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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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FinePix S3 Pro Sample Images

Review First Posted: 9/7/2005

Untitled Document

Digital Cameras - Fuji FinePix S3 Pro Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with all that detail, we're posting the thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

"Sunlit" Portrait:
(This is my new "Outdoor" Portrait test - read more about it here.)

High resolution and strong detail, with great color. With the dynamic range setup menu option set to "wide" dynamic range is excellent, particularly when the "Wide 2" option is set in the shooting menu.

"Standard"
Dynamic Range
+1.0EV
"Auto"
Dynamic Range
+1.0EV
"Wide 1"
Dynamic Range
+1.0EV
"Wide 2"
Dynamic Range
+1.0EV
Shot with the S3 Pro's "Standard" dynamic range, "S" pixels not contributing to image at all. Highlights are very blown out. Auto dynamic range. Contrast is a little high, but midtones and shadows show good detail. Highlights are a bit bright, some areas blown out though. This shot was taken with the S3 Pro's Wide 1 dynamic range setting. Detail is moderate in the highlights, but still low, some areas are blown out. This was taken with the Wide 2 dynamic range setting. The highlights are still quite bright, but nowhere are they actually blown out to pure white. (Go ahead and check them in Photoshop) - An amazing performance, given the very harsh lighting and the slight deliberate overexposure.
"Standard"
Dynamic Range
+0.5EV
"Auto"
Dynamic Range
+0.5EV
"Wide 1"
Dynamic Range
+0.5EV
"Wide 2"
Dynamic Range
+0.5EV
Even with a half-stop less exposure, Marti's shirt here is still pretty overexposed. With this exposure, the "Auto" option did a pretty good job of holding onto highlight detail. The "Wide 1" option was in fact enough to handle the highlights with this exposure level. The "Wide 2" option was more than was needed, although some users may prefer the more subdued highlights in Marti's shirt.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the FinePix S3 Pro performed well, especially in its "Wide 2" expanded dynamic range mode.

The first set of shots above were taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which was a little bright overall. It's interesting though, to look across the samples shot with each of the four different dynamic range options, and see how the highlight detail varies between them. The "Standard" setting uses only the "R" pixels in the S3 Pro's sensor, providing dynamic range more or less equivalent to "conventional" d-SLRs. At the other extreme, the "Wide 2" option takes maximum advantage of the "S" pixels, expanding dynamic range by no less than two full f-stops. The difference is obvious, and it's safe to say that in this mode, the S3 Pro beats any other d-SLR I've ever shot this test with, at least in terms of preserved highlight detail. What's particularly impressive is how little the midtones of the image are affected when using the dynamic-range expansion settings.

The second row of shots above shows the same test, but with a half-stop less exposure. Here, the "Standard" option still produced very blown-out highlights, but the "Wide 1" option (one-stop dynamic range expansion) was sufficient to capture important highlight detail.

Even better: Adobe Camera Raw 2
While the S3 Pro does a remarkable job at preserving highlight highlight detail on its own, shooting directly to the JPEG file format, really amazing results can be obtained by processing its RAW files through the Camera Raw 2 plug-in for Adobe Photoshop(tm). I'm not sure exactly what Camera Raw is doing, but it manages to extract dramatically more highlight detail than either the S3 Pro itself, or Fuji's Hyper-Utility program. (For what it's worth, I've found that Camera Raw also outperforms RAW conversion software provided by other manufacturers as well, although I've not had time to study the issue in depth.)

The three shots below show images processed with Adobe Camera Raw 2, starting from the S3 Pro's RAF format. Each successive shot to the right corresponds to another 0.5 EV of exposure boost, the initial setting being the +1.0 EV that looked just a little bright in the examples above. The top row of images are untouched, exactly as they came from Camera Raw 2 with its default, automatically-determined settings. The bottom row shows results obtained with a little manual tweaking.

+1.0 EV +1.5 EV +2.0 EV
Adobe
Camera
Raw 2

Default
Settings
(Auto)
Adobe
Camera
Raw 2

Manually
Tweaked

What's utterly amazing here is not just that Camera Raw 2 managed to find so much highlight detail in the S3 Pro's RAW files, but that it did such a good job with the color and overall tonality as well.

