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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I’ve had a little more time with my S90, and thus far have been pretty happy with it. I’ve long suffered from the problem of not wanting to carry my SLR around all the time (and yes, Mr. Rockwell, if I had the cash, I’d carry a Leica M9 around all the time, but that’s Real Money). I’ve played with a few point and shoots in the past, and even own a couple. While they’re good, they’re not great, and usually the results were mediocre enough I just got fed up using the things.

The S90 is not a silver bullet. Its small sensor, while larger than most, is not large. Its optics, while fast at the wide end, are not fast at the long end, and are not exceptionally sharp wide open.

With some more time with the camera, I can confirm that the front control dial is a godsend, as is the back control dial. What I can also confirm is that you will fuck up your exposure with the back control dial. I’ve long had issues with the control dial on the back of Canon’s SLR bodies. While there is a defeat button on those, I want the functionality of the control wheel without accidentally blowing an EV when the camera rubs against my shirt. At least the SLRs have some force required to turn the button, however. On the back of the S90 the wheel has about as much damping as a jog wheel, and the lightest graze will put in a stop of underexposure. This is a fundamental user interface flaw with the camera, and I pray that Canon releases a firmware update that allows me to assign “lock out rear wheel” to the shortcut button.

Focusing accuracy has generally been good, but not great. This may be comparable with normal point and shoots, but I’ve been shooting prosumer and professional SLR bodies exclusively for the past decade or so, so my perspective may be off. Metering is also usable, but not exceptional. Evaluative metering falls over itself in backlit subjects more so than on a “real” camera, and spot metering just doesn’t really seem to work. While I was initially very excited to be able to assign AE lock to the shortcut button and shoot just like I do on a real camera, the behavior of the function in conjunction with the shutter release is cumbersome and awkward, at best, and I’ve stopped bothering.

The shots out of the camera are generally pretty decent. They don’t get the amazing color, contrast, holographic imaging feel, low light performance, or any of that other nice stuff that comes with a full frame sensor and some heavy glass out front. I’ve played a little bit with the RAWs (half of my workflow doesn’t yet support them, so I’m a little behind), but the in-camera JPGs are pretty good.

It’s good enough that I’ll take it everywhere with me now, which makes it the best tool for making images when I don’t have my 5DII. I have a lot of minor complaints about the camera, and it’s not a silver bullet, but it’s the first camera I can say is usable and portable enough to take it everywhere and not hate myself for leaving the SLR at home. It does well enough in poor light that it’s useful. Shots at 3200 in a restaurant are grainy but can be printed at least to post card size. Not having to use a flash is a godsend, and that the flash is off by default in program mode is the greatest thing ever, in a point and shoot. It’s simple enough to give somebody else to use, and it’s fast enough to pull of a shot without much warning. I continue to think this is the point and shoot to buy at the moment as a carry camera for when you can’t bring a real camera with you.