Canon Powershot S3 IS Review

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Canon Powershot S3 IS

Review posted 6/12/2006

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The PowerShot S3 IS is the successor to last year's 5-megapixel PowerShot S2 IS digital camera. The PowerShot S3 IS enhancements include a newly designed 6-megapixel image sensor that together with Canon's proprietary DIGIC II image processor dramatically reduces "noise" for better image quality and achieves ISO equivalent speed ratings ranging from 80 to 800. This increased sensitivity allows the use of faster shutter speeds, thereby reducing the effects of camera shake and subject blur during hand-held photography in low light. The S3 is also fitted with a larger 2.0-inch, color Vari-Angle LCD display.

The camera's 12x zoom lens has an equivalent film focal length of 36-432 mm (f/2.7 at wide angle and f/3.5 at telephoto). Despite the extraordinary range of the zoom lens, it retracts securely into the camera when it's powered down. This UD lens features a high- speed silent zoom function powered by a micro motor USM drive, increasing ease of quiet, non- intrusive image capture. For extreme close-ups, the macro and super macro mode permit shooting a subject as close as 0-inches from the end of the lens barrel.

To keep your images sharp and shake-free, the PowerShot S3 IS employs a true optical image stabilization system. Unlike electronic image stabilizer systems that typically cause degradation of image quality, Canon based its Lens Shift type of Image Stabilizer system on the advancements in the development of Canon's EF and video lenses. This Image Stabilizer provides up to three stops of camera shake correction in shutter speed equivalent. It is essential when engaging the 12x optical zoom lens because the extension of a long lens magnifies camera shake in direct proportion with the amount of lens magnification employed.

In addition to recording in high-quality VGA (640 x 480 pixels) movie mode at 30 fps, the user can increase the frame speed to 60 fps in QVGA (320 x 240) movie mode. Similarly, the camera also features a QVGA 320 x 240-pixel setting with a choice of 30 or 15 fps. Continuous movie recording is possible up to a maximum file size of 1GB or 60 minutes, whichever comes first. Regardless of the mode dial position or even whether the camera is in capture or playback mode, the camera automatically starts and stops recording movies with the simple press of a button on the camera back. MovieSnap enables the user to capture high-resolution six megapixel still images while recording movies, ensuring that memories of milestones are preserved for video view as well as for picture frames, photo albums and email sharing.

The PowerShot S3 IS has many of the latest advances in Canon technology including the proprietary DIGIC II imaging processor. The processor enhances picture definition, vibrancy, and quality, while helping increase the speed of the cameras' startup, autofocus, shutter response, playback, and image processing speed while reducing power consumption by 35 percent compared to the original DIGIC chip. Consumers benefit from accelerated image transfer speed thanks to its Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port.

The PowerShot S3 IS features a Sports Mode that allows users to select high shutter speeds and the camera automatically selects the appropriate aperture for capturing beautiful action shots. The camera also includes a new widescreen 16:9 ratio resolution setting that facilitates creating panoramic-style prints.

Canon also enhanced the 'My Colors' mode found in the new PowerShot line. Where previously, users could only enable 'My Colors' while shooting, the current iteration permits captured images to be retouched as well, without the need for special software applications or tools. Available My Color playback modes include Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, and Vivid Red; lighter and darker skin tones, as well as options for creating black & white, sepia, neutral and positive film effects.

Like all PowerShot digital cameras, the PowerShot S3 IS digital camera works seamlessly with Canon's petite SELPHY Compact Photo Printers - an essential PowerShot accessory. Consumers simply connect their S3 IS digital camera to a SELPHY printer - such as the SELPHY CP510 and CP710 models. Press the lighted Print/Share button, and within seconds , images emerge. Presto! It is that simple. Canon's SELPHY Compact Photo Printers are PictBridge compatible. They work with PictBridge enabled digital cameras and offer excellent image quality and ease-of-use, especially when paired with a Canon digital camera. At 28 cents-per-print , printing photos directly from a digital camera is both easy and affordable.

