Kyocera Finecam S3L Review

Steve's Digicams

Steve's Conclusion

The Finecam S3L is an upgrade to Kyocera's Finecam S3 that we reviewed last year. On the outside it is virtually identical until you turn it on and see a 3x optical zoom lens extend, the S3 has a 2x optical zoom. Another thing you'll notice when it's turned on, the popup flash opens automatically and closes when powered down. It's wrapped in the same stylish and highly durable stainless steel case, no plastic here except for the I/O port cover and the battery door.

The S3L is powered by a more powerful 1000mAh lithium rechargeable battery that is charged in-camera. The battery is the same size as a stick of chewing gum although fatter, and runs the length of the bottom of the camera. Kyocera rates the runtime at about 160 shots, half using the flash so it's not bad for a tiny battery. As always, we highly recommend that you purchase a spare battery, it's proprietary so you can't use any type of "off the shelf" batteries. It takes a good two and a half hours for the charger/AC power supply to bring the pack up to full charge. Another upgrade is the "Day Fine" color LCD that has a nice anti-glare coating and increased brightness and contrast. We liked the anti-glare coating but didn't think it did any better or worse than most of the other color LCDs that we have tried in our afternoon Florida sunshine. When the camera is powered up the color LCD comes on by default as it's the only information display to let you know what the current settings are.

In actual use the S3L takes about five seconds from pushing the power button until the lens is extended and it's ready to capture a picture. The zoom lens is quick and smooth but it's quite noisy as it goes from wide angle to telephoto or extending or retracting. The autofocus is good and in normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about average at around 1.1 seconds. Even though we consistently got good auto focus indications the pictures themselves look very "soft," so it's nice to see the +3 to -1 image sharpness settings. Shot to shot time at Fine quality is about four seconds, another two to three seconds if you're using the flash. Like the S3, the S3L tends to overexpose flash pictures by a full stop when the subject is closer than six feet from the camera. I also noticed an occasional variance in the exposure of outdoor pictures taken of the same subject and in the same lighting conditions. The optical viewfinder is large and bright but only about 80% of the captured image is shown, when you review the image on the LCD there's a lot more coverage displayed.

If compact is what you want, they don't come much smaller than the S3L. Before long we'll probably see 3-megapixel cameras in our cell phones though. I like having a lens that retracts and covers itself without need for a cap - which always gets lost anyway. This camera slips easily into your pocket and you don't have to worry about sitting on it or dropping it thanks to the stainless steel case. The image quality is just mediocre, with more than an occasional over-exposed flash picture and generally soft images force me to give it low marks.

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