Monday, January 23, 2006

Why I Skipped the Fuji S3 Pro

Well,since my name is mentioned in it, I feel justified in commenting on Mr. Stay-C's thread asking if the Fuji S3 buffer upgrade will allow sequential shooting at slow shutter speeds. In answer to Mr. Stay-C, no, the buffer upgrade will not change the nature of the dark frame subtraction noise reduction process at slow speeds,and there will STILL be a pause after each slow-speed shot is taken.

The thread is here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1020&thread=16793886

Roger Monroe alleges that I used to criticize the S3 "without context". I call bullshit on that allegation; the S3 has so many areas of design negligence and cost-cutting and bare-bones engineering that my "context" for criticism is in almost every single area of body limitations/AF performance/price/ and also in price-to-performance metrics as well as expected product lifetime and expected durability in relation to price. In short, I came to the conclusion that the S3 Pro was/is a niche product which makes very beautiful six megapixel digital captures, with expanded HIGHLIGHT rendition capabilities. The small highlight-sensitive pixels are NOT activated at lower illumination levels, but are use to help hold highlights in lighting conditions which other D-SLR's simply can not handle as well.

My "context" for S3 criticism has always been in relation to the other,non-Fuji-branded D-SLRs I have owned,such as the Nikon D1,D1h,and D70,the Fuji S1 and S2 Pro, and the Canon EOS 20D. I simply disliked the S3's slowness in almost every single facet of its design and use. I felt the S3's file-storage and file-handling carried with it several penalties,and overall the Fuji S3 RAF file came up well short of what Nikon's NEF file is capable of doing. Nikon's NEF files can be edited in Nikon Capture,and a list of changes to the files is all that is re-written during the editing process; this means with a Nikon D70 6-megapixel camera, an in-camera compressed NEF file takes up roughly 5.2 megabytes in storage size. One can open a NEF,edit it in Nikon Capture, and then SAVE the CHANGES so that the NEF file is still the same,exact SIZE it was when shot,only it is has been perfected in the editing software but there is absolutely NO NEED to make a bloated, 16-bit or 8-bit TIFF file to save the edits. I shoot a lot. By shooting a Nikon camera, I can get a RAW file that is always kept unharmed, and which merely has noted the CHANGES needed to perfect the image--there is not need to make 35 or 70 megabyte TIF files with a Nikon D-SLR in order to have optimized images. My "context" for criticism of the S3 was that the camera was priced at $2,499 and still failed to include a really first-rate,or even a mature, professional RAW converter software application. Fuji's S3 Pro software is still immature compared with Nikon or Canon software, and is missing some very important features which Nikon software has. Fuji files are achiving storage space hogs.

My contention was that at $2,499, the tradeoffs in performance of the S3 did NOT outweigh the speed and build quality/feature/handling/workflow benefits of better-designed cameras such as the EOS 20D, the Nikon D2x, and also the news/sports/event camera the EOS 1D Mark II. Hell, for many assignments, the Nikon D70 is a fine camera. In a nutshell, my criticisms of the S3 were in the context of all the OTHER D-SLR cameras which I had/have owned when I was considering if an S3 Pro was really worth $2,499 to me. As a D1 owner,and an S1 Pro owner, and an early,early adopter of the $2,400 S2 Pro,and as somebody who later bought a D1h for sports shooting, I felt that the PROFESSIONAL Nikons D1 and D1h offered excellent imaging,high speed,ultimate reliability,adequate battery systems, and enough battery to power the 80-400VR and 70-200VR lenses, and offered both professionally-capable viewfinders and AF systems. To me, the consumer-body limitations of the S1 and S2 were seriously OUT OF DATE and dis-advantageous to me in a number of shooting situations,and yet-another-N80-derived D-SLR priced at $2,499 did not appeal to me. My criticisms of the S3 were from the point of a guy who ALSO owned an EOS 20D, and then a D2x and a D70 and an S2. In other words, my criticisms of the S3 were that it was slow to shoot, slow to write,slow to review,and incapable of doing ANYTHING while the buffer was being cleared. My criticisms of the S3 were that it was a $2,499 camera based upon a $329 Nikon N80. I've been shooting Nikon 35mm SLR's since 1982,and feel that the beginner-level N60 and N80 bodies which Fuji has used to build THREE generations of D-SLRs upon,were or might be a limiting factor in some areas of photography that I anticipated I'd need to do over the life of the camera.