Powershot S3 IS Features:

  • 6-Megapixel CCD for images up to 2816 x 2112
  • Canon 12x zoom (36-432mm equiv.) with Optical Image Stabilization
  • Super Macro closeup focus to 0 inches!
  • New Widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio for HDTV display
  • Articulated 2.0-inch color LCD flips forward and rotates 270°
  • Program AE, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, full Manual
  • Image zone modes: Portrait, Landscape, Night scene and Stitch assist
  • Interval shooting and Exposure and Focus Bracketing
  • Movie w/stereo sound, 640x480 or 320x240, 30fps or 15fps
  • Shutter speeds from 15 secs to 1/3200 sec in Manual mode.
  • Evaluative, Center-weighted average or Spot (Center or AF-point)
  • High-speed 2.3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • Up to 60-second sound memos for still images
  • Sharpness, Contrast and Saturation is adjustable
  • ISO sensitivity: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 or AUTO
  • Built-in flash with Auto, Fill, Red-eye reduction and Slow-sync modes
  • Secure Digital (SD) memory card compatible, 16MB included
  • Powered by four standard AA type batteries
  • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed data transfer to host computer
  • PictBridge and Canon Direct Print compatible

The PowerShot S3 IS digital camera is available now for an estimated selling price of US$499.99.

Physical Views

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

Canon Powershot S3 IS

The Powershot S3 IS and a standard CD for size comparison

Canon Powershot SD700 Digital ELPH

The Powershot S3 IS and the ultra-compact SD700 IS.

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Powershot S3 IS Specifications

Camera Effective Pixels Approx. 6.0 million
Image Sensor 1/2.5-inch type CCD
(Total number of pixels: Approx 6.2 million)

Canon 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilization
6.0 (W) - 72.0 (T) mm (35 mm film equivalent: 36 - 432 mm)
f/2.7 (W) - f/3.5 (T) maximum aperture

