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Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR Review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR Review - Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR Review

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro
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Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewFujifilm are one of a handful of manufacturers who've been producing relatively low cost Digital SLRs for several years now. Their S1 Pro, the predecessor to the S2 Pro we're looking at here, was very popular. In fact, many photographers will still be using their S1 Pros quite contentedly today.

Before looking in detail at the S2 Pro, it's quite important that those new to digital photography understand what the S2 Pro is competing with. Rival manufacturers Canon, Nikon, and now Sigma all have high-end cameras that are in a similar price bracket to the S2 Pro. These all vary in terms of body functionality and price, and they should be carefully considered before making any buying decisions.

Main features of the S2 Pro

  • Third Generation 6.17 megapixel Super CCD sensor
  • New body design
  • 100-1600 ISO
  • CCD-Raw mode
  • 1/4000sec to 30sec., Bulb
  • +/-3 EV range, in 1/2 steps
  • 1.5x Focal length
  • Compatible with all AF-D, AF-G and AF-S type Nikkor lenses
  • 2 frames per second
  • Dynamic AF + closest-subject-priority, Single Area AF and Focus Tracking.
  • Firewire and USB connection
  • Dual media slot for SmartMedia and CompactFlash type I & II
  • 3D Matrix, Centre-weighted and Spot Metering
  • 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill Flash
  • Flexible Program mode
  • 18 Custom settings
  • Flash Synch socket (X-type)
  • Voice caption mode
  • Uses 4xAA batteries and 2x3v Lithium batteries
  • Weight: 760g
  • Dimension: 141.5x131x79.5mm

S2 Pro handling
Anyone who is used to a prosumer compact camera like a Canon G2 isn't going to find the S2 Pro light. Yet compared to some of the professional Digital SLR bodies, and especially considering its dimensions it is actually a light body.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Despite having an appearance similar to that of a camera like the Nikon D1x with the tall body, there is no vertical grip or second shutter release. Anyone who has used the S1 Pro, is very likely to feel at home with the S2 Pro. Obvious similarities include both offering a second LCD above the main colour TFT screen and less obvious factors, such as Dual media slots and requiring two sets of batteries.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Despite the similarities with its old brother, the S2 Pro certainly brings a lot of new features to the table. Along with its smarter appearance, the S2 Pro allows photographers to choose from ISO100/160/200/400/800/1600 thanks to the powerful new Super CCD sensor. This new sensor also allows users to optionally record 12.1 million pixels.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewFujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

As well as the hardware being improved on the S2 Pro, the feel of the camera is still very good. The grip doesn't have the soft rubber grip of some of the more expensive Digital SLRs but this wasn't noticeable during shooting anyway. Buttons, menus and dials all function very straightforwardly and this isn't too hard a camera for a beginner to master. Overall, the build quality of the S2 Pro is up there with the best of the mid-price digital SLRs, but can't compete with the pro bodies like the Nikon D1x.

Software
The standard USB driver is provided along with the FinePix viewer software. In addition, there is a PDF version of the Software manual and popular image-editor Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Remote Shooting

Fujifilm S2 Pro RAW File converter

Menu System
Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review
Setup Menu

The Setup menu provides the following options:

Image display mode, Custom White-balance, RAW/TIFF modes, SmartMedia/CompactFlash, Test-Shooting mode, Voice Memo, Frame number renew/cont, PC Mode, Firewire shooting/downloading & USB downloading, Beep, Language, Date/Time, Reset all.

The custom setting menu allows you to set:

Bracketing order, On-demand grid lines display, Illumination for focus area, Focus area selection, AE-lock, Long exposure (bulb) at manual mode, Closest-subject-priority dynamic AF at S-AF mode, Closest-subject-priority dynamic AF at C-AF mode, AE/AF Lock button, Command dial functions, Multiple exposure, Auto Power off, Self-timer duration, LCD illumination, AF-Assist illuminator.

   
Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review
Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewThe play mode is fast to display photos, except when you've been shooting in RAW mode or lots of JPGs and have to wait a while for the camera to finish writing out from the buffer. The S2 Pro first displays a low resolution version of the image before a higher quality version, to increase the speed of browsing. The histogram mode allows you to view information on the red, green and blue channels individually.
Playback Menu  

Camera modes

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewThe modes are controlled by a dial on the upper left of the body. They are:
  • P Multi-Programmed Auto
  • S Shutter-Priority Auto
  • A Aperture-Priority Auto
  • M Manual

Also on this mode dial are options to allow you to set up custom functions of the camera and change the ISO.

