Fujifilm's FinePix S20 Pro--Small Camera, Big Results
Unique Chip Makes It Stand Out On A Crowded Field Page 2

I don't want to get bogged down with specs so we can get to the real meat of the report, and that is how the camera performs, so I'm just hitting some of the high points or areas that stand out. One thing that will really catch your eye is the fact that the shutter ranges from 30 seconds to 1/10,000 sec in manual! It's got the usual auto and program settings, exposure compensation of two stops in either direction, auto and manual white balance, and many flash combinations (from auto to suppressed to redeye to slow sync). You can also connect an external flash via a sync terminal. It's powered by four AA batteries of alkaline or Ni-MH variety or via the AC adapter. Figure about 300 plus exposures on a set of fresh batteries. And lastly, an important requirement of any camera considered by pros, the camera can capture in raw format. Now that you've got an idea of what makes this baby tick, let's get to shooting.

First, let's look at some of this camera's strong points. The lens is fabulous. I typically use a 28-105mm f/2.8 lens on my digital SLRs and it's heavy; this thing is a featherweight. You do have to use the buttons on the camera back for zooming operation so it's a little slower than turning a lens manually, but it's no big deal. My files all looked sharp with great contrast and the focus seemed more accurate and quicker than my FinePix S2 Pro.

This studio portrait of Meghan Quimby is untouched except for some very minor retouching. I loved the color right "out of the box" using just auto white balance.

Then there's the body. It fits easily in the hand, is very light, has a built-in flash with plenty of options, a hot shoe, and an external connection. High marks again for all these things. And one of the reasons I like my Fuji Pro cameras is the great color it delivers. This camera continues that tradition. My studio model shots had wonderful skin tones even on auto white balance.

As a pro, I've never used a camera with an electronic viewfinder, so I had an acclimation period. Once I got used to the fact that the finder wouldn't keep up with me on a slide to second base but was very bright and I could also use the monitor to compose, we became friends. If you're doing fast-moving sports, this probably isn't the rig for you, but I don't believe the intended market is for Indy 500 shooters. For 95 percent of the other things you shoot, it'll be just fine.

The camera was fine for informal shots like this at a wedding. While the built-in flash worked well, redeye and side shadows with vertical shots dictate an auxiliary flash be used.

Again, the menu system takes a little getting used to and a careful read of the instruction book is highly recommended. For example, I had been using studio flash with a model. When we went outside to take more images, I wanted to try the fill flash. With instruction book in hand and my model waiting patiently, I couldn't get it back to the flash! The menu system wouldn't budge because I was shooting in Auto mode and I had to put it in one of the other modes, even though the fill flash was to be used in Auto mode. Hmmm. We didn't get to use it. Remember, too, I didn't major in rocket science and I'm not the most patient guy in the world.

I've also got a small gripe about the power and viewing switch. To turn the camera on, you turn the main dial around the shutter release to either the shooting mode or the viewing/video mode. The shooting mode is last and to view images you've taken, you must turn the dial back. I have small hands and repeatedly would turn the camera off when trying to access the viewing mode. I got it down, but a gentle touch is required.

Want to see what extended dynamic range looks like? This side by side comparison of the same high contrast image taken at the same exposure shows the benefits of the new chip. The Hyper Utility software has a "show warnings" feature that will show image areas that are overexposed and underexposed. The left image was taken with the FinePix S20 Pro camera, the right with my FinePix S2 Pro. The red sections are "blown out" highlights. The difference when looking at the prints is just as dramatic and easily noticeable.

In the final analysis, what separates this camera from many other similar models is the SR chip. Again, I'm sure David Brooks or one of the more technical guys could explain it to you really well. Here's my down-and-dirty take on it: Big sensor for low light. Smaller sensor for brighter light. Sandwich the two together and you get both shadow and highlight detail in the same image. How's that? It may not be scientifically correct but in real world results, which is what I deal with every day, it works. It's because of advances like this that film's days are numbered except for niche markets. Can you imagine the technology five years from now? No, I can't either.

I can tell you that when Fuji announced the FinePix S3 Pro and I saw the chip size was the same as the FinePix S2 Pro, I thought, why bother? But it does have the bigger version of this SR chip with the extended dynamic range. Look at the photos and you'll see the results are quite dramatic. Looks like my wallet will be taking another hit!

Put together the great lens, SR technology, raw format, Hyper Utility software, low weight, and a street price of about $800, and you've got a very desirable combination. This should fly off the dealer shelves.