524 of 530 people found the following review helpful
I thought I wanted a micro-sized camera and bought 2 different brands of compact cameras just to return them because of sub-par picture quality. After that experience, I decided to give the new Powershot S3 IS a chance. Sure it might not be small enough to fit in a pocket, but what a camera! The pictures are great with sharp images from corner to corner, a 12x zoom lens, and an extremely effective Optical Image Stabilizer. The benefits of the the Optical Stabilizer cannot be understated on a camera with such a long zoom range. When you zoom into maximum telephoto every slight movement of your hands results in a huge movement at the lens. With the stabilizer though it eliminates that problem. The pictures have low noise levels from 80-400 ISO, I have not tried the ISO 800 yet, though it should be nice to have in a pinch. The tilt and swivel LCD is awesome, you'll wonder how you got along without it before. Battery life is excellent and I cannot underemphasize the benefit of the camera running on standard AA batteries. If ever you find yourself in the middle of a day of shooting and the batteries die simply pop into a local convenience store and pick up some more. I would suggest you purchase a good set of rechargeable NiMH batteries though. The movie mode is great with the ability to zoom, a dedicated record/stop button, and stereo sound! Plus, finally a Canon digital PowerShot with a live histogram! You will not be disappointed in this camera.
355 of 371 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2006
SO MANY FEATURES. SO LITTLE TIME.
Is it possible for a camera to make an amateur photographer better? Apparently this is Canon's goal with the S3. It provides easy access to controls that compensate for common difficult shooting scenarios. Most point-and-shoot (P+S) cameras have few buttons - relying instead on hidden menu driven options. While this may make the camera appear less intimidating initially, locating the correct setting while attempting to frame and photograph action or bad lighting subjects is frustrating. As a result, many features go unused.
By way of comparison, the S3 has at least ten more buttons than my discontinued P+S MINOLTA Dimage G500 (5MP 3x optical zoom). And many of the buttons on the CANON are multifunction depending on whether you are shooting in one of several modes, playing back stills, or movies - providing dozens of useful options.
The CANON S3 has a button for instant access to movie recording (with on-screen options for 320x240 15/30/60 fps or 640x480 15/30 fps) up to 1GB or one hour per clip. Stereo sound and zoom functions accompany movies. There are dedicated buttons for ISO, sound recording, flash, continuous shooting, macro, manual focus, display, and a customized shortcut. The mode dial on top of the camera includes settings for many typical situations such as portrait, landscape, sports, nighttime, and panoramic. There is also an AUTO[MATIC] mode. But if all your shots remain in this setting, you might as well use a P+S model.
The key benefit of the many buttons and dials on the S3 is quick access to a wide variety of useful features without taking your eye off the subject. The FUNC[TION] button can present a tremendous amount of pertinent information while the focused image is visible. Everything from remaining number of pictures and image quality to white balance and ISO feedback neatly border the subject. The DISP[LAY] button activates grids and histogram, switches between LCD and viewfinder, or reduces the amount of on-screen information. Either screen is equally informative and useful for making adjustments. The MENU button differs in that it brings up infrequently used options that temporarily replace the focused subject.
Elaborating a bit further on the impressive display of the CANON S3, it does a good job of simulating selected options. Punch up greens, blues, reds, all colors, neutralize, lighten or darken skin tones, photograph b+w or sepia and see the results before snapping the picture. It is possible to obtain untainted color even with mixed indoor lighting. In addition to AWB (automatic white balance) there are seven other settings accessed from the FUNC[TION] button. The last is custom metering. Just point at a white object in the room and press the SET button. No more green or orange casts on indoor photos!
Another common lighting problem occurs when a subject stands in front of a bright background or if frontal light from the sun washes out the highlights on faces. After a quick tap of the FUNC[TION] button, the first option in the upper left corner is exposure compensation. Use the omni selector left arrow to darken the foreground or right arrow to lighten it. If indoors or a relatively short distance away, you might also enable the flash. (For those with traditional photography background, there are also options for aperture priority or shutter speed priority on the mode dial.)
