Skip to content

Canon Powershot a3000is Review

May 30, 2011

For serious photography, I prefer a big, heavy digital SLR. But where my goal is not photography but I want a camera along for snapshots, I use this.

I expected to buy a Lumix LX-series or Canon S95 – both attempts to match the capabilities of a SLR as much as possible in an easily-pocketable camera. But as I kept reading the reviews I got more confused, until I remembered the basic laws of physics haven’t been repealed.

To roughly summarize the camera review sites, all major-brand subcompacts do a good job in bright light. The differentiators are low light, flash, performance, and manual control. And when you read carefully, you realize there’s not a lot of practical difference here either. But there’s no way to compare them without exaggerating the differences, which makes them sound more significant than they really are.

LOW LIGHT
In low light, digital cameras increase the ISO, which means the weak signal coming from the sensor is amplified. This also amplifies noise, which causes an overall grainy look and, in dark areas, colored confetti. I don’t expect any camera to work well in low light; this goes for pro-level DSLRs and film cameras as well. So paying extra for a camera that’s really bad in low light rather than terrible doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s a lot like choosing sunglasses based on their performance in dim light, or a screwdriver for its ability to drive a nail.

FLASH
For flash, a commercial photographer typically uses a power pack that may draw 15 amps AC and power multiple heads which range in size from 4″ diameter to over 36″. Subcompact cameras have ridiculously small batteries and tiny flash tubes (typically under 0.2 sq inches) located at the worst possible place: near the lens. It amazes me that any of them work as well as they do. Do I really care that one extends to 13 feet and another only 11.75? There have been times where I’d wished for a more powerful flash, but I’m thinking an extra 30 feet; I wouldn’t notice an extra 2 or 3.

The A3000 flash will synch any ordinary slave flash if you turn off the red-eye feature in the camera. It won’t meter it, however, so it’s easy to wash out the picture. I believe this is true for all Canon subcompacts.

PERFORMANCE
When prefocused, picture-to-picture processing time is barely noticeable — less than half a second. When you include focusing time, less than 2.5 seconds. It’s faster with the continuous shot option, which does not refocus between exposures. This is respectable, and more than enough for my needs. To keep up with a very active child or pet, you might want faster performance. Tested with 4 GB Lexar Platinum II 9MB/sec SDHC.

MANUAL CONTROL
I use manual control on my SLR most of the time. I had it on my last two subcompacts, and seldom used it. The A3000 doesn’t have it. The only time I missed it was using slave flash. If I’m out with the family, I don’t want to be thinking like a photographer, so the camera will probably make better decisions. And manual control is less convenient on a subcompact because of the ergonomic compromises necessary for such a small camera. Nice to have, but as processors get smarter, less important.

MEGAPIXELS
The best professional color printers print 90,000 dots per square inch. That means it takes 4 x 6 x 90,000 = 2.2 megapixels for a 4 x 6 print. 5 x 7 = 3.2 megapixels. 8 x 10 = 7.2 megapixels. Higher megapixels increase image file size and shot-to-shot delay (while the camera compresses the image and writes it out to the card). The only advantage to “higher resolution” than that required for your final print: you can crop the picture a bit without losing any picture quality. The A3000 is 10 meg; if they had a 6 meg version, it would be a better camera. Canon knows this; they also know megapixels are a lot easier to sell.

SENSOR SIZE
Bigger is better, but more important than sensor size is pixel size – the larger the pixels the higher the dynamic range, which means more detail in very bright and very dark areas. It usually means better low-light performance and less noise because of other engineering choices available because of the larger pixels.

The difference in sensor size between this and some of the more expensive small cameras (S95) seems significant until you put it into perspective. The pixel size of a Canon S95 is 6% that of a 12-meg professional DSLR (FX format). A3000 is 4%. Given the dynamic range and low-light performance of a pro DSLR isn’t that great, I don’t see any reason to pay a premium for 6% vs 4%.

CONCLUSION
My ideal small camera – pocketable, usably large viewfinder (I can accept a smaller LCD), 5-6 megapixels, manual control, image stabilization (small cameras are hard to hold steady), not cluttered with silly features – is no longer made. If a camera manufacturer wants me to spend more, they’re going to have to come closer to that; more megapixels won’t do it.

Until then, I’m OK with the A3000. Pictures are excellent for a subcompact. Flash even in a big room is more than acceptable for on-camera flash, focus is quick and remarkably adept at identifying the right subject, image stabilization works as well as I’d hoped. Controls are well laid out and intuitive. LCD is bright and clear, even outdoors. The shutter release could be more prominent, and I may attach a thin rubber disk to make it easier to find by feel.

The A3000 doesn’t looking expensive, so subjects tend to ignore it. And I’m more likely to take it along because it if gets damaged or lost, or encounters the uneconomical-to-repair “lens error” that seems to afflict all brands, it’s not a big deal. Manual is pdf file on disk, also available on-line. Camera made in Malaysia. 1-year limited warranty.

