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29713 10/13/2012
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  • 12.34-megapixel SuperCCD SR II makes files as large as 4,256 x 2,848 pixels (6.45 million "S" pixels and 6.45 million "R" pixels)
  • New Dynamic Range adjustment for better tonal control in harsh lighting
  • "Live" mode turns LCD monitor into a monochrome viewfinder - a new feature for digital SLRs
  • Superb resolution
  • Accepts most Nikon F mount lenses

Fuji's original S1 Pro did well partly due to its beautiful color rendering, and partly due to a price that was thousands of dollars less than other D-SLRs at the time of its introduction. The following S2 model genuinely amazed me with its resolution and how delicately it rendered fine detail. I really liked its user interface design, with the small rear-panel data readout and "soft buttons" below it, and was very impressed overall with the camera's capabilities. The S2 offered very nice color rendering as well.

Now comes the S3 Pro, a camera that takes a somewhat different path, trading off image resolution to achieve dramatically greater dynamic range. Its body size and design will prompt many to compare it with lower-end (and much cheaper) "prosumer" d-SLRs, but that's not really a fair comparison, given its amazing imaging capabilities. When it comes to preserving difficult highlights without disturbing the tonality or color rendition of the rest of the image, the Fujifilm S3 Pro is unquestionably without equal anywhere in the digital camera market. If you're a wedding photographer, perpetually challenged by the need to capture white-on-white detail under difficult lighting conditions, you shouldn't even think twice. -- This is the camera you need, it'll save you thousands of dollars in lost shots and missed opportunities, most likely in the first few jobs alone. Portrait and commercial photographers should find a lot of benefit in the S3 Pro's exceptional dynamic range as well, as it could help relax lighting requirements (and therefore setup times) quite a bit. The one minor negative note about the S3 Pro's amazing dynamic range performance is that you really need to work in RAW mode and process its files through Adobe's Camera Raw 2 Photoshop(tm) plugin to get the absolute most out of it. (That said though, JPEGs straight from the camera do noticeably better with difficult highlights than even images processed from RAW files from competing d-SLRs.)

Other camera parameters are fairly middle-of the road, with less than spectacular shot to shot speeds, and mediocre battery life. It's easy to forgive these minor shortcomings though, in exchange for the incredible dynamic range the S3 offers.

Bottom line, Fujifilm appears to have achieved exactly what they set out to do with the S3 Pro, delivering a camera with dynamic range that equals or exceeds that of film, with excellent color and tonal rendition in the bargain. Highly recommended, especially if your work involves a lot of tricky highlight detail. (An easy Dave's Pick.)

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Keywords: Fujifilm SLR CF xD APS-C 2x6MP


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