To give you some idea of just what's being accomplished here, here are some samples of the +2.0 EV file, processed through Hyper-Utility, first with no dynamic range expansion at all, then with the maximum 400% expansion, and finally compared to the manually-tweaked result from Camera Raw 2:

Highlight Recovery from S3 Pro RAF files
(All examples from the same RAW file, +2.0 EV exposure compensation)
Hyper-Utility
NO dynamic range expansion
Hyper-Utility
400% dynamic range expansion
(Manually tweaked)
Adobe Camera Raw 2
(Manually tweaked)

This is just flat-out amazing, I really come up short on superlatives to describe the dynamic range performance of the S3 Pro when coupled with Adobe Camera Raw 2.

One note though, albeit somewhat out of place in this particular part of the review: It does seem that Camera Raw 2 introduces some noise into the images, over a very narrow band of tonal values. The crop below shows a part of a Stouffer 4110 step target, that has been processed through Camera Raw 2 to maximize highlight recovery. A ways down from the maximum brightness level, a band of two or three brightness steps show fairly dramatic image noise. Although I could never find any evidence of this noise in the "real life" shots above, it's definitely there, and appeared any time I processed the Stouffer wedge. (In practice, the amount of tonal compression here means that only a relatively tiny range of the original subject's tonal range would be subject to this noise phenomena, but it bears mentioning, so users can be on the lookout for it.

My theory about the source of this odd noise (most obvious in steps 11 and 12 above) is that it corresponds to the point at which Camera Raw is switching over from paying more attention to the S3 Pro's "R" pixels, to paying more attention to the data in the "S" (lower sensitivity) ones. Noise levels elsewhere in the tonal range are fairly normal.

Back to our regularly-scheduled review...
(Finally) returning to the Sunlit Portrait shots themselves, I
chose the S3 Pro's Manual white balance setting as the most accurate, despite a very slight red cast, as the Auto and Daylight settings had slightly warm, yellow casts.

Marti's skin tones look very good in these shots, albeit just a bit too red in places, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are quite accurate. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, but the S3 Pro gets them almost exactly right.) Color looks good throughout the rest of the frame as well. Resolution is very high, and a lot of fine detail is visible throughout the frame. Shadow detail is strong, and image noise is low. All in all, an excellent job.

To view the entire exposure series (as shot by the camera in the Wide 2 dynamic range setting) from zero to +1.5 EV, see files S3POUTDRW2MP0.HTM through S3POUTDRW2MP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page. (Shots captured with the different dynamic range options are as follows: "S3POUTDRSxxxx = "Standard", S3POUTDRAxxxx = "Auto", S3POUTDRW1xxxx = "Wide 1", S3POUTDRW2xxxx = "Wide 2".)



 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution and detail, and excellent dynamic range with the Wide 2 adjustment.

The "Wide 2" dynamic range expansion option again does a remarkable job of preserving detail in the bright white highlights of Marti's shirt. It's not a panacea for the contrasty nature of the harsh lighting here though, as contrast in the midtone through shadow tonal range is still quite high. - Highlights on Marti's face are relatively bright (although by no means blown out), while the shadows in her eyes are very dark. The S3 Pro's low contrast setting would doubtless have helped here, but I didn't shoot this particular test with it. Resolution and detail are much stronger in this close-up shot, with very strong definition in Marti's face and hair.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.5 EV, see files S3POUTFACW2AP0.HTM through S3POUTFACW2AP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.5 EV

Good results, even with the default exposure setting, and good color as well.

The S3 Pro's built-in flash illuminated the subject very well with a +0.5 EV exposure compensation adjustment, though the default exposure also produced usable results. The image is pretty bright with the adjusted flash exposure, but the default setting looked just a bit too dim to my eye. (Within the range of personal preferences though, some people may prefer the default shot.) The bright flash washes out color in Marti's face slightly, but overall color balance looks pretty good. Only a trace of an orange cast is visible on Marti's hair, resulting from the background incandescent lighting. Very good results overall.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV in the normal flash mode, see files S3PINFP0.HTM through S3PINFP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Excellent color with the Manual white balance setting, and good exposure as well. Auto and Incandescent white balance settings didn't do so well.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The S3 Pro's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, despite a slightly cool cast, as the Auto and Incandescent settings both resulted in warmer color balances. Marti's skin tone looks very good, and the flower bouquet looks about right as well (though the blue flowers are dark with slight purplish tints). The main shot was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +2.0 EV, see files S3PINMP0.HTM through S3PINMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

ISO Series:
Noise performance of the S3 Pro is generally excellent. Image noise is quite low up to ISO 400, although at ISO 400 there begins to be some evidence of lost detail in areas of subtle contrast, as a result of its noise processing. (The effect is very minimal at that ISO level though.) At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise levels are higher, but still well within a usable range. Detail loss due to anti-noise processing is more pronounced at ISO 1600, but the resulting prints are still eminently usable, all the way up to 13x19. (At least for wall display.) All in all, the S3 Pro manages a very good balance between detail preservation and noise reduction, more so than most cameras I've tested.

