The Canon Powershot S3 IS (My Canon Powershot G2 replacement)

When Canon launched the Canon Powershot S2 IS in April last year I was sorely tempted to get one. I really liked the small form factor, the combination of monster 12X optical zoom with image stabilization, Digic II processor, video recording capabilities etc. However I held back because I was eagerly waiting for the Canon Powershot G7 which I was sure would be released at the end of 2005. After all the G6 was released way back in August 2004, a lifetime ago in the accelerated timeline of the modern digital cameras.

I have used the Canon Powershot G2 since 2001 (The purchase of the camera coincided with the birth of my first child Warren) and I can proudly say that I have had no regrets owning it. For me the G-series format is perfect as a bridge between the consumer level digicams and the more serious digital SLRs. The G2 performed its duty well, serving as a wonderful introduction to the world of digital photography. Since then I have had no reason to use my old analogue SLR EOS 50E. Then in late 2004 I managed to get my hands on the Canon EOS 20D digital SLR. When it comes to capturing still photos the EOS 20D’s 8MP CMOS sensor coupled to the DIGIC II processor simply blows the G2 away in terms of usability and quality. However the G2 has the distinct advantage of being able to capture video, albeit the video length is limited to 30 seconds. I could never bring myself to buy a video camera because I never caught on to the camcorder revolution. Back then I felt that 30 seconds was about the maximum amount of time that I would want to watch amateur videos of my kids learning to walk and talk.

Now that both my kids are growing up and becoming more interesting subjects for home movies I find myself wondering whether I should finally get a digital camcorder. As I surveyed the market I realized that the movie recording capability of the new generation of digicams have vastly improved from the first generation G2. In addition to longer recording time, the movies now even come in stereo. So when Canon introduced the new Powershot S3 IS as a replacement for the S2 I was delighted. At the same time I was disappointed to learn that Canon may have discontinued the high performance G-series of digicams. Apparently the success of the G6 became its own undoing because it affected the sales of the new entry level Digital SLRS which Canon wanted to promote. So I decided not to waste anymore time waiting for the G7 and quickly purchased the brand new S3 IS last week.

After a week of use I can say confidently that the S3 will serve as a worthy replacement to the old faithful G2. I have uploaded some recent photos taken using the S3 here and here. I really like some of the new features of the S3 including the 6 megapixel sensor which allows A4 sized prints without resampling (even A3 size are possible with a good printer, if you are fine with 150 DPI image resolution), the 12X optical zoom, the dedicated movie button (allows instantaneous recording of movies), video file size limit of 1GB (equivalent to 9 minutes at maximum VGA resolution), the ability to capture still images while recording video, more responsive focus time, the use of AA size batteries and the image stabilization feature. Similar to the G2, the S3 also comes with a swivel back 2 inch LCD display. This remarkable LCD design allows the photographer more freedom in composition and is indispensable in my humble opinion. Unfortunately this fact seems lost on the camera manufacturers with the exception of Canon.

However there are some features of the S3 which can still be improved upon such as the lack of support for RAW format files, the need to manually raise the flash, the plastic tripod mount, the lack of hot shoe for external flash. I suppose there will never be a camera which completely satisifies everyone. I am happy that the S3 is such a well designed product from Canon with certain acceptable compromises and I am certainly looking forward to capturing some memorable snapshots with it.

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