The PowerShot SD3500 IS doesn't permit much user input into the image capture process. That lack of input limits camera potential for more serious shooters and those limitations are exacerbated by the imprecision of the touchscreen controls. SD3500 users should be able to capture the decisive moment in most lighting, but it will be harder for them to do so than it should be.
Timing (speed) is a major consideration second only to image quality in importance, when assessing digital camera performance. The SD3500 IS comes in right in the middle of the pack when compared to its competition, with the exception of the continuous shooting rate, where it comes in dead last.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR||0.01|
|Casio Exilim EX-S200||0.01|
|Canon PowerShot SD3500||0.02|
|Kodak EasyShare M590||0.03|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Casio Exilim EX-S200||0.17|
|Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR||0.19|
|Kodak EasyShare M590||0.30|
|Canon PowerShot SD3500||0.45|
|Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR||4||1.6 fps
|Kodak EasyShare M590||3||1.0 fps
|Canon PowerShot SD3500||∞||0.9 fps
(no continuous shooting mode on the S200)
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
With regard to shutter lag, the SD3500 IS is competitive across the board since there actually isn't much difference between 0.01 second and 0.02 second. AF acquisition is a bit more troubling, since there is a significant difference (almost a third of a second) between 0.17 hundredths of a second and 0.45 hundredths of a second.
Exposure is automatically managed by the camera's 1/2.3-inch 14 megapixel CCD sensor driven by Canon's touted DIGIC IV processor, which combines most primary camera functions (image interpolation and processing, auto exposure, white balance, JPEG compression, gain control, and power management) in one chip to improve efficiency and processing speed.
The SD3500 IS's default evaluative light measurement system is dependably accurate in most lighting so casual shooters shouldn't have to worry about metering. More experienced photographers can opt for either Spot metering or Center-weighted Averaging metering for more demanding/creative compositions. Like all ultra-compact digicams, the SD3500 IS's has some dynamic range (from deep shadows to bright highlights) shortcomings because the diminutive1/2.3-inch CCD sensor can't capture the full tonal range. The default metering system is calibrated to preserve shadow detail at the expense of highlight detail and that built-in exposure bias results in occasional clipping (burnt out highlights).
The SD3500 IS features the same TTL Contrast Detection 9-point AiAF (Advanced Intelligent Auto Focus) system as its predecessor. In all exposure modes the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which of the 9 AF points is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. Users can also opt for the 1 AF point (center) option for classic portraits or traditional landscapes. In low light, a focus assist beam helps illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing.
The SD3500 IS's tiny built-in flash provides a minimal, but adequate selection of artificial lighting options - Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Auto Red-eye Correction, Flash On, Flash Off; FE lock, and Slow Synchro Maximum flash range (according to Canon) is about 11 feet. Flash recycle time is between 4.0 and 5.0 seconds with a freshly charged battery.
The SD3500 IS Optical Image Stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for minor camera movement. IS allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without IS. Image stabilization can also be a very useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate. SD3500 IS users have four IS options - continuous IS, shoot only IS, Panning IS, and IS off.
The SD3500 IS is powered by a proprietary Canon NB-6L lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Canon says a fully charged battery is good for approximately 220 exposures, which seems fairly accurate based on my use of the camera. The included plug-in style charger needs about two hours to charge the battery. A back-up NB-6L costs about sixty bucks.
The Canon PowerShot SD3500 IS supports SD, SDHC and SDXC memory media formats.
The SD3500 IS's 4x zoom starts at the equivalent of 24mm and goes to the equivalent of 120mm. Ultra-compact digicam zooms generally start at around (the equivalent of) 28mm, so a true wide angle POV (point of view) gives the SD3500 IS a slight edge over some of its competition. Although corners are a tiny bit soft at the wide angle end of the zoom they are noticeably sharper at the telephoto end of the zoom.
The SD3500 IS's f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide end of the zoom is fast enough for almost anything this camera's target audience is likely to shoot, but the f/5.9 maximum aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom range is pretty slow - almost useless for anything other than shooting outdoors in decent light. Zoom operation is fast, smooth, and fairly quiet. Surprisingly, this lens exhibits virtually no barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center) at the wide-angle end of the zoom and essentially no pin cushioning (straight lines bow in toward the center) at full telephoto. Check out the photo below - shot at the wide angle end of the zoom - notice the edges of the two buildings are almost perfectly straight, with just a tiny bit of curve at the bottom.
Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds.
Colors are bold, bright, slightly over-saturated, and hue accurate, but native (default) contrast is a bit on the flat side. Here's a piece of advice for both casual shooters and photo enthusiasts alike who purchase an SD3500 IS: enable i-Contrast when you set your initial preferences and leave it on full time. I don't understand why Canon chose to have i-Contrast off as the default, but a major image quality problem with auto exposure only ultra-compact digicams is blown highlights and blocked-up shadow areas, both of which i-Contrast helps to ameliorate.
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