The Canon PowerShot S3 IS is a remarkably compact digital camera, especially considering the fact it is a megazoom camera. Its looks are familiar, and the Canon S3 IS is easily recognised as true Canon offspring. Although the camera features a plastic build, this does not stop it from feeling both durable and solid. The excellent handgrip is covered with a faintly rough and rigid material to ensure an improved grip; a simple solution with superb results! All buttons are within easy reach. The monitor on the back of the camera can be flipped out to the side to prevent any possible damage. I find it remarkable that these flip-out monitors, which were so abundantly present on the digital cameras of the early days, have decreased dramatically, and are in fact hardly ever spotted these days. Baffling, considering the fact that this type of display offers many irrefutable advantages.
Canon PowerShot S3 IS - 12x optical zoom
The front side of the camera is taken up mainly by the 12x optical zoom. The diameter of the lens is indeed impressive. The lens extends upon activating the camera. Above the lens we find the internal flash, with on its right side the AF assistance illuminator/ self-timer light. The Canon S3 IS camera is equipped with two microphones that serve to catch the sound, and are located on both sides above the lens. On the lower left side of the lens we find a button that allows you to remove the ring that is positioned around the lens. After it has been removed, an adapter can be attached, which enables you to connect various converters, so that you can extend the focal range for tele, wide-angle or macro. The side of the camera is clearly present in the shape of a handgrip, covered with a slightly rough material, which ensures it is pleasant to hold.
Canon S3 IS - Internal flash & Mode dial
The main buttons are found on top of the camera. They are mostly located on the right side of the internal flash. The shared button for the flash or an audio recording, however, is positioned on the far left. The internal flash is found in the centre, and needs to be flipped up manually. The Canon S3 IS lacks a so-called hot shoe for the external flash, much to our surprise, as I must say we were expecting to see a flash shoe. The main mode dial holding the various programme modes can be found immediately right of the flash. The dial can be turned entirely both ways, and each mode is signalled by a clearly audible click. Although it does require a little bit of strength, it does not cause any inconvenience, and is in fact pleasant to work with. It ensures you do not run the risk of changing mode by accident. On the far right we find the main switch, which serves to activate the camera. It is clear that a considerable amount of thought and effort has been invested into the designing of this switch. You need to press a small button to before you are able to activate the camera. Though it goes without saying that this is done virtually automatically by the user when needed, this button greatly reduces the risk of accidentally switching the camera on in your bag. This prevents unnecessary power consumption, and avoids those situations where you grab your camera for a shot only to be tackled by the fact it is completely unresponsive due to the empty batteries. The handgrip features a button for the recording speed and the self-timer. At the far front we find the shutter release button, which has an excellent pressure point, surrounded by the zoom ring.
Canon S3 IS - Macro images & Connections
When looking at the Canon PowerShot S3 IS from the left side, we see a button for the manual focus, as well as a button for macro images, located on the lens. The camera also offers super macro, which enables you to be virtually on top of the subject. It can be accessed by holding the macro-button pressed down slightly longer. The housing itself holds the connection for the A/V out, which is hidden behind a rubber lid. The Canon PowerShot S3 IS can be connected directly to a television screen, which will appeal to those interested in, for instance, a slideshow presentation. The opposite side of the Canon S3 IS features, also behind a rubber lid, the connections for the optional external power supply and the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed cable. The latter enables you to connect the camera to the computer or PictBridge supporting printer, such as the Canon SELPHY models. Below, we find a small door, which gives access to the Secure Digital memory card. The lid is of a particularly attractive design.
The bottom side of the Canon PowerShot S3 IS holds the door to the battery compartment. The Canon S3 IS uses either regular AA format batteries or NiMH batteries for its power. The centre of the camera also offers a plastic tripod connection. If you have a larger tripod, you will be unable to change the batteries without removing it.
Canon PowerShot S3 IS - Tilting LCD screen
As a photographer, you will spend most of your time looking at the back side of the camera. The 2 inch LCD display can be flipped out and rotated 270 degrees. This enables you to capture an image from virtually every imaginable angle. If you choose not to use the LCD, it can be folded up securely, which ensures it is safe from damage. Even though the screen has increased slightly compared to that of the PowerShot S2 IS, you would expect a manufacturer to realise that 2 inch isn't quite up to par these days. Yes, we may indeed be somewhat spoiled by those large 2.5 inch monitors, but let's be fair: that extra half an inch really does make a world of difference. However, the monitor of the Canon PowerShot S3 IS happens to be of excellent quality. Especially in combination with the variety of angles and positions in which the display can be used, it is without question one of the strongest points of the Canon PowerShot S3 IS digital camera.
Canon S3 IS camera - Electronic viewfinder
Above the LCD, we find an electronic viewfinder with a dioptre setting. It is of reasonable quality, though not as high as that of the rotating LCD monitor. The advantage of the electronic viewfinder is that it doesn't suffer as much from sunlight. It also enables you to have a somewhat firmer grip on the camera, which helps to avoid blur caused by jitter. The image on the LCD screen is indeed identical to that of the electronic viewfinder; both offer virtually 100% coverage of what you are actually capturing.
Canon PowerShot S3 IS - FUNC-button & ISO values
Two rows of buttons can be found on the right side of the LCD monitor. The silver button with the red dot is undoubtedly the first to catch your eye. It enables you to directly record a video-clip, without needing to change the camera to a different mode. Below, we find the FUNC button, which serves to set the main parameters. It is a button that we recognise from Canon's other digital compact cameras. Under it, we find the button for the ISO sensitivity. Personally, I find the presence of a separate button for the ISO value a definite advantage. The quick button beneath can be programmed with a function according to your own preference. All the way at the bottom, we find the button to switch between the viewfinder and the rotating, vari-angle LCD display. The second row consists of the familiar four-way controller, a button to confirm a function or to change focus areas, and lastly, the indispensable menu button.
Canon S3 IS digital camera - Button
Although the Canon PowerShot S3 IS features a lot of buttons, they are neat and well-arranged. As the colours that have been used ensure the camera eyes both calm and clear, you will be spared from a "button-overdose". One thing that should be said, however, is that the blue signage at the buttons, to play back the photos or video clips, is somewhat tricky to make out against the dark background.