Most of my criticisms of the S3 are related to engineering/design choices and sub-standard performance based on contemporary AND prior camera models. Undoubtedly, the S3 writes its files very slowly onto CF storage cards. Very slowly. It has the smallest buffer of all the major D-SLRs. It has only average autofocus performance. It has only ONE BUTTON which will wake the camera up from sleep. The vertical grip has a shutter release button which can not wake up the camera, and the vertical trigger is missing TWO control wheels, as well as an AF-ON and/or AF-Lock or AF/AE lock button; the S3's entire vertical grip and trigger is a very bare-bones system,missing the ability to keep the camera's meter and its other systems "awake". The S3's vertical grip is,again, missing a shutter speed control wheel and an aperture control wheel. Plus, the vertical trigger can NOT wake up the camera, and thus can NOT SHOOT a photo, unless the camera has been awakened by leaving the metering set to always ON, or by first pressing the "real" shutter release,and then moving one's hand to the vertical grip. Homey don't play that shit.

As a Nikon 35mm motorized SLR user since the early 1980's, and a user of the motorized Bronica SQ-M motor-integral 6x6 and 645 combo medium format camera, the idea of a trigger which is not "live" at all times is absolute anathema to me. It's like a brake pedal that's not always active,or which ceases to function every 20 seconds.

The S3 also has HUGE, 25 megabyte wide dynamic range RAF files, with NO compression available, and no RAW+JPEG capture available, and a three-frame wide-RAW buffer. Six megapixel captures, and either 12.5 or 25 megabyte RAF files,depending on the dynamic range setting.Slow writes, slow reviews,and also NO ability to do ANYTHING to or with the camera while the buffer is writing itself out,slowly,to the storage media. The S3 has also a pretty screwed up menu adjustment button-poking sequence, and is very severely in need on major re-design. Thom Hogan called for an immediate RE-DESIGN and re-badging of the original S3 Pro in is review of it--and that is a dismal commentary.

As if it were not enough, Walter Matthews,as well as Thom Hogan, both had notable criticisms of the S3 Pro's tendency to go blue in the shade as a result of poor white balance performance. Walter also had very persistent criticism's of the S3's white balance performance in mixed indoor tungsten+flash lighting situations, which is one place where my PERSONAL camera is used a fair amount--in social photography situations, with incandescent light and bounced fill-in flash being one of the things that I do a LOT OF, and which, for me, the Fuji S2 is perhaps one of the better cameras I've ever seen,and a tool which I find better than anything I have so far found.

Besides its small buffer, CAM 900 consumer grade AF, and small,squinty viewfinder system, the S3 Pro still has those coarse, half-stop and full-stop exposure compensation and shutter speed and f/stop settings. I've long noted that _precision camera control_ and exposure metering accuracy and precision are fundamental building blocks on the way I do my photography. I eschew TTL flash much of the time, and actually shoot and control my flash exposures using ISO control, all of the time. I also like precise f/stop control, and I like a finely-graduated shutter for precise control of motion stopping in my sports photography and my VERY frequent telephoto photography. I seldom shoot wide-angle stuff, and rely a LOT on 85-300mm telephoto lenses, where shutter speed increments are worth their weight in gold as one approaches the limits of f/4 lenses and even f/2.8 lenses and long focal lengths.

