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Canon PowerShot S3 IS - Canon PowerShot S3 IS

By Cliff Smith



  • Editors choice
Canon PowerShot S3 IS


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User Score:

Main control is via a large mode dial on the top panel with no less than 11 settings, including auto, program, aperture or shutter priority and full manual exposure control, a custom exposure setting, the usual special programs of portrait, landscape, night scene and action, as well as panorama stitching mode and a scene mode setting with eight scene options including the unusual colour accent and colour swap modes.

The S3 has the usual Canon ‘F’ button, which brings up an on-screen menu with all of the most frequently used settings, including exposure compensation, white balance, a selection of special colour settings, auto-bracketing, flash power adjustment, metering mode, and quality settings for both still photography and movie mode. I quite like the ‘F’ button system, but with more and more features being crammed into it and a fairly small and relatively low-res screen to view them on, it can be a bit fiddly to use.

There are external buttons for several other features as well, including ISO setting and a shortcut button the can be programmed with a range of settings, the default being image quality. I’m not particularly keen on the operation of these buttons, because they cycle through a long list of options. Due to their position next to the thumb grip area it’s quite easy to hit one by accident and change the picture quality from maximum to minimum, or the ISO from auto to 80 without noticing, and even if you do notice you have to spend a few seconds scrolling through the list of settings to get back to where you started. With a camera this complex, I would have preferred to see something like the rotary dial control on the G7.

The S3’s movie mode is particularly good. It can shoot at the now obligatory 640 x 480 at 30fps standard, as well as 60fps at 320 x 240, useful for high-speed action especially with the ability to play it back in variable-speed slow motion. There is a separate start button for the movie mode, and pressing the shutter button during filming takes a still image without pausing the video recording. Also, and this is almost unique for a powered zoom camera, the zoom lens can be used while shooting video. The optical image stabilisation works in video mode, and sound is recorded in stereo via two microphones just above the lens.


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.


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.


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...


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.


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.


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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