My Canon s90 settings

s90 settings buttons & wheelThe first thing I do when I get a new digital camera is change many of the factory default settings. After years of using digital cameras, I’ve found some settings are more effective than the ones the manufacturer preselects for us. However, I do adjust settings such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation and  ISO whenever needed according to the scene and lighting.

Generally, though, I keep my s90 set as follows:

  • Shooting mode: P or Aperture priority mode
  • Focus – Single Point
  • Auto Focus frame — Center, normal size
  • Metering — Evaluative
  • Image Stabilization: Shoot Only
  • Sensitivity – Auto ISO
  • Exposure Compensation: -1/3 to – 2/3 for outside photos
  • Control ring – assigned to ISO [Learn why]
  • Shortcut button – AE Lock (Auto Exposure Lock is one of 12 functions that can be assigned to the shortcut button via the Set Shortcut button menu)
  • iContrast – OFF (iContrast can be effective, however you can apply it when reviewing images. The original image will remain untouched and a new image is created with iContrast applied).
  • Custom colors — increase saturation, decrease red (both by one tick)
  • Flash – OFF – otherwise the flash remains up and it can be annoying when taking shots
  • Auto focus assist lamp — ON
  • Red-eye mode — OFF
  • White balance — AUTO
  • Digital Zoom — OFF
  • LCD Review – OFF

Note: if a function isn’t listed above, it’s kept at the factory default.

Visit Gail’s pbase gallery for sample photos taken with the Canon s90.

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49 Responses

  1. Gail Bjork says:

    Neil, in response to your email: you can change aperture and speed when using P Mode. I set the Shortcut button to AE Lock. When pressed, I can change the aperture and shutter speed combination. This is known as Program Shift. Check page 92 of the manual. AE Lock changes to Flash Exposure Lock (FE Lock) when the flash is enabled. This is also a very handy feature.

  2. Gail Bjork says:

    Neil, I find Exposure Compenstion one of the most useful camera settings and use it a lot. For quick access to EC, I assign it to the front control ring on both my S90 and S100. Check page 98 in the S90 manual for instructions on how to assign EC to the front control ring. I prefer this method to using the dial (page 70 in the manual).

  3. Neil Francis says:

    Hi Gail

    I have been using my S90 in program mode as you suggest. One question it has given rise to is what do you do if you need exposure compensation? Maybe I’m missing something. Regards, Neil

  4. Neil Francis says:

    Thank you Gail. I will try that out. What I presently do is select ISO (via the control ring) then by pressing the top of the control dial I can select either aperture or shutter speed and adjust by rotating the control dial. I am not sure it is any quicker, it is just what came naturally.

  5. Gail Bjork says:

    Neil, with advanced compact cameras like the S90, I’ve always used Program mode rather than Manual mode. Program mode let’s me adjust the same settings you mention. Shutter speed and aperture can be changed using AE Lock and Program Shift. After locking exposure, a screen appears of the LCD and by rotating the dial, the shutter speed and aperture value combination is changed (See page 92 in the S90 manual). It’s easy, fast and effective.

  6. Neil Francis says:

    Hi Gail

    Why not leave the camera on manual? When I shoot I usually find myself balancing three things: the highest shutter speed possible; the lowest iso; and whatever aperture gives me, either, the optimal lens performance or most suitable depth of field for the subject.

    I hope the question makes sense.



  7. Gail Bjork says:

    Thank you Jim for the information. We have an article about his grip for the s90 here. Richard also makes one for the s95. I use the grip on my s90 and it significantly improved the ergonomics. For anyone having problems with the rear control dial, check out the Lensmate device. Happy Holiday to you too!

  8. Jim K. says:

    If anyone is interested in an after-market grip specifically designed for the S90/95, Richard Franiec has designed an outstanding one that is available either on his site or at  I highly recommend this accessory, the one issue that I had with the S90/95 is the handling ergonomics, this grip REALLY makes a difference.
    Happy Holidays to All!

  9. Yonn Yenson says:

    Hi Gail,
    is it correct that the minimum shutter speed for s90/s95 when using flash is 1/60.
    If that is not right, how do we adjust min shutter speed for flash mode?
    Thanks and merry Christmas!!!