Despite efforts to write a short review, there is still much more to talk about. Image stabilization (IS) and the 12X optical zoom are significant features that work well together. In fact, now I understand why smaller digital cameras without IS typically only include 3 or 4x. The slightest hand movement is greatly exaggerated at high magnification. IS compensates for this movement. The S3 provides four options for IS: 1) continuous (constantly stabilizes preview which uses more power); 2) shoot only (stabilizes image when shutter button is pressed); 3) panning (stabilizes vertical movement only for tracking horizontally moving cars, race horses, bikers or runners); 4) off (stabilization is not necessary for tripod).
The 12X optical zoom can optionally be supplemented by 4X digital, making it possible to achieve as much as 48X zoom. A ring around the shutter button rotates clockwise to enlarge and vise versa. This brings up a slider in the viewfinder. If digital is activated, the white slider goes to a point and stops at 12X. Press it again and the slider is appended with blue as the digital zoom is progressively applied. I uploaded a picture of a bird in a a 16 foot palm tree with 21x zoom.
Panorama assist is yet another outstanding feature. As each photo is clicked, a portion slides over in preview, making it easier to align the next. Software is included to stitch the pieces together or you can use Photoshop's Photomerge under the Automate menu.
Image bracketing is also nice for difficult-focus situations; with one press of the button, three slightly different focuses are shot within a couple of seconds - a light, medium, and dark. This is not to be confused with continuous shooting (sometimes called burst mode), which shoots multiple images with consistent exposure as long as the button shutter button is pressed. This is extremely useful when photographing groups of people since it is often difficult to get everyone's eyes open and smiling at the same time. It is also great for photographing small animals with rapid movements like birds.
WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?
There are a few annoyances that could be solved by spending more. After all, Cannon makes cameras from under $200 to several thousand. Despite big features, the S3 is, relatively speaking, on the low end of the scale. So any apparent design omissions must be kept in context.
LENSE CAP FIT: The most minor annoyance is the loosely fitted lens cap that frequently disconnects. Make certain the lanyard string is attached to the neck strap so it won't be lost. The obvious concern is smudging or scratching of the lens. While carrying, frequently check to make certain is on.
ACCESSORIES: Canon cut accessories to the bear minumum. There is no case (strap is included), no power cord, no lens hood, and only Alkaline batteries. Purchasing all the necessary options can break your budget by $150-$250 USD. Fortunatelly, some items are common enough that you may not need to purchase everything. I already had a couple of 256MB SD cards for my prior camera. You'll need to factor in the cost of a fast charger with four 2500+ mHa AA batteries (currently around $35). There is also a need for a high-capacity SD card. The included 16MB card will only store four of the highest quality images. About 90 stills can fit on a 256MB card at the highest quality setting. If you require more images per session or will be recording movies, consider a high-speed 4GB card (currently around $100). The S3 is optimized for high-speed cards.
LCD BRIGHTNESS: More of an annoyance is the limited pivoting 2" LCD screen brightness. Take comfort in the fact that some expensive DSLR cameras have only a viewfinder. Fortunately, when the LCD is not visible, the viewfinder on the S3 can be used. The diopter adjustment is handy since I may be wearing single-vision prescription shades, trifocals, or no glasses at all. The two independent brightness settings for LCD or viewfinder are a noble consideration. The LCD just doesn't get bright enough. In time, it is easy to get used to the viewfinder.
IMAGE FORMATS: A camera with so many features naturally appeals to the prosumer not ready to make the leap to a full-fledged DSLR. Though this would result in better high-ISO nighttime shots and better daylight images, the cost with multiple lenses could easy triple the price of the S3 and you'll lose some consumer-oriented features. Nevertheless, a non-compressed image mode would be useful - especially with the availability of high-speed 4GB SD cards.
Test shots of straight-up blue sky in large "fine" and "super fine" modes both exhibited pixelization when examining up close. In fact, super fine is slightly more pixelated in large areas of SOLID (perhaps due to sharpening?). This may be considered simulated film grain. There is more color averaging with fine mode producing a smaller, visually smoother images. The "large" image setting is 6 megapixels so the anomalies I reference when zooming in 400 percent in Photoshop are not visible on typical prints. When the composition includes many different color changes and fine DETAIL (landscapes, architecture), the super fine mode is much better. Otherwise the detail becomes muddy.