My "context" for criticisming the S3 Pro was that shared by many, S2 shooters: that the upgrade from the S2 to the S3 did not justify spending $2,500 to get an extra f/stop's worth of highlight capture in very bright,high-ratio lighting scenarios. Hell, I own an S2. Hell, I bought the EOS 20D after shooting the S2 for two years, and found the Canon offered incredibly nice performance, for a reasonable price. I bought a Nikon D2x at the time when S3 Pro's were $2,499 and had been on the market for about 30 days....I waited until I could compare the S3 Pro and the D2x side-by-side in my regular professional photo dealership so I could get a hands on,side by side comparison of how to spend two and a half grand for a $329 camera,or to drop $4995 on a professional Nikon. I had also extensively looked at the EOS 1D Mark II, the 8.3 MP model....and I had done two in-store demo's of the Minolta Maxxum 7D testing its anti-shake CCD system. I demo'd the S3 Pro and the D2Hs side-by-side. In short, at one point after the S2 had grown long in the tooth,and my D1h had been damaged by being out in the rain over a six-hour track meet shoot, I was in need of a GOOD,dependable camera. I gave the S2 a good run for over two years, then added a D70 for about 5 months but went back to the S2, and then bought a 20D to test the waters and to see what Canon was all about. Frankly, after the 20D experiment, I could not see spending $2,499 to get what an S3 would have given me--another stop, stop and a half of highlight rendition in the few scenes where I cannot control my lighting ratios. And, that slow synch speed of the S3....and those big,clunky half-stop changes in exposure,and that gutless N80 focus module. Most of MY AF Nikkor lens lineup is screwdriver focusing lenses,and frankly the D70,S2,and S3 offer pretty much second-rate AF performance compared to a D1-series; and with the introduction of the D2-series, the S3's AF system was relegated to third-tier Nikon, and compared with the EOS 20D, the S3 would have been a fourth-rate camera in terms of AF performance.

So, let's recap. My "context" for critcism of the S3 was in terms of its slow 1.5 frames per second maximum firing rate, its sloooow shutter release lag time, its slow mirror return, its N80 viewfinder system with cropped down, dim, tunnel-like finder image, small buffer, high price (almost twice the EOS 20D's price, and 2.5x that of a D70, and a full HALF of the cost of the D2x), slow image review, screwed-up settings navigation and menu system, lack of wake-from-sleep, stripped down vertical grip with NO CONTROLS over f/stop OR shutter speed when using a 70-200mm or a 300mm prime lens for sports assignments, or for the portrait shooting I like to do. Poor Auto WB system, tendency toward blue images in open shade, where I like to shoot a lot in the afternoons. Software immaturity. Lack of RAW+JPEG. Huge file storage penalties in the field on CF cards. Glacially slow CF card performance in write speeds and in image replay. Need I go on?

The S3 Pro has one saving grace: it is a Fuji D-SLR. Anybody who lived and breathed with the S2 as his main D-SLR for well over two years knows what it means to shoot a Fuji D-SLR. As with the S1,and the S2, the S3 had some very real,very serious limitations,especially to a fellow who has at his disposal other,very serious cameras. The S3 was simply NOT THE UPGRADE I wanted if I were to continue shooting a Fuji D-SLR, with all the good things and bad things that the Fuji brings to the table. The S3's saving grace lies with the pictures. The p-i-c-t-u-r-e-s. The S3 can make great pictures. Beautiful pictures. Really beautiful pictures. However, to me, the tunnel-vision viewfinders of the S2 and the S3,and the Nikon D50, are all real deal-breakers. To me, the viewfinder is the eye of the camera,and the better the finder, the better I shoot on a consistent basis.
To the staunch S3 supporters, I ask--have you actually gone out and LOOKED THROUGH an EOS 20D? Have you held and looked through the Maxxum 7D? Have you actually held the D2x in your hands and really looked through the viewfinder? Have you not heard about the high-magnification viewfinder image Pentax is trying to cultivate? Using the Nikon N80's mirror,and viewfinder screen,and autofocusing system to make an S2 and an S3 might seem acceptable if you've never owned an EOS 20D or a D1-series Nikon or a D2-series Nikon.

