Most compact cameras take their best photos below ISO 200 and the SD3500 IS is no different. Photos taken with plenty of light will give you excellent color and sharp, fine details (though they look more digital than I'm used to seeing from Canon images). Canon typically does well at balancing noise reduction and noise in images, and that's the case here. Despite details getting softer, they're not smeared beyond recognition straight up to ISO 1,600. Color is consistent, too.
Canon has renamed its High ISO mode to Low Light to help alleviate some peoples confusion about the setting. The mode captures 3.5-megapixel photos at ISOs from 400 to 6,400. This image was taken at ISO 3,200 in very dark conditions. It's grainy and there's visible yellow blotching in the darker areas, but at least you'll capture something if that's all you're after.
Taken at ISO 80, fine details are better than I'm used to seeing from 14-megapixel cameras. Generally, things like individual strands of hair or beard stubble end up looking overprocessed, but they turn out good from this Canon, which in turn means the larger picture size is somewhat valuable for cropping. I say somewhat because photos taken at higher ISOs have more noise and artifacts, and overall looked more digital.
Images taken with the camera exhibit some barrel distortion when the camera is at its widest lens position, but it's not bad (top). There was no discernible pincushion distortion when fully zoomed out (bottom). Center sharpness is very good, but it drops off dramatically to the left and right making subjects soft and blurry. Make sure what ever you need sharp and in focus is framed in the center. Unsurprisingly this is where you'll find a lot of blooming and fringing of high-contrast subjects, too.
Its images have a lot of blooming and fringing around high-contrast subjects. While it's not very noticeable at smaller sizes, anyone wanting to make large prints, say 13x19 inches, will definitely see it.
The SD3500 IS's Color performance is excellent as is its exposure, though typical of this camera category, highlights tend to blow out. Its white balance is very good, too, though the Auto goes a bit warm indoors.
Canon's Smart Auto automatically applies its i-Contrast process for improving shadow details. In Program mode, it can be turned off (left photo) or set to auto adjust (right). The process can also be done after in Playback at three different levels.
The SD3500 IS has a 24mm-equivalent lens with a 5x zoom. The left photo is at 24mm, the right is at 120mm. With 14-megapixel resolution images, you can crop in to get even closer(though the picture quality won't be as good).
Canon introduced a few new creative shooting modes in 2010. This is Miniature Effect, which blurs the top and bottom of the frame and boosts contrast and color saturation to make subjects look like painted miniature models. It works to some degree, but is not as convincing as true tilt-shift photography, which is what the effect is based on.
This Fish-eye Effect is even weaker than the Miniature Effect. The left photo is with it off, the right with it on, set to High. (There are Low and Medium settings, too, that are no more impressive). The camera has a Creative Light Effect mode as well that changes the shape of twinkling lights in your photos to hearts, stars, butterflies, music notes, and crosses. It's silly and I'm still trying to forget that it's included and somehow a panorama assist mode was not.