I developed a Photoshop action called Smooth Pixels. Though not always necessary, it provides moderate smoothing on 6MP images to reduce pixelization in large areas of flat color. It can also be used to minimize artifacts occurring as a result of saving a JPEG image with too much compression. If you have Photoshop experience these settings may be familiar to you. Opacities can be increased as much to as much as 60% with minimal loss of detail. (A screenshot of the Action palette has been uploaded.)
1 Make snapshot
2 Duplicate current layer
3 Smart Blur (Radius: 1, Threshold: 12, Quality: High, Mode: Normal)
4 Set current layer (Opacity: 40%)
5 Duplicate Background
6 Gaussian Blur (Radius: 0.5 Pixels)
7 Set current layer (Opacity: 40%)
8 Flatten image
RAW, LZW TIFF (compression usually requiring a PostScript level 3 printer for decompression) or standard TIFF options would be appreciated by those concerned about consistent pixels within continuous color with no artifacts surrounding high contrast colors. It should be noted that each time a JPEG is opened and saved (even with no edits) in an image editor application, there is slight degradation of image quality. This does not occur with TIFF or RAW.
WIDESCREEN LIMITATION: I was fooled by the boast of widescreen pictures. This applies only to STILLS. The WS stills are about 25 percent smaller than the maximum 6MP images. The viewfinder adds black bands to help frame WS pictures. Don't expect a low-cost HD WS movie function from the S3.
FLASH OPTIONS: The manual pop-up flash could be a bane or boone. It is reasonably strong and there is a three-option dedicated button to 1) always enable the flash, 2) automatically flash only when required, or 3) disable flash. If you forget to lift the flash, automatic doesn't lift it for you. Conversely, lifting the flash when the user option is set to never flash results in no extra lighting. One could look at this as a benefit since less flashing preserves the batteries. It would make more sense to me for the flash to pop-up if needed in automatic mode. Get used to the icon in the viewfinder that indicates the status of the flash (which is grayed when the flash is not up).
The S3 has also been criticized because it does not have a hot-shoe connection for a replacement flash. (A handheld flash farther away from the lens is the true solution to red eye.) Canon's less than optimal answer is to provide an optional slave flash that can be used as a supplemental bounce flash positioned closer to the subject or mounted onto the camera using a bracket that connects to the tripod thread. (I have a much less expensive non-digital Canon T-50 SLR with multiple lenses with a hot shoe so adding one to the S3 is possible.)
TRIPOD THREAD: A plastic tripod thread is never appreciated. Be careful not to damage the threads or consider using a tripod quick-shoe attachment.
ABERRATION: Though improvements are being made, digital cameras (particularly less expensive ones) suffer from aberration, sometimes called purple fringing, surrounding high-contrast areas where a pixels along edges are discolored. The S3 is not exempt - more notably a few pixels of red (NW) and green (SE) misregistration. This is most apparent on photos with very light objects next to color away from the center of focus - particularly on overcast days when the sky is white instead of blue. A 6MP image is scaled down so much for standard prints that the aberration is not usually noticeable. For large prints this may require additional image editing.
UPGRADE FROM S2: Owners of the Canon S2 will not find the S3 a significant upgrade. This camera appears to build on prior success with a few additional features to keep it competitive with other brands. In doing so, Canon has left room for even more improvements in an S4. Differences between the S2 and S3 are summed up below.
* New sensor (6MP versus 5MP)
* Higher maximum sensitivity (ISO 800)
* Bigger LCD screen (2.0-inch versus 1.8-inch)
* New Sports mode
* Record live Histogram
* Widescreen shooting mode (stills)
* Fractionally larger and heavier
* Dark gunmetal (gray) as opposed to silver body
The difference between 5MP and 6MP is not perceived in standard size prints (both have far more megapixels than necessary). The extra pixels in the 6MP are useful for retaining more detail when cropping small areas of a photo with image editor software. High ISO (400+) is used for dark scenes when no tripod is available. ISO 800 is largely symbolic in the S3 since results are too noisy (aberrated pixels) to be useful. The 2-inch screen has the same amount of pixels as the 1.8 but it's scaled up a bit. The histogram is an animated graphic that indicates whether the framed subject is under- or over-exposed; this should also be apparent in the viewfinder preview image. Of course widescreen images can be cropped in post-production if it's only an occasional desire.
