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Fuji FinePix S1 Pro

A 3.5 megapixel "SuperCCD" gives superb color and amazing low-light capability in an under-$4,000 SLR digicam!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 8/1/2000

Executive Overview

Based on the Nikon N60 film camera body, Fujifilm's new FinePix S1 Pro digital SLR camera is a welcome addition to the prosumer digicam marketplace. Its familiar 35mm styling includes the ability to accept Nikon's F series lenses, which should thrill any Nikon photographer with an extensive lens collection. Compared to the consumer-level digicams we usually test, the S1 is a bit chunky to handle, measuring 5.8 x 4.9 x 3.1 inches (149 x 125 x 80 mm). Weighing in at 28.2 ounces (800 g) without the lens, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the accompanying neck strap. Next to digital SLRs based on pro-model camera bodies though (such as the Nikon D1 and the Kodak SLR series), the S1 Pro is positively svelte by comparison, being more the size of a midrange professional film-based SLR, minus the digital accouterments.

Probably the biggest buzz about the S1 is its CCD. Using the Fuji-developed "SuperCCD" honeycomb sensor pattern, it actually carries 3.4 million active sensor elements, which are used to produce either 3.5 or 6.1 megapixel final file sizes. Fuji's initial presentation of the S1 as a 6.1 megapixel camera caused a lot of controversy, as many felt that the camera should be rated by its sensor resolution, rather than the file size produced. For their part, Fuji claimed that the innovative honeycomb sensor layout allowed greater interpolation than did the normal rectangular pattern used by conventional imagers. (Just for the record, all single-sensor digicams interpolate, it's just a matter of to what degree.) In our full review, we delve into the issues of sensor resolution, comparing the output of the S1 to cameras with more conventional imagers. Bottom line, there may be some merit to Fuji's claims for improved interpolation accuracy, but overall we feel that the S1 is best considered as just a very good 3.4 megapixel camera.

One of the benefits of SLR digicams like the S1 Pro is the TTL (through the lens) optical viewfinder, which gives you a more accurate representation of what the camera is seeing, complete with a small information readout at the bottom of the screen that reports aperture, shutter speed, focus, etc. We found the optical viewfinder of the S1 Pro to be very accurate, showing between 94% and 97% of the final field of view. 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. The downside of the SLR design though, is that the LCD monitor can't provide a "live" viewfinder display. Optically, the S1 features a lens mount that accommodates most of the Nikon F series lenses, although advanced metering modes only work with the more recent models. A manual/auto focus switch on the front of the camera allows you to change between the two focus modes.

The S1 provides a great deal of exposure control, with a wide variety of exposure modes and adjustments available. The main exposure modes include Full Auto, Programmed, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. There's also a handful of special exposure modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports and Night Scene. The main difference between the Full Auto and Programmed modes is that in Full Auto, the camera controls every aspect of the exposure (except flash). In Programmed mode, the camera still maintains control, only the user can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings as well as adjust the exposure compensation (from -3 to +3 EV in 1/3 EV increments, an unusually broad range). 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 1/2,000 seconds. Of course, Manual exposure mode gives the user control over both exposure variables. The special exposure modes are designed to work in specific shooting situations, and each one is relatively self-explanatory. However, we should mention that the Sports mode also features a Continuous Shooting function, which captures up to five consecutive frames at approximately 1.5 frames per second.

The S1 provides a wide array of other exposure controls through the function buttons and the small black and white LCD data readout on the back panel. White balance can be set to Auto, Sunny, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent or Custom 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 320, 400, 800 and 1600 ISO equivalents. Color, tone and sharpness settings can also be adjusted through the Function menus, and exposure metering automatically alternates between three systems (3D 6-zone multi-pattern, standard 6-zone multi-pattern and center-weighted), depending on the exposure mode. The inclusion of the smaller rear LCD data readout for the Function menus and the top LCD panel for exposure settings is very beneficial in saving battery power, as you can change nearly all of the exposure settings without resorting to the larger LCD monitor.

For flash photography, the S1 features a pop-up flash and 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 and Slow Sync. In Self-Timer mode, a self-timer counts down from two or 10 seconds before firing the shutter, and flashes the AF assist light on the front of the camera during the countdown.

One of the other really great design elements on the S1 is the memory card slot, which actually accommodates CompactFlash Type I and II as well as SmartMedia cards. This definitely increases your memory card options, and enables you to use the IBM MicroDrive CompactFlash cards, now available in sizes up to 1 gigabyte(!). A USB cable accompanies the camera, as well as a software CD loaded with Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE, Fujifilm Camera Shooting Software, USB drivers for Windows 2000, 98 and Macintosh, Fujifilm EXIF Viewer, Fujifilm EXIF Launcher and Fujifilm DP Editor (for use with DPOF Digital Print Order Format printing devices). The Fujifilm software basically allows you to connect the camera to the computer and download or browse images, while the Photoshop LE application provides basic image editing and correction tools. An interesting application included with the camera is the Camera Shooting Software, which allows you to remotely operate the camera from your computer, using the USB connection.

US models of the S1 come with an NTSC video output cable for connecting to a television set, and we assume that European models will be equipped for PAL timing. For power, the S1 utilizes four AA batteries(NiMH rechargeble highly recommended) and two CR123A lithium batteries, with an AC adapter and battery charger available as accessories.

Overall, the S1 provides all the manual exposure control you need, with the flexibility of automatic and programmed modes. The incredible range of available lenses, extensive color adjustments and histogram functions, and all-around excellent color make it suitable for both advanced amateurs and professional photographers entertained. Professional action shooters will bemoan the relatively slow 1.5 frame per second continuous-shooting speed, but the camera is dramatically faster than any consumer-level digicam we've tested. Unless you absolutely need a 4 frame per second motor-drive capability, the Fujifilm S1 Pro should more than meet your digital shooting needs.

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