Why the S95 is a great pocket camera and I am not getting one.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4145/4994884954_04c80b5d2f_b.jpg
© Shot with Hipstamatic on the iPhone 3GS. Hong Kong Sept 2010.

I have a long and monogamous relationship with my Canon DSLR.

My first camera was then the best-selling Canon EOS 500n SLR. Attached to it 98% of the time was the Sigma 28–80mm ƒ/3.5–5.6. Even then, I believe that the SLR was the ultimate tool to take pictures.

When the APS was beginning to flock the market, and CONTAX rangefinder cameras was making the covers of photo magazines, I was always subconsciously denying the temptation of having a pocketable photo-making device, I was consistently convinced that what-you-see-is-(almost)-what-you-get is the only proper way to take pictures.

But… (and this is a big BUT)

… there is a major drawback to the SLR: Bulk & portability, which brings about the next quest for many photographers, and a big opportunity for camera makers, pro-grade pocket camera that gets the jobs done.

Thus the Canon G series was born. It followed by the reignition of the S-series with the hugely phenomenal S90, and its second model the S95 this year.

The EOS propelled the G series, and the S-series redefined ‘pocketable’ camera; the size of the body is evidently smaller in every model, but the brain and the imaging capacity of each newer ones triumphed the older ones significantly. The S also redefined the niche characteristic of a great camera, it is no longer the megapixel count, but IQ — Image Quality.

I thought the S90 is a perfect camera, so perfect even I was convinced I am going to get one. I just couldn’t fathom why I kept postponing the purchase, again, and again. 

The urge was even stronger with the S95 now the body is even slimmer and more slender, the image quality is even better, and that tiny beast is even more humanlike with features like wink-activated timer control, face & smile detection, built-in miniature (tilt-shift) effect, built-in HDR, HD video/stereo sound recording, as well as that awfully attractive ƒ/2.0 lens attached at the front of the well-built magnesium body — all that at a lower price point than the suggested price of the S90.

The answer lies in plain sight.

The practice of capturing a moment with a camera is a highly meditative and personal process, the world stopped the moment I close my left eye and see the fabric of reality merely through a finger-sized hole with my right eye, my cheek brushing against the back of the camera, that smell of rubber and being so close with divinity the moment I strike the shutter button. Snapped! You have performed the miracle of creation in less than a second then a picture is born.

The S95, or any other pocket cameras out there rid me off those privileges. The S95 is missing one major component of that process: the VIEWFINDER.

Taking picture at an arm’s length is like having an intercourse with your loved ones while the dog is watching, no matter how hard you try, you can’t help but notice that it is there; it is distracting as much as it is annoying.

Another reason why I think I’m reluctant getting it is the fact that I already have one great camera that is always in my pocket: the iPhone. The only time I can let myself taking pictures at an arm’s length is when I know that I’m in it for the fun, look at the apps available at the App Store that makes mobile photography more joyful than ever.

In the end, it’s all about the picture. Whether or not you have a great camera is just another factor of technicality, and I’m pretty sure our milage is different. But until someone introduces a game-changer, I’m still sticking my eye to that viewfinder.