It will take some time to become familar with all the CANON S3 features. If results are too noisy or blurry, it is likely because the correct setting was forgotten. The CANON S3 is not perfect but, in its price range, includes a very good combination of available technologies with slight image quality sacrifices. Professional photographers may be inclined toward an entry level DSLR (perhaps CANON DIGITAL REBEL XT, CANON EOS 30D, or SONY ALPHA). The S3 is a nice alternative to a dedicated digital camcorder; it can even zoom and shoot high-resolution stills without exiting movie mode. For the best quality stills, movie recording is sacrificed in higher-end cameras.
If this review seems like too much to read then the S3 is not for you. There is much more to read -- beginning and advanced manuals for the camera itself in addition to manuals for the software. Prosumers that invest time reading can be rewarded with greatly improved image quality from the S3. Of, course composition is still up to the photographer. ([...]) The prior S2 model may be a better bargain for the cost conscious unless some of the new S3 features listed above are absolutely essential. The typical no-frills consumer might be put off by the plethora of options and prefer a compact P+S with less buttons (CANON POWERSHOT S80, SD500, A540, or A520).
(See uploaded pictures of bird in palm tree and building exhibiting aberration. Because the Amazon image processor scales down images as much as possible, there are more image artifacts on samples than on original photos.)
106 of 107 people found the following review helpful
This is a near pro camera in disguise. This little wolf really needs you to study it and play with it to get the best pictures, but when you do you are really rewarded. When I say worse, if you just want a point and shoot you will get crappy photos sometimes and think you were cheated.
If you just select Auto, you will probably be disappointed. Canon makes better point and shoot cameras like the S series. My wife uses the S80 for her business, my daughter has the S70, and we have two other Canon P&S around that we all use for fun shots. I needed something with a real zoom lens and didn't want to do all the way to DSLR as I wanted something that also shot movies. I'm a HS tennis coach and I wanted to be able to take short videos of my players to help them see their strengths and weaknesses.
The S3 takes unbelievable videos! Better than my sony video camera that cost much more AND it is easier to get them into my computer, edit them, and produce a CD to hand to one of my players. A feature that I didn't find on any of the other competitive cameras was the ability to snap a still picture in the middle of taking a video. Also like the separate video button so you can take videos without changing anything on the camera, just hit the video button and it starts.
It also takes GREAT pictures. When you understand the options on the camera, you can take pictures that are close to the best you can do with a pro DSLR camera. I now shoot all my normal pics in P mode with it set for ISO 100 or ISO 200 and a 3 shot bracket. Great pics everytime. The anti-shake (IS) makes it easy to take great pics in low light. In low light when I let it go up to high ISO I can get noise like you wouldn't believe. However, I still get the pictures. Now that I know better, I can set up the camera to get really good low light pictures without going into high ISO ranges. I also have been able to take wonderful pics of my Koi, my cats, my kids, my wife, my car, my anything that takes my fancy. I have a framed 10x14 picture in front of me taken of a squirrel in the very top of a 100' redwood tree with the camera at max optical + digital zoom of 48x. Hand held and clear as a bell due to the IS and the optional settings available. Try that at home with any other camera in this price range.
Bottom line: after looking at all the current offerings from Panasonic/Sony/Nikon et al, this is the best of the bunch for a prosumer big zoom camera. None of the rest of them paid any attention to making videos, canon did. All the rest tried to get our attention by promising more pixels, but Canon when for quality and a reasonable price. This camera takes better pics than the Panasonic Lumix that costs several hundred $$$ more and has 10 mega pixels -- oh, and the canon is considerably smaller and easier to carry.