My criticisms of the FujiFilm FinePix S3 Pro were always within the context of somebody who had owned the professionally-oriented D1 and then D1h models, as well as Canon's EOS 20D, which made it to market by the tend of thousands many months before Fuji had managed to eke out its first couple hundred S3 Pro bodies. My criticisms of the S3 Pro were in the context of somebody who had payed $999 for a brand new Nikon D70 on 21 June,2004, which was 18 MONTHS prior to the time Fuji managed to get the S3 Pro into stores. My criticisms of the S3 were in a market where I had, myself, owned a D70 for 18 months before the S3 was available, and about 11 months AFTER I had decided to buy myself an EOS 20D. IOW, before the S3 was available at retail, I had already owned my 8.2 megapixel CMOS 20D for 11 months. And the S3 was a thousand dollars more than the 20D, and 2.4 times as costly as my OTHER 6MP camera, the D70. So, in essence, my criticisms of the S3 were made after having spent 18 months with the 6MP D70 (a $999 wonder),and almost a year with an 8.2MP Canon 20D, which with three lenses was almost identical to the S3's body-only price. In context, the S3 was delivered a year to eighteen months late and $1,500 to $1000 over the price of competing models. Here came the S3: no raw compression,no raw+jpg,slow writes,slow reads,slow reviews,only average Auto WB, a stripped down vertical grip with no-wake/secondary-priority release status,and no shutter speed or f-stop wheels when using the camera in portrait mode. I'm sorry, but what the hell good is it to have a portrait grip,if that grip has no shutter speed and no f/stop control wheels? I mean, what happened with the grip's design team? For $2,500 I expect to be able to adjust the f/stop or shutter speed when using the camera in tall mode. Cripes! Poor viewfinder image compared with 20D,7D,D1,D2,etc. Slower synch speed than D70. Small buffer. Real-world capture speeds below mfr.-claimed speed of 2.5 fps. Very slow shutter release lag times. Inability to perform any multi-tasking while writing files. Got the picture? In any context except that of the p-i-c-t-u-r-e-s themselves, the S3 comes up short when compared with Canon and Nikon cameras as picture-making devices.

Fuji-loyal Dynamic Rangers have,for the most part, seen the need to own a Nikon D2-series camera to perform some tasks truly well. A lot of the S3's early boosters have moved to the D2x as well,and have cooled their enthusiasm for the S3 since having adopted a camera which does not have to boast that it is a "pro" model by incorporating the word "Pro" in the model name.

I really hate being singled out as the "only voice of dissent" and as the S3 Pro's chief critic. Thom Hogan and Phil Askey each wrote very,very,very influential camera reviews of the S3 Pro. Both those men had their reputations trashed by the Dynamic Rangers, who seemed to think early on that DR is the single best measure of Image Quality. Funny how the earliest S3 boosters have switched to D2x's, and one of them,Mark A., is now even thinking of trying the Canon system. Bernie E., a longtime Derrel-basher and early proponent of the S3 has also mellowed, his fancy now drifitng toward the full-frame EOS 5D. In Phil Askey's review of the S3, the S3 garnered the lowest ranking he'd ever given a D-SLR. Thom Hogan's review suggested that the S3 needed a major overhaul and re-designing ,and he commented very pointedly on a number of flub-ups in the S3's design and implementation of such things as Auto WB and the vertical grip/trigger debacle. So, both of those guys deserve to be labelled the S3's chief critics,right? Or would it be the tens upon tens of thousands of buyers who bought Nikons and Canons in preference to the S3 Pro? How about all those good Fujista's who love(d) the S2, but just could not see the lure of the S3? The S3 simply was NOT well-received by the majority of the D-SLR buying public,and there were many S2 users who never went the S3 route because they 1)had 18 months to buy a D70 and had 2) a damned long time to get derailied into the Canon 20D or 1D systems, or 3) bought fire-sale D2H models at $1995 before Fuji could glue together enough S3's. NIKON itself killed off the S3's sales by flooding the market with $1995 fire-sale D2H bodies which dropped 40 percent in price overnight, and were out there on the market roping in sales while Fuji slowly prepared for the trickle-out of the S3 Pro.The criticisms of the S3 are largely about its speed,and its low-specification body underpinnings--no metering with Ai or AiS lenses, no metering with non-meter-coupled devices, no i-TTL, no new technology flashes but old-tech ones,low synch speed, coarse exposure controls,etc. In the context of the marketplace, the S3 had simple, 5-area AF with only a single cross-type sensor. Nowhere near capable enough for the most demanding AF uses. Beautiful pictures, when the camera can pull focus in time. Or at all. And basically, a really slow-handling digital camera.To me, if one wants a small, hand-held camera that handles like the Nikon SLR cameras I have owned for 22 years, I expect 3.5 frames per second, 1/250 flash synch, and a decent viewfinder image,and a shutter that fires very close to the time when the release button trips. I want a camera that shoots with a very brief shutter release lag time, like a real Nikon should. Not like a camera designed for an entry-level shooter, but a camera that allows me to capture moments I see, as I see them, in the same type of fluid style as the motorized 35mm film Nikons I've used for over two decades. If I wanted to shoot three pictures and then have to wait one minute, I'd still be shooting the Bronica SQ-M, only with the Bronica I could fire off an entire roll of 12 exposures without needing to spend three minutes to make 12 frames. And, I could pop on a freshly-loaded 12-frame back in 8 seconds. With time to stick the dark slide in my back left pocket.

