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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.

Exposure Control
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 or flash.

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 gold card.

Raw Power
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 editing programs.

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 warning.

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 browser (www.iview-multimedia.com) 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.

Multi-Screen Multiplex
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.

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