I bought a New Point & Shoot Camera

 

I thought my days of buying point & shoot cameras were over. I've written posts here in the past where I stated that I either use my DSLR or my smartphone. I really don't see much of a need to have a point & shoot camera. Recently I discovered a need and a great way to solve it all at the same time. There are situations where you want to take the best photo that you can, but at the same time DSLR or "pro" level cameras aren't allowed in. A classic example of this is concerts. If you walk in with a nice big lens and DSLR, chances are you'll be turned right back around and told that "you can't bring that in." However, you see a sea of cellphones and point & shoot cameras going off all night long. While I have certainly taken my share of concert photos with my iPhone 4 (for my personal enjoyment), I would like something better. This lead me to seek out the smallest, most full featured point & shoot camera that I could find.

 

This shot of his royalness was taken with the iPhone 4 and while it came out OK, I was sitting there wishing I had something better for this moment.

 

The Canon PowerShot S95

The S95 is one mean little machine. Not only does it offer full manual mode, but it also shoots in RAW. Best of all it can easily slide into a pants pocket without a big bulge. Whoa! Wait a minute, did you say Canon? Yes I did. Does this mean I've switched from Nikon? No it doesn't. As a matter of fact let me answer a few questions now:

 

Q. Did you switch from Nikon to Canon?

A. No not at all. Actually I've owned and used cameras from both manufacturers for years. With the exception of a couple of Sony video cameras, I almost always went with Canon for my video needs (pre-DSLR video). My DSLRs have all been Nikon and most likely will continue to be. However, I've always liked the feature set of the Canon P&S cameras. So to answer your question, I use the best tool to fit my needs. Neither company has ever paid me a dime, so I don't "have to" use either one or I can use either one.

 

Q. Wasn't the iPhone 4 a good enough camera?

A. For my day to day P&S needs I'll most likely still reach for the camera that's on my belt and that's my smartphone. However, when I want the image to count, I do want to use a "better" camera and that means either my DSLR or now my S95. 

 

Q. Why didn't you go with the G12?

A. The G12 is a fine camera and probably beats the S95, the only problem I have with the G11 is that it's about twice the size and does NOT easily slide into a pants pocket. 

 

Q. How do you think the S95 image quality compares to other cameras.

A. This is more of an announcement post than an official review. The honest truth is that while I've had the camera for a few days now I haven't done much more than charge the battery and set it up. Sure I've taken a test shot here and there to make sure it works, but haven't even looked at the images on my computer yet. So I'll have to do another post once I have some "real" images to look at and then you can be the judge.

 

Q. Doesn't shooting manually defeat the purpose of a "point and shoot?"

A. Yes if all you want to do is "snap a picture". At that point my iPhone 4 is good enough. However, when the built-in scene modes and program modes aren't capturing the image I want, then I love having the ability to switch to manual and dial in my own settings.

 

Q. Why do you need RAW?

A. Nice try, but I'm not going to get into a RAW vs. JPG debate here. If you use one over the other great! Use what you want. :) However, I prefer to shoot in RAW for maximum image quality and not having things like white balance burned into the file. While I could have certainly lived with JPG only, having the option of going to RAW is what pushed me to the S95.

 

Q. What don't you like about the Nikon Point and Shoots?

A. Nikon used to offer a Point & Shoot (the P6000) that shot in RAW. However, they no longer offer that model, nor did they replace it with one that does. Otherwise, their point and shoot cameras are probably just as good. Also even if the P6000 was still around it's more on the same size/form factor as the larger Canon G12.

 

Q. Seems like you won't be using this camera very often?

A. You're probably right. It hasn't left the table since I unboxed it. However, I like having the option of a better camera than my iPhone if and when the opportunity presents itself. 

 

Stay tuned for some sample shots. I have a couple of concerts coming up soon!