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great color with all three white balance settings, and great resolution and detail as well.

While all three of the S3 Pro's white balance settings tested performed well here, I chose the Manual setting as the most accurate overall, based on the white value of the house trim. The Daylight and Auto settings resulted in ever-so-slight warm casts, but results were still very good. Resolution is very high, with strong detail in the tree limbs, front shrubbery, and house front. (Although the S3 Pro clearly stretches the limits of the detail that's available in this poster.) Details are slightly soft overall, but are well-defined regardless.



 

Far-Field Test

Very high resolution and strong detail. Good color. Bright exposure, but still good dynamic range with the "Auto" setting.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the S3 Pro performs very well in that respect. The leaf patterns in the front shrubbery and in the tree limbs above the roof show a lot of fine detail, as does the brick pattern on the house front and even the tree bark in the small tree in front of the house. Though details are just slightly soft overall, they are nonetheless well-defined, and the image responds well to strong/tight unsharp masking in Adobe Photoshop(tm). (Try a setting of 200%, 0.4 pixel radius.) The bright sunlight at first glance appears to cause some loss of detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams, but closer inspection shows that the brightness values in the file top-out at round 250, leaving an average of 5 brightness units before completely saturation. -- So the S3 Pro does indeed appear to be preserving shadow detail even in the face of the very harsh lighting here. Detail is also strong in the shadow area above the front door, showing a pretty good dynamic range overall. (I regret to say though, that we neglected to shoot this subject with the full range of dynamic range settings the S3 Pro offered.) The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color effects series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
4,256 x 2,848
S3PFAR4256F
S3PFAR4256N
3,024 x 2,016
S3PFAR3024
-
2,304 x 1,536
S3PFAR2304
-
1,440 x 960
S3PFAR1440
-


ISO Series:
As above, image noise just isn't an issue up to ISO 400. We didn't shoot at higher ISOs here due to the very bright subject.

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 160
ISO 200
ISO 400


Sharpness Series:
The S3 Pro's in-camera sharpening works well. At its low setting, images are very soft, but take sharpening in the computer very well. (Try unsharp masking in Photoshop at 400%, 0.5 pixel radius.) The high setting does leave some "halo" artifacts behind, but looks good on inkjet prints up to about 8x10 inches. The default setting produces slightly soft-looking images, but with little or no evidence of artifacts.

Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Hard


Contrast Series:
The S3 Pro's contrast adjustment works well, with a useful range and step size, and relatively minor impact on color saturation.

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High


Saturation Series:
The color saturation adjustment does have some effect on image contrast however...

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High


Effects Series:
Not much to say here, but the film simulations do a good job of replicating lower-saturation color negative film and higher-saturation slide film. The effects are natural-looking and photographically useful, really look like film with the corresponding characteristics, rather than a digital "effect."

Effects Series
Black & White
Film Simulation1
Film Simulation 2
Standard Dynamic Range




 

Lens Zoom Range

Because the S3 Pro accepts a wide range of Nikon F mount lenses, performance here will vary with the lens in use.


 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good color with the Auto setting, and high resolution with strong detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. However, the S3 Pro's white balance system handled this challenge well. Though the blue background looks more accurate with the Manual white balance option, I felt the skin tones were slightly magenta. I chose the camera's Auto setting for the main shot, though results were very similar to the Daylight setting. The slight warm cast creates slight purplish tints in the blue background and robe, but overall color still looks pretty good. Resolution is high, and detail is strong in the models' accessories and instruments. The embroidered bird wings on the blue robe also show a lot of fine detail. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the S3 Pro are capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it. The camera picks up the noise of the poster itself, which shows up as a vertical pattern.)



 

Macro Shot

Because the S3 Pro hosts a wide range of lenses, macro performance will be determined by the lens in use.



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good overall exposure and color.

