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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 3:Design

Review First Posted: 9/7/2005


Like the FinePix S2 Pro built before it, the S3 Pro was based on a Nikon N80 camera body, and will thus be a comfortable fit for anyone already familiar with that camera. This is Fuji's third digital SLR, an update of the earlier S2 Pro which proved such a success. Though many of the camera's features are nearly identical to the preceding S2 model, the S3 has a few new tricks up its sleeve. First, the camera boasts Fuji's newest Super CCD SR II, comprised of 6.45 million "S" pixels and 6.45 million "R" pixels, which combine for a total resolution of 12.34 million pixels. The dual pixel configuration of the S3's CCD is intended to mimic the dual grain layer of color film, and thus expand the camera's tonal handling. The new CCD makes it possible to actually adjust the camera's dynamic range, and allows for a Film Simulation adjustment tool as well (exciting news for anyone looking to duplicate the more organic quality of film with a digital camera). In our tests, the Super CCD SR II acquitted itself very nicely, providing really excellent dynamic range, particularly in difficult highlights. Additionally, the S3 Pro's LCD monitor features a Live monochrome viewing mode that lets you use it briefly for framing shots, similar to the LCD monitors on consumer digital cameras. Like the S2, the S3 Pro handles a lot like the Nikon N80 it's built on, the main difference being a bit more heft from the set of four AA cells across the bottom of the camera. The S3 accommodates an array of Nikkor lenses in its Nikon "F" lens mount, a feature that will doubtless attract many current Nikon users. Measuring 5.8 x 5.3 x 3.1 inches (148 x 135 x 79 millimeters), and weighing 32.7 ounces (927 grams) without batteries or lens, the S3's bulk is in line with other digital SLRs, feeling relatively light for a camera of its size.

The front of the S3 holds the Nikon F lens mount, the most prominent feature on the front panel. To the right of the lens (as viewed from the front) are the lens release button, Focus Mode switch, and Synchronizing terminal with a screw-on cap (this cap does not stay tethered to the camera body). On the other side of the camera, a sub-command dial projects slightly from the top of the handgrip, and you can also see the Shutter button and Power switch as they angle down from the top of the camera. Nestled between the lens and handgrip are the Depth of Field Preview button and AF assist lamp.

On the left side of the camera (as viewed from the back) are a variety of connection jacks, including the Remote release socket, Video Out, IEEE 1394, USB, and DC In jacks. The DC In and Video Out jacks share a compartment at the bottom of the panel, protected by a flexible plastic flap. Above and to the right of these are the USB and IEEE 1394 jacks, beneath a similar cover. Both flaps remain tethered to the camera when opened. By contrast, Remote release socket and the flash sync socket on the front (a standard PC-contact type) are protected by a tiny plastic cap that screws into place. These little screw-on sync socket covers are found on many cameras, and I dislike all of them. They're too finicky to remove if they were tightened down securely when last used, and are just way too easy to lose. No knocks against Fuji, it's actually a Nikon body, but I do wish the industry could come up with a better solution for protecting sync sockets.

The battery compartment is located at the bottom of the camera, opening from the left side and unlocking with a flip and twist of a latch. Once unlocked, the battery holder slides out from the compartment to reveal four AA-type batteries. Also on this side of the camera is one of the eyelets for attaching the neck strap.

The opposite side of the camera is bare except for the second neck strap eyelet and a secondary Shutter button for holding the camera vertically. A locking dial surrounds the button, so that you can prevent it from accidentally tripping the shutter.

On the S3's top panel are a variety of camera controls, as well as a small status display panel, external flash hot shoe, and the pop-up flash compartment. On the left of the top panel are the Mode dial and the Release Mode Switch (under the Mode Dial, controlling single exposure, motor drive, self-timer, and double-exposure shutter release options; this dial can only be turned when the adjacent button is depressed). Controls on the right side of the top panel include exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, and LCD illuminator buttons, as well as the Shutter button and Power switch.

The S3's rear panel holds the remaining camera controls, as well as the optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment, to adjust the optics for eyeglass wearers. Another small LCD data panel just to the left and below the viewfinder turns the four buttons below it into "soft" buttons, each serving multiple functions as governed by the data panel. A Four-Way Arrow rocker pad with locking dial serves multiple functions, and sits just to the right of the small data panel, with the Back and Menu/OK buttons just below it. The memory card compartment is below the Four-Way Arrow rocker pad, hidden behind a locking cover. Inside the compartment are xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash card slots, the latter of which accommodates Hitachi MicroDrives as well. On the left side of the data display panel and LCD monitor are the Function and Play buttons.

The S3's bottom panel features only the metal tripod mount centered beneath the lens.



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