Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 Overview
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 and its sibling the DMC-S1 are the first in a new line of Lumix cameras, and differentiate themselves from Panasonic's existing offerings with rounded-off bodies that project a gentler, friendler image. The Panasonic DMC-S3 is a compact digital camera with an effective resolution of 14.1 megapixels from a 1/2.33" RGB CCD image sensor, which Panasonic has coupled with a Lumix DC Vario branded 4x optical zoom lens. The DMC-S3's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 28mm wide angle to a 112mm telephoto and features a true optical image stabilization system with which to fight blur caused by camera shake. The Panasonic S3's lens offers apertures from f/3.1 to f/9.0 at wide angle, and from a rather dim f/6.5 to f/20.0 at telephoto. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-S3 is just five centimeters at wide angle, or one meter at telephoto. Full-resolution burst shooting is possible at a rate of two frames per second, achieved in part thanks to use of the latest generation Venus Engine VI image processor.
The Panasonic S3 doesn't include an optical viewfinder, instead opting solely for a 2.7" LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution on which images and videos are both framed and reviewed. The display provides an automatic brightness adjustment function that aims to provide good visibility in a range of viewing conditions, although information isn't yet available on the number of brightness steps available. The Panasonic DMC-S3 has an eleven-point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point focusing mode. Like almost all digital cameras these days, there's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation using the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces. Unlike some cameras, the S3 doesn't attempt to recognize the faces of specific individuals, nor to differentiate between adults and children, though.
ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 100 to 1600, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6400 equivalent in High Sensitivity mode. The Panasonic DMC-S3 also includes the company's Intelligent ISO mode as seen on past models. Shutter speeds from 1/1,600 to 8 seconds are possible. The Panasonic DMC-S3 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, and offers six white balance settings including Auto, Manual, and four fixed presets. A fairly generous selection of 16 scene modes let users tailor the look of their images, useful given that the Panasonic S3 doesn't offer aperture-, shutter-priority, or fully manual modes. There's also an Intelligent Scene Selection function, which can automatically select from a subset of six commonly used scene modes. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and has a rated range of up to 3.3 meters using Intelligent ISO.
As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic S3 can capture 30 frames-per-second movies with monaural sound at high definition 1,280 x 720 pixel (720p) resolution or below, although the compression used is the older Motion JPEG type, so file sizes for high-def movies are likely to be hefty. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 stores its images and movies on either SD, SDHC, or the latest SDXC types. There's also a pretty generous 70MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus standard definition NTSC video output. Power comes from a proprietary 660mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery pack, and is rated as good for 250 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO v6.0, Quicktime, and Adobe Reader.
US-market pricing and availability for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 will be announced approximately 30 days before the camera ships, and hence weren't available at press time. Available body colors will include black, blue, red, and violet.