Canon Powershot S95 and Some Thoughts About Camera Size

Discussion in 'Featured Articles, Reviews & Posts' started by Amin Sabet, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet   Administrator Subscribing Member

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    Before reading this post, have a look at Edward Taylor's Canon S95 review at The Online Photographer.

    That review pretty much sums up the reason so many serious photographers are looking at the S95 right now (and the S90 before it): very good image quality, responsiveness, and control in a form which can be carried everywhere without inconvenience.

    Consider that we now have APS-C cameras which are very close in size to our small (2/3" and less) sensor cameras as shown below:

    [​IMG]

    Why are the small sensor cameras pictured above (LX3 and EX1) nearly as large as the APS-C camera (NEX-5)? The obvious answer is that the small sensor cameras have zoom lenses, while the APS-C camera has a fixed focal length lens.

    Now consider this:

    P1060503.jpg

    Both of these cameras have 1/1.7" sensors. The Canon S95 has a 3.8x (28-105mm equivalent) zoom while the Samsung EX1 has a 3x (24-72mm equivalent) zoom. What gives?

    In fact, both of these cameras take advantage of in-camera software correction of barrel distortion at wide angle, which helps keep the lens compact (perhaps this is one reason why the S95 is significantly smaller than the Ricoh GRD III). Part of the size disparity between the S95 and EX1 has to do with the beautiful, fully articulated AMOLED screen on the EX1. That said, the major reason for the difference in size has to do with the difference in lens speed at telephoto.

    The Canon has a 6-22.5mm f/2-4.9 lens, whereas the Samsung has a 5.2-15.6mm f/1.8-2.4 lens. When comparing both cameras at ~15.6mm (72mm equivalent), the Canon is an f/4 lens, while the Samsung is about one and a half stops faster at f/2.4.

    I realize that this point - that the Samsung is larger because it is faster at telephoto - is an obvious one, especially for readers of this blog. However, it is a point which somehow often seems to get overlooked. Consider the TOP review linked above, where nothing is made of the slowness of the Canon zoom at tele. I was recently asked which camera I would personally choose between the S95, EX1, and LX5, and for me the S95 is in another class altogether than the other two with the distinct advantage of incredibly convenient size and distinct disadvantage of slowness at tele.

    Does speed at telephoto really matter? The answer depends on one's personal needs and preferences. If one doesn't shoot telephoto at all, the answer is clearly "No", and it may be worth taking a long look at the Leica X1, Sigma DP1/2, and Sony NEX5 with 16mm lens. For my personal needs, which often involve handheld photography in limited light, the slowness of the S95 at telephoto is almost like not having a zoom at all. I rarely find myself using the telephoto range. The same was true of my Ricoh GX100, which I tended to use almost exclusively as a wide angle camera.

    In contrast, I find myself zooming fairly often with the EX1. Today I was at Borders with the family and happened to have both the S95 and EX1 with me. What follows is about as far from rigorous testing as one can get, but I think it makes the point. I happened to have the EX1 at full tele (15.6mm) and f/2.6 (1/3 stop from wide open) in aperture priority mode and took this snap of my wife:

    5065913051_5fcc4bd145_b.jpg

    Auto ISO was on, and the camera chose ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/30s. Seizing the opportunity for an informal test, I pulled out the S95, set it to Progam mode, zoomed to 15mm, and took another snap. The Canon chose f/4 (wide open), ISO 800 and 1/50s. At any rate, this is what the Canon produced (in-camera JPEG, slight WB tweak afterwards):

    5066523086_cb2698d14a_b.jpg

    The EX1 was shot RAW and converted in Lightroom 3.2, while the Canon shot is an in-camera JPEG with slight WB tweak afterwards.

    Again, this was not meant to be a rigorous test, otherwise I would have set the EX1 to f/2.4 (fully wide open), put both cameras to 1/50s, and remembered to use RAW with the Canon. Nevertheless, the point is clear: the faster lens allows one to use a lower ISO and a more shallow DOF, both factors which had major effects (noticeable in a web-sized image without any pixel peeping) on the outcome of this image.

    Here's another example of the fast Samsung lens at work, a shot taken of my younger son this morning:

    [​IMG]

    That was a handheld 1/20s exposure at full tele (15.6mm, 72mm equivalent), wide open (f/2.4) at ISO 400. To make the same image with an S95, I would have been at ISO 1600 and would have lost: 1) the background separation; 2) overall detail relative to noise; 3) dynamic range (due to high ISO). Given my son's dark hair and the highlights on his sweatshirt and plastic bag, I know for sure that no small sensor camera (S95 or otherwise) would have pulled that shot off at ISO 1600.