Accessories: I recommend that you get the Lensmate 52mm lens adapter and the Tiffen 3 pack of filters. I didn't bother with the Canon 58mm stuff, just got everything in 52mm. Unfortunately Amazon doesn't carry Lensmate but you can Google them. I also got the Raynox .7x wide angle lens from Lensmate at a good price. It has a bit of barrel distortion, but easily correctable with software -- big feature is that it is extremely clear at full zoom. Much better than the Canon wide angle lens. Case Logic makes a case that holds the S3 with the lens adapter on, so I can carry it around with the UV filter in place. The Lensmate lens adapter is made from metal and gives you a place to grip with your left hand so you are extra steady. Wish that Canon would just put threads on the end of their lenses, but they have their way of doing things.
Also got the Transend 4GB 150x SD card. Works like a charm. Make sure you low format it before your first use and then do that again every so often to keep the card clean. Very fast and lets me take up to 30 minutes of videos if I want. Get the SD cards wherever . . . Fry's had the Transend card for $10 less than Amazon.
Great camera, well worth the time I spent researching and testing everything available in September through early November of 2006. I did test every Panasonic, Sony, and Canon model in my price range of $250 to $750. Bought an SD card first and then went to camera stores and tried them all, bought the card home and looked at every pic and video. I ended up paying $350+ here at Amazon for the S3 which was the best price from a trusted source.
Again, what I wanted was a digital camera that could zoom to 10x+, take videos that were as good as my video camera, take fast action still shots in varying conditions, and had a resolution of 5mp or more. I also wanted it to be compact and easy to use, with the capability of using storage cards larger than 2GB. I already have taken almost 2 hours of action videos of my tennis players and several hundred pictures of them. I also have a batch of family pics that range from grainy to perfect as I learned how to set the ISO properly and use the features of the camera. Lots of educational help available online from Canon and others that is specific to the camera.
Bottom Line: buy it.
78 of 81 people found the following review helpful
I bought the S3 as a replacement for my PowerShot S10 which has served me amazingly well since I purchased it. My old S10 is only a 2.1MP (megapixel) camera but that suited me just fine, taking tens of thousands of pictures over the past six years that I owned it. My only complaint about the S10 is a common one amongst digital cameras: a crappy 2x optical zoom. The S3's 12x optical zoom was its main selling point for me, and having the PowerShot name behind it sealed the deal.
This camera does FAR more than I'll ever use so I'll instead focus (no pun intended) on the things that I particularly like about the camera, from a point-and-shoot perspective. Some of this info may be old hat to the point-and-shoot digital camera crowd, but remember that I'm coming off a six year old camera that doesn't have half as many features. :)
Although the camera is not an SLR camera, it behaves like one. There's an LCD panel on the back of the camera for lining up your shots, of course, and there's also a viewfinder. Looking through the viewfinder reveals another LCD screen that shows you what the camera's CCD is showing. In effect this gives you the benefit of an SLR camera without the extra cost. This forced me to change my shooting style; when I took close-up shots through the (straight-through) viewfinder on my S10 I had to purposefully aim the camera slightly higher in order to properly frame the shot. With the S3 I don't have this bother any more.
The screen (both the LCD screen and the one in the viewfinder) displays an astonishing amount of information, most of which I ignore. Two very helpful bits of info: There's a white rectangle in the center which defines the balance point of your shot, and more interestingly, a black grid that really helps you make sure your images are straight. (Speaking of straightness, the camera also has an automatic sensor to determine if you're taking portrait or landscape shots. When you download the pictures into your computer, they're pre-rotated correctly. Very handy. (PS: It interfaces with a standard mini USB cable, and it works flawlessly with Apple's iPhoto software.)
If you're taking a picture and you need a flash, the camera will alert you to this fact which is great. Not so great is the fact that it won't alert you until you actually go to take the picture. Considering that you need to manually raise the flash when it's needed, this has the potential for making you lose some candid shots. Tip: Keep the flash raised at all times, and set the flash for "automatic" so it fires when needed.
The image stabilization feature is downright awesome. I actually had to make a conscious effort to get the camera to take a blurry picture with stabilization enabled. One-handed overhead shots are as clear as a tripod shot.
As I said, I bought the camera for the zoom and it doesn't disappoint. The zoom ring is variable in speed (the further you move it, the faster the zoom moves). The image stabilization feature really comes into play at full zoom. I was able to take a not-blurry photo of a news helicopter hovering overhead, with the camera at full optical zoom and without a tripod.
