Canon PowerShot S3-IS

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      High resolution plus an optically stabilised long-range zoom lens and a multitude of manual controls make the S3-IS a fine camera for enthusiasts.Canon’s 6-megapixel PowerShot S3-IS has the same 12x optical zoom lens and optical image stabilisation system and range of manual controls as its predecessor. We got the black body – but not raw support – with this upgrade to last year’s 5-megapixel S2-IS. A larger vari-angle LCD monitor means the new model’s body is slightly bigger and heavier – but otherwise little is changed. . . [more]

      Full review


      Canon’s 6-megapixel PowerShot S3-IS has the same 12x optical zoom lens, optical image stabilisation system and range of manual controls as its predecessor. We got the black body – but not Raw support – with this upgrade to last year’s 5-megapixel S2-IS. A larger vari-angle LCD monitor means the new model’s body is slightly bigger and heavier – but otherwise little is changed.

      Like its predecessor, the S3-IS is comfortable to hold with a large hand grip and logical – albeit somewhat cluttered – control layout. As long-zoom models go, its weight and size are modest, but it’s jacket pocketable, rather than shirt pocketable. The pop-up flash, which is raised manually, still lies directly above the lens so red eyes are almost inevitable. No hot-shoe is provided for add-on flash units, so slave units are required for multi-flash set-ups.

      The lens, which covers the equivalent of 36-432mm in 35mm format, is driven by an ultrasonic motor. This ensures fast, quiet and smooth zooming for both stills and movie clips. It also includes a UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) element for minimising aberrations. Canon has extended the S3-IS’s selectable sensitivity range to span from ISO 80 to 800, although settings are still reached by a dedicated button on the rear panel. A new High ISO Auto setting boosts sensitivity when shooting in the full auto (where ISO adjustment is not available) and P modes.

      Video capabilities in the new model are excellent. Movie clips can be recorded with stereo sound at VGA resolution with 30fps, or in a new QVGA 60fps mode, and clips lengths are limited by storage and time. With a high-capacity, high-speed card you can record up to 1GB of data – and even take a high-resolution still shot while recording a movie clip (the movie pauses briefly while this happens).

      Other new additions include a widescreen (16:9) still image mode that captures 2816 x 1584 pixel images for printing on roll paper or viewing on widescreen TV sets. (Cropping is used to achieve this aspect ratio.) A Sports mode has been added to the shooting mode dial, making it easier to set the camera for capturing moving subjects. In addition, the Colour Accent and Colour Swap functions have been shifted from the My Colours menu to the Scene menu.

      You can now view a live histogram in record mode, although the display is quite small. You can also superimpose a rule-of-thirds grid to aid shot composition and choose between information and no information views. The Display button is also used to toggle between the LCD and electronic viewfinder (EVF). The latter shows the same view as the LCD – but smaller. It’s dioptre-adjustable and the eyepiece is large enough for comfort, even when glasses are worn.

      Imaging performance is similar to that of the S2-IS, although not identical. Shots taken under flat lighting contained subtle tonal nuances and excellent detail. However, in bright, contrasty conditions highlight and shadow detail were clipped, probably as a result of the camera’s relatively small image sensor and the typical boosting compact digicams give to contrast and saturation. Digital zoom quality was above average, although some compression artefacts were visible at full zoom. Close-up performance was impressive.

      We found little evidence of image noise up to ISO 200 but at ISO 400 noise was evident and the ISO 800 and ‘Hi’ sensitivity settings were visibly noise affected. Flash performance was generally very good at all sensitivity settings and the illumination was nicely balanced. Edge-to-edge sharpness was pleasing and little distortion was observed.

      Colours were accurately rendered in the main, although some cyan shifts were detected by Imatest. However, Imatest showed lateral chromatic aberration to be negligible and we found no significant evidence of purple fringing in outdoor shots. Resolution was slightly lower than expected, but probably not enough to be an issue for most potential users. White balance performance was also good, except for the auto mode under incandescent lighting.

      Like the S2-IS, the S3-IS is quite responsive, thanks to its DiG!C II image processing system. Powering up takes only 1.5 seconds, which is admirable for such a long lens, and autofocusing was fast and accurate in most situations. Overall capture lag averaged 0.4 seconds, reducing to almost instantaneous capture with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot time was just over one second, as was flash recycle time. The high-speed burst setting required a fast SD card to reach specified speed but both modes could be used with negligible buffer constraint.





      Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29 mm CCD with 6.2 million photosites (6.0-megapixels effective)
      Lens: 6.0-72.0mm f2.7-3.5 zoom (36-432mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 12x optical, 4x digital
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 113.4 x 78.0 x 75.5 mm
      Weight: Approx. 410 g.
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies – Motion JPEG/WAV (VGA at 15/30 fps).
      Shutter speed range: 15-1/3200 sec.
      Focus system/range: TTL AF (continuous or single; 1-point centre AF or Flex Zone AF) plus Manual; range 50 cm to infinity; macro 10-50 cm; super macro 0-10 cm.
      Exposure metering/control: Evaluative, Center-weighted average or Spot (Center or AF-point) metering; Auto, P, A, S, and M, Custom plus 12 scene modes.
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom.
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, On, Off (Red-eye reduction is available); range 50 cm to 5.2 m.
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800.
      Sequence shooting: Standard mode – 1.5 fps; High-speed mode – 2.3 fps; to memory capacity.
      Storage Media: 16 MB SD card; holds 4 high-resolution images or up to 127 VGA shots.
      Viewfinder: Colour EVF with -5.5-+1.5 m-1 adjustment
      LCD monitor: 2.0-inch vari-angle TFT LCD with 115,000 pixels
      Power supply: 4x AA batteries





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