• Price When Reviewed: 1360

  • Pros: Mid-range Nikon-compatible digital SLR camera with innovative and very effective sensor that captures wide tonal range of highlights and shadows.

  • Cons: Relatively expensive. Won’t capture 12million real image pixels. Fairly slow frame-rate and card-writing when shooting wide range.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Fuji’s FinePix Pro series of digital SLRs has always trodden an independent path, but the new S3 Pro camera is the most radical yet. Its standout feature is the ability to capture an extended dynamic range compared to normal digital SLRs. It holds more shadow tones without the highlights burning out.

In general terms, the FinePix S3 Pro is a well-specified camera based on a modified Nikon F80 mid-range film camera body, with Nikon exposure and autofocus controls linked to Fuji’s own sensor and digital control set.

There’s a good range of features, such as the PC and hotshoe D-TTL compatible flash connectors, dual memory card slots (Compact Flash and xD), FireWire and USB 2.0 ports. It’s very responsive, with a fast start-up, but the maximum frame rate of 2.5fps is a bit slow.

The modified body now includes a second shutter button on the lower corner to help with portrait-orientation shooting. Fuji fits a second LCD icon menu and a row of selector buttons above the main monitor, so you can quickly swap the ‘digital’ settings.

As well as the usual choice of sRGB and Adobe colour models, the S3 Pro can simulate different film stocks – one produces the wide latitude of colour negative while the other gives the punchier colour contrast of transparency.

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The sensitivity range is respectable, with choices ranging from ISO100 to 1600 in six steps. As ever, the 800 and 1600 levels are fairly noisy. 
A new RAW capture format is introduced, though you can also choose TIFF and JPEG. The Fuji software includes a simple RAW converter for batches of images, plus the more elaborate HS-V2 3.0 RAW converter that offers basic editing before conversion. 
Fuji’s latest Super-CCD SR II sensor has two types of photodiode, arranged in pairs. S sensors are tuned for normal light sensitivity and the R for less sensitivity. S sensors capture the medium and shadow tones, while the less-sensitive R sensors capture highlight tones where normal sensors would burn out to white. The results are electronically combined.<BR>
There are 6.17million pairs of sensors in a staggered pattern, so Fuji claims this is a 12mp camera. Nevertheless it only captures six million pixels in total. 
While other camera makers concentrate on resolution, Fuji is to be commended for improving the tonal and colour characteristics of the FinePix S3 Pro. This really does pay off in real-world conditions outside the studio. However, it’s almost twice as expensive as Nikon’s broadly similar D100, though that has a conventional six-megapixel sensor.
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