Though just slightly cool overall, the S3 Pro's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, as the Auto and Daylight settings were slightly warm. Exposure looks about right (perhaps a quarter-stop dark), and the S3 Pro distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target very well. Apart from the red block on the MacBeth(tm) chart, which is apparently outside the sRGB gamut, and so is always rendered with a fair degree of oversaturation, the S3 Pro's color is extremely accurate, with both hue and saturation almost dead-on relative to the "ideal" values for the colors involved. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with moderately low noise.

Now, for the REAL technoids, Imatest!

I've recently begun using Norman Koren's excellent "Imatest" analysis program for quantitative, thoroughly objective analysis of digicam test images. I've now also begun measuring dynamic range, as determined by Imatest and a Stouffer 4110 density scale, and this information is included on my Imatest analysis page as well.


The images series below duplicate examples of various camera controls we've already covered above. I include them here though, for our more analytically-minded readers, who'd like to see the effect of various camera controls with a well-known target like the MacBeth Color Checker (tm).


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 160
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600

Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High

Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High

Color Series:

Color Series
Adobe RGB
sRGB
Black & White


Dynamic Range Series:

Dynamic Range Series
Standard
Wide 1
Wide 2

Film Simulation Series:

Function Series
Standard
F1
F2




 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light performance. Good color and exposure, with low image noise, even at the darkest light levels of this test. Excellent low-light focusing ability too.

The S3 Pro produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all of the ISO settings I tested. A warm color cast appeared at the lower exposures, but overall color was still very good. Noise remained low in most shots, and was lower than I'd normally expect, even at the 800 and 1,600 ISO settings. The camera's autofocus system was also more sensitive than most, able to achieve focus at light levels well below the minimum shown here, even with the AF-assist light disabled. (Note though, that it's critical to have the camera mounted on a stable tripod when trying to autofocus at very low light levels.) The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
Click to see S3PLL01003.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01004.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01005.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01006.JPG
20 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01007.JPG
30 sec
f2.8
ISO
160
Click to see S3PLL01603.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01604.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01605.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01606.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL01607.JPG
30 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see S3PLL02003.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL02004.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL02005.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL02006.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL02007.JPG
20 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see S3PLL04003.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL04004.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL04005.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL04006.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL04007.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see S3PLL08003.JPG
1/3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL08004.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL08005.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL08006.JPG
3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL08007.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see S3PLL16003.JPG
1/6 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL16004.JPG
1/3 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL16005.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL16006.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see S3PLL16007.JPG
3 sec
f2.8



 

Flash Range Test

A moderately powerful flash, slightly dim at eight feet, with some falloff from 10 feet on.

In my testing, the S3 Pro's flash illuminated the test target at 14 feet, though with decreased intensity. Flash power was slightly dim at the eight foot distance, and decreased slightly in intensity from about 10 feet on. (Note though, that flash range will be a function of both ISO and the aperture of the lens in use. The series below was shot at f/4.5. An f/2.8 lens would extend the useful range to at least 14 feet.) Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see S3PFL08.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL09.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL10.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL11.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL12.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL13.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100
Click to see S3PFL14.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.5
ISO 100



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

High resolution, 1,800 lines of "strong detail." Slightly high barrel distortion at wide angle.

The S3 Pro performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height in both directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,800 lines, though I could still make out the lines even at the 2,000 point. (There were some fairly noticeable color artifacts in both vertical and horizontal directions, starting at about 1,200 lines though.)

Geometric distortion on the S3 Pro will depend on the lens in use, since the camera accepts a wide range of Nikon F mount lenses.

Resolution Series, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro lens at f/8

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
4,256 x 2,848
S3PRES4256F
S3PRES4256N
3,024 x 2,016
S3PRES3024
-
2,304 x 1,536
S3PRES2304
-
1,440 x 960
S3PRES1440
-


Sharpness Series:

Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Hard
 




 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Average viewfinder accuracy.

The S3 Pro's digital SLR viewfinder is fairly accurate, showing about 94 percent of the final image area. This is typical of most "non-pro" digital SLRs, but higher-end "pro" models tend to have viewfinders that are 100% accurate. The S3 Pro also offers a "Live" LCD mode, which opens the shutter for 30 seconds and displays the image area on the LCD monitor. Framing was actually a little loose with this method, as the final frame shows somewhat less than the area ultimately captured. Given that I like digital SLRs to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S3 Pro has a little room for improvement here. Flash distribution was even on this shot, though quite dim due to the shooting distance required by the 105mm lens we used for it.




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