Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro Is It 6 Megapixels Or 12? And Does It Matter?
Text and Photos by Joe Farace, May, 2005
The big news about Fujifilm’s FinePix S3 Pro is that it has two kinds
of pixels—shadow and highlight—in its Super CCD SR II sensor. The
larger “S” pixels respond to low light recording shadow detail,
while the smaller “R” pixels capture highlights. Each set produces
six megapixels and since data is added together to produce the final image,
Fujifilm’s new math calls this a 12-megapixel camera, but is it? Out here
in the real world, the answer is: Who cares? The image files created by the
FinePix S3 Pro are big, clean, and flat-out gorgeous.
The flash exposure compensation is useful when using the built-in
flash. Just hold the button and turn the Command Knob, in this
case, selecting –1¼2 stop for this portrait of Colorado
model Ya’mie made using the camera’s Program mode.
Exposure was 1¼125 at f/3.4 using a 35–70mm f/2.8
Nikon AF lens.
What the Super CCD SR II sensor gives that nobody else offers (at least as I
write this) is an adjustable dynamic range that changes the ratios between “S”
and “R” pixels. Function Buttons, under the second, smaller LCD
screen on the camera’s back, offer four choices: Standard (100 percent);
Wide 1 (230 percent) for studio portraits; Wide 2 (400 percent) for outdoor
portraits; and Auto, where the camera chooses between 100–400 percent
depending on the scene.
While the S3 manual and multiple autoexposure modes produce accurate exposures
under average conditions, Fujifilm provides two compensation buttons immediately
behind the shutter release that let you apply adjustments to the overall exposure
You can connect the S3 to a monitor and see the image a lot bigger than the
somewhat small and dim viewfinder view.
Fujifilm’s Hyper-Utility software lets you view raw (and
JPEG too) files and convert them singly or in batches before enhancing
them in Adobe Photoshop or similar editing programs.
A PC connector connects studio strobes at a sync speed of 1¼180. The
built-in flash is useful for fill and snapshots and the S3 uses Nikon’s
D-TTL exposure metering system, but the specs didn’t say if it was compatible
with the SB-800 and SB-600 models that use iTTL. Fujifilm says that those flashes
“are compatible,” but right now only two Nikon cameras are iTTL
compatible. If this is a hot-button issue, make sure before brandishing your
To extract maximum image quality, you’ll want to capture the images in
the RAF CCD-raw file format that provides unadulterated image data from the
23.0x15.5mm chip. Fujifilm lets you take your choice: raw or JPEG. Some cameras
let you capture raw and JPEG files simultaneously, but the S3 doesn’t.
Fujifilm’s Hyper-Utility software lets you view raw and JPEG files and
convert them singly or in batches before enhancing in Adobe Photoshop or other
If you were expecting to use Adobe Photoshop CS to open Fujifilm’s
raw files, think again. This is what you see when looking at RAF
files in Photoshop’s Image Browser: no thumbnails, and a
It’s a good thing because Adobe’s Camera Raw doesn’t currently
recognize RAF files and, in case you’re wondering, Adobe Digital Negative
Converter software doesn’t either. The Mac OS-only iView Media Pro file
and free Windows-based IrfanView (www.irfanview.com)
read Fujifilm raw files, are better than Fujifilm’s FinePix Viewer software,
and do a lot more, too.
Fujifilm claims that the S3 Pro is the “first and only” camera to
offer Film Simulation modes, which will come as a surprise to Epson who includes
similar features with their RD-1. Nevertheless it’s a valuable tool that
lets you choose from standard F1 (think of it as Kodak Portra) to produce smooth
extended tonality or natural skin tones or F2 (think Fujifilm Velvia) with highly
saturated colors. A Black and White mode can be accessed through the Color button
on the rear display panel and you can also capture black-and-white infrared
using appropriate filters. (See “IR 4 U and Me.”)
Other frequently used controls are accessed here including image quality,
white balance and sharpness, making it easy to make changes as you shoot. The
on-screen image of the S3’s 2” LCD preview screen is accurate enough
to make adjustments to the available light or flash with some confidence. Both
screens are protected by a snap-on cap that produced lots of glare in bright
sunlight, so it was removed and never put back on.