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Design

Based on the F60 the S1 Pro is made of strong high-impact plastic, the chunky hand grip fits perfectly into your hand, on the back your thumb rests comfortably against the 45 degree angled edge (or on the command wheel or 4-way controller if necessary). On top is the pop-up flash unit. The base, making the camera deeper than the F60 is where FujiFilm's electronics and the four batteries live, as they're on the left side of the camera it does tend to make the camera feel a very slightly left-side weighted. With a decent Nikkor lens the camera has a weighty but not "heavy" feel.. I'd like to have seen FujiFilm including a wrist strap (as there's obviously an attachment for one) which always makes carrying an SLR easier.


Top Information LCD

The top LCD on the S1 Pro provides the same photographic "camera information" that you'd find on the F60 body, exposure, flash, compensation and battery status.

It's worth noting that the battery status on this LCD represents the status of the two Lithium batteries which drive the camera (rather than the AA batteries which drive the digital / LCD portion) - the status of those batteries is on the rear LCD.


Rear Function LCD

The rear function LCD (which illuminates unlike the top LCD) displays information about the status of the digital portion of the camera, it also acts as a mini menu system (instead of using the main LCD and thus saving valuable power). Various basic functions such as changing white balance, ISO, sharpening and accessing histogram, deleting / accepting previews etc. are carried out on this LCD.

Exact functions detailed in the operation section of this review.


Rear LCD Display

The rear LCD is large (2"), bright and clear with bags of resolution (200,000 pixels vs. the "normal" 110,000 pixels) and great colour reproduction. Brightness can be adjusted at any time and has a useful enough range to be bright enough even outside in bright light.

Strangely the LCD has a 4:3 image ratio which means that the image you see has been cropped horizontally.

 

A few suggested improvements: (1) Anti-reflective coating for screen (2) Display of a standard grayscale when adjusting brightness - sometimes it's difficult to tell if you just underexposed the image or you didn't set the brightness correctly. (3) A clip-on cover "D1 style" to protect the LCD for those photographers who don't use it all the time or for transporting the camera.


Viewfinder

As you'd expect of an SLR the viewfinder is excellent, big and clear, dioptric adjustment of -1.5 to +1.0 dpt. The view through the viewfinder shows the focus brackets and center-weighted metering area (photo above has the top cropped off.. Difficult shot to take). There's also useful status bar displaying the following information: Focus Indicator (goes solid with a good AF lock or accurate manual focus, flashes to indicate auto focus system could not lock), Shutter Speed, Aperture, Exposure Compensation / Meter, Flash mode / ready icon.

Although the view through the viewfinder looks as though it's been masked (because of the difference in frame size betwen 35 mm and CCD) it's hard to tell and the view is still large enough.


Battery compartment(s)

This came as quite a surprise to several people I spoke to and shows that the S1 Pro is still really two systems, although they communicate they still require separate power supplies. Thus the first battery compartment housed on the left side of the camera's base contains 4 x AA batteries (NiMH rechargeables supplied) which drive the digital side of the camera (and the function & main LCD). The second battery compartment is in the base of the handgrip and contains two (pricey) CR123A Lithium batteries which drive the camera engine (top LCD, focusing, shutter release, flash, AF assist light).

The status of each set of batteries also appear in different places. The Lithium batteries status is shown on the top information LCD. The AA's batteries status is shown on the rear information LCD. Oh, and there's actually a third battery, a small CR2025 button style battery for maintaining camera memory and date & time.

I personally think it's a shame that FujiFilm didn't tackle this well enough... Digital Cameras are all about zero shot cost, the ability to shoot and shoot and only need to recharge your batteries. In effect the Lithium batteries place a cost-per-shot on the S1 Pro, although it's likely to be so tiny as not to be important, it's still there (and indeed the Lithium batteries in our loan camera did fail about half way through the review.. Although that's not "typical use" and we didn't know the status of the batteries before receiving the camera).


Storage Compartment

Another surprise at the time of the initial press release was the fact that the camera supports dual media. FujiFilm, knowing that 64 MB SmartMedia cards wouldn't be enough for a camera pumping out 2.5 MB JPEG's needed to be able to support CF Type II cards, more specifically the Microdrive. They also can't rock the apple cart too much and dump SmartMedia altogether so there you have it... The S1 Pro supports both.

Interestingly they're pushing the Microdrive in several over-the-counter bundles I've seen for the S1 Pro (not a bad idea saying you can get 144 6.1 megapixel and around 230 3.5 megapixel shots on a single 340MB Microdrive, and then there's always the new 1 GB Microdrive...).

Switching between media is done through the setup menu and takes only a second or two. A small icon on the rear information LCD indicates which "media slot" you're currently using. The door to the storage compartment closes using a magnetic latch which works very well and it's location means changing media is quick and safe. (Note you can use either Type I or Type II Compact Flash in the CF slot and up to 64 MB SmartMedia cards in the SM slot).


Connections

Connections are found behind a rubber cover below the lens mount. There's a mini-USB connector, 5V DC in (for external power supplies) and a video out connector. FujiFilm provide USB drivers for Windows 2000, Windows 98 and Mac, interestingly there's also a utility provided which allows you to remotely control the camera from your computer, setup time lapse and to image previews directly to the screen... very neat. (More of that in the Software section of this review).

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