    As an aside, the 14-45mm zoom on my GH1 is even slower than the lens on the S95. With its larger sensor, the GH1 kit would have handled the above shot fine but comes in at a considerably larger size than the EX1. In many respects, the lens speed of the EX1 allows it to produce limited light, handheld image results which are not far off from what one would get with a typical Micro 4/3 or APS-C camera and standard kit zoom.
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    I don't mean to take anything away from the Canon S95. It deserves all the praise, packing a top quality sensor (same as the Canon G12) plus a bright and sharp wide angle zoom in a body the size of a common digital ELPH. It's a camera which photographers of all stripes will find easy to toss in a pocket or a purse without concern for lack of convenience or image quality. That said, there's still something to be said for a camera which sports a lens which maintains a degree of speed throughout the zoom range. I could be content with a camera like the EX1 or LX5 for 90% if my photography. Not so for the little S95.
     
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  2. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

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    The other reason why I would never consider a S90/S95 is also lens related - the 28mm equivalent starting point. It's far too much to give up compared to most of the competition that is offering 24mm.
     
  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Lounge Legend

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    you should be able to figure it out...
    So you're basically saying that "serious" and "compact" still aren't entirely the same thing and entail compromise. :cool:

    Fully agree. I have the S90 - can't imagine a better camera for a bike ride where size is paramount, lighting conditions are almost always more than adequate, and I'm shooting mostly landscapes so limited DOF is a non-issue. I find it quite lacking for low light and for any kind of action - even just basic street shooting where you might want to get the shot off quickly.

    I'm half thinking about either the LX5 or the TL-500 for street shooting. Sounds like the LX 5 is better for that (in terms of speed and responsiveness) but the TL-500 is better for low light and I'm REALLY attracted to at least the idea of the articulating OLED screen. But it sounds like its a bit slow for street also. Three cameras, three sets of tradeoffs. I'll probably stick with the S90 for ultra compact and just stay with the ep2 for not quite as compact but that can do street AND low light very well. If only they'd stick an articulating screen on it, I wouldn't be having ANY of these thoughts!

    -Ray
     
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet   Administrator Subscribing Member

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    I firmly believe that the S95 is serious (capable for serious work). Just trying to illustrate the nature of the compromise :wink:.

    For street shooting, I think the LX5 is a better choice than the TL500. It AFs faster, is more flexible for zone focusing, has a better buffer, and the lens isn't that much slower. The articulating AMOLED screen on the Samsung is a beauty though.
     
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  5. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Amin, thanks so much for this. I've just finished reading the article over at TOP and every single comment, as well - including Ed Taylor's addendum, posted on October 6th, all the way to the end.

    Small is beautiful. Depending upon one's needs, wants, bank balance and personal likes and dislikes - there are so many choices, it can be mind boggling!
     
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  6. Djarum

    Djarum Lounge All-Pro Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Amin,

    Thanks for the comparo. One of the biggest gripes about the s90 was that the control wheel moved freely and most people had issues with the thumb bumping it. Jeff over at DCresource said that the thumbwheel is tighter with clicks on the s95, but the thumb rest is still an issue. What do you think about it?
     
  7. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet   Administrator Subscribing Member

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    Dj, the thumbwheel is definitely a bit tighter with clicks. Not sure what is meant be an issue with the thumb rest?
     
  8. Djarum

    Djarum Lounge All-Pro Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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  9. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Thanks Jason. Just read it. I've been trying out the Panasonic LX5 at home for a few days. It's a beautifully made camera with lots of great options.

    The only thing that keeps nagging at me for what I think I'm after in a small camera is that it is not quite small enough. Don must have bigger pockets than I do.:wink: I also realize that I've been spoiled by the light weight of the Leica X1, so that the LX5 actually feels too heavy to me. I know that probably sounds crazy for me to say.
     
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  10. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    Thanks for that - it was an interesting read, and confirmed my decision on what camera to buy, roll on payday :smile:
     
  11. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    And that camera shall be?
     
  12. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    :smile:

    From all the research I have done, Im getting the impression that the LX5 is a slightly (and I mean slightly) better camera. Everyone goes on about the 24-90mm lens, but to tell the truth, I really don't in real world application, understand the difference or how it would relate to me in daily photo taking..
    For me Im tempted by the better shutter speed range, the 1 cm macro mode, auto focus in video even though video isn't really a big thing at the mo for me.
    I went to the shop and tried both in my pocket and the LX5 is just a little too big for my jeans and that is the deal breaker for me. I know I will carry the S95 every day and Im willing to accept the trade off for always having a camera with me. I was trying to convince myself that the LX5 would be OK, but I know there would be days when I wouldn't want it in my pocket, and Id be in the same position as Im in now with my G2. A camera that I dont carry around much..

