PMA 2000 - Fuji FinePix S1 Pro Digital Camera
AN IMAGING RESOURCE SPECIAL REPORT
The Fuji FinePix S1 Pro: First Look from the show floor
One of the highlights of the show was the just-announced Fuji S1 professional digital SLR. Scheduled to ship in June, this camera is based on a Nikon N60 body, and will therefore accept essentially the entire line of Nikon F-mount lenses. The fairly large SuperCCD sensor it uses results in a fairly modest focal-length multiplier of 1.5x (that is, a 50mm lens on the S1 will have the same angular coverage as a 75mm on a 35mm film camera). Fuji's SuperCCD sensor technology has been the subject of intense debate on the internet recently, due to Fuji's claim that their large octagonal active areas and the staggered, partially-interleaved pixel arrangement they permit allow much higher levels of interpolation than is possible in conventional RGBG-striped CCD arrays. (We're told the S1 has between 3.3 and 3.5 million actual photosensitive pixels on its surface, producing a 6 megapixel file size.) We'll address resolution and picture quality in just a bit, but thought first to show a few closer views of the camera. (Apologies there aren't more: We'd intended to take more shots of the controls, but ended up spending our time on some comparative tests, which we'll write up separately.)
We'll start out with the singularly uninformative PR shots Fuji distributed of the S1 Pro: These were most likely of a woodblock prototype, as none of the buttons had any nomenclature attached to them. From these shots, confirmed by Fuji, the S1's Nikon N60 prosumer film camera heritage is quite apparent. The obvious benefits of basing the design on the N60 are immediate familiarity for many Nikon shooters, and inexpensive compatibility with the enormous range of excellent Nikon optics. The downsides to the choice are that the basic camera functionality will be that of a prosumer model, as opposed to the high-end capabilities of some of the competing Nikon and Kodak models. On the other hand though, with an initial list price of $3995, the S1 is closer to the prosumer price range than most of its competition.
The rear view in the PR shot was virtually devoid of information, so we grabbed the shot shown below. Here, the key buttons are labeled. "Menu/Exe" at lower right is fairly self-explanatory, as it's used to pull up the LCD menu system (see below), and confirm selections there. Likewise, "Cancel" and "Play" should be pretty easy to figure out. The "Func" button cycles through several function menus in the red-illuminated LCD readout. Choices are made by pressing the "soft key" beneath each menu icon to cycle through options for that item. In the readout screen shown below, you can see menus controlling white balance, ISO, JPEG compression, and (we think) resolution. These were the settings we used for several pictures: Auto white balance, 800 ISO, Fine JPEG, and high resolution. As memory serves, there were two other menu "screens" on this readout in record mode. (Part of what we intended to document before we got sidetracked with our comparison test.)
In playback mode, the camera menus change. We didn't play with the function button in this mode, but here, we can see options for histogram, trash, image protection, and print ordering. (Presumably DPOF-compliant.) The LCD screen on the prototype was quite sharp and bright, but we didn't have an opportunity to view it under sunlight.
This is a shot of the main LCD menu screen for capture mode on the S1. I'll leave it to you to imagine likely interpretations for the various items here. Two things to point out though: The S1 supports a CCD-RAW TIFF mode, similar to that of some of Kodak's high-end models. We don't know what Fuji will do with this, but it suggests interesting possibilities for post-capture image correction. Also note the entry for "Media" - The S1 has slots for both SmartMedia and TypeII CompactFlash. (We saw it running at the show with a 340 MB MicroDrive inside it.)
The S1 runs on two sets of batteries, kept in compartments beneath the original 35mm chassis. This shot shows the 4 AA cells that power the digital electronics. A pair of CR123 lithium cells on the other side of the camera (their hatch is on the underside of the camera) power the camera electronics separately.We liked the side-entry AAs, which would make battery changes easy while mounted on a tripod. The battery-compartment placement also gave the camera a very pleasant balance.
A "proud papa" - Senior Fuji exec Tom Cuffari looked like this most of the day: Grinning ear to ear over his new baby! - This shot was taken with the S1 prototype under the hall lighting, which came from some bizarre sort of arc lamps: We observed that it tended to do odd things to skin tones (and a lot of other colors). We suspect that, while it had a nominally tungsten-like white balance, it also had major spectral spikes at specific wavelengths, which produced all manner of strange color rendition. (A lot of the unadjusted product shots we took at the show demonstrate this as well.) Another note: The camera we were playing with was an "alpha" unit, just barely out of the laboratory. As such, we may not be able to judge very much about the S1's ultimate color rendition, or even noise levels. - Color is almost always tweaked right up till the last minute before production. Early prototypes also generally have a lower level of integration in their digital and signal-processing electronics, and so generally show higher noise levels than the final models. That said, the S1 prototype seemed to do pretty well in the noise department. The shot below was taken at ISO800, 1/45 of a second and F/3.4. (Pretty shallow depth of field as a result.) It was also hand-held, meaning there could easily be a goodly bit of camera shake present, I'm definitely not one of the steadiest hand-held shooters out there!
The two shots below were also handheld, shot at ISO 800 and 1600 respectively (top and bottom). Exposure times were 1/64 and f/4.0 for the ISO 800 shot and 1/98 and f/4.8 for the ISO 1600 one. Although we don't have any comparison shots of this image, taken with other cameras, we felt the ISO 1600 noise was surprisingly low, possibly validating Fuji's claims of lower noise levels for the SuperCCD architecture. (One note about the images: The plants are standing in front of an L-shaped glass room divider. As such, there are some odd glints of reflections in a few places that could otherwise be mistaken for strange image artifacts.
Stay tuned for one more article on the S1, where we'll show come comparisons between it and some of the other Pro SLRs currently on the market.
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