5Dm2 vs S95 Holiday Shootout Deathmatch!

by EFVincent on 12/04/2010

Hey that’s an enthusiastic title…

My wife and son (and what the heck, me too) were surprised to see snow falling this morning as we lazed around the fire in the den. Not just some wispy dots, but some decent sized flakes. Not very common in Greensboro, NC the first week of December. There are many years it doesn’t snow at all down here. As a native Long Islander, my default reaction to snow in NC is “yea that’s not REAL snow”. But this kinda is. Very holiday joy, ho ho ho, jingle belly stuff.

So I find myself at my desk reading my RSS feeds and decide to snap a pic with my relatively new Canon S95. My primary camera is a Canon 5Dm2, but the S95 is pretty decent and fits in my pocket. I’ve been strict about taking the S95 with me pretty much whenever I take my wallet with me. Hasn’t resulted in any miracle catches yet, but it’s only a few weeks old.

Looking at the pic I have the same reaction that I usually have with the S95. “Meh…” it just doesn’t feel like a real camera to me. I grab the 5Dm2 that sits within arms reach of my keyboard and go for a quick comparison. To pics, approximately the same field of view. 5Dm2 vs S95. Here are the shots.


This wasn’t going to be much of a “guess which is which” thing, so I’m not ruining anything by saying right off the bat, the S95 is on the left. The color is different, that’s for sure, and this is after trying to get them somewhat close using white balance in Adobe Bridge. The S95 also has a 4:3 aspect ratio – that’s something that can be set, but the other ratios are achieved by cropping this one apparently. A 35mm frame is 3:2, which is what the 5Dm2 is on the right.

I used the S95 and the 5Dm2 as I would normally use them. So for the S95, that mean turning it on, finding the right focal length, adding some exposure compensation (for the darkly lit low contrast white scene). Brace my arm against the window (‘cause I don’t know what shutter speed or ISO this thing will pick), and shoot it. Shot came off at 1/125 sec, ISO 200, f4.9, +0.67 exposure comp. Not bad choices.

With the 5Dm2, I popped on my EF-100mm Macro lens cause it’s super sharp and I love it. I set ISO to 1000, exposure comp to a bit over one, and aperture to 4.5 (coincidentally, same as the S95 chose). Because I wanted it sharp. Shot came off at 1/400 sec. That shutter speed is going to make a difference. Which is why I set it that way. Which is what you do with a DSLR.

So they’re not that different shrunk all the way down to 220px. To see even more of a difference, I’ll crop it down. These crops are of a section in the lower right. They’re not at 100%, I chose a section such that both cameras would have to be reduced for the final output for web. The 5Dm2 clearly reduced more than the S95. Both had the same levels and curves applied, and both had unsharp mask 60%, 1px radius, threshold 2. Both originals where shot RAW (nice that the point and shoot has a RAW mode).


Yep that’s the DSLR vs point and shoot difference in a nutshell, for me. Now point and shoot is necessary sometimes. You want to have a pocketable camera. Just realize what you’re trading for convenience.

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12/04/2010 at 6:19 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

solarshooter 12/04/2010 at 8:11 pm

I prefer the look of 3:2. I’ve set my S95 to shoot this ratio by default so I can compose pictures accordingly. To give the S95 its due, I think with a 3:2 crop and a little more color adjustment the two photos would be near identical at any standard print size or viewing resolution. (The extra detail from the SLR lens is of course much better for an extreme crop.)

Convenience has got a lot going for it. We’re trying to figure out how to get the best out of this little camera over at the S95 User Group: http://s95site.com.

Anyway, nice writeup, beautiful snowscape.

EFVincent 12/04/2010 at 10:48 pm

solarshooter – I didn’t mean to bash on the S95, I think it’s the best of the compacts. The Lumix LX5 is nice too, had that for a couple of weeks and returned it. It was a bit bigger, and it had a lens cap, which just isn’t right for these cameras. The S95 performs just as well in a better package.

The S95’s main shortcoming is my own. I don’t have an instinctive feel for it yet, I’ve been using SLRs for so long I have a kind of muscle memory for making the 5D do what I want. Problem is it’s so stinking big. I have no problem with it on dedicated shoots, when the purpose of going out is to take photos. It’s the always having it with me nitch that the S95 fills for me. I’m sure when I get used to it, the love will come.

Thanks for your kind comments… happy shooting :)

Kevin 12/07/2010 at 5:18 pm

Eric, excellent post. I recently got the Canon S95 and it’s good to see this comparison. I’m still trying to figure out all the settings, since I’ve always had much crappier cameras in the past. Sadly, if a camera doesn’t fit in my pocket, it’s just going to collect dust for me.

Next time, add the iPhone camera to the mix (or windows phone, or whatever you are pushing lately). I’ve noticed at concerts that people holding their iPhones in the air get pictures that are better than my blurry Canon S95, since I still haven’t figured out the settings quite yet. It seems that software correction in the iPhone goes a long way toward making up for a small lense.

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