One area where the D70 and D50 shine is extended shooting, with buffer depths like 125 Medium sized, Fine-quality JPEG frames over a minute, or other such amazingly deep buffer specs. In the case of the D70, the camera's write speeds are so quick in JPEG mode that with a fast SanDisk card, there is,effectively, almost NO BUFFER limit, and one can set the camera up so it can cover lengthy sequences of action pretty much from card empty to card full. The S3 has a smallish buffer in Wide-DR JPEG, and in standard DR its buffer seems adequate. But again, the write speeds on CF card media is slow.

In terms of shooting sports,or action,or on-location outdoor portraiture,using top-grade Nikon lenses, the autofocus module can be one of the deciding factors between KEEPER! and Damn--I missed focus by four inches! Cull! Compared to the D1-series, the S2-D70-S3-14n-SLR/n all shared a common AF module, the Multi-CAM 900 module. And along with the module and its software, there's the focusing motor in the camera which in the consumer cams is nowhere near as Zippy! as in the professional D1-D2 series Nikon bodies. And, the S3's focusing motor and the VR system of the 70-200VR draw all power from a set of four 1.5 volt rechargeable AA batteries.

My criticism of the S3 was never in the context of its image quality,or the quality of the images the camera can make,nor in its superior dynamic range. My criticism was on engineering compromises Fuji had to make to get the S3 to market-and very late to market they were, missing their announced ship date in an embrasssing procedure that involved Re-DESIGNING the camera's dual-pixel S and R sensor configuration, after having announced the camera along with lovely color schematics of the new sensor's design principles. It took Fuji about 11 months to do a post-announcement sensor re-design and to deliver a trickle of cameras to eager enthusiasts. I think,among the six megapixel D-SLR models the S3 must be considered the image quality champion. Fuji files have a very nice look to them when exposed well. I can SEE, literally SEE with my own eyes why Fuji S3 images have wide acceptance. Fuji images can be exceptionally beautiful. Many of my favorite images have been made with Fuji digital,and not Nikon digital.

The S3 has a very crude white balance system, with no user-selectable Kelvin settings, and only two WB pre-sets. And no deflection value settings either. Pretty basic,compared to what I am used to. Sub-par in terms of the Kelvin dial-in and pre-set and deflection values too....no way to slightly warm or cool the pre-sets or the custom WB settings? This was a $2,499 digital SLR. According to everything I was able to ascertain, the majority of the first S3's needed the firmware update to rectify the auto white balance problems, the lockup problems with AF-S lenses when lens changing was accidentally or absent-mindedly done with a powered-on camera, and also to make the image auto-rotate feature actually work. Overall, the first S3 cameras were delivered to market with an auto-rotate glitch, an AF-S lens hiccup issue, and white balance problems. I was not all that thrilled. Compared to the 20D,the S3 was a fairly simplified machine,control-wise.

