• Price When Reviewed: 382

  • Pros: Option for ISO800 is handy, while overall picture quality is a slight improvement on its predecessor. Black paint job looks great.

  • Cons: No camera RAW file option, and it lacks the excellent wide-area AiAF system found on Canon’s pocket cameras. Focusing is too slow to follow action.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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The PowerShot S3 IS is only a marginal upgrade from the S2 IS. The new model boasts an extra megapixel, a larger screen, slightly improved sensitivity, and a lick of black paint. Aside from that, it’s very similar to the older model.

Although the S3 IS’s new features are welcome, its core benefit is nothing new – it offers a super-telephoto zoom with an enormous 12x optical zoom ratio. Despite being the 35mm equivalent to a 36-432mm f/2.7-3.5, the Canon-branded zoom is relatively compact. The 1/2.5-inch CCD used in the S3 IS is a good deal smaller than those in digital SLRs – and much more prone to noise as a result.

Canon’s image stabilization technology really comes in handy at the longer focal lengths, when even the slightest camera movement is magnified. However, in our test shots, some images were still affected by image blur.

Part of the problem is the amount of optical correction available within the confines of the lens barrel, as well as the difficulty in keeping such a relatively light and compact camera steady. Even so, picture quality would have fared far worse without the stabilization features. Good technique from the photographer is still essential, though.

Compared with the 5mp Sony DSC-H1 (which is due an upgrade soon too), images aren’t quite as crisp, and the S3 IS is neither as sharp in handling, nor as responsive. But, the S3 IS’s real strength is its versatility.

The flip-out 2-inch LCD screen comes in handy, as it allows low-level and over-head shooting. The camera can shoot 2fps too, and its burst rate is limited only by the capacity of your SD card.

 border=0 /> </div><p>The camera is weak when shooting extreme telephoto – although images are detailed, they’re also a little soft.
Similarly useful is a 4.3EV sensitivity range from ISO80 to 800, along with a new high-sensitivity auto option. However, noise levels at the maximum sensitivity rule out prints much above 4-x-6-inches. A range of optional conversion lenses and external flash units are available to bump up the camera’s features. However, despite the inclusion of a new Sports mode, the S3 IS lacks the excellent wide-area AiAF system found on some of the company’s point-&-shoots. 
Auto focus is tardy, and it’s especially noticeable at the longer focal lengths. While all this is damming for sports photographers, the S3 IS isn’t without its attractions, but with the replacement for Sony’s DSC-H1 imminent, this particular PowerShot’s days in the limelight may be numbered. 
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