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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good tonal balance, good colour (generally)
  • Lens exhibited hardly any chromatic aberrations
  • Excellent white balance, good pre-programmed settings and manual preset
  • Low noise at higher sensitivities
  • Ultra-compact size, light weight
  • Sleek stainless steel body, very good build quality
  • Good macro (at full wide angle)
  • Controls are easy to understand, nice record / play switch
  • Good selection of manual controls (wb preset, aperture priority, sensitivity etc.)
  • Automatic lens cover
  • Supplied battery & charger / AC adapter
  • Supplied MMC USB reader


Conclusion - Cons

  • Lens quality / softness near edges
  • Overall image softness (can't decide if this is lack of in-camera sharpening or lens)
  • Doesn't produce resolution expected of a three megapixel digital camera
  • Noisy auto focus system
  • Rear LCD monitor doesn't have a protective cover (more prone to damage?)
  • Poorly positioned power switch (something you'd get used to)
  • Slow power up (8 seconds), slow write times (MMC problem?)
  • Normal focus range starts at 90 cm (3 ft)
  • Poor low light auto focus
  • Strange yellow cast on skin tones when using flash
  • Yet another storage format (MMC)
  • Worst battery performance so far (just 54 mins)
  • Edge positioned tripod mount
  • Limited zoom (2x, 38 - 76 mm)
  • Price


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Kyocera Finecam S3: (3 megapixel ultra-compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 7
Image quality 7
Lens / CCD combination 6
Ease of use 8
Value for money 6

When I first read about the Kyocera Finecam S3 I must admit I was quite interested, an ultra-compact digital camera with three megapixels of resolution. My first concern was that it didn't use one of the already established storage formats, instead it took MMC/SD cards. My second concern was the lens, it's clear that an ultra-compact needs a very good lens to make the most of its potential resolution, Sony had pulled this off with the DSC-P1 so I was hopeful for the S3.

Unfortunately I end this review feeling a little let down by this tiny digital camera. There's so much to like, but those things are overshadowed by the problems. Battery life was, to put it bluntly, pathetic, only a few minutes out with the camera and one (of the three) bars on the battery indicator has already gone out. Auto focus was good as long as you had good light and a contrasty subject, but on several occasions I shot out of focus images when I would have expected the camera to be able to lock. Start up time is slow, and I've no idea why because the lens extension doesn't take any longer than the competition.

Now we come to image quality, if you're shooting for the web, will always shoot in Normal mode (1024 x 768) or will always reduce your images in size then you'll probably be fairly happy with the results from the S3. It's tonal and colour balance are really quite good, and white balance never seemed to be a problem. However, up close most images look soft and lacking in detail, no amount of unsharp mask pulled very much more out of the images and this was echoed by our resolution chart results which put it on par with Canon's 2 megapixel A20.

Lastly there's the price, with a street prices of $650 it's on the expensive side of compact / ultra-compact digital cameras (comparing it to something like Nikon's Coolpix 880 or Sony's DSC-P1). All in all a camera that will appeal to the gadget buyer who's turned on by the camera's diminutive proportions, however, this photographer would have to give the Kyocera Finecam S3 a miss.

Average

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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