My Ricoh GX-100 was slow, fragile, and subject to highlight-blowout, but still took pretty good pictures. It died the other day, and I’m just not happy without a camera in my pocket, so I ran out and grabbed myself this cute little “PowerShot”, for practical and sentimental reasons. Herewith some early-experience notes.

Here’s the first picture I ever took with it.

A hallway at Google

It’s just a random hallway around the corner from where I was sitting at the Googleplex.

Why This Camera? · I have to confess that the reasons were partly sentimental. For some years Canon had this “PowerShot S” series; the S50 was (in 2003) my first-ever “serious” digital camera, back when it was radical for a pocket cam to be painted black. Eventually I graduated to an S70 and it made me very happy. Then Canon shut the line down a few years back; speculation was that some marketing pinhead was worried about cannibalizing SLR sales.

They brought the series back with the S90, and the specs were compelling. Small size, shoots RAW, a really remakable lens ranging down to f2.0, sensibly fewer pixels than last year’s model, and with a decent wide-angle and a really pretty big zoom (28-105mm).

Also I played with one at a friend’s Christmas party and liked it pretty well; there you go. Of course, the very day after I bought it, DPR published a monstro 20-page review; the only point I really disagree with is their difficulty with the grip. It feels secure in my hands, but then those are XXL farmer’s specials. I’ll tell you, though, the headroom is lousy, it’s very easy to blow out the highlights. That’s less of a problem up here in the soft grey Pacific Northwest

Recently I’ve become a little obsessed with low-light photography, so the evening I bought the camera I went out for a walk around Mountain View, California.

Here’s the colonnade around the public library; it was really dark; even at ISO 400 I had to brace the camera against one of the pillars and do a one-second exposure.

Mountain View Public Library colonnade at night

Eventually my route took me past an “Irish” bar, so I stepped in for a beer and a photo.

At a bar

I think this is going to work out.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: davidm (Apr 11 2010, at 09:58)

Don't forget another good reason to get a Canon is CHDK software, a safe way to run hobbyist firmware.

That said, I love my LX3. :)


From: Scott Johnson (Apr 11 2010, at 10:49)

Wow, the night shots look nice. I especially like the shot at the bar. This seems like an awesome camera to have in one's pocket.


From: Bob Aman (Apr 11 2010, at 10:53)

What does it weigh in at?


From: Hugo Vincent (Apr 11 2010, at 10:54)

"sensibly fewer pixels than last year’s model" -- does this mean we can expect to see fewer, larger, better pixels in the Nexus Two? :-)

Aside: I'm interested in writing better demosaicing and noise reduction algorithms for the camera in my Nexus One, but my thread ( has gone unanswered....


From: Eric H (Apr 11 2010, at 11:21)

I got one recently and am very happy with it. Mostly because it's small, and I'm therefore likely to have it with me when a photo opp presents itself.


From: Steve Crane (Apr 11 2010, at 11:42)

I see there's a custom grip being made for the S90, should you change your mind about the ease of holding.


From: John Hugg (Apr 11 2010, at 11:45)

Beyond HD movies, is there any image quality downside to this camera vs all the smaller PowerShot cameras? I'm trying to decide if it's worth the bigger pocket bulge (and leaning yes).


From: BWJones (Apr 11 2010, at 13:40)

Hooray. I've been looking at the S90 and the G11 for when I don't want/cant haul around the SLR. Those low light photos you have are impressive indeed.


From: Justin Watt (Apr 11 2010, at 13:49)

Man, the S90 has been getting good reviews everywhere. Not only are there fewer pixels, but fewer pixels on a sensor larger than your average point and shoot. Apparently the same sensor as Canon's G11---but in a package half the size.

The one ergonomic criticism I've heard repeated is regarding the "Control dial on the back of the camera: Your thumb often rests on it, and since it spins freely (it's not "notchy" at all), adjusting something accidentally is very easy. Its default function is exposure compensation, and let me tell you, I was adjusting this all the time when I didn't want to."

Thoughts? Can a different (or no) function be assigned to it? I can't tell if this is much ado about nothing.


From: David Glasser (Apr 11 2010, at 18:52)

One note: if you use Lightroom (which I think I recall to be the case), be aware that LR2's RAW processing of high-ISO S90 photos is pretty bad and leads to noticeably noisier images than the JPEGs that the S90 produces natively. LR3 (currently in beta) might fix this (I know it is supposed to generally have better noise reduction). But if you like to shoot RAW, you might want to do "RAW+JPEG" so that you don't lose out when in high ISO.

(Other than that (which is Adobe's problem, not Canon's) I love my S90!)


From: Inktknal (Apr 20 2010, at 05:15)

I have a Canon S90 and I completely agree with David Glasser. I always use the "RAW+JPEG" option with all my cameras because there are a lot of camera's that have problems with processing of high-ISO photos.


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