Field Review: Canon PowerShot S95 (Day 5)

The Canon S95review continues by analyzing the results of medium to high ISO images. The results will perhaps surprise you. If you remember correctly, images were a bit problematic at low ISO settings.

While pictures start getting soft at low ISO levels, they stay at those level through higher sensitivities. This archway (above), shot at ISO 400 at F/2.0 and 1/60th second shutter speed, looks about as clear as the picture of Rockefeller Center below, shot at ISO 800 at F/4.0 and 1/160th of a second. Both photos are relatively soft and noisy, but they’re consistent and there’s no significant jump in grain or fuzziness.

At high ISO levels, the Canon S95produces heavy but consistent levels of noise. At a dimly-lit bar, I set the camera to Automatic to see how it would shoot in low-light on its own terms. The camera used ISO 1600 and the widest possible aperture for most settings, surprisingly not using the S95’s maximum sensitivity of ISO 3200.

The snapshots look good enough for emails, web use, and other low-resolution applications, and even with noise they could potentially make good small prints. Certain fine details show through, like the texture of the wall and the text on the book in the case behind Chris, but flat surfaces become very noisy and soft.

Still, for a compact camera, it performs admirably at ISO 1600. The pictures can actually be used, and aren’t completely fuzzy wrecks.

Even this glass, shot at ISO 3200, at F/2.0 and 1/25ths of a second, looks clear for a compact camera. There’s still plenty of noise, but not as much as normally seen at ISO 3200 for cameras this size. The chips, the dip, the amber of the beer, all look legible, while both noise and the narrow focal plane obscure the image of the coaster in the background.

Shooting in RAW with the Canon S95is easy. Working with RAW is a different story. Adobe Photoshop CS5and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3couldn’t recognize the format (though Adobe will hopefully have an update in a few months), so I had to use the Digital Photo Professional program included with the camera. It’s much, much less powerful than Adobe’s RAW editing programs. Without the powerful manipulation tools found in Adobe Photoshop CS5and Lightroom, there’s no real advantage to shooting in RAW on the S95. There’s more data in the RAW files, but you can’t do much with it without the right software.

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