Canon S90 vs. Canon G11: A Matter of Personal Preference

As mentioned in some of my other postings, I've been trying to find a 'carry everywhere' camera to always keep on my person so that I don't miss the amazing things that make up the events of everyday life (like tomorrow when I actually get to get off the R train at Cortland Street, something I haven't been able to do for years due to construction).  I wanted something that was (1) Small and (2) Had the ability for full manual controls for shutter speed and aperture.  The two cameras that fit this bill very well were Canon's S90 and G11 - Canon's top of the line point and shoots in their respective series (S and G).  But which one?

The two major things that the cameras have in common (in addition to the above mentioned manual controls) are:

1. The same image sensor (same size, etc)
2. The same image processor

Anyone who's written a comparison of the cameras will point this out quickly - because normally 'which camera' would come down to these one of these two issues.  In addition to these things, there are dozens of other features that both cameras share: this makes it very difficult to decide "which camera?"  Having owned both of them (but ultimately deciding to go with the G11 and returning the S90) I would like to make a short list of positive/negatives which I think could be deciding factors when trying to choose between these two excellent cameras.  Instead of listing both positive and negative points by each camera, I'll simply point out the positives of each that the other model does not share - I hope that this is helpful in your decision!  (I shot both of the images below, but actually took my time with the G11 shot - this should not take away from how beautiful the S90 camera is - it's a work of art). 

S90: Advantages

- Very compact: quite a bit smaller than the G11, it would easily fit in pockets and cases that the G11 never could.  If you're into Pelican cases like I am, you can fit the S90 in the Pelican Micro Case 1010 with room to spare.

- More efficient controls: the ring around the lens is amazing and an excellent idea.  Especially when in manual mode, this makes setting aperture and shutter speed a snap (it's more awkward on the G11 - you have to use the small back dial and then toggle between aperture and shutter speed with a seperate button which can get to be messy when you're trying to shoot quickly).

- The f2.0 lens: a full stop faster than the G11's 2.8 lens.  This is a LOT of light, and especially important when you want to take photos in low-light situations.

G11: Advantages

- Hot shoe: but on a compact?  Some people will say "it's pointless to use an external flash on a compact camera - the whole point is to be compact!"  That's a valid critique, but at the same time there are times that it's nice to be able to throw a flash on a compact if you really need one.  I own the 430EX and the 580EX II (both compatible) but I picked up the newish 270EX with the G11 (pictured below) and it works fantastically with the camera without adding a lot of weight.  Both the camera and the flash fit perfectly into the Pelican 1060 case side by side but with enough room to stay padded with the foam insert.  And hey - if I want to throw the nearly-twice-as-big-as-the-camera-itself 580EX II on the G11 I can do it!  Yet I can also do without it - the camera is versitile this way in a way that the S90 is not. 

- Vari-Angle LCD: which at first I found annoying.  The screen adds just enough bulk to the camera that it does not fit in smaller cases that it otherwise would.  When I first got the camera I was really rather annoyed by it in fact - not only because of the bulk but because it was actually smaller than the LCD on the S90.  I had to read another review to realize that it was a much better thing than I realized - because it allows you to hold the camera at all sorts of different levels and angles while still allowing you to see what you're shooting.  I really enjoy doing photography with the camera low to the ground (I have an angled viewfinder for my DSLR) and so this works perfectly for what I need.  As others have pointed out, the Vari-Angledness of the LCD allows you to flip it while in storage so that it's even more protected. 

- Remote Shutter Release: you can use one!  I love doing night photography and that the G11 allows me to use a cable release really seals the deal on the S90 vs. G11 for me personally (granted on the S90 you can always use the 2 second self-timer).  Good news too if you use a Canon Rebel DSLR - it's the same cable release.

I made the photo below to highlight all three of what I would see as clear advantages of the G11 over the S90 for my use.  Others will see the three advantages of the S90 as more important and they should go in that direction - they're both amazing cameras that will take incredible photos in skilled hands - enjoy!  (Note: the G11 comes with a neck strap which I find annoying - I never carry a camera around my neck.  The strap below is a Nikon (gasp!) strap that I attached onto one of the G11's strap lugs so that it's secure when I'm holding it.)   


  1. I agree with you when you say it is a matter of personal preference, in my personal opinion I love my S90, It meets all my needs, and i can take it with me everywhere because of its small body. Also, I love how my B&W pics turn out.
    For all of you who want to know more about the S90 I recommend you visit I found there a lot of information which led me to buy mine.

  2. Paola -

    Excellent point! Funny I'm actually now selling my G11 and will be purchasing the S95. As much as I love the G11 (especially the shutter release option) it's just been slightly too bulky to always have on me. Plus I just purchased a Canon 5D Mark II, so if I really want to carry something a little on the bulkier side around, I'll bring that. I'm hoping to get my S95 tomorrow and can't wait!

  3. I just red many positive things about the G11, I myself have a Nikon D1, D70 and a Canon A580 and A470 just in case. Ah well I still think the lenses are most important then all the gadgets on camera's that people seem to like. But I get my G11 tomorrow ... can not wait to take it out.
    I played with the G10 it is a rugged compact camera and makes photos that can compete or even look better then some SLR's I think I use it on my bicycling holidays and when I do not feel like carrying my D1 with 80-200 2.8 lens and a 28-70mm. But for the SLR's I stick to Nikon ;-)
    Ah well I just take snapshots, glad i am not a photgrapher.

  4. mps - I hope you enjoy the G11! Although in my previous comment I stated that I was selling my G11 due to its bulkiness, I've actually changed my mind now as I found the S95 ever so slightly TOO small for me: I like the way the G11 feels in my hands. I found that my G11 took sharper shots than my Rebel XTi which I found very interesting...neither compare with my 5D Mark II, but for a compact the G11 is astounding!