Features & Controls

The S90 IS features a 3.8x (28 - 105 mm in the 35mm format) f/2.0-4.9 all-glass aspherical zoom lens with Canon's true 'Lens-Shift' Optical Image Stabilization system. Unlike electronic image stabilizer systems that typically cause degradation of image quality, Canon's Lens Shift Optical IS system is based on the advancements made in the development and refinement of Canon's EF and video lenses. Reduced in size to fit this model, this Image Stabilizer provides up to three stops of camera shake correction in shutter speed equivalent. When you power the camera down, the lens is retracted inside of the body and a built-in shutter closes to protect it.

Mounted around the lens is a unique camera control ring. Depending of the exposure mode being used, this ring can control step zoom, ISO, aperture/shutter speed values, etc.

A 9-point advanced TTL autofocus system permits the camera to automatically select the primary subject even when off-center.

The focusing range is:
  • Auto: 2.0 in. (5cm) - infinity (Wide), 12 in. (30cm) - infinity (Tele)
  • Normal: 1.6 ft (50cm) - infinity
  • Macro: 2.0 in. - 1.6 ft. (5 - 50cm) at Wide angle

In low light conditions the focus-assist lamp helps to illuminate the subject for accurate focusing. Just below the focus-assist lamp is the built-in microphone.

The S90 features a unique built-in automatic pop-up flash unit. It offers modes for auto, auto with red-eye reduction, forced on, forced on with red-eye reduction, and forced off. FE lock, safety FE, and slow synchro modes are also available. Canon claims the flash recharge times is 10 seconds or less, depending on the amount of output required. This seems like an overstatement, as we saw much quicker flash recharge times during our tests.

Flash range at ISO Auto is:
  • 1.6 - 21 ft. (50cm - 6.5m) at wide anlge, or 1.6 - 8.2 ft. (50cm - 2.5m) at telephoto


On the top of the S90 you will find several controls when compared to most models of this size. First off we have the Power button, with the Ring FUNCtion button beside it. When using Pogram/Tv/Av/C/M modes, you can choose what camera setting the control ring that is mounted around the lens toggles, such as ISO, step zoom, manual focus, etc. Next is the shutter release with the zoom controls mounted around it. In playback mode the zoom controls also toggle the index and magnify playback options. Lastly we have the mode dial with positions for Auto, Program (P), Shutter speed priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av), Manual (M), Custom (C), Movie, SCeNe, and Low light modes.


When you first look at the back of the camera, you will see a nice large 3.0-inch LCD. This is a high-quality display that offers 461,000 pixels, 100% frame coverage, and a nice wide viewing angle. Canon also claims they have treated the display with multiple coatings to help prevent dust, scratches and reflections.


The controls on the back of the S90 IS are as follows: At the top right you can see the small built-in speaker. The Play button is used for entering review or playback mode. Pressing and holding this button while the camera is off will enter the playback system. The Shortcut button can be set via the menu system, and also acts as the direct print button in playback mode.

Next is the 4-way controller. In record mode you press 'Up' to change exposure compensation (rotate in playback), press 'Right' to change flash modes, press 'Down' to choose the Self-Timer mode (image delete in playback) and press 'Left' to change the Macro, Normal and Manual focus modes. In the center is the FUNC./SET button, which accepts menu selections as well as gives you access to the Function shortcut menu. Mounted around the 4-way controller is the Control dial. This handy dial allows you to quickly navigate the menu, set aperture and shutter speed values, etc. The DISP button controls the amount of data displayed on the LCD screen. The MENU button calls up and dismisses the main menu system.

The PowerShot S90 is equipped with a card slot that supports use of SD/MMC/MMC+ cards up to 2GB or SDHC/HC MMC+ cards up to 8GB. Unlike past models, Canon does not include a card with the camera. Shown here with a speedy Sandisk Ultra II 4GB SDHC card - see the tables below for the approximate storage capacity.

Located on the right hand side of the camera are I/O (Input/Output) ports. At the top is the a mini HDMI port for connecting the S90 directly to a HDTV using the optional HDMI cable. Next we have a combination mini-B jack that handles both the standard definition (SD) audio/video output and USB 2.0 (high-speed) connectivity. The AV Out handles the monaural audio and video signal which can be connected to your TV set with the supplied cables, while the USB cable is used for image and movie download, direct printing, etc.

The S90 IS comes with a Canon NB-6L 3.7v 1000mAh lithium rechargeable battery pack. Canon claims this small battery can power the S90 for up to 220 still images or 300 min. of continuous playback on a single charge (using CIPA Standard testing.)

Canon supplies a handy AC charger, which plugs directly in to a wall socket with fold-away prongs. This unit will charge the battery out of the camera, which means you can charge one pack while using another; we highly recommend you pick up a second pack.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.