Canon S3 IS Review

 
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Canon S3 IS Performance


Timing and Performance

Good speed for a consumer camera.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
1.7 seconds
Time it takes for LCD to turn on and lens to deploy.
Shutdown
1.5 seconds
How long it takes to retract lens and stow in your pocket.
Buffer clearing time
2 seconds
(large/superfine JPEG,
20 shots in
Continuous Hi mode)
Worst case buffer clearing time.* This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't retract their lenses and shut down until the buffer is cleared.
Mode switching
Play to Record,
first shot
1.4 seconds
Time until first shot is captured
Record to play
2.3 seconds
Time to display a large/superfine file immediately after capture
Display
recorded image
1.3 second
Time to display a large/superfine file already on the memory card.
Shutter response (Lag Time):
Full Autofocus Wide
0.46 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide angle position.
Full Autofocus Tele
0.41 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at telephoto position.
Prefocused
0.088 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Manual focus
0.40 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused"
Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large SuperFine JPEG
1.43 seconds
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots
Single Shot mode
640x480 Normal JPEG
1.38 seconds
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots
Early shutter
penalty?
No
Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.
Continuous
Low mode
Large SuperFine JPEG
0.66 second (1.51 frames per second);
No limit w/fast card*;
< 1 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, no apparent buffer limit with a fast memory card*
Continuous
Low mode
640x480 Normal JPEG
0.66 second (1.51 frames per second);
No limit w/fast card*;
< 1 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, no apparent buffer limit with a fast memory card*
Continuous
High mode
Large SuperFine JPEG
0.43 second (2.31 frames per second);
> 20 shots w/fast card*;
~2 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, buffer capacity > 20 shots with a fast memory card*
Continuous
High mode
640x480 Normal JPEG
0.43 second (2.31 frames per second);
> 20 shots w/fast card*;
< 1 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, buffer capacity > 20 shots with a fast memory card*
Flash recycling
9.9 seconds
Flash at maximum output (freshly charged NiMH AA cells)
Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
2,933 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
771-4000=USB 2.0 High
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a Kingston Ultimate 120x SD memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode.

For a long zoom, the Canon PowerShot S3 IS's performance is quite good here, with a very quick start up time of 1.7 seconds and a shutter response at any focal length that's somewhat better than average, even by today's somewhat improved shutter-response standards. If you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure, it's very fast, with a shutter delay of only 0.09 second. Shot-to-shot cycle times are about average, at about 1.43 seconds for large/superfine JPEGs, and it clears the buffer after each shot. Continuous-mode gives you two options, Continuous Low mode and Continuous High mode. Continuous Low mode is a little slower than average, with a 0.66-second frame time and corresponding 1.51 frame rate, but the camera should be able to maintain this rate indefinitely, with even moderately fast memory cards. Continuous High mode is faster, at only 0.43 seconds per frame, or 2.3 frames per second. The Canon S3 IS won't generally be able to maintain this higher frame rate indefinitely, but with a 120x Kingston SD card we clicked off 20 shots of a hard-to-compress noise test pattern without a break, after which the camera finished writing to the card in a bit under 2 seconds. The flash takes about 10 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, below average for this class of camera, but that's the price you pay for a flash that's got more pop than most built-in digicam flashes. Connected to a computer, download speeds are fast enough you won't need a card reader. Bottom line, the Canon PowerShot S3 IS is quite responsive, as good a choice as most any consumer digicam for fast-breaking action.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery

Excellent battery life.

Operating Mode
Battery Life
Still-image capture mode
LCD on, Alkaline cells
110 shots
Still-image capture mode
LCD on, NiMH cells
550 shots
Playback mode
Alkaline cells
780 minutes
Playback mode
NiMH cells
900 minutes

The Canon PowerShot S3 IS uses four AA batteries. The table above shows Canon's battery-life figures, based on the CIPA test standards. They don't specify the mAh rating of the NiMH cells they base the 550 shot figure on, but if you use good-quality NiMH batteries you should have no trouble matching this performance. In playback mode, the Canon PowerShot S3 IS's run times are really excellent by any measure.

As you can see from the rated battery life in capture mode, NiMH cells pack a lot more juice than disposable Alkaline batteries. That's why we always recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-power NiMH batteries and a good-quality charger: The modest investment in batteries and charger will be repaid many times over relative to the cost of disposable Alkaline cells.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage

A 16MB SD memory card is included with the Canon PowerShot S3 IS.

Image Capacity with
16MB Memory Card
SuperFine Fine
2,816 x 2,112 Images 5 9
File Size 2.8 MB 1.7 MB
2,272 x 1,704 Images 7 3136
File Size 2.1 MB 1.2 MB
1,600 x 1,200 Images 15 26
File Size 1.1 MB 600 KB
640 x 480
Images 56 87
File Size 283 KB 183 KB

The Canon PowerShot S3 IS stores its photos on SD or MMC memory cards, and a 16MB card is included with the camera. This is just a ridiculously small card, about enough to turn the camera on and check that it works after unpacking it. We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/MMC memory card (at least a 128 MB card, preferably a 256 MB one) right along with the camera, to give yourself enough space for extended outings.

 

Canon S3 IS

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