 

You can get the Canon Powershot S95 for $399.95 here from B&H and for $393 here from Amazon (note: prices fluctuate on Amazon)

  • http://www.sherrypatterson.com Sherry Patterson

    I have been thinking of buying a good point and shoot, for just this reason, I am thrilled to know that you can get one that shoots raw! thank you

  • http://adamtanner.com adam tanner

    I did the same exact thing a little over a year ago purchasing the S90 as it was great in low light and shot in RAW. It works great for all around walkabout photos (I still have an iPhone 3gs, so the camera on the iPhone isn’t so hot and I carry the s90 around in my bag).

    The best thing I purchased for the S90 was this little aluminum grip that I read about on the dpreview boards by Richard Franiec that he sells through his website here: http://www.kleptography.com/rf/#camera_s90

  • http://www.PhotosBySergio.com Sergio Burani

    May I suggest a correction? Nikon makes a wonderful P&S that shoots in RAW. It’s the Coolpix P7000? I have been using it for a few months now and its quality is comparable to DSLR’s. Did you ever try it?

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Hi Sergio,
      Yes, you are correct the P7000 (successor to the P6000) definitely shoots in RAW and is a great camera too. However, the problem with it is the same problem that I have with the G12. It’s too big for what I want.

  • http://www.jimthurman-photography.com Jim Thurman

    Let me echo Adam’s comments. I’m a Nikon shooter but bought an S90 when I was last in Japan on business and have used it as my carry-around camera ever since, and am very happy with the results. I usually shoot it in RAW and the files are post-processed in LightRoom. Here’s some simple snapshots from the S90 I took on my last visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC: http://www.jimthurman-photography.com/Travel/Biltmore-Estate-Asheville-NC/14499013_jofDH

    The main things I love about my S90 is the very small size; excellent image quality; great low light response (for a PS); and full (easy) manual control. While it doesn’t handle as well or quickly as a DSLR, if your subjects will hold still, it can produce outstanding images. Gteat choice Terry.

  • Laura Gilmore

    Happy to see you chose the same camera I did. I bought this S95 shortly after it first came out, and carry it most of the time, even though I have the iPhone 4 as well, and use both. I love the versatility of this in such a small package. The only drawback I have is that is slow compared to the DSLR. I can’t wait to hear what you think about the images. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.truelightphoto.com Phillip Guyton

    I have it and i LOVE IT! it’s by far my favorite camera that will fit into any pocket!

    it’s the most bang per inch of any camera i’d say :)

  • Janet

    You blogged about this right as I’m on the verge of buying a point & shoot myself. Right now I’m leaning towards the G12, and I think I’ll be okay with the size since I can throw it in my purse rather than a pocket. :). Another factor is the viewfinder. The S95 looks nice, but no viewfinder. I would like to use the camera at concerts where I can’t take my SLR, and I’m not sure I want the screen glowing the whole time. I’m just not ready to go without a viewfinder quite yet. There are always going to be tradeoffs when settling for a point & shoot over an SLR though. I’m hoping the G12 will be a good choice for me, and hopefully the S95 is great for you!

  • Lee Weikert

    I bought the S95 as a Christmas present for similar reasons. I highly recommend the Richard Franiec Grip and the Lensmate.com accessories (Delrin ring & filter holder). Using filter holders lets me use a polarizer or ND filters when I am in manual mode and want a particular shot. It’s a great little camera and is doing well for me while I am deployed; especially since I didn’t want to bring my DSLR and lens kit. Enjoy.

  • http://Www.Mordy.com Mordy Golding

    I bought my S90 over a year ago and have been thrilled with it. As you said, Terry, it’s small enough to fit anywhere and it takes fantastic photos. What’s cool about it is that it’s simple enough to use (my in-laws borrowed it for a trip to europe and had no trouble using it), yet it has enough settings and is powerful if you want to go there.

  • Julie K

    I have the S95 and love it too. I have to upgrade every few years as my kids “borrow” my P&S and then I need a new one. Although, I find myself using the iPhone4 camera more and more.

  • Amanda

    I love my S95 too. It is an amazing little camera, although I hesitate to call it a Point & Shoot. Most folks assume that with a P&S camera, you can just set it on Auto mode and take great pictures. That is not necessarily the case with the S95. I find that there are often exposure problems with the Auto mode so I mostly use one of the pro settings (Av or Tv), which you will need to do anyways if you want to shoot RAW. BTW, lots of Amazon and DPReviewer also complain about IQ from Auto mode. The only real time I use Auto is with outdoor night flash where it seems to function better than using flash with one of the Pro settings for some weird reason.

    I also highly recommend Franiec Grip. It is a must-have item for this camera! I use the Delrin ring as well, but you may find it is hard to turn that dial once installed, so I cut out a section (2-4 o’clock) to make it function much better. Do get yourself a spare battery for the S95.

    Another great option on this camera is the “C” mode for custom. Lots of S95 users take advantage of this one. Enjoy your new toy and definitely send feedback when you’ve had a chance to play around with it for some time.

  • Chris

    I bought this for my daughter last Christmas…I’m a Nikon DSLR shooter, but Canon has long made superior P&S cams (current crop, i.e. P7000 notwithstanding). Works great, I’ve borrowed it a few times. And I’ll second @Adam Tanner’s post about the grip; got the grip for my daughter at the same time, it really helps.

    Like @Amanda says, the only thing keeping me from buying one for me is the lack of an optical viewfinder; same use case for me, stealth pix @ a concert.

  • http://www.whereaboutsphoto.com Eric

    No doubt a great buy, but I do prefer my Leica M9. Small enough to get through the door, professional enough to produce outstanding results. Oh, wait! Maybe I can’t afford to go to a concert after getting my dream camera, but you get the point. :-)

  • Duane

    I recently went through the same process of looking for a pocketable camera that shot RAW but came to a different outcome. I bought a Ricoh GRD III. Most would probably not like it since it has a fixed 28mm f/1.9 lens and doesn’t do video all that great. But what’s really nice about it is the great low light capability, very customizable with the ability to use snap focusing and the RAW files are saved in DNG format. Plus it has a nice grip and all the sounds and LCD can be turned off for complete silence when taking photos.

  • http://www.Lavonnehall.com Lavonne Hall

    Wow Terry, I purchased the S95 last year to take to Italy along with my DSLR. I wanted a small simple P&S camera that took great shots and that would fit in a pocket for those nights out on the town. I was very pleased with the quality of the street scenes at night. One of many features I like is the fact that I can play back my images without turning on the camera. Looking forward to your review!

  • Matt

    Terry…

    Bought this 6 months ago….same reason as you…wanted a point and shoot with control.

    The image quality is great and shooting in RAW is fantastic – after lightroom

    the video quality (esp the audio) is outstanding for a p&s – make sure you try it!

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://www.photographybyardean.com Ardean

    I look forward to seeing your sample shots as I’m itching to get an affordable good point and shoot. I have been lamenting giving away my old point & shoot to my gd – and not buying a replacement. It’s just not fun trying to bring a dslr on a bike ride or casual afternoon walk or like you said, smuggle it into a concert :)

    I’ve heard many good things about the Fugi X100 {Zack & Neil, but at +1k, it’s a bit pricey for me.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ralphandjenny/ Ralph Daily

    I bought an S95 (with Franiec Grip, of course) after a lot of research and it’s the best general purpose P&S out there. I also have an x100 (which is extraordinary), but it’s larger and more special purpose. I love both of them, and obviously my D7K too.

  • Paul Corsa

    I got my D300 and lenses after my wife accidently drive over my Canon S50. I still miss its pocket convience and RAW, plus it took CF cards too and did have a viewfinder. Shutter lag was my biggest complaint with the P&S. I do miss having the small camera with RAW capture.

  • Idris Mansoor

    Hi Terry,

    Great read as always. Just wanted to ask for your pro shoots what camer equipment do you use? I’ve seen you have a D7000 – do you use D700 or D3s/x and if you could use only camera what would you use?

    Thnks
    Idris

    • http://terrywhite.com Terry White

      Hi,
      D700 in studio
      D7000 on the road.
      If I could only use one that’d be tough right now because I like the 1080p video features of the D7000 and full-frame of the D700. I’d wait for a D800 :)