For serious photography, I prefer a big, heavy digital SLR. But where my goal is not photography but I want a camera along for snapshots, I use this.

I expected to buy a Lumix LX-series or Canon S95 – both attempts to match the capabilities of a SLR as much as possible in an easily-pocketable camera. But as I kept reading the reviews I got more confused, until I remembered the basic laws of physics haven’t been repealed.

To roughly summarize the camera review sites, all major-brand subcompacts do a good job in bright light. The differentiators are low light, flash, performance, and manual control. And when you read carefully, you realize there’s not a lot of practical difference here either. But there’s no way to compare them without exaggerating the differences, which makes them sound more significant than they really are.

LOW LIGHT
In low light, digital cameras increase the ISO, which means the weak signal coming from the sensor is amplified. This also amplifies noise, which causes an overall grainy look and, in dark areas, colored confetti. I don’t expect any camera to work well in low light; this goes for pro-level DSLRs and film cameras as well. So paying extra for a camera that’s really bad in low light rather than terrible doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s a lot like choosing sunglasses based on their performance in dim light, or a screwdriver for its ability to drive a nail.

FLASH
For flash, a commercial photographer typically uses a power pack that may draw 15 amps AC and power multiple heads which range in size from 4″ diameter to over 36″. Subcompact cameras have ridiculously small batteries and tiny flash tubes (typically under 0.2 sq inches) located at the worst possible place: near the lens. It amazes me that any of them work as well as they do. Do I really care that one extends to 13 feet and another only 11.75? There have been times where I’d wished for a more powerful flash, but I’m thinking an extra 30 feet; I wouldn’t notice an extra 2 or 3.

The A3000 flash will synch any ordinary slave flash if you turn off the red-eye feature in the camera. It won’t meter it, however, so it’s easy to wash out the picture. I believe this is true for all Canon subcompacts.

PERFORMANCE
When prefocused, picture-to-picture processing time is barely noticeable — less than half a second. When you include focusing time, less than 2.5 seconds. It’s faster with the continuous shot option, which does not refocus between exposures. This is respectable, and more than enough for my needs. To keep up with a very active child or pet, you might want faster performance. Tested with 4 GB Lexar Platinum II 9MB/sec SDHC.

MANUAL CONTROL
I use manual control on my SLR most of the time. I had it on my last two subcompacts, and seldom used it. The A3000 doesn’t have it. The only time I missed it was using slave flash. If I’m out with the family, I don’t want to be thinking like a photographer, so the camera will probably make better decisions. And manual control is less convenient on a subcompact because of the ergonomic compromises necessary for such a small camera. Nice to have, but as processors get smarter, less important.

MEGAPIXELS
The best professional color printers print 90,000 dots per square inch. That means it takes 4 x 6 x 90,000 = 2.2 megapixels for a 4 x 6 print. 5 x 7 = 3.2 megapixels. 8 x 10 = 7.2 megapixels. Higher megapixels increase image file size and shot-to-shot delay (while the camera compresses the image and writes it out to the card). The only advantage to “higher resolution” than that required for your final print: you can crop the picture a bit without losing any picture quality. The A3000 is 10 meg; if they had a 6 meg version, it would be a better camera. Canon knows this; they also know megapixels are a lot easier to sell.

SENSOR SIZE
Bigger is better, but more important than sensor size is pixel size – the larger the pixels the higher the dynamic range, which means more detail in very bright and very dark areas. It usually means better low-light performance and less noise because of other engineering choices available because of the larger pixels.

The difference in sensor size between this and some of the more expensive small cameras (S95) seems significant until you put it into perspective. The pixel size of a Canon S95 is 6% that of a 12-meg professional DSLR (FX format). A3000 is 4%. Given the dynamic range and low-light performance of a pro DSLR isn’t that great, I don’t see any reason to pay a premium for 6% vs 4%.

CONCLUSION
My ideal small camera – pocketable, usably large viewfinder (I can accept a smaller LCD), 5-6 megapixels, manual control, image stabilization (small cameras are hard to hold steady), not cluttered with silly features – is no longer made. If a camera manufacturer wants me to spend more, they’re going to have to come closer to that; more megapixels won’t do it.

Until then, I’m OK with the A3000. Pictures are excellent for a subcompact. Flash even in a big room is more than acceptable for on-camera flash, focus is quick and remarkably adept at identifying the right subject, image stabilization works as well as I’d hoped. Controls are well laid out and intuitive. LCD is bright and clear, even outdoors. The shutter release could be more prominent, and I may attach a thin rubber disk to make it easier to find by feel.

The A3000 doesn’t looking expensive, so subjects tend to ignore it. And I’m more likely to take it along because it if gets damaged or lost, or encounters the uneconomical-to-repair “lens error” that seems to afflict all brands, it’s not a big deal. Manual is pdf file on disk, also available on-line. Camera made in Malaysia. 1-year limited warranty.

You can buy canon powershot a3000is on amazon, it on sale today!

GET CASH BACK $40 TODAY ONLY !

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: