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Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS

An impressive update to the PowerShot "Pro" line, with a 10x optically stabilized zoom lens and 2.6 megapixel CCD!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 2/6/2001

Executive Overview
The 2.6-megapixel Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS combines the benefits of a 10x Image Stabilizer zoom, a rotating LCD monitor, and extensive automatic and manual exposure controls to make a complete, flexible features package that will appeal to serious amateur and pro digital shooters alike. Weighing in at 24 ounces (680g) and measuring 5.0 x 3.3 x 5.5 inches (126.5 x 83.9 x 139.1mm), the Pro90 is built for performance rather than convenience. It has a sturdy molded plastic body (to keep the weight down) and a large, somewhat bulky design to accommodate the 10x zoom lens and internally rechargeable battery pack.

The Pro90 features an electronic SLR viewfinder design, meaning that the "optical" viewfinder is actually a smaller version of the LCD monitor. Only one display can be active at a time. The swiveling LCD monitor, which folds against the back panel when closed, lifts up and off of the back panel, and rotates approximately 270 degrees to face just about any direction. Both LCD screens feature an in-depth information display and are controlled by the Display button on the back panel.

Optically, the Pro90 is equipped with a 10x, 7-70mm lens, equivalent to a 37-370mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus is controlled automatically or manually, and a Pan Focus mode fixes the focal setting for faster shooting. The lens aperture can also be manually or automatically controlled, with a range of openings from f/2.8 to f/8.0. An Image Stabilizer system reduces the effect of camera shake on slower exposures, as well as those taken at the full 10x telephoto setting (when the slightest movement can blur an image). You can increase the camera's zoom capabilities by enabling the 2x or 4x digital zoom, which, unlike the 10x optical zoom, digitally enlarges the center of the CCD image rather than magnifying the image optically (resulting in higher noise levels and decreased resolution). A set of 58mm filter threads on the inside lip of the lens accommodates Canon's stable of accessory lens kits and filters.

The PowerShot Pro90 provides a wide range of exposure controls. The Mode Dial includes standard Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, in addition to a handful of preset modes and a fully Automatic mode. The presets include Pan Focus, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Black and White, Stitch Assist (panoramic), and Movie. The Movie mode records both moving images and sound, for up to 30 seconds at a time, at 15 frames per second. A Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images as fast as 0.7 frames per second, depending on compression, resolution, and the amount of image information. An Auto Exposure Bracketing function takes a series of three images, each at different exposure values. There's also a 10 second self-timer mode, so you can set the timer and the camera will fire the shutter when the countdown is finished.

The Pro90 offers seven White Balance settings: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom. ISO is also adjustable, with options of 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalency ratings, plus an Automatic ISO function. Both spot- and center-weighted metering options are available, as well as an AE Lock function, which locks the exposure for normal and flash shots. A handful of image adjustments control exposure compensation, image contrast, sharpness, and saturation. The Pro90 is accompanied by an infrared remote control, which works with most Record and Playback mode functions.

The built-in, pop-up flash is activated when you choose one of the four active modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction Auto, Red-Eye Reduction On, or On) with the Flash button on the lens barrel. The flash unit pops up automatically when you press the shutter button halfway, rather than opening when the flash is engaged. An external hot shoe enables you to connect to a more powerful flash unit, such as the Canon SpeedLite series. Flash exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step equivalents. The Pro90 also features a Flash white balance mode and an FE Lock (flash exposure lock).

Images are saved to a Type I or II CompactFlash card (a 16MB card is supplied with the camera), with still images saved at one of three JPEG compression levels, or in RAW data format. Movie files are saved as AVI format movies that can be viewed in Apple QuickTime. Images can be composed, captured, and played back on the television set, which, when used with the remote control, makes a useful presentation tool. (US and Japanese models of the Pro90 come with an NTSC A/V cable for connecting to a television set, while European models come with a PAL cable.)

A USB cable accompanies the Pro90, for connecting directly to the computer, and a serial cable is available as a separate accessory. Two software CDs include Canon's Utilities, ZoomBrowser EX and PhotoRecord (for Windows), ImageBrowser (for Macintosh), and PhotoStitch, RemoteCapture, QuickTime, Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0, and USB drivers, for both PC and Macintosh computers. Probably the most exciting software application in the bundle is the RemoteCapture, which allows you to control the camera through the computer and save images directly to your hard drive. (See our review of Canon's D30 SLR camera for a brief discussion of RemoteCapture, including a screen shot.) The inclusion of Photoshop LE is also a nice, bonus, providing a variety of creative and corrective digital imaging functions.

The Pro90 is powered by a single BP-511 lithium rechargeable battery pack, which recharges in the camera via the AC adapter -- both of which are provided with the camera. The power consumption level is reported on the LED display, and an auto shutoff feature saves battery power after extended periods of inactivity.

Overall, we were very pleased with the Pro90's performance, as the extensive exposure control and 10x zoom lens produced very nice images with excellent quality and color. The swiveling LCD monitor is also great when shooting at odd angles, and the Image Stabilizer function is a huge plus for handheld telephoto shots, as well as low-light shooting conditions. With its large variety of exposure options and control levels, the Pro90 should appeal to a wide range of users.

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