    I would have liked to try another manufacturer as all I have ever owned is one decent Canon, and I really rate them, but it would be nice to have real world experience of someone else to find out if Canon are as good as I think they are..

    So the S95 will be getting bought on 29/10 and I cant wait..

    I did look at your sponser links, but they are NY and Im in the UK - are there any UK sites I can use that will help you guys out?
     
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  13. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Lounge Legend

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    you should be able to figure it out...
    You really ought to check out the S95 then. As noted in the various reviews, all of these cameras have tradeoffs, but the S95 is a fantastic little camera (at least the S90 is and the S95 is at least as good, probably marginally better) and the operative word here is LITTLE. You may not love everything about it, but if you think IT'S too big or heavy, you really need to wait for the first really excellent cell phone camera.

    And my concerns about using it for street shooting were a bit overblown. I took both it and the EP2 (w/17mm pancake) out to do some shots at a local chili cookoff in very bright light yesterday and it didn't do half badly. The ep2 was better, but the S90 did well enough. As I've mentioned, I wouldn't want it as an ONLY camera, but its a fantastic "take everywhere" camera. I have a couple of 16x20 prints that came from it that look fantastic - every bit as good as the m43 prints, at least when shooting in decent light.

    -Ray
     
  14. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Maccloedbrown, all very valid points which I can certainly relate to, as I mentioned about my own pocket size.

    Let me see if I can find out about anything for over on the UK. You're very thoughtful to inquire and get back to you!

    P.S. Ray, we must have posted at the same time. Thanks for your encouragement. I'd better get on it! Tick tock and all that!
     
  15. Djarum

    Djarum Lounge All-Pro Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Considering I'm looking for a camera for my girlfriend and not me, I think I'm going to have to really check out the s95. I don't think she'll want to deal with a lens cap, either.
     
  16. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet   Administrator Subscribing Member

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    Thanks for asking! Here is our link for Amazon UK: <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2F&tag=scompacts-21&linkCode=ur2&camp=1634&creative=6738">Amazon UK</a>http://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=scompacts-21&l=ur2&o=2" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

    Also, if you use any of our UK affiliate links on [URL="http://www.mu-43.com/f17/mu-43-shopping-mall-3802/"]this page[/URL], it will help pay for this site since Serious Compacts and Mu-43 are on the same server.
     
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  17. Penny

    Penny Lounge Veteran

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    I've been reading both on this forum and at other write ups in mags and the Links provided re: the S95 and LX5 not much to choose between them however when I have sold my Oly E-P1 I will be thinking of a serious 'carry all the time' camera that will fit my pocket or small hand bag (purse)
    Yes I have my beautiful X1 but that stays in its travel case for safety sake when not in use; therefore at the present time I would choose the S95, which I wouldn't be paranoid about getting a bit tossed around.
    I have never owned a Canon nor been attracted to them so maybe I might just 'break my duck' if the opportunity arises.
     
  18. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    Thanks for that - will order through one of these links and post when I have done it
    It should be around 29/10...
     
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  19. gsaronni

    gsaronni Lounge Regular

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    Very nice article. Easy to understand some concepts hard to be explained to the newbies.

    I think for low light there is nothing like a luminous lens, forget about 3200 on compacts, fix it to ISO400 max and enjoy your f2 lens
     
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  20. mary3844

    mary3844 New to the Lounge

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    For me, that was part of the decision process.

    Been trying to decide between the LX5 and S95. Saw this information on another site and it helped me decide the LX5 is the way to go:

    IQ is going to be comparable; however there are some key differences:

    1. Difference in the f-stop:
    LX5: F2.0-3.3 Leica Summicron lens - faster lens
    S95: F2.0-4.9 - slower lens

    2. S95 is approximately $100 cheaper than the LX-5, but the LX-5 also has the brighter Leica lens and slightly larger sensor.

    3. Battery life:
    S95 is approximately 200 shots
    LX5 is about 400 shots

    4. Ergonomically
    S95 - is overall flat, some have found this challenging to hold
    LX5 - has a grip

    5. Focal Length
    S95 has slightly more zoom - 28mm-105mm
    LX5 has slightly more wide angle - 24mm-90mm

    6. Video
    LX5 - able to zoom and AF while recording video
    S95 - cannot zoom nor AF while recording video

    7. Maximum Exposure
    LX5 - longer maximum exposure (60 secs)
    S95 - shorter maximum exposure (15 secs)

    8. Top shutter speed
    LX5 - faster - (1/4000)
    S95 - slower - (1/1600)
     
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