Kyocera Finecam S3 Review
The Finecam S3 is definitely small, they have packed a 3-megapixel imager and 2x optical zoom lens in the same size case as the 2-megapixel Canon S300. And it's the same kind of highly-durable stainless steel body too. The Finecam S3 is just about the same physical size and depth as a pack of (non-100mm) cigarettes so needless to say, it -is- pocket size. The S3 should make an ideal camera for extreme sportists as it is built to take a beating unlike the plastic-bodied cameras which rarely survive a drop on the floor.
From the postage stamp size MultiMedia flash card (MMC) comes 2048 x 1536 pixel images which for the most part are as good as those from most of the other 3-megapixel digicams. The Superfine quality images average about 1.3-1.5MB in size and are well saturated and sharp. When using the movie mode you can only store two 15-second video clips (without audio) on the supplied 16MB MMC card. Each 320 x 240 resolution video clip is about 5.2MB in size so don't expect it to replace your camcorder. You need a bigger MMC card if you plan on doing any serious picture taking with this camera in Fine or SuperFine quality.
In actual use the S3 takes about five seconds from pushing the power button until the lens is extended and it's ready to capture a picture. Shot to shot time at Superfine quality is about four seconds. When the camera is first turned on the color LCD comes on by default as it is the only information display to let you know what the current setting are. You need to quickly press the DISPlay button and turn off the color LCD or else the battery life will suffer. The S3 is supplied with a rechargeable lithium battery pack that's about the same length and width as a stick of gum. It takes a good two and a half hours for the charger/AC power supply to bring the pack up to full charge. If you're one of those people that likes to use a digital camera with the LCD turned on most of the time you're not going to be happy with this camera. I hadn't shot too many pictures using the LCD fulltime before the battery gauge icon dropped a notch and then it seemed to go down rapidly after that. If the LCD is kept off the battery life should be sufficient for an afternoon in the great outdoors. Another factor in battery life is the number of pictures taken using the flash. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery, you need to buy a spare battery, no other type of battery can be used.
The zoom lens is quick and smooth but it's quite noisey as it goes from wideangle to telephoto or extending or retracting when powered up. The autofocus is good and in normal lighting conditions the overall shutter lag is about average at around 1.1 seconds. On occasion when shooting a wideangle scenic shot with a lot of sky I had to use the manual landscape focus mode as it failed to lock the AF. I took most pictures using the default evaluative metering mode which is the same as most other cameras' matrix or multi metering mode. I did notice a tendacy to overexpose flash pictures by a full stop when the subject was closer than six feet from the camera. I also noticed an occassional 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 any smaller than the S3, at least not at the time of this review. (Before long we'll probably see 3-megapixel cameras in our cell phones.) The only thing that really bothers me about this camera is that it uses yet another type of memory card that is of course, incompatible with all the others. We already have CompactFlash, SmartMedia and Memory Sticks - do we need another standard? Of course the manufacturers say we do but it will be the consumer that ultimately answers that question.
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