Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS retro review

The Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS was a high-end super-zoom camera launched in 2001, the second in the PowerShot Pro series after the Pro70 in 1998. It shared a similar L-shaped design of the Pro70 but improved the feature-set across the board, most notably extending the zoom to a 10x 37-370mm equivalent range, and becoming Canon’s first digital camera to include optical image stabilisation that transformed its usability at longer focal lengths. The industry-leading specs in turn justified Canon’s pricing of around $1300 / 1100 GBP. 20 years after it was launched, I took the Pro90 IS to the streets of Brighton to see how it measures up!

The Pro90 IS inherited most of its other features from the PowerShot G1 launched a year earlier in 2000. Both shared a wealth of modes from PASM to creative presets and full manual control over exposure, with shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/1000, although if you wanted to use the maximum f2.8 aperture, the fastest shutter reduced to 1/800. The Pro90 IS also inherited the flash hotshoe, top info panel and fully-articulated side-hinged 1.8in screen from the G1, although its longer zoom range necessitated a switch from an optical to an electronic viewfinder. Both cameras also sported Compact Flash slots compatible with Type I and II cards (supporting the IBM MicroDrive), and were powered by the BP-511 Lithium Ion battery that thanks to broad use by Canon up to 2008 remains readily available today.

Both cameras also employed the same 1/ 1.8in CCD sensor with 3.3 Megapixels, although the smaller imaging circle of the 10x zoom forced Canon to crop the Pro90 IS images down to 2.6 Megapixels. Sony had to do the same with the F505V. That said, even after cropping, the Pro90 IS ended up with a few more pixels than the Olympus C2100 UZ which almost certainly shared the same 10x zoom but coupled with a 2 Megapixel sensor. Best quality JPEGs measured just under 1MB each and the Pro90 IS also let you record in RAW. The Pro90 IS could also capture 30 second video clips in QVGA / 320×240 resolution at 15fps with sound, albeit not zooming while recording.

Three years later the Pro1 arrived with 8 Megapixels and a 7.1x zoom with a red-ring denoting L-quality, but it would be the last of the PowerShot Pro series. Canon’s later PowerShot SX range however continued the mini-DSLR super-zoom concept to enormous success, while the enthusiast-class G-series gained, lost then regained features over its life.

Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS sample images

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