Heart of the matter
The biggest improvement to this camera is its new 12.3MP (effective) Super CCD SR sensor, which captures a 4256x2848-pixel (12.1MP) image using 6.17 million S sensors and 6.17 million smaller R sensors (see explanation above).
According to Fuji, this arrangement gives the S3 Pro higher resolution, better color reproduction, and a 400-percent greater dynamic range than the S2 Pro. The dynamic range can also be adjusted by changing the ratio between S and R pixels (four settings in-camera, or fine-tuning in the supplied RAW conversion software).
Other imaging features include 14 bits per color, a new digital signal processor that should improve signal-to-noise ratio, and two built-in film simulation modes. The first of these mimics a saturated chrome film, such as Fujifilm Astia, and the second mimics a medium-contrast color-negative portrait film. Two other custom "film" settings can be applied using the supplied RAW file-conversion software. The camera also features an ISO range from 100 to 1600, as well as extensive custom and preset white balance settings (Kelvin temperature adjustments are only available in RAW converter software). Let's hope the low noise levels of the S2 Pro at higher ISO settings will migrate to the S3 Pro. Color accuracy will certainly benefit from the color space choices that now include sRGB and Adobe RGB.
A unique feature of this camera should thrill still-life and low-light shooters: When the camera is set to mirror lockup to prevent vibration at slow shutter speeds (often necessary for increased depth of field), a black-and-white image is output through the S3 Pro's video connector. (This signal lasts for 30 seconds to prevent CCD damage.) With the camera attached to a TV monitor, you can then fine-tune the focus or adjust composition prior to capture.
For action sequences, the S3 Pro captures up to six frames at 1.5 fps in JPEG mode, or up to three frames in RAW mode (12.1MP setting). Not so hot, but faster frame rates of up to 3 fps and 12 images are achievable at 6.1MP (R pixels only) settings. In playback mode, you can now zoom in and scroll around images, which appear much sharper due to the larger 2-inch LCD. You can also tag images for printing via DPOF standard, and the S3 Pro is now compatible with PictBridge printers.
While it's too early to make a call on the S3 Pro's image quality, the AF system and metering controls are fairly well-known entities and similar to those on the S2 Pro and Nikon N80. It would have been nice if the S3 Pro packed a faster, more sensitive AF system similar to the one on the new Nikon D70, and we wish Fuji hadn't removed the voice annotation feature. However, the sheer number of improvements and advanced features we already found in the S3 Pro, including its size and balance, its potentially wide dynamic range, expanded flash compatibility, image quality choices and settings, and better power system, should excite any photographer looking for the ultimate image quality and a very good price.
What's Hot: High-resolution 12.3MP Super CCD SR sensor with wide dynamic range. CF and xD-Picture card slots. Accepts F-mount Nikkor lenses, D-TTL flash units, and Nikon accessories.
What's Not: 1.5X 35mm lens factor limits ultra-wide fields of view. Maximum 1/4000 shutter speed and 1/180 flash sync a bit slow for action shots. No voice-annotation. Sluggish burst mode in 12.1MP setting.