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Fuji FinePix S3 Pro

Fuji updates their digital SLR with a 12.34-megapixel Super CCD SR II, for amazing tonal range.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 9/7/2005

Executive Overview

Based on the Nikon N80 film camera body, Fujifilm's new FinePix S3 Pro digital SLR camera is a welcome addition to the prosumer digital camera marketplace, and boasts a few exciting improvements over the well-loved S2 Pro. While the S2 Pro was popular among wedding and portrait photographers, the S3 Pro's new 12.34-megapixel SuperCCD SR II should pique the interest of those who already own an S2 as well as those photographers still considering the digital format. The reason is the S3's dual-pixel CCD design, which features a pixel layout that attempts to simulate the dual-grain makeup of color negative film. With the S3's CCD design, the camera offers two firsts on a digital SLR: adjustable dynamic range and a Film Simulation setting that mimics two different types of color film. But that's not all the S3 has up its sleeve. It's also the first digital SLR to offer a Live LCD mode, which lets you use the LCD monitor (though briefly) for image framing. With its technological innovations and an excellent offering of exposure options, the S3 has a lot going for it. Measuring 5.8 x 5.3 x 3.1 inches (148 x 135 x 79 millimeters), the S3 is just slightly larger than competing models from Nikon and Canon, but roughly the same size as its predecessor. Weighing in at 32.7 ounces (927g) without the lens, but with batteries and media, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the accompanying neck strap, but the heft is not at all excessive for an SLR.

One of the benefits of SLR digital cameras like the S3 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 S3's viewfinder includes a small information readout at the bottom of the screen that reports aperture, shutter speed, focus, etc. A 2.0-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. When the "Live" option is enabled, the S3's shutter opens for about 30 seconds, letting you view the image area on the LCD display. Though it's brief, the Live LCD display is very useful for manual focusing, as you can enlarge the center of the screen. Optically, the S3 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 S3 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 S3's capabilities is that 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, with 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 a rapid sequence of shots, at a rate of roughly 2.5 frames/second.

The S3 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. Probably the most interesting exposure tools though are the Dynamic Range and Film Simulation settings. The Dynamic Range option lets you decide how wide you'd like the dynamic range to stretch, from 100 to 400 percent. Film Simulation lets you enhance color and tonal handling, either for skin tones or outdoor shots.

For flash photography, the S3 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 element on the S3 is the memory card slot, which accommodates both CompactFlash Type I and II as well as xD-Picture Cards. This definitely increases your memory card options, and enables you to use the Hitachi MicroDrive CompactFlash drives, now available in sizes as large as 6 gigabytes. The S3 has two interface ports for connecting to a host computer, USB or FireWire (IEEE 1394). Necessary 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 S3 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 S3 utilizes four AA batteries (NiMH rechargeable highly recommended) with an AC adapter available as a separate accessory. The camera comes with a set of four rechargeable AA batteries, and a battery charger.

 

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