Panasonic announced the release of the DMC-S3 in January 2011 and it is aimed at those who are buying their first digital camera or have limited photography knowledge. As well as being stylish the camera is designed to be simple to use, with easy to use features while performing to a high standard. As well as the black version reviewed here the DMC-S3 is also available in white, purple, blue and red for £104.99.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3: Features
To avoid blurry images the camera is armed with MEGA OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) helping to take sharp pictures in less than ideal lighting conditions. Taking pictures is made easy by Panasonic's iA (Intelligent Auto) mode which utilises MEGA OIS, Intelligent ISO Control, Face Detection AF/AE and Intelligent Scene Selector.
As well as a 14.1Mp sensor the DMC-S3 has a 4x optical zoom which is a 35mm equivalent of 28-112mm which can be extended to 8.4x zoom when using Extra Optical Zoom although images are restricted to a maximum of 3Mp. On the rear of the camera is a 2.7in LCD screen with 230,000 dot resolution. With high-angle mode the display is designed to be easy to view from a low angle.
The DMC-S3 can record videos in HD (1,280 x 720 pixels at 30fps). Videos and photos are easily uploaded to YouTube and Facebook.
iA (Intelligent Auto) mode with Intelligent Scene Selector
HD movie recording
4x optical zoom
2.7in 230,000-dot LCD screen
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3: Handling
Although made with plastic, the DMC-S3 looks and feels great in your hand. Shaped like a bar of soap it will easily slip into your pocket. The camera is ready to take pictures with a couple of seconds of switching on and the menu system is easy to navigate and isn't complicated with all the buttons easy to press.
According to Panasonic / CIPA the battery is capable of 250 shots which is good and during testing the camera was certainly capable of this number on one charge.
The camera is quick to focus. From shot to shot the camera takes less than 3 seconds and when in continuous shooting mode it was capable of 1.1fps.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3: Performance
The DMC-S3 takes well exposed images with excellent colour reproduction and plenty of detail retained at either end of the lens. There is also no sign of lens flare or purple fringing. Despite a minimum focusing distance of 5cm the camera is capable of taking excellent macro pictures.
At ISO100 there is little sign of any noise in the images and it barely gets any worse at ISO200. Noise worsens a touch at ISO400 but it is ISO800 where you start to see a loss of detail with colours beginning to suffer. ISO1600 produces images which are best served for use on the web.
ISO100, 2/3, f/6.5, 20mm (35mm equiv: 112mm)
ISO200, 1/3, f/6.5, 20mm (35mm equiv: 112mm)
ISO400, 1/6, f/6.5, 20mm (35mm equiv: 112mm)
ISO800, 1/13, f/6.5, 20mm (35mm equiv: 112mm)
ISO1600, 1/25, f/6.5, 20mm (35mm equiv: 112mm)
Using the portrait mode outdoors gives a very pleasing image with excellent skin colours. The indoor shot has used the flash as well as a high ISO of 800. There is some reflection from the model's forehead, but no red-eye which is good to see.
Shooting into the sun doesn't faze the DMC-S3, in my shot below there is plenty of colour and detail retained in the image although there is a hint of lens flare. In beach mode the camera takes a good snap of the coastline.
Sun in shot, ISO160, 1/250, f/9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
During testing and in our studio tests shots auto white-balance proved itself more than capable. The camera doesn't have a preset for use under fluorescent lights, the incandescent preset produced an almost identical image to that of the AWB under the incandescent lights.
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/8, f/4, 9mm (35mm equiv: 50mm)
There is no doubting that the DMC-S3 is an easy to use camera, looks good and takes pleasing images with excellent colour reproduction. The reason why this camera doesn't score higher is that there are other cameras at a similar price range which perform better and offer more optical zoom amongst other features.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3: Pros
Easy to use
Excellent colour reproduction
Great macro pictures
Excellent auto white-balance
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3: Cons
Limited number of features
Other cameras with more features at this price