Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution, better than the average six megapixel
- Good color and tonal balance, vibrant 'pleasing' color response, can be toned down
- Unique extended dynamic range SuperCCD, although crippled by in-camera algorithms
- Low noise throughout the sensitivity range although softer images at higher ISO's
- Nice body design, integral vertical grip, soft rubbers, feels robust
- Instantly recognizable control system (as it's based on the F80/N80)
- Rear panel plus soft buttons design is useful for quickly changing settings
- Fast in use, near instant power on, CF interface slower than we would have liked
- Good auto focus, works well even in low light, AF assist lamp
- Image parameter adjustment (color, tone, sharpness), although limited
- Selectable color space (sRGB / Adobe RGB)
- RAW mode provides the 'digital negative' (although very large in wide dyn. range mode)
- Now single battery solution, a single Lithium-Ion rechargeable would have been better
- Large high resolution LCD monitor
- Dual data connectivity; USB 2.0 and Firewire (IEEE 1394)
- Built-in PC Sync terminal
Conclusion - Cons
- Almost $1,000 more than the competition
- SuperCCD artifacts still visible, more so at the 12 mp size (which delivers the best res)
- Disappointing continuous shooting capability, especially in wide dyn. range mode
- Crippled extended dynamic range feature, best results from RAW -> Adobe Camera RAW
- Very large RAW files in wide dyn. range mode, not compressed
- Half-stop exposure steps
- Camera system still in 'two halves' (photo / digital)
- No mirror lock-up / anti-vibration mode
- Wake from sleep only with half-press of shutter release
- Flash sync 1/180 sec (compared to 1/500 sec for the Nikon D70)
- Confusing record review options, no simple postview with histogram & delete option
- Play mode image deletion slowed by animation
- Largest and heaviest digital SLR among its peers
- Awkward ISO selection on mode dial
- Viewfinder view is smaller than some of the competition
- Hyper-Utility2 has limited range of adjustment latitude, bettered by Adobe Camera RAW
There's plenty to like about the S3 Pro, there's a new body design which is comfortable, includes a portrait grip and feels robust. There's the image quality, resolution which for a six megapixel is really fairly impressive (if you can ignore some of SuperCCD artifacts), a color response with real 'pop', low noise (although softer images at high ISO's) and slightly better dynamic range than other D-SLR's.
The S3 Pro's unique selling feature, its extended dynamic range, really does exist and does work. We measured up to 10 stops of dynamic range in the camera's "Wide 2" mode, however it's seldom that this would be obvious in everyday shots. The reason for this is that in wide dynamic range mode you get the gain only in the highlights, it would have made sense to instead have the option of a completely different tone curve and expose for shadows to spread the additional dynamic range across the tonal scale rather than just in highlights (we often don't mind clipped highlights as long as the roll-off is smooth).
More interesting however were the results we got from Adobe Camera RAW, this revealed that there is quite a lot more dynamic range information available in the S3 Pro's RAW files than are being extracted by either the camera's processing (JPEG) or Fujifilm's own Hyper-Utility2. This is in effect crippling the apparently more impressive capability of the SuperCCD SR II sensor.
We really liked the S2 Pro, so much so that we gave it a Highly Recommended, at the time it was a great camera compared to the competition. We're now two and a half years on from that point in time and the digital SLR market has moved on. Prices have plummeted, features and image quality improved, the market's expectations of what this level of D-SLR should be capable of has shifted noticeably, at its price the S3 Pro is going to struggle to compete.
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