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Fuji FinePix S2 Pro

Fuji updates their digital SLR with a 6 megapixel CCD, with the same excellent color...

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 7/24/2002

Executive Overview

Based on the Nikon N80 film camera body, Fujifilm's new FinePix S2 Pro digital SLR camera is a welcome addition to the prosumer digicam marketplace, Joining Canon's D60 and Nikon's own D100 in the sub-$3,000 D-SLR class. Its familiar 35mm styling includes the ability to accept Nikon's F series lenses, happy news for any Nikon photographer with an extensive lens collection. Measuring 5.6 x 5.2 x 3.1 inches (141.5 x 131 x 79.5 millimeters), the S2 is just slightly larger than competing models from Nikon and Canon. Weighing in at 26.8 ounces (760 g) without the lens, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the accompanying neck strap, but the heft is not at all excessive for a SLR.

As with the S1 Pro before it, the biggest buzz about the S2 is its CCD. Using the Fuji-developed "SuperCCD" honeycomb sensor pattern, it actually carries 6.17 million active sensor elements, which are used to produce either 6.1 or 12.1 (!) megapixel final file sizes. Fuji has happily moved away from their earlier practice of reporting their SuperCCD cameras' resolutions based on the higher, interpolated figure, but it's important to note that the interpolated file size does indeed capture (slight) additional image information relative to the smaller "native" image size. This is because the diagonal arrangement of the honeycomb-shaped SuperCCD pixels requires a roughly 1.4x interpolation to extract the maximum image information when converting to the rectilinear pixel array of a standard image file. (Just for the record, all single-sensor digicams interpolate, it's just a matter of how and to what degree.) As you'll see later in this review, there is indeed some justification to using the S2's interpolated file size when you're looking for maximum detail in your images. It's clearly not a 12 megapixel camera, but just as clearly delivers slightly more detail than competing 6 megapixel designs.

One of the benefits of SLR digicams like the S2 Pro is the TTL (through the lens) optical viewfinder, which gives you a more accurate representation of what the camera is seeing than do ordinary viewfinders with separate optics. The S2's viewfinder includes a small information readout at the bottom of the screen that reports aperture, shutter speed, focus, etc. I found the optical viewfinder of the S2 Pro to be pretty accurate, showing roughly 96% of the final field of view, slightly better than average among SLRs I've tested. A 1.8 inch color LCD monitor on the back panel displays an image preview, complete with histogram functions, and also reviews captured images when in Playback mode. The downside of the SLR design though, is that the LCD monitor can't provide a "live" viewfinder display as on non-SLR digicams. Optically, the S2 features a lens mount that accommodates most of the Nikon F series lenses, although advanced metering modes only work with more recent lenses that are equipped with internal CPUs. A focus switch on the front of the camera allows you to change between continuous autofocus, single-shot autofocus, or manual focusing modes.

The S2 provides a great deal of exposure control, with a wide variety of exposure modes and adjustments available. The main exposure modes include Programmed, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. In Programmed mode, the camera controls the shutter and aperture settings, but the user can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings and also adjust the exposure compensation from -3 to +3 EV in 1/2 EV increments. (One of my few substantive quibbles with the S2's capabilities: I'd really like to see 1/3 EV steps on the exposure compensation adjustment.) Aperture and Shutter Priority modes allow the user to select the named exposure variable (aperture or shutter) while the camera selects the other one. Aperture settings will vary with each lens used, but shutter speeds range from 30 to 1/4,000 seconds, plus a "bulb" mode for even longer exposure times. Of course, Manual exposure mode gives the user control over both exposure variables simultaneously. A continuous shooting mode lets you capture up to 7 shots in rapid sequence, at a rate of roughly 2 frames/second.

The S2 provides a wide array of other exposure controls through the function buttons and the small monochrome LCD data readout on its rear panel. White balance can be set to Auto, Sunny, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, Custom1, or Custom 2 values. ("Custom" is a manual preset option in which you use a white reference card to set the white balance for the current lighting conditions.) The camera's light sensitivity can also be adjusted, with available settings of ISO 100, 160, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 ISO equivalents. Color, tone and sharpness settings can also be adjusted through the Function menus, and exposure metering options include 10-zone matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. The inclusion of the smaller LCD data readout for the Function menus on the rear panel and the top LCD panel for exposure settings is very helpful for saving battery power, as you can change nearly all of the exposure settings without resorting to the larger LCD monitor.

For flash photography, the S2 features a pop-up flash as well as a hot shoe for connecting a more powerful external flash unit. The built-in flash works in several modes, including Auto, On, Off, Anti Redeye, Anti Redeye with Slow Sync, normal Slow Sync, and Rear-Curtain Sync. In Self-Timer mode, a self-timer counts down from two to twenty seconds before firing the shutter, flashing the AF assist light on the front of the camera during the countdown.

Another great design elements on the S2 is the memory card slot, which accommodates both CompactFlash Type I and II as well as SmartMedia memory cards. This definitely increases your memory card options, and enables you to use the IBM MicroDrive CompactFlash cards, now available in sizes as large as 1 gigabyte. The S2 has two interface ports for connecting to a host computer, USB or FireWire (IEEE 1394). Appropriate cables accompany the camera, as well as a software CD loaded with Adobe Photoshop Elements, USB drivers for Windows 2000, 98, XP, and Macintosh, Fujifilm FinePix Viewer, a Raw file converter package, and Apple QuickTime 5.0. The Fujifilm software lets you connect the camera to the computer and download or browse images, while the Photoshop Elements application provides basic image editing and correction tools.

US models of the S2 come with an NTSC video output cable for connecting to a television set, and I assume that European models will be equipped for PAL timing. For power, the S2 utilizes four AA batteries(NiMH rechargeable highly recommended) as well as two CR123A lithium batteries, with an AC adapter and battery charger available as accessories. In my tests, battery life was really excellent, although the CR123A lithium cells can be rather quickly depleted if you use the flash a lot. (The AA cells run the bulk of camera functions, while the lithium cells run the flash.)

Overall, the S2 provides all the manual exposure control you need, with the flexibility of both automatic and programmed modes. The incredible range of available lenses, useful color and tone adjustments, histogram functions, and all-around excellent color make it suitable for both advanced amateurs and professional photographers. Professional action shooters will bemoan the relatively slow two frame per second continuous-shooting speed, but the camera is dramatically faster than any consumer-level digicam I've tested, and is roughly competitive in this respect with similarly-priced digital SLRs from other manufacturers. In addition to the excellent color, the high resolution and delicate rendering of fine detail delivered by the S2's SuperCCD sensor are particularly impressive. Overall, a very strong contender in the 6 megapixel digital SLR derby.

 

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