I Want in a Fujifilm S3 Pro Versus What We Got
time to see what we got versus what we wanted
an S3 Pro Wish List on my site for a year now. Now that Fujifilm
has announced the S3 Pro and released more details, let's see how they did:
- A rechargeable
lithium main battery. It's okay if Fujifilm sticks with the current
two-battery design, but only if they fix the primary battery power issue:
NiMH AA batteries barely get it done, as the power curve on NiMH tends
to let the camera eventually droop into a zone where the S2 Pro gets
a bit unpredictable and unreliable (e.g., it lets you take the shot,
but then posts ERR when it fails to find enough power to write it to
the card). Easy fix: engineer a rechargeable lithium battery that's
the size of the current tray, and a matching charger for the new battery.
(It's easy because Fujifilm doesn't even have to do the engineering--there
are plenty of outsource choices that could do this, leaving Fujifilm's
engineering team to deal with the other issues.)
Nope. They did simplify the battery situation,
which is a big plus, but we're still stuck with AA batteries, which
means no rechargeable lithium. Fortunately, this is still something
that can be fixed post-ship, and I urge Fujifilm into looking into
providing an optional lithium pack and charger. On the plus side, Fujifilm supplies 2300mAh NiMH batteries with the camera.
the histogram display. Can
anyone really tell where the histogram ends and the borders begin? I
can't. And that means that you can't maximize the dynamic range of the
camera without potentially blowing out the highlights. Fujifilm needs
to look at how Nikon implemented this function (or what Kodak did with
the DCS Pro 14n). While they're at it, I'd like an explanation about
why values are limited to 252,252,252 and whether the edge of the histogram
reflects 252,252,252 or 255,255,255. And since we're updating this display,
an optional Highlights function that shows any area that has values
beyond 250 in any channel would be nice.
Not really changed. Pity.
up the chassis under the mirror box and check the focus sensor
carefully. Nikon's autofocus sensors live at the bottom of the
mirror box, looking up at the partially silvered mirror. They are
sensitive to positioning, and any misplacement or movement on their
part tends to produce back focus or front focus or just plain misfocus.
I've seen enough S2 Pros with slight focus problems to wonder about
the rigidity of the structure holding the autofocus sensors (perhaps
they're even moving due to changes in materials due to temperature
variations). Moreover, the only other Nikon bodies to ever show this
kind of problem
all have one thing in common: there's a built-in battery compartment
underneath the main body (e.g., I've never heard of an N80 that experiences
this issue, but the Nikon D1 models most certainly have it). I haven't
had any focusing problems on my S2 Pro (nor the prototype I used for
several months), but it can't hurt to over-engineer this section and
tighten alignment procedures.
For the most part, fixed. The body has had a thorough
going over, and obvious weak points in the body structure and design
have been fixed. The S3 Pro feels somewhat more robust than the S2 Pro, and touches like the rubber grip add to that feeling. But beyond feeling, the materials used for the body itself are very similar to the S2 Pro.
the CompactFlash card issues. We've got a whole bunch of minor
problems here, and they all are software related. First, we have
issues. Every other DSLR competitor can write images to storage while
displaying them on the LCD, so it's time Fujifilm catches up.
are actually a whole lot of subtle things that could be done to improve
this aspect of the S2 Pro; off the top of my head I can think
of a half-dozen
variants Fujifilm hasn't tried, almost any of which would be better
than what they used. Then we have the folder mess. If you look
Kodak has implemented folders, it's a heap better than Fujifilm (or
even Nikon) have managed. Apparently, "branding" the
folder on the camera is more important than giving the user
an aside, in-camera software designed in the US, primarily by Kodak
and HP, tends to be better organized, more logical, more flexible,
in intent, and better thought out than anything I've seen from the
Japanese companies. I think is partly due to the way software
is designed in
the US, with product managers and other non-engineers playing key roles
in design decisions. It's also partly because the Japanese companies
just constantly engineer products rather than design them--their software
is much more tactical than strategic.) Next, the Fuji S2 Pro
have troubles with many standard memory-based CompactFlash cards. Indeed,
the manual makes no mention of any CompactFlash storage except
There's something inherently wrong when the mechanical Microdrive posts
faster saves than do memory-based standard cards. Further, not
CompactFlash seems to work well in the S2 Pro. Fujifilm needs to work
with the memory-based manufacturers and get the S3 Pro up to
this respect. Also, support for 32-bit FAT formatted cards is going
to be necessary going forward, so let's add that to the list
WA (write acceleration) support.
Not enough progress, IMHO. The biggest issue is that the S3 Pro writes larger files than the S2 Pro but doesn't seem to have any more horsepower in the write-to-card interface. In a word, slow. Beyond that, my other complaints haven't really been dealt with.
the camera be active. When the camera goes inactive, only pressing
the shutter release allows the camera to come back to the active state.
