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Fujifilm S3 Pro Digital SLR Review

Fujifilm S3 Pro Digital SLR Review - Fujifilm S3 Pro DSLR Review

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro
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This is Fuji's third Digital SLR in the S series of cameras, offering many changes from its predecessor. The camera is still based on the Nikon F mount, supporting a wide range of Nikon compatible lenses. A brand new CCD sensor is used in the S3 Pro to give an outstanding 12.34 million effective pixels, one of the many new features that Fuji promotes.

Main features of the S3 Pro

  • Super CCD SR II sensor delivering 12.34million effective pixels (6.17m S-pixels + 6.17m R-pixels)
  • 4256 x 2848 (12.1 million) recorded pixels
  • Film simulation modes to replicate the results of various reversal and professional portrait colour negative films
  • Improved and adjustable dynamic range by changing the mixing ratio of S and R pixels
  • New ergonomic design
  • Dual shutter release buttons (for horizontal/vertical orientation)
  • Dual LCD monitors
  • New 2in, 235,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Sensitivity: ISO100, 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Shutter speed: 30 sec to 1/4000
  • Exposure compensation: +/-3 EV range, in ½ steps
  • Dual flash interfaces to support hot shoe and synchro terminal options
  • D-TTL flash metering
  • Selectable RAW capture modes
  • USB 2.0 and firewire connectivity
  • XD-picture card and Compact flash/Microdrive compatibility
  • HS-V2 Ver. 3.0 Software included with the camera

S3 Pro handling
When first picking up the camera I was unsure if it would be comfortable to handle, due to the vertical grip. But my fears were soon displaced; the ergonomic grip is very comfortable. The actual grip on the camera is chunkier than the S2, giving a firmer handle to the camera. It is easy to hold for extended periods due to the thought given by Fuji to the camera grip.

Apart from the grip, the top controls of the camera are similar in layout and use to those on the S2, I found it very easy to switch from one to the other. The rear layout has been altered slightly, but functionality is the same, apart from additional few functions, such as the film simulation modes.

Turning it 90 degrees the second shutter comes into play; it features a lock to prevent accidental firing of the shutter. Unfortunately if the auto stand-by mode is set, this shutter release will not wake up the camera. A minor point, but it can result in a lost image as you switch to the main shutter release.

Software
Unlike the previous models in the Fuji DSLR range, the S3 includes the Hyper Utility Software HS-V2 (Ver. 3.0), this includes Fuji ’s full RAW conversion, an image viewer, PC Control and expanded colour processing options.

The RAW conversion software is very easy to use, and only took a few minutes to get to grips with. It offers options to tweak all the settings or leave it as the camera settings, both providing excellent results. Images can be converted individually or as a batch of images.

Utilising the new Super CCD SR II sensor with the expanded dynamic range on the software images take on a new life, detail in both highlights and shadows can be brought out, giving a bigger range of tone and contrast. The only downside to this is the 25Mb RAW file, the size slows down the write speeds enormously. When the standard range is used, the RAW files are a similar size as the S2, at 13Mb.

Menu System
The menu set up is similar to that of the S2, access is gained using the menu or play buttons on the rear of the camera. Menu control is via the directional pad and OK/Back buttons. This is the same when reviewing images on the rear LCD.
A third menu can be accessed for the custom functions when the appropriate mode is selected on the top dial.

Camera modes
The different shooting modes are controlled by a dial on the top left of the body. They are:

  • P Multi-Programmed auto
  • S Shutter-Priority auto
  • A Aperture-Priority auto
  • M Manual

This dial also allows you to set up custom functions of the camera and change the ISO.

Below this mode dial is another selection switch, which is locked by a small button, this selects the type of shooting modes. These are:

  • Multiple exposure
  • Self-Timer
  • Continuous shooting
  • Single frame

In addition to these basic modes and functions, the S3 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
Looking through the viewfinder, it may appear the same as the Fuji S2, but image magnification has been increased from 0.75x to 0.8x magnification, the larger image allows easier composition and focusing. It has also been raised to 24 mm, compared to 17mm on the S2 model.

The five focus points light up when selected and the camera focused, on demand grid lines are selectable via the menus. The usual information is available just under the image in the viewfinder. Shutter Speed, Aperture, AE lock, under/over exposure, flash, metering.

Dioptre adjustment is available (-2.0 to +1.0)

Connections
There are two connections on the camera to link it up to a PC; these are USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 Firewire, giving high speed data transfer. The IEEE 1394 Firewire connection works in conjunction with the PC control software, allowing images to be saved directly to your PC’s hard drive.

Battery life
During the test of the camera it was used on one set of batteries for two 12 hour shoots in extremely cold conditions, the camera was left on at all times shooting a combination of RAW and high quality JPEG’s. An average of 500 shots was taken, and the batteries still had power available. The power source is just 4 AA batteries, unlike the previous models, which required an additional set of CR2 Lithium batteries.

Image Quality
Picture quality is high, but still dependant on good quality lenses being used. Colour rendition is accurate, and utilising the extended Dynamic range retains detail in both highlights and shadow areas. The camera boasts a 6.17 million pixel sensor, which can be interpolated to 12.34 million pixels.

Results using film Simulation mode (click on small pics to see larger versions)

Normal mode Film simulation 1 - Reala Film simulation 2 - Velvia

Click pics below to see full 2867x4269 pixel files...these may take a while to download depending on the speed of your computer.

Verdict
As a current S2 user I found the camera very easy to adapt to, in fact it was harder using the S2 when the camera was returned. Immediate reaction was the grip had been vastly improved, as had the weight and balance. Using just one set of batteries offered a better solution as well.

Image quality was hard to split the S2 and S3, unless the extended dynamic range was used. Overall it was well laid out, with the main controls well placed.

In summary the main positive points of the Fujifilm S3 Pro are:

ePHOTOzine positive ratingErgonomic Grip
ePHOTOzine positive ratingExtended Dynamic Range for improved highlight and shadow detail
ePHOTOzine positive ratingSingle set of batteries
ePHOTOzine positive ratingVertical grip and Shutter release
ePHOTOzine positive ratingOptional 12 million pixel image capture
ePHOTOzine positive ratingUser friendly controls

Negative points are:

ePHOTOzine positive ratingSlow write speeds with dynamic range enabled for RAW capture
ePHOTOzine positive ratingVertical shutter release does not wake the camera from sleep
ePHOTOzine positive ratingMenu options locked out when writing image to card
ePHOTOzine positive ratingPricing in comparison to competitor models (at time of release)

Test by Matt Wagster

YOU CAN BUY THE FUJIFILM S3 PRO here

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Photographs taken using the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro

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