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Timing & Performance

We praised the S2 IS for the huge performance improvements made over the original S1 IS; we weren't expecting any great leaps forward with the S3 IS, and we didn't get them. That said, we were pleased to note that the larger files bring virtually no performance penalty, and in fact our tests would seem to indicate that Canon has actually improved focus speed marginally. More likely is that - given that the results below are an average - they've improved accuracy slightly, avoiding the hunting at the long end of the zoom that plagued the S1 IS, and was still a problem with the S2 IS. In use the S3 IS feels very responsive indeed, though it is still beaten in lab tests on focus speed and shutter lag by the Panasonic FZ7.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2816 x 2112 Super-Fine JPEG image (approx. 3,070 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Action Details
Time, secs

Power: Off to Record

  1.7
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 1.5
Power: Record to Off Lens retracted and all activity ceased 1.5
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty 0.0
Record Review Image displayed < 0.2
Mode: Record to Play   1.2
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~ 1.0
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended 1.5
Play: Magnify To full magnification (10x) 0.9
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~ 0.4
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 0.8

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) full speed 0.9
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) low speed 5.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~ 0.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~ 0.5 *1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~ 0.09
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Electronic Viewfinder ~ 0.1 *2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~ 0.5
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view 2.4
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.7
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction off) *3 2.0
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction on) *3 2.0
*1 This is an average figure for 'normal' photography, though there are occasions where the S3 IS struggles to fix focus at the long end of the zoom with low-contrast subjects, when the time can extend to well over a second (though this is rarer than it was with the S2 IS).
*2 We now have a more accurate measurement of shutter lag, which has revealed a very slight difference between the viewfinder and the screen. The lag is caused by a very slight lag in the live video preview image (if you shoot without using the screen, the 'true' shutter lag is around 0.06 seconds).
*3 In this test the subject distance is only 3 feet (0.9 m) - the recycle time will increase at greater subject distances, and if the batteries are running low.

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The S3 IS has two continuous shooting modes (standard and high speed), both of which allow you to shoot pretty much indefinitely (we gave up counting after about 70 shots) with a fast card. The standard continuous mode shows the normal live preview between frames, but the high speed mode only shows a very brief review image after each shot (no live preview).

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
2816 x 2112 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous 1.52 fps 50+ n/a
2816 x 2112 JPEG Fine Continuous 1.52 fps 50+ n/a
2816 x 2112 JPEG Normal Continuous 1.52 fps 50+ n/a
2272 x 1704 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous 1.47 fps 50+ n/a
1600 x 1200 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous 1.52 fps 50+ n/a
2816 x 2112 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous-High 2.16 fps 50+ n/a
2816 x 2112 JPEG Fine Continuous-High 2.16 fps 50+ n/a
2816 x 2112 JPEG Normal Continuous-High 2.16 fps 50+ n/a
2272 x 1704 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous-High 1.87 fps 50+ n/a
1600 x 1200 JPEG Super-Fine Continuous-High 2.08 fps 50+ n/a

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 With the shutter release held down. With a fast card it is impossible to fill the buffer

Despite the slightly larger file sizes, the continuous shooting capabilities of the S3 IS are almost exactly the same as the S2 IS (which was pretty impressive). It can't match the Panasonic FZ7 for really fast shooting, but there are no limits on the number of pictures you can take; the buffering is superb (and the standard continuous mode retains the live preview, which is actually quite a rarity, and makes keeping up with moving subjects much easier).

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
1.0GB Card
2816 x 2112 JPEG Super-Fine ~1.0 ~0.4 3,070 KB 361
2816 x 2112 JPEG Fine ~0.8  ~0.4 1,710 KB 601
2816 x 2112 JPEG Normal ~0.7  ~0.4 790 KB 1,238
2272 x 1704 JPEG Super-Fine ~0.6 ~0.4 2,020 KB 487
1600 x 1200 JPEG Super-Fine ~0.6  ~0.3 1,150 KB 967
640 x 480 JPEG Super-Fine ~0.5  ~0.2 185 KB 3,645

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.

With write times averaging around 1.0 seconds for a Super Fine JPEG the S3 IS is certainly fast - around 3.0 MB/sec, thanks to its DIGIC II processor.

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