That means that you have to press the shutter release partway before
pressing the Play, Func, or Menu buttons, which is an inconvenience
at best and certainly not what the user expects. Let those three buttons
reactivate the camera, too. This is an area where the N80 body is a
bit of a problem, as it has no external 10-pin connector, and thus no
obvious place from which to trigger reactivation (putting voltage on
one of those pins activates the F100, for example). Still, I'm betting
that there's an internal bus that can be linked, especially since Kodak
and Nikon have both implemented the 10-pin connector on their N80-based
bodies and neither have any problems getting digital buttons to activate
Unknown until cameras appear for testing.
us some balance. White
balance options with the S2 Pro are a mixed bunch. It's nice that we
have two options for custom balances and multiple options for fluorescent
lighting. But for virtually every other situation we have little flexibility
at all, and some slightly questionable color temperatures on top of
that. The daylight color temp is a little high, the flash a little low.
And, unfortunately, we have no way to correct those things (note that
daylight varies with locale, with Japan's Northern location producing
a different daylight color temperature than, say, the Galapagos Islands
on the equator). Nikon allows us to run variants on all their white
balance settings, and Fujifilm needs to do the same. With the Pro 14n,
Canon 10D, and Nikon D2h all allowing almost any Kelvin setting, Fujifilm
is way behind here.
Yuck. We're stuck with three usable settings outdoors, and no way to fine tune them (other than to drop right down to Custom White Balance). Every other DSLR on the market is more flexible than this.
it's not full frame, modify the viewfinder. One look through an
S2 Pro then a Nikon D100 and you'll see some immediate differences.
I really don't like the big gap between the picture viewing and viewfinder
information area (due to the 1.5x crop and no change in the viewfinder),
so perhaps a "sports finder" (ala the Sigma SD9) would be
one useful compromise and quite simple to implement.
A little relief. The viewfinder isn't quite as tunnel-like as the S2 Pro, but it still doesn't make it up to Canon 20D levels.
to Hoodman. The silly plastic color LCD cover just simply doesn't
cut it; give me something better, such as Hoodman did for the D1. We
need LCD protection that doesn't have to be removed to evaluate an image,
especially given the vulnerable location of the color LCD on the Fujifilm
Yippee, done! The cover now goes over both rear LCDs. The only problem is that it is prone to popping off.
in or out of the software business. Both the Finepix Viewer and
the Raw Converter Software have very amatuerish designs that get in
the way of the few things that each product does. One imagines these
tools being slapped together to fit some marketing requirement rather
than being designed to fit users specific purposes. We've yet to see
a really good digital workflow product from a camera manufacturer (or
even a third party, for that matter), though Kodak is getting closer
and closer and Nikon is giving an earnest effort that shows promise.
Doing software in pieces isn't the way to make users happy or provide
optimum performance (and what's with Japanese engineers and Macintosh
software? Didn't they get their copy of the Macintosh Interface Guidelines?).
It almost makes me want to get back in the software business and design
a real user-oriented product that understands that you want to edit
camera settings and data on the desktop, upload them to the camera,
control the camera while connected, then download and organize and render
the images properly (and all of this with as little user intervention
as possible). My suggestion to Fujifilm: work with some real software
design gurus (hey, I'm for hire ;~) and design a real product, then
engineer it for performance and integration into other existing software.
Hey, if Fujifilm has to sell the full thing to users in order to fund
the development, I'll be one to say that paying $149 for a really good
piece of software isn't an issue if the alternative is to get a free
piece that I'll be constantly fighting.
HS-V2 version 3 comes with the camera, so they're still in the software business, and it still isn't anywhere near a class-leading product in UI or speed of conversion. Sigh.
with the IPTC. I like what Kodak's doing with the DSC Pro 14n: essentially
you enter IPTC information in the Kodak Desktop software, connect your
camera, and upload information that will be written to every
file in the appropriate IPTC fields. This pre-captioning ability is
more than a nice touch, it's a godsend for studio workflows and not
bad for those of us who shoot outdoors, either. Even if you don't use
the caption fields, you can still get your Copyright and contact information
onto every shot in a standardized way. Add a method of field override/editing
and I'm a very happy camper.
Nope. Remarkably little has changed in the camera menus since the S2 Pro. On the plus side, that means that most of the engineering effort probably went into the digital imaging aspects of the camera. But still, the S3 Pro now lags behind any number of DSLRs in the firmware capabilities.
my original suggestions made back in Spring 2003, and as noted, it does appear
that Fujifilm addressed a few of these items. However, the problem is that we're seeing faster and more thorough re-engineering projects from Canon and Nikon, which means that specification and interface wise, the Sx Pro lineup seems to be losing ground to the feature-laden Canons and Nikons. A bigger issue is that card write performance is now back-of-the-pack at a time when raw image size is now front-of-the-pack in size.
getting some feedback from others reading this article, here's some more:
the mirror. For long telephoto and macro use, the current shutter
is a bit too vibration-inducing at shutter speeds from about 1/4 to
1/30. Nikon figured out how to include an anti-shock mirror mode on
the D100, so I'll add that to my Fujifilm wishlist.
Sorry, not there.