In the context of the marketplace in March of 2005,when S3's actually became available at retail in my area,the S3 fared very poorly in direct comparison with the D2Hs and D2x and the EOS 1D Mark II (the 1.3x FOV camera). I even felt that,for me, the superior viewfinder system of the K-M Maxxum 7D was vastly superior to that of the S3,and almost a match for the D2Hs and D2x bodies. I even contemplated making the full leap to Canon with the 1D Mark II and 20D as my two-body Canon system. BUT, the after my third look at the D2x side-by-side with a Fuji S3, I decided to buy the Nikon D2x. That was May 3,2005,and the very day I purchased the D2x I shot some photos I was very happy with. Having used a D1 or a D1h for a little over four full years prior to buying the D2x, I had zero problems handling and shooting the D2x just as if it were my D1 or D1h. Only with a much peppier AF system, and higher frame rates, and also a full-bore 1.5x or a cropped-off,smaller-file 2.0x FOV factor capture choice. Sure, when I was in the market for a camera of the generation of the S3 and the D2x, I chose the D2x. My reasoning was that although it cost twice the price, I felt the D2x's shutter and body might last easily three or FOUR or even five times longer (more clicks) than an S3 would,negating the price advantage entirely,and actually maybe being in FAVOR of the D2x by a 3.5x factor as my best guess. As Thom Hogan advised a few years ago-Nikon users might just as well buy in on the best model very early, 'cause Nikon runs its best bodies for lengthy, useful lifespans, and one might as well enjoy using Nikon's best technology for the longest time span. I took his advice,and enjoyed the D2x all spring and summer and all autumn.

Bottom line is that, even when the D2x is superceded by its follow-up in the Nikon lineup, I am going to want to KEEP the D2x as an imminently high quality,useful camera for a good number of years. When the S3 Pro is superceded by the next Fuji, I really could not see myself wanting to keep the camera as a shooter. I would of course be VERY,very interested in a FinePix S4 or FinePix S6 or some type of seriously re-engineered, re-designed,or otherwise re-purposed follow-up camera to the S3 Pro. In the marketplace of last year,2005, the camera choices for F-mount shooters were very difficult,very costly,and sometimes very painful. VALUE, as in value-for-dollar, was the one area the S3 was handicapped,since Fuji's original price of $2,499 USA at introduction held remarkably steady for months, in the face of industry-wide downward price pressure,with $699 and $799 and $899 D-SLR models being sold by other makers when the S3 was at a full 3x to 2x more than the price of "comparably spec'd" competing bodies. And the doggone D2x was $5k. And the D2Hs was $3,500 USA. No real workhorse-type semi-pro oriented 20D and grip camera for $1399 for a good solid litle body with an optional,ADD-on grip (the best kind IMHO).

So, basically, when it came time to buy a camera to replace my S2 Pro, my "high-quality photography camera body", I chose the Nikon D2x. The Fuji S3 Pro was exactly,to the dollar, HALF the cost of the D2x, but damned if the D2x doesn't feel and perform like five times more-responsive and capable a camera than the S3 Pro is; in 9 out of 10 sub-systems compared the D2x is more-refined than the S3 and better-specified,and better-performing. Half the money, one-fifth the camera, or twice the money and five times the camera. I chose the latter option. I chose the D2x from Nikon. It meters with every lens I can mount on it. It is the highest-resolution Nikon ever made. With studio flash it can create images so detailed my eyes were astounded. With the best lenses I own, the D2x makes the highest-quality photographs I've ever been able to achieve. As I said, when the D2x is superceded,I don't plan to let it go as an image-making tool, since as a capture device the D2x has many very real mechanical and electronic advantages over lesser-specified cameras, and is an exceedingly responsive,fast,and capable SLR body with close to fifty years's worth of Nikon SLR building and refinement under the hood. The S3's a nice little camera, but it's harder to see through, and is much slower and less-responsive mechanically than the more-costly D2x,and slower and less-responsive than my 20D, and so on and so on.