Below this mode dial is another selection switch, which provides a choice of shooting modes. These are:

  • Multiple Exposure
  • Self-Timer
  • Continuous Shooting
  • Single Frame

In addition to these basic modes and functions, the S2 Pro provides:

  • Auto Exposure Bracketing - for taking the same shot with different exposure settings.
  • AE Lock - for setting the exposure for a specific subject in the shot.
  • Matrix, Centre-weighted and Spot metering. The metering area can move to follow the focus area.
  • Exposure compensation and Flash exposure compensation.
  • Auto, two custom and six preset white balance modes.
  • Autofocus area selection.
Viewfinder and LCD screen

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewFujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewThe LCD, although not as large as on some more expensive SLR bodies, is very sharp and has good colour fidelity.

It is protected by a transparent white plastic cover that is included with the camera.

The viewfinder has the same useful optional grid overlay we've seen in other Digital SLRs recently. Diopter adjustment of -1.8 to +0.8m-1 is possible.

Connections
Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewThe S2 Pro is one of only a few digital cameras that come with both USB and Firewire connections. We tested the difference in download speed between the two of these, by transferring 90 megabytes of RAW files to a PC. It took 3min 19sec for USB and 1min 12sec for the Firewire, from a 1Gb Microdrive. With the high resolution of this camera producing such large files, the Firewire connection does offer a very tangible benefit.

Battery-life
Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR reviewThe 4 AA batteries are held in a tray in the base of the body. In addition to these, the S2 relies on two small Lithium CR123A batteries for functions such as charging the flash and auto focus. When these are depleted the camera will not turn on, regardless of how powerful the AA batteries are. If however you remove them, the camera functions as normal, except the flash will not operate.

Image quality
We've already reviewed the Canon D60 and Nikon D100, both of these are also six megapixel digital SLRs, so we had a certain level of expectation with the S2 Pro. Looking at results from our test shots, we were very pleased with the S2's performance. Images showed excellent colour accuracy and looked punchy without overdoing it. Noise levels are not noticeable at the lower ISO settings and whilst pushing the ISO up does increase noise, the amount is comparable with other cameras in this price range.

With cameras reaching these high resolutions, a sharp lens is more important than ever. Most of our shots were taken with the Tamron 28-105SP which is a decent lens, but it was a slightly limiting factor to the image quality seen here. Still, the sharpness level of the S2 pro with this lens is more than adequate and most of our images could be be printed out at as large as A3 no problem.

Ultimately this is a high-end piece of machinery and produces high-end results. Quality at this level and this price would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Even compared to the S1, the S2 predecessor, it is a leap forward.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

The crop below shows a 100% view of a section of the above shot.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

The crop below shows a 100% view of a section of the above shot.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

The crop below shows a 100% view of a section of the above shot.

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Fujifilm S2 Pro Digital SLR review

Verdict
After being impressed by the Canon D60 and Nikon D100, I had a doubt in the back of my mind as to whether the Fuji offering could keep up with the quality of these rival cameras. The best camera of the three is subjective to your requirements, but for many I suspect the S2 will be the winner. It has an excellent feature set, image-quality and good handling, all provided at a sensible price. It's likely to be more popular than the S1 Pro and hats off to Fujifilm for keeping up with the high standards set by Nikon and Canon, and in some ways exceeding them.

In summary the main positive points of the Fujifilm S2 Pro are:

Well designed user interface
Good weight and handling characteristics
Wide selection of features and options
Excellent image quality
12 megapixel mode is optional
Firewire and USB connections
High usable ISO range

Negative points are:

Complication of using two battery types
Exposure compensation is in 1/2 steps
Occasionally camera/menu operation could be faster

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Photographs taken using the Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro

CloudbaseMorning MistFocusThe long trekSilverbackCalm evening on the lakeOpera HouseHead LinesThe Firehills in AprilEarly morningCheviot SheepSilverbackBlurred LinesAtlantic BayMandarin Duck
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