Compared to... Canon PowerShot S2 IS

Let's look first at how the PowerShot S3 IS compares to its immediate predecessor, the PowerShot S2 IS, in the studio. In this section we have included comparisons at each camera's lowest ISO setting (S3 IS: ISO 80, S2 IS: ISO 50), and ISO 400 (the maximum setting on the S2 IS). The new camera's ISO 800 setting can be seen in a later comparison.

Studio scene comparison (Canon S3 IS @ ISO 80, Canon S2 IS @ ISO 50)

  • Canon PowerShot S3 IS: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.67 EV compensation
  • Canon PowerShot S2 IS: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 50, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +1.0 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
Canon PowerShot S2 IS
ISO 80, 1/50 sec, F5.0
ISO 50, 1/40 sec, F5.0
2,4187 KB JPEG
2,067 KB JPEG

The S3 IS files are very similar indeed to those produced by its predecessor, just a little bit bigger. As our lab tests show there is a small amount of extra resolution, but it's barely noticeable in real world images (it's likely that the amount of detail is limited by the lens, not the sensor). That said, there was always much to like about the S2 files, certainly if you like your camera to produce smooth, clean punchy images using the default settings. The images in both cases are a tiny bit over processed for some purists, but there are extensive controls in-camera for image parameters and color effects, so you can customize the output to some extent in the absence of a RAW option. Color, is typical Canon, with strong crowd-pleasing reds and blues, though in this case the reds are a little cooler, and more accurate for it. There doesn't seem to be much difference in the sensitivity between the S2's ISO 50 and the S3's ISO 80 - we've noted before that Canon now seems to be using more accurate descriptions of its ISO ratings (in other words the ISO 50 on the S2 is a bit understated). Either way, at the low end of the ISO scale there is little visible noise. Finally there is a slight fall-off in sharpness at the corners, but it's nothing too serious.