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Canon PowerShot S90 Performance


Timing and Performance

Slow to average speed for a consumer camera.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

2.1 seconds

Time it takes for LCD to turn on and lens to deploy and capture a picture.

Shutdown

1.5 seconds

How long it takes to retract lens.

Buffer clearing time

1 second*
(after 20 LF JPEG frames)
2 seconds*
(after 20 RAW frames)
3 seconds*
(after 20 RAW+JPEG frames)

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't retract their lenses and shut down until the buffer is cleared.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly longer clearing times.

About average startup and shutdown times here (about the same as the G11, though slightly faster startup because of the smaller lens), but pretty fast buffer clearing with a fast card.

 

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

1.3 seconds

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

2.5 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

1.6 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching times are about average (a little faster than the G11, except Record to play, which is identical).

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus Wide

0.43 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide-angle position.

Full Autofocus Tele

0.49 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at telephoto position.

Full Autofocus
Flash enabled
1.15 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide-angle position, Auto flash enabled.

Prefocused

0.088 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.52 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.41 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused."

Full AF shutter response in the default AF mode is about average at wide-angle, at 0.43s. Full AF shutter lag is a bit faster than average at full telephoto, at 0.49s. Enabling the flash increases lag quite a bit to 1.15s, due to the preflash metering involved. "Prefocusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure results in a lag time of 0.088 second, which while fast, isn't quite as fast as some. Times for continuous autofocus and manual focus are also about average, at 0.52s and 0.41s respectively. The Canon S90's performance here is similar to the G11, with some times being slightly faster (full AF, continuous AF and manual focus), and some slightly slower (full AF with flash, and prefocused).

 

Cycle Time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
2.43 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW

2.96 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW + LF JPEG

3.87 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG

1.07 seconds (0.94 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
1 second to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
RAW

1.44 seconds (0.70 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
RAW + LF JPEG

2.12 seconds (0.47 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
3 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Flash recycling

6.8 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity also affects cycle times and burst mode performance, with higher ISOs generally increasing cycle times and reducing burst performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times are a bit on the slow side, and slightly slower than the G11, at about 2.43 seconds for large/fine JPEGs.  When shooting RAW, cycle time slows to 2.96 seconds per frame, and for RAW + large/fine JPEG it stretches to 3.87 seconds. The camera does seem to capture frames indefinitely at these rates, though. (That is, given a fast enough memory card, it doesn't have to pause every few frames to wait for the card to catch up.) The Canon S90's continuous shooting modes were also slower than the G11, capturing large/fine JPEGs at about 0.94 frames per second vs the G11's 1.11 fps. This rate slows to 0.70 frames per second with RAW (vs 0.84), and 0.47 frames per second (vs 0.79) with RAW + large/fine JPEG. Buffer sizes were good, though, at over 20 frames in any quality with a fast card. (Note that slow memory cards may force the camera to stop and wait for them after fewer frames.) The flash takes 6.8 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is noticeably slower than the G11's 4.5 seconds.

 

Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

7,667 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, download speeds are very good. (A bit faster than the G11.)

 

Bottom line, like the Canon G11, the PowerShot S90 won't be a good choice for fast-paced action, especially if shooting RAW, but should handle typical non-speed-critical shooting situations fairly well.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Below average battery life for a lithium-ion design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery,
LCD Monitor
(CIPA standard)
220

The Canon PowerShot S90 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Since battery life is below average, we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Canon PowerShot S90 accepts SDHC/SD/MMC memory cards, and does not include any built-in memory or a starter card. Canon recommends using a card with Speed Class 4 or faster for capturing VGA movies.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal RAW RAW
+
LF JPEG
3,648 x 2,736
Images
(Avg Size)
374
2.7 MB
768
1.3 MB
67
15.2 MB
56
18.1 MB
Approx.
Comp.
11:1
23:1
1:1
-
2,816 x 2,112
Images
(Avg Size)
590
1.7 MB
1,181
867 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
10:1
21:1
-
-
2,272 x 1,704
Images
(Avg Size)
853
1.2 MB
1,617
633 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
10:1
18:1
-
-
1,600 x 1,200
Images
(Avg Size)
1,617
633 KB
3,073
333 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
9:1
17:1
-
-
640 x 480
Images
(Avg Size)
5,122
200 KB
7,684
133 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
7:1
-
-

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4 or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, RAW files or video. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)