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Canon PowerShot S3 IS review

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Canon PowerShot S3 IS

Summary

Our Score:

10

User Score:

In Canon’s compact camera range, two models vie for top billing. One is the 10-megapixel PowerShot G7 that I reviewed just over a month ago, and the other one is this, the PowerShot S3 IS. While the G7 might have the advantage in resolution over the 6-megapixel S3, the latter features an impressive f/2.7 – f/3.5, 12x zoom lens (36 - 432mm equiv.) with Canon’s acclaimed optical image stabilisation system and ultrasonic focusing motor, as well as a wide range of other features that make it one of the most versatile cameras on the market.

Despite the fact that the S3 IS has been around for a while, it is still one of the most popular super-zoom cameras around. It currently sells for just under £250, which compares reasonably well with other similarly-specified models, such as the Fuji S9600 (£270), Kodak P712 (£255) and Olympus SP-500 UZ (£230) and Panasonic DMC-FZ7 (£185)

It has to be said, it’s a curious looking beastie. Although it has a generally SLR-like shape with a large high-level viewfinder and a chunky sculpted handgrip, it is covered in odd lumps and bulges, with controls scattered across its surface like acne on a teenager. I’ve heard some people describe it as ugly, and I can see their point, but I quite like the way it looks so I’m going to go with ‘functional’.

The body is made of the same tough plastic that clothes most of Canon’s A-series cameras, and is finished in a dark and slightly metallic grey that I would probably describe as slate. It feels very sturdy and well made, and the controls are easy to operate and well mounted. Measuring 113 × 78 × 76mm the S3 is quite a large camera compared to most compacts, and at 410g it is also quite weighty, but thanks to the generously sized handgrip, the sensible position of the controls and the space left on the back for your thumb, it is very comfortable to hold and never feels heavy. Overall balance is helped by the presence of four AA batteries inside the handgrip.

Whatever you think of its appearance, there’s no denying that it’s loaded to the gunwales with features. As well as its super-powerful but amazingly compact lens, it has a very useful 2in flip & twist LCD monitor, which with only 115,000 pixels isn’t terribly sharp, but does at least have an excellent anti-glare coating.

Douglas

October 18, 2008, 8:58 pm

You mentioned in the review that the S3 IS doesn't support SDHC cards, however I own an S3 IS and am using an SDHC card in it with no problems. It says on Canon's website that they are supported as well. I agree with the review, it is an excellent camera and I love all the features and the picture quality is superb.

HF

July 16, 2009, 2:34 pm

All of the reviews that I have read on S3 IS also state that the camera cannot use an SDHC card. When I tested the camera in the store, the card we used was an SDHC card. Everything worked fine with that card. One of the best features I liked about the camera I purchased was the located on the bottom of the camera on the nameplate, three little words, "Made in Japan".





It sure is nice to know that you are not buying electronic junk of Chinese manufacture.

groucho

July 20, 2009, 7:49 am

I have the S3IS Canon more two years since and I´m really very happy whith it.Is a jewel for me in spite of y bought another SLR E 510 Olympus camera.Is very easy to take good pictures whith it,because is one of the best Canon cameras zoom.I´ll try whith SDHC card;


I didn,t know this camera admit it.


Long life for S3IS...

Simon40

January 6, 2011, 7:44 pm

Having owned an S3is and loved it,I made the mistake of "upgrading" and learned that specs on paper mean nothing! I've had more superzooms/bridge cameras than you can shake a stick at,from a variety of manufacturers- and the S3 is the daddy in my opinion.


A well built little camera with a very sharp lens. Super fast focusing at both ends of the zoom and the best image stabiliser I've seen- all of which means you simply NEVER miss a shot!! Not a big deal breaker for myself,but the video mode is very impressive also- good quality image(for vga),stereo sound and no motor noises whilst using the zoom during filming.


Yes,there are slight fringing issues and keeping the iso setting at or below 200 is a must,though with a fairly fast f2.7-3.5 this is never a problem.


Overall though a blinding camera which is so versatile.


Having waved goodbye to various DMC-FZ's,a HS10 and even an S200EXR- I'm so glad to have found another pristine second hand Canon Powershpt S3is.

Angela

May 30, 2014, 1:25 am

hey guys,
I wanna buy a good quality camera although m not a professional but I am very passionate about photography. so should I buy this as I want a professional camera...
please do help me or suggest another camera.

PatientZer0

February 21, 2015, 11:49 pm

You've probably already made your purchase by now, but I just wanted to say that I have used this camera for about 8 years continuously and rarely have i felt unprepared with it for any situation. This camera is really loaded with excellent features and the ability to manually control almost every aspect of the shot is amazing. I even had a custom color setting for a specific feel i wanted to add to some pictures. It's a real powerhouse packed into a compact camera. Also, let's not forget the 12× zoom on this bad-boy.

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