In recent years, the PowerShot G-series has been Canon's prosumer camera line, and part of what makes the G-series so popular is the fact that they have bigger sensors than your usual compact camera.
A larger sensor usually gives you sharper, clearer images with less noise. While a standard compact camera like the Canon IXUS 100 IS has a sensor measuring 0.435-inch diagonally, the PowerShot G11 has a sensor that is 0.588-inch diagonally (in contrast, the Canon EOS 500D DSLR has a sensor that's 1.056-inch diagonally; so now you know why DSLRs give you better-looking pictures!). Besides the larger sensor, the G11 also lets you have DSLR-like control over the camera, with shutter/aperture priority and a full manual mode.
There's a trade-off for all these goodies, of course. The G-series cameras, while not as large as DSLRs, are bigger and heavier than conventional compact cameras.
But here comes the Canon PowerShot S90. It packs the same big sensor as the PowerShot G11, with the same DSLR-like controls, but in a body smaller and lighter than the G11, and only slightly larger than a compact camera. It's not only more convenient than a G11, it also has a unique direct control ring to change your shutter speed/aperture fast and a quick f/2 lens to help you get clearer low-light shots.
A lot of people are looking forward to this camera as the new high-quality prosumer camera of choice, and we managed to snag a prototype S90 to play with over the weekend. Because it's an early prototype, we've held off commenting on the image quality (Canon told us the final build takes better pictures), but since the design and physical controls are already set in stone, we can give you a run-down on its handling. Read on for our first impressions.