capsule review

Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro

At a Glance
  • Fuji Finepix S2 Pro (6.17MP, 4256 x 2848)

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Photograph: Rick Rizner

The FinePix S2 Pro is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. At 1 pound, 15 ounces for the body alone (with batteries), it is one of the heaviest cameras we've reviewed. It's also one of the biggest: The body is a bulky 5.5 inches wide by 2.75 inches deep and 5.4 inches high.

At least part of this bulk is due to the six batteries that power the camera: four AA and two disposable CR123 lithium batteries. Unsurprisingly, the S2 Pro aced our battery tests, taking 500 pictures without making much of a drain on the batteries. In fact, I only managed to run them halfway down in several days of heavy-duty testing. The only downside (apart from the weight) is that if one set of batteries runs down before the other, you're stuck: The camera doesn't work if one set dies.

Although big and bulky, the FinePix S2 Pro fits comfortably in the hand, with two control dials (one on the front and one on the back) falling under the index finger and thumb. There's also an LCD screen on the top of the camera, which shows a lot less information than most: just the shutter speed, aperture, program mode, and focus zone. Other information (such as the ISO and number of shots remaining) is shown on the second LCD display on the back of the camera.

The four buttons beneath the second LCD provide an interesting way of accessing the controls. For example, if you are viewing images on the larger screen, icons for four options appear in the small monochrome LCD screen: showing a histogram, and deleting, locking, and displaying multiple images. If you are taking pictures, pressing the function button next to the display shows options for changing the white balance, autofocus mode, image quality, or image size. You can then select any of these options by pressing the button underneath it; it's somewhat easier than digging through a menu.

The S2 Pro uses a Nikon F lens mount, so you can use the same lenses as the Nikon D70s does. But we found the S2 to be much slower to focus than the Nikon D70s when using the same lens: It often failed to focus on fast-moving objects or in low light. Fujifilm supplied a Tamron 24mm-135mm zoom lens, but we found it disappointing, as it too focused very slowly and was noisy while doing so. And at $1599 for the body alone, the S2 Pro is a little pricey. The supplied lens adds $399 to this price, pushing it up to nearly $2000, significantly more than most of the other SLRs we tested.

The continuous shooting mode of the S2 is somewhat lacking: The camera can only shoot 2 frames a second for a maximum of 8 frames, significantly less than other SLRs such as the Nikon D70s, which can shoot 144 frames at 3 frames per second with a fast memory card. But the S2 has all of the other features that you would expect on a high-end digital SLR, including three metering modes and five autofocus zones (plus a mode for automatically focusing on the closest object). There are, however, none of the scene modes (such as sport, portrait, and so on) that you'll find on most other digital cameras: just the basic manual, aperture-priority, shutter priority, and program modes.

The S2 is also unusual in having two media card slots: a CompactFlash and a SmartMedia slot are located on the back of the camera behind a panel. While having two slots is a nice idea, using a format other than SmartMedia would have been better: The largest SmartMedia card you can get is 128MB, which is enough for only around 26 images at the highest JPEG resolution or 3 in RAW mode. An SD Card slot (like the second memory card slot on the Canon 1D Mark II) would have been a much better choice--you can get SD cards that hold up to 2GB. Also, the S2 doesn't let you copy image files from one card to the other, or record images to both cards at once (in case one card fails or is lost); the Canon EOS-1D Mark II performs both functions. The S2 does have a FireWire port (like the EOS-1D Mark II), which is a significantly faster way to transfer pictures than via its USB 1.1 port.

In a studio setup using manual settings and a custom white balance setting (which most serious studio shooters would use), the S2 produced colors that we rated as the most accurate of the SLRs we tested. However, we found that many images taken using automatic metering were slightly underexposed, and colors looked a little dark. The S2's scores for digital noise were roughly average; when we increased the camera's ISO setting, we found significant noise at all ISO settings above 400; at the maximum of 1600, noticeable white spots appeared in areas of flat color, particularly reds and blues. Only the Canon EOS 20D and Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D scored higher on our noise test.

We also saw some evidence of moiré interference, where fine details (such as the etching on a paper bill used in our tests) produced a colored fringing pattern. This result is probably at least partly due to the interpolation that the camera performs at the higher ISO levels. Although the camera is really a 6.2-megapixel model, it can record images at up to 4256 by 2848 pixels (equivalent to 12 megapixels). Fujifilm claims that because the individual image sensor elements are hexagonal (instead of the more usual square elements), they capture more information, which can be used to recreate the extra pixels accurately. Though our test images taken at the highest resolutions did appear to have plenty of detail, the S2 didn't earn extraordinarily high scores: The Canon Digital Rebel XT, Canon EOS 20D, and Olympus EVolt E-300 all scored higher than the S2 for image sharpness. Also, the S2's images taken at the highest resolutions were a little more prone to moiré problems than those taken at the native resolution of 3024 by 2016 pixels.

Overall, the FinePix S2 is a good camera, but slow autofocus and inadequate continuous shooting modes limit its appeal.

Richard Baguley

This story, "Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Fuji Finepix S2 Pro (6.17MP, 4256 x 2848)

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