The camera takes four AA batteries; Canon provides you with a set in the box. That will be good for about 100 shots, depending on how much you use the flash. Rechargeable batteries are a must; a decent set of rechargeables (2000mAh or greater) will give you about 500 shots. Well worth the extra money. However, I do like that it will take standard AA's in a pinch; my old S10 took a proprietary rechargeable battery and I occasionally found myself with a set of used-up rechargeables when a photo opportunity arose.
I have but two complaints about the PowerShot S3 IS. Complaint #1 is the body of the camera is constructed of plastic. My old S10 was metal bodied and survived several trips to the concrete floor with only superficial damage. I daresay a similar incident with the S3 will result in a shattered body. Complaint #2 is Canon's incredibly lame inclusion of a puny 16MB SD memory card. At full quality and full resolution, you might get 4-5 pictures onto the card before it fills up. Canon is just adding to the nation's landfills with these things. The first purchase anyone will make is a larger card (I bought two 2GB cards) and Canon's cards are more expensive (sometimes significantly more expensive) than the competition. The inclusion of a 16MB card is either a joke or an insult; at the very least Canon should have included a 128MB card.
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2006
I struggled with buying a DSLR, having some photography experience, but the attraction of carrying one camera to get both Video and still photos overrode my desire to be a photo purist. Thus I bought the S3 and am extremely happy with both the quality of the video and the still photos.
A few minor drawbacks - I bought the Canon case for it (and sent it back). Unless you will be carrying the camera as is, without the lens shade/lens adapter, the case is useless, too little extra space for any extras. I bought the lens shade/lens adapter as it is the only way to be able to put a protective filter on and I read some reviews that advised it because it protects the lens barrel. I returned those as well. I found lensmateonline.com that makes 2 size lens adapters (52MM and 58MM) in metal (as opposed to Canon's plastic) both in black for the S3 and silver for the S2. They also have a retractable rubber lens hood available. I found that if you leave the Canon lens hood on inside while using the flash, you get a dark shadow in the picture, the retractable lens hood saves you the hassle of unscrewing your lens hood - which can be dangerous especially with the plastic lens adapter as it can get cross threaded.
The camera itself is phenomenal...
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2006
This is a rewrite of a previous review, hoping to be more concise.
- Feels good, looks good, great ergonomics. Usually I de-emphasize this, but this is an exception.
- The pictures turn out great.
- The movie mode is awesome, good stereo sound (but see below under cons)
- It is quick and responsive, for zoom and focus.
- The rotating display is nice not only to take pictures of myself, but also to take closer pictures of other people in a candid way -- i.e. you won't be in their face with the camera obviously pointed towards the person.
- Some scene modes on the selector dial which is convenient.
- Flash doesn't automatically pop up. Most people see this as a disadvantage. I see it as a great advantage. If I don't want flash, I leave it down. It suggests using flash on the LCD. If I want to use the flash, I then flip it up.
- Small 2" LCD, plus inferior viewfinder. This is almost a show-stopper for me. This camera is basically an upgrade to the S2. Due to competition, the next version of this camera is likely to have a larger LCD. It depends on whether you need an ultra zoom camera now, vs. waiting for next spring.
- There is no date stamp on the photos. This can be added using Canon's software according to their technical support.
- Plastic camera tripod mount.
- The movie mode produces really high quality videos. The problem is that they aren't compressed, or as compressed as other cameras. A movie can be only 1G, and only 8 minutes of video can fit on a 1G SD card.
- Lack of scene modes.
A comparison with the new Kodak p712.
The new Kodak, also an upgrade (of the 850) now focused quickly and has best in class low shutter lag. I had the 850 and have the 712, and there is a big difference.
The Kodak has better image stabilization.
The Kodak has *many* scene modes. This helps the non-professional get the settings right.
The quality of the images is about equal (other than the canon not being as good with image stabilization at maximum zoom).
There are more options for flash types
There are more buttons on the camera for faster settings.
The LCD and quality viewfinder make the Kodak a more fun camera.
