MARIA MUNN'S COLUMN: Canon s95 Powershot review

Anyone who has lost their beloved camera to a flood will know exactly how I felt when my Canon Ixus 980 drowned earlier this year. It answered all of my compact camera prayers underwater and helped me achieve some of my most spectacular photos so far. Would there be a replacement that I would be truly happy with to capture those golden underwater moments?

The Canon s95 Powershot certainly ticked all of the right boxes. It is a sleek model, easy to pop in your pocket on land and very similar to its predecessor, the s90. The main difference between the two is the addition of High Definition Video to the s95 model. Like the s90, this version has the bonus of full manual controls and a ring function control to make changing all of the camera’s controls really super easy peasy, particularly when things happen fast underwater like it did last week when I encountered that humongous baitball!

The camera’s ISO can be changed in increments to allow for even more precise exposure control and the shortcut key can be programmed to access a myriad of functions at the touch of a button, including an easy swap to HD 720 fps video as soon as an action moment arises. There really is no excuse for missing an opportune shot with this fabulous tool. The camera’s aperture range is from F2.0 to F8 giving more capabilities for natural light shots by allowing in more light. Like the ‘G’ range Powershot series, it also has a Custom setting, ideal for storing your favourite camera settings.


Shot taken with Canon s95, INON UFL-165 AD Fisheye Lens & INON Z-240 strobe


The rest of the camera’s functions are in almost identical positions to other compact members of the Canon family, so upgrading from one Canon to another is a breeze.

I found the only problem with this camera was choosing an underwater housing to accompany it! Canon, Ikelite, Recsea, Nauticam and FIX offer a huge range of housings together with different close-up and wide-angle lenses that can be attached to them. Just make sure before buying a housing that you can use the appropriate lenses to create your dream photograph. We’ll look into these more next week. I ended up using a FIX housing for this test. I loved the easy access wheel controls at both the front and rear of the housing, giving me optimum easy control over the aperture and shutter speed functions, and most importantly - lots of speed. It also allowed the use of my faithful INON UFL-165AD Fisheye Lens with the use of a stepping ring, giving me an almost 150 degree field-of-view, ideal for my favourite wide angle kind of shots.

What impressed me most was the speed with which consecutive shots could be taken. The macro capabilities on this camera did not disappoint either. Subjects such as Francis the Frogfish shown here were sharp with incredible detail shown. Close-focus wide angle shots of reef scenes with moving glassfish were also far easier to capture. Trying to get glassfish to sychronise their swimming patterns for a photograph had always proved almost nigh-on-impossible, but my lucky lepricorn worked his magic and I nabbed a shot of a lionfish in two attempts (see picture above).


Francis the Frogfish


And yes, on that point, I was reminded of another golden rule of underwater photography this week. Always carry a spare battery or two. I found that the battery life, particularly when using a strobe, was a little shorter than with previous models.

Have a fabulous week and hope to see some of you at the Sport Diver and Scubapro event next weekend in Cornwall! As always, if you have any questions or need help, then just let me know.

Have a phototastic week and if you have any questions, just drop me an email at maria@oceanvisions.co.uk.

For more information on compact cameras and techniques, don’t forget to grab a copy of Maria’s award-winning book “Underwater Photography for Compact Camera Users”, join her on one of her free demo days in London and Leeds, or treat your compact to a fabulous day of learning in a fun and relaxed style in tropical 32 degree indoor pools. Visit www.oceanvisions.co.uk for more information.

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