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.)   

Daily Photos: November 28th, 2009

Daily Photos: November 27th, 2009

I've switched over to a new 'Daily Photos' camera (although I will continue to also use the HERO camera for it's fisheye lens) - a Canon G11.  Although I know that it has the exact same sensor and processor as the S90 (which I returned very quickly after purchase) I like how the G11 feels much better, and I also prefer to have the option to attach an external flash, even if it is the rather small Canon 270EX which I carry with the camera.  Since I just purchased the camera I haven't done a whole lot with it yet, but from the shots that I've taken I've been very impressed...

Hero Camera: Williamsburg Bridge - September 26th, 2009

Bike ride from Park Slope, Brooklyn up through Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, et. al, and over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.

Daily Photos: November 11th, 2009

Daily Photos: November 5th, 2009

Daily Photos: October 30th, 2009

Daily Photos: Making New Use of the HERO Camera - Round 1: October 29th, 2009

Having returned my beautiful Canon S90 to Calumet, I was trying to think of another solution to my desire to have a camera on me at all times without lugging around my DSLR.  Then it struck me: why not use a camera that I already own?  I decided to start carrying my HERO bike helmet camera around with me for my 'Daily Photography' - it's very small but can actually produce a very nice image.  All subsequent posts in this series will simply have a title with the date - enjoy!

Daily Photos Introduction - the Canon S90 "Failure"

Recently I've really wanted to start a more continuous flow of photographs from simple daily life.  One of the reasons for this is that there's been several legit photography books and blogs/websites published lately that have been exclusively iPhone photos, or on another website all Motorola cell phone photos.  I find the colors on my BlackBerry's phone to be intolerably dull, so I wanted some other small camera that I could easily have on my person at all times.  I read some raving reviews of the Canon S90 before it was even released, and decided to go for it.  Unfortunately it sold out from B&H the day that it came into stock, but I was able to get one at Calumet Photo near the Flatiron building early the next morning - it was already their last one.  I carried it around for a day or to but decided to take it back...

The camera itself was amazing: it felt great, was obviously built very well, had all the functionality of a full DSLR as far a control, and it was all black: I felt like I couldn't lose.

Unfortunately, once I looked at the actual image quality I decided to return the camera.  Honestly there was nothing wrong with the images - in fact the image quality was excellent (for a compact camera this one has a large sensor, but it's still only about 1/4th the size of a full-frame DSLR).  There was just a feel about them though that didn't quite sit right with me: it wasn't the look I was going for - that's why I knew I had to take it back (even though I'd still HIGHLY recommend it as a compact point-and-shoot).