Fujifilm’s FinePix S3 Pro
It Isn’t Just About Pixels Anymore

Photos © 2004, Steve Bedell, All Rights Reserved

Like most photographers, before I try out new equipment on clients, I test it thoroughly. Yeah, right. It's digital so why bother? We can see the picture right off, so let's get shooting! And so it was with this camera. The day after I got it I was booked in the studio all day with sessions, so after a few quick test shots, a gray card, and my "white textured pillow 255 density check," I was off to the races. I took a family portrait, ran downstairs to download it, and watched the images pop up on my monitor. Yikes! I was underexposed! What did I do wrong?

The answer: nothing! Because as you'll see as you read on the files from this camera look a little different than the files from most other cameras, including my Fuji FinePix S2 Pro. After opening the files in Photoshop and checking my histogram and density numbers, I saw they were fine. The only difference is they looked a little "flat," not quite as contrasty as my other files. There was something different, a little unique--wait! I know what it is--they look more like film!

And so it is. Fuji's stated goal was to attempt a more "film-like" look to the files from this camera. With the expanded dynamic range that the FinePix S3 Pro offers, it's now possible to obtain greater shadow and highlight detail at the same time. This sensor now has a wider dynamic range than transparency film, so can matching and exceeding color negative film be that far off?




These images below show just some of the control you have in the camera just by changing the contrast setting. File A is set on "Org," file B on Normal, file C on Hard. Model: William Daughtry.

While nice to have in the studio, it's even more important in the field. It will be easier to get detail in both that black tux and white dress. That previously "blown-out" sky will now have detail. Those pesky "hot spots" in the background of outdoor portraits will now have detail, as will that backlit hair on that blonde model. With the earlier information as a preface, let's back up a little now and look at some of the features one at a time that make this camera attractive to the target audience--the portrait and wedding shooter. I would think the same features might also be attractive to the commercial, landscape, and fashion shooter.

The Body: Since I already own a Fuji FinePix S1 Pro and FinePix S2 Pro, I'll be referring to them often for comparison, especially the more recent FinePix S2 Pro. If you've been shooting a FinePix S2 Pro or Nikon model camera before this, you'll feel right at home. I pretty much knew where everything was the minute I laid hands on it. I can tell you right off the bat that this body is better. It's a one-piece polycarbonate job, which means it feels more "rubbery" and solid. It also has a vertical shutter release, a first for me, and something I could get used to in a hurry. I wish they carried the tacky surface to the bottom of the body also. In addition to a PC connection and a hot shoe, the camera has a built-in flash, becoming more standard every day in this class of cameras. Many times I'll just put on a 28mm lens and use the built-in flash if needed when I'm at a family gathering. It's lightweight and much more convenient than a flash and bracket. The body also supports USB 2.0 and FireWire for high-speed transfer of images when downloading from the camera body and both xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash slots for the media. I did most of the test shooting with a CompactFlash card and loading through a card reader. Start up is also much improved, being ready to shoot in 1/2 sec.

This photo shows the beautiful tonality when using the Film Simulation mode. The camera processor overrides the tone, color, and sharpness settings and then mixes it all up to produce beautiful skin tones. I would just leave it on when doing people photos. The F1 mode is suggested for portraits, while the F2 mode emulates transparency film and is useful for scenics.

The body continues to use Nikon mount lenses, has a higher resolution LCD display, and has dumped the funky two battery type system in favor of one set of four AA Ni-MH batteries. The camera is also fully compatible with Nikon flashes for dedicated metering capabilities and allows the user to choose between sRGB and Adobe RGB color space, the latter more applicable for commercial shooters.