were so good that I bought the camera after only a short inspection at a camera store.


The reasons so many photographers are excited about the Canon S90 are:

  • The imaging sensor has 40% more surface area than other compact cameras. Real photographers know that the size of a camera’s imaging sensor is more important than whether it stores photos at 10, 12, 15 or 20 Megapixel size.
  • Fast F2 lens at the wide angle 28mm setting means better low light performance than any other compact camera
  • 2 user configurable control rings on the front and back plus a programmable shortcut button.
  • It looks like a compact camera in size and weight (175gm) so it can fit in your jeans pocket as an “always with you” camera
  • Since it looks like a compact camera you can sneak it into events where “professional” looking SLR cameras aren’t allowed
  • Great quality JPG photos with an option to shoot RAW+JPG if you like
  • Big 3″ inch LCD screen with antiglare coating so you can still see the screen in bright sunlight
  • A spectrum of settings which let you choose full auto mode with 22 inbuilt scene modes all the way to completely manual photography: setting the aperture, shutter speed, flash exposure and manual focus etc yourself

Canon S90 Example Photos

Out of the blue I was invited on a whirlwind week exploring New Zealand South Island via Dunedin only a few days after buying the camera so I got to use the S90 in New Zealand during times when the Canon 7D I was lent for the trip was packed away for safekeeping due to the rain.

These are examples of some of the photos I took with the Canon S90 during the NZ trip along with a slideshow:

Abandoned Building, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand

Yawning Hooker's Sea Lion

Milford Sound - Road Less Travelled

You can buy a Canon S90 for between $400 and $600 at Australian shops and online shops. The places selling for close to $400 are likely to be Canon’s imported from Asia so if you have a warranty claim you’d have to ship it to Hong Kong etc to get it fixed. The more expensive shops will sell Canon S90’s from Canon Australia so you get a local warranty.

Other People’s Reviews of Canon S90

Every so often a camera comes out that stands out from the rest. The Canon S90 is one of those cameras. The S90 beats Canon’s own flagship G11 at its own game. The S90 has the same oversized sensor as the G11, but adds a faster f/2 lens, a direct control ring and a bigger LCD in a smaller, lighter package for less money. So why would I want a G11? Just to carry more weight with a slower lens?
Ken Rockwell

The just released Canon S90 presses all of the right buttons, (so to speak). It is currently the world’s smallest and lightest shirt-pocket-sized (SPS) camera that shoots raw. It has an almost 4X zoom (28–105mm equivalent) and has a remarkable f/2 as its widest aperture at the wide end of its range. There is, of course, optical image stabilization, a full 3″ LCD screen, as well as a built-in pop-up flash
Luminous Landscape

Usually I’d spend a lot of time running down features and talking about performance before giving you the bottom line on Canon’s new pocketable camera. But I just can’t be coy about this one.

The S90 is the best compact camera I’ve ever used. Canon set out to pack the tiny S90 with the same features pros and advanced amateur shooters look for. And they’ve succeeded in nearly every aspect. The laundry list of cool tech includes a 9.5mm (diagonal) sensor, the latest DIGIC 4 processor (which is lightning fast), optical image stabilizer, face detection, the ability to shoot RAW images and HDMI output. All that is crammed into a body that can slip into the front pocket of your jeans.

The amount of picture power this literally slips into your pocket is almost unbelievable: Outstanding low-light performance for a camera this size; a speedy lens; full control rings, plural; and yep, RAW. It’s the soul of what makes the $500 behemoth G11 great, packaged in a true point-and-shoot.

You lose some power and some pro tools, like the swivel screen, a (sh*tty) viewfinder, faster burst shooting, hot shoe, some zoom and a custom mode or two, but you’re also shedding a ton of bulk, meaning you’ll actually take it everywhere. And the best camera’s always the one you have with you – for me, that’s this camera, which just happens to be an excellent one all by itself.

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid for the NZ trip and have sole control over what I write and say about it. All expenses for the trip were covered by Tourism New Zealand and regional subsidiaries. Camera gear was loaned by Canon (except for my own personally owned personally owned Canon S90 camera). Some clothing was sponsored by Goretex


12 responses to “Canon S90 Best Compact Pocket Digital Camera for SLR Owners? (Review)”

  1. This is a really nice backup camera indeed for a seasoned DSLR user. I’ve just recently tagged along my in-law when she planned to buy this camera and I had my hands on it to test it out. The control ring is really nice to use, and the camera is surprisingly very configurable. I also love the way the flash hides itself when not used.

    Well rounded camera and I’d have to say I was really tempted to get one myself too as my everyday camera along with my Nikon D300.

  2. WOW… this camera is great!
    The pictures are awesome! I think I’d prefer this better than any available SLRs out there.
    Great post

  3. Joydeep

    I am loving this camera and the picture quality is so good.

  4. Great article, i absolutely love this little camera and have been using it daily for the last 160 days as i complete my way through my Project 365 at

    Have been amazed at the results acheivable with such a small camera, and the creativity it inspires.

  5. i believe Canon S90 PowerShot is the best compact digital camera.

  6. I’ve been using this camera for a bit now. BIG fan especially since I bring it on my bike rides. I’m able to capture action shots better than anything else I’ve tried.

  7. […] My preference for a pocket camera is the Canon S90/S95 which offers an unbeatable design, fast F2.0 lens and 4x optical zoom all packed in a sleek metal […]

  8. it looks like it’s superb value for money, and those pictures are great!

  9. I’ve read the above article and agree with the comments about it being inferior to other cameras, but you have to look at the people who the camera is made for, namely ‘snapper’ that want professional results using a good quality though discreet camera. I for one am impressed with the quality of the photo’s taken.

  10. For this particular camera to be a simple point and shoot versus a SLR with the picture quality it presents gives it an edge, especially since its such a compact, versitile device giving way to tons of quick pic oppourtunities. Great article!

  11. This is a very nice small camera indeed, and I prefer it over the D3100, very light weight and takes awesome pictures with very little light, and for the price there is no better option currently in the market

  12. Great review! I was watching some Maxim cover shoot videos, and one photographer was using a pair of these as his main cameras…I thought that was a little odd, but the photos came out looking good!

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