The disadvantages of the Kodak over the S3, is that the Kodak doesn't have a rotating display, so photos of people could be more intrusive. The Kodak doesn't have the great feel or looks of the S3.
I think that I will be rewarded if I wait for the next iteration of Canon's ultra zoom. With Kodak's larger display, Sony's 3" display, Canon will have to make theirs bigger. A Canon with a larger display plus other improvements they may add would be my dream camera.
I am not going to keep the Kodak p712 either. I love that camera, but I want a rotating display. Having tried the rotating display, I am hooked on it.
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
I researched cameras for six months before I had the money to buy. I wanted a mega zoom with a good feature set and high quality video, since I knew I couldn't also afford a video camera. It shoots such good pix in auto mode, that I find myself rarely using the other settings, at least so far. You can shoot photos while shooting video or shoot video while in still photo mode. The video is high quality, AVI at 30 frames per second, which I believe is better resolution than standard TV. You can use the 12x optical zoom while shooting video. Most digital still cameras shoot video at just one focal length. The camera has two mikes and records CD quality stereo sound when shooting video, though you can set it for lower sound and picture qualities if you like. The built-in flash does an excellent job, and with the standard setting I have yet to get red eye.
Image stabilization works very well and is essential with a 12x zoom, especially when shooting video or low light stills. Picture quality is just wonderful in both video and still picture modes. After buying the camera and a 2 gig SD card, I took a bus trip through 28 states visiting friends, shooting hundreds of photos and about 10 minutes of video. The results were great.
Photo stitching software comes with the camera and it is excellent. I had been concered about the very limited wide angle capablity, equivilent only to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. But by taking overlapping photos I got wonderful panoramas and group photos without the usual wide angle distortion and with more detail. While this works best with a tripod, with a little care you can shoot by hand and get excellent results.
The batteries are AA. Get a charger and NiMh rechargable batteries. The nice thing is, if your batteries die, you can get a set from the store [uses 4] in a pinch. I was able to shoot 10 minutes of video plus about 150 pix on the batteries that came with the camera. I could have done better, but I spent at least a couple of hours with the camera on, fooling with menus and settings and reviewing the photos and videos.
At best resolution and least compression, a 2Gig SD card will hold 715 photos or 15 minutes of best quality video. 4 Gig cards are available, and if you intend to shoot a lot of video, I would strongly recommend one. Also, the faster the card the better. Slow cards won't keep up with best quality video, and time between still shots will be longer. If the card doesn't advertise it's speed it isn't fast enough! Get 133x or 150x speed. This translates to 20mb or 22.5 mb per second. In theory the camera's single shot limit for video is one hour, but it's a non-issue as the 4 gig cards will only hold 30 minutes of best quality video.
Things I don't like: 8 gigs for an hour of video is way to high. MPEG2 DVD's will hold up to 4 hours in the same space. The view screen should be bigger in this class of camera. It's better than the previous model -two inch versus 1.8 inch- but it really needs to be larger...that said it's adequate for my old guy eyes, and if I had to give up the ability to adjust the screen to get a larger size I wouldn't. I would also like to set the zoom to a slower rate of zoom when shooting video. Rate of zoom is adjustable, by how far you move the lever, but the throw is too short to be precise.
Basically, if you can do without the camera fitting in your pocket you will be very hard pressed to do better than the Canon S3IS.
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2006
This is my 4th digital camera. I was going to buy a Canon SLR and found that it was out of my price range. The S3 IS was right there at the top of my range so I went to the local camera store to ask about it and look at it in person. I can tell you that it is a very solid feeling camera. It fits in your hands very well and the buttons are all within reach. The photo quality is really amazing. Image stabilization really helps with those long range shots. The multiple shooting modes are really handy too. The only down side to this camera is the number of options available. You can literally get lost in the manual. No worries though. Put the camera in AUTO mode, point and shoot. For most people this should work just fine. The camera is VERY fast. There is NO lag time from the moment you push the shutter button and the time the photo is taken. No more predicting your shots. I am not super happy with the lenses cap. It fits loosely and tends to fall off but there is a lanyard to keep it attached to the camera. Not the most important feature of a camera. The 2" LCD is pretty impressive as well. The movie mode is nothing short of amazing. If you use it make sure you get a large memory card. I filled a 256 MB card in about 45 seconds of shooting at the highest quality setting. Bottom line...GREAT CAMERA!