  10. gail says:

    Sanaa, do a search at our site for the terms you don’t understand, such as aperture, shutter speed. The articles should give you a good understanding of each function. The articles are non-technical and should be easy to understand. One way you can manually lock focus is by setting up your shortcut button to Auto Focus Lock, See page 153 in the manual.  Things can be overwhelming, but go slow and concentrate learning one thing at a time. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your camera manual. btw, I primarily use PMode on the s90. I keep ISO set to Auto, and the setting I change most (when outside in good light) is Exposure Compensation.

  11. Sanaa says:

    Thanks a lot Gail ! the articles were very helpful..will try experimenting. Honestly,I dont understand much about how to adjust focus, aperture,shutter speed etc..all those all  seems very confusing right now.

  12. Gail Bjork says:

    Sanaa, it will take time and practice learning to get the most out of any camera, including the s90. When taking photos at night, make sure you’re shooting at the widest angle (don’t zoom in) as the aperture is the widest and lets in more light. Also check the shutter speed and raise the ISO if necessary to increase it. If the shutter speed is too slow, you’ll get camera shake. Many people have difficulty taking photos free from camera shake when hand-holding a camera at shutter speeds 1/30th a second or below. Make sure to press the shutter button correctly in two steps so focus is locked. See page 23 in the manual. For some night photos, you may have to use the flash. Make sure image stabilization is turned on.

    It is difficult to take pictures “fast” with the s90. It is not a speedy camera so you have to work within it’s limitations. Experiment using continuous mode and make sure you prefocus.

    Related reading:

    Night time photography

    Night time photography tips

    Street photography

  13. Sanaa says:

    Hi, I just purchased the S90 and Im so lost..I hardly know how to use it to the best of its capacity. i just shoot on program mode and play around with the ISO and exposure. I had two questions actually, firstly most of the times when I want to click a picture of someone at night, it keeps coming blur which frustrates the people posing for me and they term me as a bad photographer :(  Please help. Secondly i love taking interesting and natural pictures of people on the streets which tell a story. But they need to be taken very fast. Please can u recommend some fixed settings on this camera for me to shoot so that I get the best picture possible. Thanks a lot in advance

  14. Mark says:

    Gail, Sorry about the post above. After i put the card in computer sound volume is loud and good.
    Thanks again for all your help.

  15. Mark says:

    Gail… woo-hoo. I think i got it now about how to get the blur background. Thanks to you
    for the links you provided.

    I have now been shooting short videos and the quality is very good. But the sound is
    so low i can hardly hear it. I went to the camera settings and choose level five but
    still low. Any suggestions.
    Again thanks.

  16. Gail Bjork says:

    Mark, you’ll do fine with a little practice. If you’re taking close-up shots, some of the information in these articles provide additional tips:

    Macro photography and depth of field

    Close-up photography

  17. Mark says:

    Gail.. Thanks for this.
    Man you are good. I know i will never master this. lol
    But will work on it.

  18. gail says:

    Mark, here are a few more tips about adjusting depth of field.

  19. gail says:

    Mark, you can try a combination of things to get a blurred background with the s90.  Don’t expect DSLR type blur (shallow depth of field) with a compact camera, however the s90/95 does better than many others.
    The main thing is that you have to open up the aperture. Here are some sample depth of field test shots which I made with the s90 changing the aperture.

    And here are some taken in macro mode. When taking macro photos, it’s best to shoot as close to the widest angle possible.

    In addition to changing the aperture size, you can decrease depth of field by zooming in in non-macro mode and getting closer to the subject.

  20. Mark says:

    Can anyone tell me how to get a blur background with the S90?

  21. Mark says:

     Gail Bjork, Thanks for reply. I will check these out. :)

  22. Gail Bjork says:

    Mark, based on the information that you want to carry the tripod in a messenger bag and that it will be used for a very lightweight digital camera, consider the Tamrac ZipShot Instant Tripod. It’s ultra-compact and ultra-light (11 oz.; measures 15″ when folded).

    If it’s a bit too lightweight, something like the Slik Compact-XL Compact Travel Tripod may be a better choice (15.35 inches folded; 1.45 pounds; maximum height 43.7 inches).

  23. Mark says:

    Can anyone suggest a light weight full sized tripod i could carry in messenger bag for the s90.

  24. Henry Stanley says:

    There is a great grip for the S90 available from Richard Franiec.  (I bought mine direct from him.)

    See this review and pix:

    I shoot in dual mode — RAW & jpg,  and batch process with the Canon RAW software.  My laptop connects to my big screen HDTV, so I can show my work in high definition.