As much as I love my film cameras, my everyday camera is digital. I’ve taken countless thousands of photographs with my Canon PowerShot S95.
Going digital was a purely economic decision: it was getting expensive to shoot film on my road trips! I started with a refurbished Kodak digital camera that performed surprisingly well. Then a reader helped me move up in the digital world when he sent me a Canon PowerShot S80 he no longer used. It was such a great camera that when Canon restarted its PowerShot line with the svelte S90, I knew I wanted one. Shortly, they upgraded it a little and rechristened it S95; that’s the model I got.
And what a sweet little camera it is. It’s about the length and width of a credit card and is less than an inch thick, so it fits in almost any pocket. Its Auto mode is remarkably versatile, giving good results in all but the dimmest light. It automatically switches into macro mode when you’re inches from your subject. You can also set the camera to programmed, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and full manual modes. For the first several years I shot this camera in Auto mode. Then for a few years I shot it in Program mode with RAW capture turned on. I got tired of processing the RAW files, so I switched back to just JPEGs. But I stayed in Program mode so I could turn on the S95’s Vivid Color option, which yields more pleasing colors.
The S95 features two control rings, one around the lens and another on the back next to the screen, that you can customize. I set the front ring to cycle through 28, 35, 50, 85, and 105mm zoom settings. I love being able to dial in these focal lengths!
The S95’s screen is big and bright, and isn’t as prone to washing out in the sun as my previous digital cameras. Because of that, its missing viewfinder isn’t much of a problem.
It packs a 28-105mm (equivalent) f/2-4.9 zoom lens. That wide angle is super handy on road trips, where I can’t always back up enough to get everything I want into a picture. I could use a deeper zoom, though. This is the old Dixie Highway north of Bloomington.
This 1932 Standard station is on Route 66 in Odell, IL. The S95 has a typical Canon color signature, and it’s fine. But I prefer the more vibrant colors my old Kodak digital camera delivers.
Maddeningly, the S95 renders purple as blue or blue-violet. Below left is a photo of my purple Zippo lighter taken with the S95; on the right, with my iPhone. The iPhone renders purple much more accurately.
The S95 simulates ISO from 80 to 3200, and its noise-reduction software is pretty effective. With those advantages and its f/2 lens, the S95 easily handles low-light situations. Newer cameras do even better low-light work, but the S95 remains plenty usable today. I took this inside a round barn in Fulton County.
The S95 usually does good work in macro mode, although its autofocus system sometimes can’t see light colors at short distances. When that happens, after I get over my frustration I switch to manual mode. While that involves wrangling with menus, it’s not terribly hard to learn.
When not in Auto mode, the S95 lets you adjust white balance. I do that routinely to get the warmth I’m looking for, as I did in this photograph in a park near my home.
Even today the Canon PowerShot S95 remains my everyday, go-to camera. It continues to deliver terrific work. Here’s a smattering of images.
I’ve shared all of these photos before on this blog, but always in the context of whatever it is I’m doing, not about the camera itself. That’s the nature of a workhorse camera – it fades into the background and does its job.
I do have some complaints about the S95 beyond the inaccurate purples I mentioned earlier. At and below 35mm there is some barrel distortion. I also find that most shots have a slight haziness to them, which Photoshop’s Auto Levels command always fixes. But for everyday shooting, especially the documentary work I do on the road, 90% of the photos I take can be used just as the camera captured them.
I’ve thought about upgrading a couple times. This camera is from 2010, after all, and imaging technology has made giant strides forward since then. My wife’s Sony RX100, for example, is clearly a superior camera in nearly every way.
But the S95 does almost everything I need, in a small, light package. It’s often in my pocket when one of my film cameras hangs around my neck. The Canon PowerShot S95 is a fine performer and a great companion.