The first thing you'll notice about the PowerShot S95 is how little has changed outwardly from the PowerShot S90. In fact, on closer inspection, you'll find that there's less on the S95 than on the S90. As the design of the S95 remains mostly consistent with the S90, most of our remarks about the S90 in its review remains the same.
Unlike any of the colorful Canon IXUS cameras which scream fashion, the S90 looked more like an unobtrusive ninja - place it down on a table or hold it and it was hardly noticed, as plain as it was. But the small, smooth body of the S90 offered little for grip (which led one enterprising person to customize this beautiful custom grip).
The S90 did offer a respite though, in a small thumb rest on the upper back of the body below the Mode switch, on which your thumb could rest. On the S95 however, that rest has been completely removed, giving you even less grip on the camera body.
To Canon's credit, the front of the camera body has a grainy texture which makes it easier to grip, but not too much. As it is, the S95's grip just manages to stay this side of comfort, but a camera strap is a definite must.
The S95's shutter button now sits within a hollow, compared with the flat shutter button of the S90. This gives its raised profile more emphasis, but also makes it feel smaller. Thankfully, the very similar On/Off and Ring Func. buttons on the S90 have been changed. The S95's On/Off button is now round instead of rectangular, so it's harder to accidentally power off the camera when all you want to do is change the ring functions.
As with the S90, we found the Mode dial on the S95 overly hard. After a few days of heavy use, the Mode dial got a little looser, but it never became easy to switch modes. It doesn't help that the contact area is really small, so we sometimes had to really dig our nails in and force the dial. It's one of the more frustrating aspects of using the S95.
The innovative control ring introduced in the S90 is still here in the S95. Like a dial wheel found on the upper backs of DSLRs, the the ring gives you control over the camera's settings; aperture in Aperture mode for example, and shutter speed in Shutter mode. It works in tandem with the scroll wheel on the back of the S95, which normally gives you control over exposure compensation.
The ring can also be customized to take control over ISO, manual focus, white balance, Step Zoom (zooming in fixed steps like 28mm, 35mm, 50mm), i-Contrast, aspect ratio, or Custom. The control ring is a powerful feature which gives you quick access to the camera's settings. It doesn't give you the same convenience as a DSLR camera, but it makes the S95 a much more convenient compact camera, and helps you take over manual settings easily.
The PowerShot S95 is a concrete example of austere simplicity. Instead of adding more, Canon has taken away what it perhaps felt was unnecessary. We can't agree with all the choices - a front and back grip would have been better - but then the S95 wouldn't be the distinctive, matte monolith it is now. The S95 is product design with a strong opinion, and we can at least respect that, whether we agree with the decisions or not.