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
I bought one when it first came on the market back in May. Half a year and 5,000 pictures later, here are some of my comments:
- It is a GREAT digital camera in its own class. By "class" I mean one should not compare it with a dSLR because the S3 is not one. So do not expect it to overcome "shutter lag" easily, although among other DC (digital camera) I have used, shutter lag on S3 is greatly improved--to a degree that I feel comfortable taking photos in very fast pace, e.g., catching flying birds. (However, only good dSLR can completely eliminate shutter lag and S3 is not a dSLR.) One also should not compare the S3 with the "small" point-'n-shoot DCs. S3 is not as small as those--it won't easily slide into your pocket, unless your pocket is relatively big and loose (like mine). But the slightly larger body brings great features none of the small DC can offer.
- Big optical zoom (12X) and IS. 12X is GREAT and combined with Canon's Imagine Stabilization, S3 turns into a powerful large zoom camera with superb imagine quality. My recent trips included shooting (with cameras in case you wonder) wild wolf at Yellowstone National Park. And this little S3 came out as the only one that can capture the animals at great distance, along with other "big guns" the professionals carry. The IS feature eliminates hand shake with great effect and I could shoot at 12X with low light and still get quality photos. I also highly recommend the "TC-DC58B Tele Converter Lens" for the S3 (or S2) which gives you another 1.5 zoom that effectively make S3 18X zoom (equivalent to a 600mm lens). Check how much those big telephoto lens cost (close to 10K) ...
- Excellent video shooting. Again a feaure one almost never finds on any other DC or dSLR. The S3 takes DVD quality video in stereo sound, not just video clips that most DC can do. This little (almost) pocket-size camera now forces our digital videocam into an early retirement.
- Many other great features. However those are more or less standard and one can always try to argue some other DC may have similar or better features. I won't comment on those.
In summary, the S3 is a great small-size DC. Its superb lens offers big 12X zoom and IS, two technology of Canon's pride. It also offers DVD video shoot with stereo sound--this feature alone can save you a digital vidoecam.
One suggestion--do get a big SD card if you want to shoot video too. I have a 4G SD card and I think 2G is a must. Also battery life is excellent. It uses 4 AA-battery, which seems a lot odd at the beginning. But it comes in handy because as long as you can get AA battery you never worry about power. With typical dSLR, if the battery is out you are done for the day unless you find a power outlet to recharge (and have your charger with you).
I do have one small complain. The Menu button at the back of the camera is at the location where my palm presses the body. Sometimes I raise the S3 and I see the menu in viewfinder because my palm has pressed it strong enough to trigger it. Another press is needed and I lost several shots because of this.
I have other dSLR with quality lens. But I always take the S3 with me on any trip.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2006
I purchased this camera on the basis of reviews at Amazon and elsewhere. I have been an avid photographer since 1959, starting with the Leica. The enthusiasm of other reviewers for the S3 IS is certainly well deserved. The speed and accuracy of the self-focusing as you change focal lengths is astonishing. At a single focal length moving the camera past a window from inside the house results in a breathtaking and precise change of both exposure and focus.
The movie facilities are well displayed also by turning slowly inside a house and watching the exposure and focus change to produce surperb results even through the windows. This is one fine movie camera. The 1 gigabyte limit on a movie should not be a problem since it permits roughly an eight minute movie. Downloading a two minute movie to my Dell desktop required about 10 minutes. After which I had a two minute perfectly focused and exposed movie with stereo sound!
As you will quickly find, extreme handheld close-ups will self-focus exactly at the Canon specified distance. Get too close and the camera focuses sharply on the other side of the object you wanted to photograph. Example, small flowers on a bush.
One more example. to check the focusing I picked our sleeping dog. Her fine fur was crisply focused and, to my eyes perfectly exposed.
This is the camera that until now existed only in my dreams.
Thanks, Canon. The S3 IS was well worth waiting for.