Field Review: Canon PowerShot S95 (Day 4)

One of the S95‘s most heavily publicized features is its in-camera high-dynamic-range (HDR) mode. It’s tucked into the scene modes, under the SCN position on the mode dial. It takes 3 bracketed shots, then compiles them into a single HDR picture. The resulting image can be quite striking, but it takes some effort to get right. You absolutely need a tripod or some other stabilizing device for HDR shots to be usable; if there’s the slightest shake in the camera during the second it takes to capture the three exposures, the entire photo will become a blurry, shadowed mess. If you can set up a tripod and put the camera on a short timer to avoid any jostling from pushing the button, you can take some great-looking, vibrant photos in otherwise unusable lighting.

I set up the Canon S95on a Joby Gorillapodat the Circle Line pier on Manhattan’s west side. The sun had just fell below the horizon, and the light was quickly fading from the sky. Results were mixed, but striking.

The above photo was shot at ISO 800, at F/2.8 at 1/60th of a second. It looks decent, but the shadow details are too dark because the camera metered off the brighter sky. The photo below it was shot with the S95‘s HDR mode. The shadow details are much nicer and the colors are richer and more vibrant. Unfortunately, between the water and the slightly shaky tripod, one of the exposures was misaligned, producing a very slight ghosting effect.

The above photo was shot at ISO 800, at F/4.9 (maximum aperture zoomed in) at 1/60th of a second, and the exposure was adjusted in post-production to compensate for the underexposure. Details are visible, but the colors are dark and flat.

This photo was shot in the S95‘s HDR mode. It’s brighter, the details are clearer, and the colors are much, much more vivid, bringing out the warm tones in the sky and the red of the rail.

The above photo was shot at ISO 800, at F/2.0 at 1/15th of a second. The Circle Line building is well-lit and full of detail, but the people in the foreground are underexposed while the sky is overexposed.

Once again, this is in HDR mode. The sky is much more detailed, and while the people in the foreground aren’t much brighter, they’re slightly more vivid.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.