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Canon PowerShot S3 IS - Canon PowerShot S3 IS

By Cliff Smith



  • Editors choice
Canon PowerShot S3 IS


Our Score:


General performance is also excellent. The camera starts up in about 1.5 seconds, which is very impressive for a super-zoom camera. As with most Canon cameras focusing is extremely quick and accurate, and works just as well in low light thanks to a built-in AF illuminator. However it is in continuous shooting speed that the camera really excels. At maximum image quality it can motor along at 2.3 frames per second, and keep it up until the memory card is full.

Maximum quality JPEG files are around 3MB each, about average for a 6MP camera, and a freshly formatted 1GB SD card is enough for approximately 361 shots, or seven minutes 49 seconds of video shooting. It’s worth noting however that the S3 does not support the new SDHC memory card format. Because it is powered by AA batteries, duration will vary depending on the type used, but on the whole battery life seems to be excellent.

Image quality is also superb. Despite only having a tiny 1/2.5in sensor, pictures are impressively sharp and detailed, far more than I would expect from a 6MP camera. In fact I’ve seen 8MP models that can’t match the S3 for fine detail, and this is undoubtedly due to the excellent lens. It is pin-sharp from edge to edge at all focal lengths, produces minimal wide-angle barrel distortion, and its fast maximum aperture ensures good shutter speeds at long focal lengths. Combined with the fast AF it provides pin-sharp shots even of distant moving subjects.

The acclaimed Digic II image processor again proves its worth with perfect colour reproduction and excellent dynamic range, although it does seem to like blowing out highlights in high contrast situations. The only major criticism I can find is a steadily increasing level of image noise from 200 ISO up to the maximum of 800, although 400 ISO images are still printable. All in all a superb performance from one of the best super-zoom cameras on the market.


The Canon PowerShot S3 IS is arguably the best value super-zoom camera currently available. It combines great handling, ultra-fast performance and real photographic versatility with superior image quality and one of the best zoom lenses I’ve seen on a compact. It may look like a bag of spanners, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


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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