Movie mode

Canon sells the S3 IS as more than a big zoom stills camera - it's a fully-fledged digital movie camera too; the movie mode is so important it gets a separate movie start/stop button, which can be used to grab clips whatever mode you're shooting in. Movies are recorded in Motion JPEG (AVI) format with stereo (WAV) sound - still no MPEG4 unfortunately. That said, movie quality is superb, smooth and artefact free (and pretty stable thanks to the IS), and the range of controls offered excellent. You can even zoom during filming.

The downside of such high quality is that the AVI files are large - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning around 2MB every second, so if you intend to shoot a lot of movies you're going to need to invest in some big, fast SD cards. There is a separate movie mode, but the only difference is that you can change some settings before shooting.

Movie options include size (640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels), quality (30 or 15 fps), and there's now a 60 fps (320 x 240 pixel) option too. You can also use many of the parameters available in stills mode, including (if you really want to), the 'special effects' in the MyColors menu.

You can record clips until your card is full, though there is a 1GB limit to a single clip (about 8 minutes at the best setting).

As with its predecessors, the S3 IS has a large 'movie record' button to the right of the viewfinder. Pressing this will start recording a movie whatever shooting mode you're currently in. You can also take stills in the middle of recording a movie clip (doing so pauses the recording briefly). The still is saved as a separate file. To be honest I found the position of the button a little awkward, and tended to start and end each clip with a little jolt.
There is a dedicated movie mode on the main mode dial too, which is where the screen captures here were taken. The main difference is that you can preset a couple of options. As with stills recording you can choose the amount of information overlaid on the live preview image.
There is a simple brightness control which can be used during the recording of a clip (the zoom can also be used). In movie mode (as opposed to just pressing the movie button) you can preset the brightness level.
In movie mode the FUNC menu offers quick access to white balance, My Colors effects and movie size / frame rate.
There is a cut down record menu in Movie mode.
In playback mode you get some basic controls for playing movies, slow motion, fast forward and rewind and edit.
Choose edit and you can trim the start and end of the movie clip, and save the result as a new file or overwrite the existing clip.

Sample movies

640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 10.46MB
5.15 seconds

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

320 x 240 pixels @ 60 fps
File size: 8.76MB
6.11 seconds

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)