Fujifilm's latest D-SLR delivers improved quality and reduced noise
By Ibarionex R. Perello
When it comes to digital SLRs, resolution is important, yet a high pixel count alone doesn't automatically mean superior results. Today, we're concerned with a camera's ability to render color, reveal shadow and highlight details, and reduce the appearance of noise at high ISO settings. The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro addresses all of these issues while creating a unique niche for itself.
What makes the S3 Pro so distinctive is its 4256 x 2848-pixel Super CCD SR II sensor. This new design incorporates dual sensors at an individual photosite. An S-pixel is the larger of the two pixels and is optimized to record shadow details. An R-pixel, directly adjoining an S-pixel, is significantly smaller and is biased to record highlights. This allows the camera to capture highlight and shadow details in high-contrast scenes. For example, in a landscape scene that the photographer meters to favor the highlights, the S3 Pro will retain more shadow details than comparable digital SLRs. While other cameras might produce shadows with no detail and distracting noise, the S3 Pro captures an image file with detail that holds up even when enlarged to a significant size.
The 6.17 million S-pixels combined with the 6.17 million R-pixels produce a 12-megapixel file. The increased dynamic range and file size are a result of the data produced by the R-pixels, which exist to capture greater degrees of brightness rather than the entire tonal range. Images produced with the S3 Pro output excellent-quality 11x14 and 16x20 enlargements. The camera also features a saturated mode that mimics the qualities of Fujichrome Astia, ideal for those who favor the color saturation and contrast of color slide films. A less-saturated mode is comparable to color negative film.
The S3 Pro has an ISO sensitivity range from 100 to 1600. While an increase in ISO typically has resulted in noise, we found that photographs created at ISO 800 with the S3 Pro were exceptional. Although there was evidence of noise, the color, tonality and contrast were strong, even with bigger enlargements.
Like its predecessor, the S3 Pro is modeled after the Nikon N80 film camera, hence the Nikon F-mount. This means that both Nikon G-series and D-series lenses can be mounted with a 1.5x magnification factor. You can use other Nikon AF lenses, but you lose 3-D Matrix capability.
The complete package provided by the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro makes it a great camera for nature photographers. Its wide dynamic range and film-simulation modes ensure that the camera captures the subtle and telling details of virtually any subject, even under complicated lighting situations. Street Price: $2,499.