Digital Zoom Approx. 4.0x
(Up to approx. 48x in combination with the optical zoom)
Viewfinder Color LCD viewfinder Picture coverage rate 100%
Dioptric Adjustment -5.5 - +1.5 m-1(dpt)
LCD Monitor 2.0-inch, low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT (vari-angle type) color LCD (Approx. 115,000 pixels, picture coverage 100%)
AF System TTL autofocus (continuous or single)
Focus lock and Manual focus are available
Focusing frame: 1-point AF (fixed to center or FlexiZone AF)
Shooting Distance
(from tip of lens)
Normal AF: 50 cm (1.6 ft.) - infinity (W)/
90 cm (3.0 ft.) - infinity (T)
Macro: 10 - 50 cm (3.9 in. - 1.6 ft. (W))
Super Macro: 0 - 10 cm (0 - 3.9 in.) (W only)
Shutter Mechanical shutter and electronic shutter
Shutter Speeds
15 - 1/3200 sec.
* The shutter speed varies according to the shooting mode.
* Shutter speeds of 15 to 1.3 sec. are available in Shutter-speed priority mode or Manual mode.
* Slow shutter speeds of 15 to 1.3 sec. or slower operate with noise reduction.
Metering System Evaluative, Center-weighted average or Spot (Center or AF-point)
Exposure Compensation ±2.0 stops in 1/3-stop increments Auto exposure bracketing (AEB) and Safety Shift is available.
ISO Speed
Auto*, High ISO Auto*, ISO 80/100/200/400/800 equivalent
* The camera automatically selects the optimal speed when Auto or High ISO Auto is set.
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash or custom
Built-in Flash Auto*, on*, off
* Red-eye reduction is available.
FE lock, Slow synchro and 1st-curtain/2nd-curtain flash are available.
Flash Range
Normal: 50 cm - 5.2 m (1.6 - 17 ft.) (W),
90 cm - 4.0 m (3.0 - 13 ft.) (T)
Macro: 30 - 50 cm (12 in. - 1.6 ft.) (W)
(ISO speed = Auto)
Flash Exposure Compensation ± 2.0 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Flash Output* 3 stops
* Can be set when flash exposure setting is [Off]
Shooting Modes
Creative zone: Program, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Custom
Image zone: Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Sports, Special Scene*, Stitch Assist, Movie
* Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Color Swap, Color Accent, Night Snapshot, Indoor
Continuous Shooting Approx. 1.5 shots/sec. (Large/Fine mode)
Approx. 2.3 shots/sec. (High-speed continuous shooting, Large/Fine mode)
Intervalometer Shooting interval: approx. 1 - 60 min. (1-min. increments)
Number of shots: 2 - 100 shots (Maximum number of shots varies according to memory card capacity.)
Self-timer Activates shutter after an approx. 10-sec./approx. 2-sec. delay, Custom Timer
PC-controlled Shooting Available (USB connection only. Exclusive software program is included in the camera kit.)
Recording Media SD memory card/MultiMediaCard
File Format Design rule for camera file system and DPOF compliant
Data Type
Still images: Exif 2.2(JPEG)*1
Sound Memo (WAVE (stereo))
Movies: AVI (Image data: Motion JPEG; Audio data: WAVE (stereo))
Sound Recorder: WAVE (stereo)
Compression Superfine, Fine, Normal
Recording Pixels
(Still Images)
Large: 2816 x 2112 pixels
Middle 1: 2272 x 1704 pixels
Middle 2: 1600 x 1200 pixels
Small: 640 x 480 pixels
Wide: 2816 x 1584 pixels
Movie Recording pixels/Frame Rate
640 x 480 pixels (30 frames/sec.)
640 x 480 pixels (15 frames/sec.)
320 x 240 pixels (60 frames/sec.)
320 x 240 pixels (30 frames/sec.)
320 x 240 pixels (15 frames/sec.)
Recording can continue until the memory card is full*
(Max. Clip Size at one time: 1 GB)**
* Using super high-speed memory cards
(SDC-512MSH recommended).
** Even if the clip size has not reached 1 GB, recording will stop at the moment the clip length reaches 1 hour. Depending on the volume and data writing speed of the memory card, recording will stop before reaching 1 hour or before the recorded data volume has reached 1 GB.
Audio Sampling frequency: 44.100/22.050/11.025 kHz
Quantization bit: 16 bit
Playback Modes Single (histogram displayable), Index (9 thumbnail images)
Magnified (approx. 10x max. in LCD monitor or viewfinder, forward or reverse selection through magnified images possible), Image search (Jumps over 10 or 100 images, to a movie folders, or to the next shooting date, or nine images at a time during Index playback), Slide Show, My Colors
Sound memos (up to 1 min. recording/playback)
Movie (editing/slow-motion playback possible)
Sound recorder (up to 2 hrs. of recording/playback of sound only)
Custom Display Function
Display location: LCD monitor (2), viewfinder (2)
Displayed information: shooting info*, grid lines*, histogram*
* You can enable/disable display of this information for each of the display locations.
Direct Print PictBridge compliant, Canon Direct Print, and Bubble Jet Direct compatible
My Camera Settings Start-up image, start-up sound, operation sound, self-timer sound, and shutter sound
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (mini-B), PTP [Picture Transfer Protocol]
Audio/Video output (NTSC or PAL selectable, stereo audio)
Power Source
AA alkaline batteries (included in the camera kit)
AA NiMH batteries (NB-300) (sold separately)
Compact Power Adapter (CA-PS700) (sold separately)
Operating Temperature 0 - 40 °C (32 - 104 °F)
Operating Humidity 10 - 90 %
Dimensions 113.4 x 78.0 x 75.5 mm (4.46 x 3.07 x 2.97 in.) (excluding protrusions)
Weight Approx. 410 g (14.5 oz.) (camera body only)
(Specifications as represented by the manufacturer)

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