Canon Z90w black
Point & Shoot

Canon Sure Shot Z90W One Roll Review – Kodak Portra 400 in Coventry – by Charles Higham

May 7, 2021

Launched in 2000, it’s fair to say the Canon Sure Shot Z90W doesn’t have a high profile today – not compared to some 35mm film compacts that are popular with enthusiasts. What drew my attention to it was the wide angle zoom lens and the dial on the back, as one of the options is designated ‘Personal’.

This mode will memorise a limited but useful combination of settings, in particular the flash-off mode and exposure compensation. So you set and forget, the flash won’t fire even if you switch the camera off and on. You choose your personal setting using a mode button and the zoom control.

There are a number of Sure Shot cameras in the Z series but as far as I am aware the Sure Shot Z90W is the only one with this handy feature. The flash unit will pop up regardless of your choice, but won’t fire if that’s what you’ve programmed in.

The Sure Shot Z90W is otherwise a well featured model with active/passive hybrid AI/AF, +/-1.5-stop manual exposure compensation, diopter, self-timer, spot focus, and a good selection of the usual settings available, including flash modes, by turning the large dial on the back.

The seven element 28-90mm f/4.5 -9.9 lens includes two aspherical elements, and is capable of close- ups at 1.5ft. It’s protected by a sliding cover similar to the Olympus mju-II and which powers up the camera in the same way. The automatic shutter speeds are from 2 seconds to 1/640. In line with many good compacts of the period, DX code reading is from ISO 25-3200.

I’d wanted to visit the city of Coventry to have another look at the post-war architecture, and thought this camera loaded with Kodak Portra 400 would be good to take along. A while ago I’d casually painted the silver front of mine black to make it less obvious, hence the crappy appearance. I’d last used the camera with Ilford Delta 400 black and white film and was impressed by the sharpness of the lens across the frame.

Coventry was heavily bombed in World War II and the damage was extensive, including the destruction of the cathedral, so when peace arrived the planners got to work. As explained in this article the city is ‘one of the few places outside the new towns where the post-war architectural imagination was given full reign to create a total urban ensemble’. So think optimistic grand designs from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

It’s also a university city, and the presence of their more recently constructed buildings is obvious to any visitor. Awarded the title ‘UK City of Culture 2021’, the amount of new construction going on right now is unavoidable and you get a sense of another regeneration in progress. However, there’s been concern that some of the less-valued mid-twentieth century buildings might disappear under the bulldozer. The Coventry Society, who are keen to protect this heritage, produce a downloadable guide to post-war buildings and I was glad to be able to use it.

I have to say I am pleased with the Canon Sure Shot Z90W lens. I’ve used quite a few 35mm film compacts of this era and this is one of the best I’ve experienced. If you think these images are contrasty, you’re right. I guess Canon wanted punchy, colourful and contrasty shots out of this camera, and that’s what you get.

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Peter Simonsson
    May 7, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Lovely pictures, Charles! You’ve certainly got the eye! And the camera really has a lovely crappy appearence 🙂 Thanks for the post!

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 7, 2021 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks that’s very kind Peter! My paint job was certainly a bit crap, but on the plus side no negative effect on the lens quality, which I think is very good. If you spot one of these cameras at a fair price worth a go.

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    May 7, 2021 at 10:44 am

    I don’t think you have improved the looks of the camera by the paint-job but the pictures more than make up for that. Would have been nice to see some captions…

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 7, 2021 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks very much Bob. Yes, I agree it would have been useful to include some captions and I can’t remember why I didn’t. For example, the 1950s Coventry Telegraph building has been converted into an 88 room hotel, and quite stylishly too.

      https://www.telegraph-hotel.com/gallery-2/

  • Reply
    yuze
    May 8, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Lovely shots Charles and thank you for the link of the guide too! Big fan of postwar and brutalist architecture here. When you mentioned postwar architecture in Coventry, I was immediately reminded of that hotel stretching across the street I saw during my sole visit to Coventry 10 years ago. As I scrolled down your post, I became more than certain that I would see it again. And there it was, Britannia Hotel! Thank you for bringing me back some good memories and that little point & shoot takes impressive shots too!

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 8, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks very much yuze. Yes, the Britannia Hotel is still there. As you know, there’s some very interesting postwar and brutalist architecture in the city centre, and it’s all very walkable. I think the cathedral is outstanding.

  • Reply
    MrSnappy
    May 9, 2021 at 7:07 am

    Superb images and compositions Charles. Certainly a camera to be proud of, and which is now on my GAS list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 9, 2021 at 9:29 am

      Thanks very much that’s very kind. The Z90w is an excellent little camera, and I was very impressed by the zoom lens which, at least with my example, was sharp from end to end. I think it has a deserving place on your GAS list!

  • Reply
    Mats
    May 9, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    I bought one of these very cheaply, but it sadly didn’t work. Seems to be a very well corrected lens on the 28mm end. The color and contrast is also very nice in these scans as you say. I don’t know how much of that is the lens and how much is the lab.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 9, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Yes I think very good at 28mm Mats, but not at all bad when you use the zoom. The photo of the side of the cathedral with the workmen at height was shot at 90mm. I don’t process film myself and the images might have been tweaked by the lab, but in my experience having used them many times they don’t usually do a lot of correction. I’m fairly sure the lens leans towards contrasty and colourful images like the ones in my post. I hope you come across another cheap Z90W. They do come up on ebay although not that often.

      • Reply
        Mats
        May 9, 2021 at 6:42 pm

        Upon closer inspection the one I had was the spiritual predecessor of this model, the Canon Prima Super 28V, called the Autoboy Luna in other markets. The design is very similar but it has a slower 28-70mm f/5.6-7.8 lens and was introduced in 1994. The Z90w seems superior as even though if I have learned to tolerate slow lenses 5.6 is a pushing it a bit.
        But yes, very pleasant rendering in your images.

        • Reply
          Charles Higham
          May 9, 2021 at 6:55 pm

          Thanks for that info Mats. The Z90w has a marginally faster lens at 28mm but the Autoboy Luna does look quite interesting.

  • Reply
    Gandhi Cabanas
    May 10, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Great pictures! Architecture photography nicely done, very good compositions. One would not think that a camera like that would give such sharp results.

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 10, 2021 at 10:01 am

      Thanks very much Gandhi, I’ve been impressed by the lens on this camera which on mine is sharp across the frame.

  • Reply
    Michael Gayler
    May 10, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    I have the Sure Shot z70w which is a predecessor to this camera. The z70w is a splendid camera, and this looks to be a huge leap forward in terms of features – it’s now on my GAS list too!

    • Reply
      Charles Higham
      May 10, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      One of the features I like on the Z90w is the ‘personal’ mode as it’s a real help to deactivate the flash so it stays off.

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