One of my points of contex was as a former camera salesman,and ergonomic issues and the issue of "fit" in a camera has always been important to me. Hand feel, fit and finish, and tactile appeal and other "human factors" are things I consider. One sales approach I've found is to hand a potential buyer one of EACH model in the class he/she wants to own and to force them to go through the cameras and play with them, mock shoot a few frames, and to just HANDLE the merchandise. Eight times out of 10,an honest ,real buyer will lock on to one model based on fit,or feel,or personal taste,or some other "human factor". Since I'm always interested in seeing what's on the market in the Nikon system, I've examined ALL of the digital SLR bodies in F-mount as they have been current, and have made several Yes/No decisions. I said No to the D100, No to the D1x, and No to Canon's D30,D60,and 10D models, but Yes to the Fuji S2 Pro. I said No to the Kodak 14n, and No to the SLR/n, and then I said No to the D2h, then no to the D2Hs,t hen No to the S3 Pro and then,finally YES to the D2x. Judging from the marketplace, the Kodak 14n and SLR/n turned out to be the ends of their evolutionary lineage.The S3 Pro has not been the cult classic that the S2 was, and the S3 has been a poor example of a follow-up camera; while the S2 Pro was a big improvement over its S1 predecessor, the S3 was not nearly such a quantitative leapfrog over its predecessor. The S3 Pro was in fact a huge sales boost to the Nikon D70s and the EOS 20D, in my opinion. My criticisms of the S3 Pro have always been about the camera part of it, the nuts and bolts of the machine. The S3 pro is capable of making some very beautiful p-i-c-t-u-r-e-s. I eagerly await a PMA 2006 announcement of an S3 follow-up camera from the fine folks at FujiFilm. I really,truly do hope that FujiFilm builds a nice D-SLR based around a very high-quality Nikon-produced SLR body,such as the F6 or the D200. I pray that the S4,if it is made, is not something like a D50 body stripped and then fitted with digital innards--then we'd be right back to where we were with the S1 Pro, with a one-wheel camera like the lowly Nikon D60 on which the S1 Pro was based. With Nikon announcing the cessation of film body production,except for the F6, I do hope the next Fuji D-SLR is F6-based. If all Nikon produces are the F6 and then its digital lineup,I suppose it's possible the D50 could be the next 'vehicle' FujiFilm might consider as a potential chassis for the S4 Pro.

My context for evaluating cameras has been about how well, how easily, and how consistently a camera will allow ME to MAKE the shots I want to make. With a very high success percentage. Based on such simple criteria, the S3 Pro is and was out-ranked by any number of cameras on the market. I will take superior AF, superior metering, superior flash metering, metering with AiS lenses, 5 to 8 fps over 1.5 fps, and a huge buffer over the industry's smallest buffer any day of the week. In 9 of 10 areas, the D2x is simply a better-performing instrument than the S3 Pro.The pictures are another matter however--the FujiFilm FinePix S3 Pro is a very,very capable image maker on some types of subject matter. In types of photography where the action directs the photographic process, the S3 Pro would be an absolutely idiotic first choice, while in more-controlled shooting environments or in slower-paced situations where the action allows shooting slowly, I see the S3 Pro as a very viable instrument which is in some ways better than the D2x.

I hope there's been enough context supplied to make it perfectly clear why I did not decide to buy an S3 Pro. I have other cameras for one thing. The S2 was revolutionary, the S3 was evolutionary and LATE to market, and the D2x was revolutionary and a substantial advance over the D1x. I, like the majority of S2 users, bit the bullet and bought the D2x as the real,needed upgrade from the S2 Pro's capabilities. If you own an S2 Pro, a D2x is the camera representing an upgrade truly worth moving toward. I did not see the S3 as enough of an upgrade from the S2 to justify its high price,slow speed,and software/workflow/file storage hassles. And in the context of the market, Canon and Nikon were Number One and Number Two in the D-SLR market last year. So,apparently, the numbers show that I'm not a freak, but am instead, in line with the vast majority of D-SLR users who voted with their dollars and did not buy a Fuji S3 Pro.

2 comments:

Artichoke said...

actually I think there are a higher percentage of pros on FSLRT than when you were an active member
we've also got some excellent new shooters
Bernie wants a better bodied camera, but I think still uses his S3 as does James Russell, Dirk Vermeirre, Guillermo MP, RobKaz & many others who don't post as often now
also I think we both agree that the # of units sold is hardly a measure of quality or value
hope all is going well with you

Anonymous said...

Hi Derrel,

Wow, short but still to the point! :-)

Well put - how are you getting on with the new gear? Posted any images yet?

Let's see some links!

Cheers,

Kevin P Kitching