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Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Fujifilm Finepix S3 Pro Digital SLR Camera

Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro
Photograph: Rick Rizner

A big, burly camera with a price that puts it halfway between a consumer single-lens reflex unit and some high-end professional models, the FinePix S3 Pro's features tend more toward the high end. It has both USB 2.0 and FireWire connections, and you can control it through a FireWire cable or a mechanical release. Dual shutter releases mean you can take a shot in a variety of positions. It has 12-megapixel resolution, can capture a 25MB RAW file, and writes files to either XD-Picture Card or CompactFlash media.

A special setting allows the S3 Pro to capture a wider dynamic range than could its predecessor, the S2 Pro. The camera's CCD has two types of photo sensors: ones that are larger and more sensitive to light, and smaller ones that are less sensitive. In standard mode the camera automatically selects which sensors to use, varying the dynamic range between 100 percent and 400 percent, depending on the scene, to suppress overexposed and underexposed spots. In one wide-dynamic mode, for example, it will take shots with a dynamic range of 230 percent; in another, it will use a dynamic range of 400 percent. In a couple of shots under both settings, I could see a difference. In one shot, dark areas filled in better. In a bright landscape shot, the sky flared white, but the automatic setting suppressed the flaring.

The camera's continuous shooting speed, which is 2.5 frames per second in 12-megapixel or RAW mode (up to 9 frames), drops to only 1.4 fps if you have the wide dynamic range turned on, and it can take only 3 frames in RAW mode.

In our lab-based image-quality tests, the S3 Pro scored about average for an SLR. As you might expect with its high resolution, it scored well in our sharpness and distortion evaluations, but like many SLRs--particularly higher-end ones--it did less well in our color and exposure tests. SLRs typically underexpose shots to guard against blowing out highlights, relying on your making later tweaks in software to compensate, and the S3 Pro is no exception.

The body, though very heavy, has a nice big rubber grip that helps you easily hold this expensive piece of equipment. A wheel in front of the shutter release changes the aperture setting (in manual or aperture-priority mode), and another wheel where your thumb will probably rest changes the shutter speed. A tiny button at the upper-left corner of the back of the camera lets you control bracketing; holding it down and rotating the rear wheel turns bracketing on and off, while rotating the front wheel changes the bracketing parameters. The S3 Pro also has exposure and focus bracketing--though you have to spin the front wheel quite a bit to get to the focus bracketing settings, that's certainly better than having to hunt in a menu for the setting. The camera does not offer white-balance bracketing, however.

You can switch among five different autofocus spots by using the rear menu-navigation wheel. The only control that could be better oriented is that for selecting the focusing type: It's a very small button on the front of camera next to the lens that lets you choose manual focus, single-shot autofocus, or continuous autofocus. It's difficult to move, and the setting detents are hard to see.

The S3 Pro has three separate LCD panels. A 2-inch color one lets you select menu settings and play back images, while a monochrome LCD on top of the camera gives you a status report and permits you to change a few other settings. Another monochrome LCD, just above the playback LCD, shows pictograms and text, and has tiny dedicated buttons; it gives you still more options, such as deleting images in playback, choosing capture resolution and quality, and selecting the dynamic range. This screen in particular is a little hard to see, and the buttons are hard to push, especially with the supplied clear-plastic LCD protection panel in place. With practice, remembering which screen to use to change settings isn't hard, but I would have been fine with Fujifilm using two LCDs as other camera manufacturers do.

Fujifilm makes no flashes or lenses of its own. The S3 Pro accepts Nikon flashes and has a standard Nikon F lens mount, so we tested it using a Fujifilm-supplied 28mm-to-75mm Tamron lens, which goes for about $400 street. That brought the total cost of the package to $2900--pretty steep compared with the price of competitive cameras like Canon's EOS 20D. Fujifilm does provide four rechargeable AA batteries and a nice, compact travel charger. As most SLRs do, the S3 Pro got a Superior rating on our battery tests.

Though clearly a step above most consumer digital SLRs in build quality, the FinePix S3 Pro is costly compared with other cameras offering similar capabilities.

Alan Stafford

This story, "Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • This massive SLR offers very high resolution and accepts Nikon lenses, and it can be controlled via FireWire or USB 2.0.

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