Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro
6Mp Interchangeable Lens Digital SLR Has What It Takes

Fujifilm FinePix S2Pro

The lens was extended out to the max, with focusing set manually at (or near) macro. Fill flash was used with strong backlighting reflecting off the pond, adding +1 EV to the ambient exposure. The tightly cropped version is shown here.
Photos © 2002, Jack Neubart, All Rights Reserved

I was standing in Times Square, the Fuji S2 Pro with 28-105mm f/2.8 lens in my hands, when I chanced to glance over my shoulder and noticed someone peering at me. The quizzical expression on my face was greeted by a European tourist giving me the thumbs up and adding, "Nice camera!" This camera and I still had a ways to go before I'd be ready to make the same proclamation.

I later took the S2 to a popular Broadway diner, where I photographed the wait staff, and where this camera again showed itself to have a commanding presence. I had also used the S2 to photograph a young couple and their one-week-old baby. When I'd showed up in their home a couple of days later with a different digicam, they voiced disappointment, after seeing what the S2 could do.

No doubt what initially impressed people was the size of the fast Tamron SP AF 28-105mm f/2.8 LD Aspherical (IF) zoom lens. Admittedly, this lens was well up to the task and proved to be a perfect match for this Nikon-mount digicam. Autofocusing, under normal light levels, was as fast as it gets. However, once the lights went down, and despite an AF-assist beam, autofocusing became somewhat tardy--but this was not a failing of the optics.

Allowing for reflections to play their part, I photographed this window display with tungsten and auto WB. The tungsten rendition is cooler, in large measure due to cool daylight filtering in. The reflection of the shaded building across the street is also more prominently blue. The auto WB version
resulted in warmer tones. This just goes to prove that it's prudent to use different WB settings when in doubt.

With people or around town, the S2 Pro has proved itself to be a very capable camera. Yes, in a few instances, it displayed disappointing results and may have proved mildly cumbersome to operate initially. But, for the most part, this interchangeable lens digital SLR, with its 6Mp capture, was very impressive indeed. A 1GB IBM Microdrive added to the enjoyable adventure. (This camera would have made short shrift of even a 128MB SmartMedia card, an alternative for emergencies.)

Nice Layout--But...
I was at first puzzled by this camera's data displays--both are backlit, with one on top, the other above the color monitor on the back of the camera. Then, when it came time to select white balance, picture quality, and such settings as digital color density, contrast, and sharpness, it became clear: The panel on back provided a more dynamic, more interactive approach, as opposed to using the standard menu for such options.

In fact, the S2 Pro takes a lot of stuff out of the menu and puts it where it belongs--in function buttons and dials, for more immediate, faster access. This, however, doesn't always work to advantage. Of all this camera's functions, setting auto-bracketing was initially the most confusing, involving various combinations of functions. Hint: first set the camera to sequential drive operation, then proceed from there to activate bracketing and set increments and number of exposures.

I also wasn't too happy with the placement of the ambient exposure and flash compensation buttons. Using either required you to take your finger off the very responsive shutter release. These two buttons should have been on the left side, so they could be activated in combination with the thumbwheel, with the index finger remaining in readiness.

I employed the camera's 3D Matrix Metering system together with fill from the pop-up flash to produce this pleasing portrait of these proud parents and their one-week-old baby. While foreground and background lighting is largely balanced, the flash did leave a trace of a background shadow.

There are a few other buttons worthy of note. To the left of the lens mount you'll find the focus selector. There was occasion when I shifted into full manual focus, particularly at the lens' macro setting, with the zoom fully extended. Other than that, I normally preferred autofocus set for single-shot/single-area AF, which ensured that the camera would only fire when focus was locked in on a specified target.

There are actually two command dials (a thumbwheel and one at the front), which may take a little getting used to at first. Another dial sets metering (program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual), ISO, and custom settings (labeled "CSM"). CSM might not be the first place you jump to when using the S2, but it's worth a look-see, since some of these choices may eventually have some effect on the way you use this camera.

In A Flash
While the camera is compatible with Nikon (and compatible) dedicated strobes, it also sports a conventional non-dedicated PC/sync terminal, making this camera at home with studio lighting as well.

As an integral part of the camera, the pop-up built-in flash was my first option when an additional light source was needed. Output was fully balanced when the situation involved the young family backlit by window light. Perhaps the built-in flash might be seen as excessive, since a background shadow was cast--a problem that might have been alleviated with a minus setting in flash compensation (but I was more concerned with facial detail than with lighting ratios).

On Balance
My usual inclination is to use cloudy WB (White Balance) when confronted with subjects in shade or under overcast skies, and when using flash.

As can be seen here, the S2 Pro is an interchangeable lens SLR. It features a Nikon mount that accepts a wide range of Nikon (compatible) lenses. While some functions are obviously different from a film camera, familiarity with Nikon cameras should put you on solid footing almost immediately. The camera is contoured front and back for a firm, ergonomic grip.

The window display, in shade, was infused with daylight, but most prominently lit with tungsten lights. So I set WB for auto, cloudy, and tungsten. In this case, I'm not sure there was a right or wrong, since the effect is more an esthetic choice instead of purely a technical one.

Final Analysis
When it comes to digital SLRs, I usually prefer the more compact, built-in zoom type with electronic viewfinder. Despite the greater bulk of this camera-lens combination, I found it equally comfortable to work with. Moreover, the beauty of the S2 Pro is that it presented practically no problem to transition from that type of camera to this. In fact, the design and layout largely lent this camera to immediate use (barring a few of the more specialized functions and some minor confusion with the displays).
While the Tamron lens was largely responsible for superb optical performance, the camera itself proved quite capable under a variety of conditions. Displays, storage media, and digital-specific functionality aside, I felt as if I were working with a conventional 35mm SLR. And that's a comfort zone I enjoy.

Shown here are the function selection data panel and the color monitor.

At A Glance

· 35mm-type interchangeable lens digital SLR camera: Nikon body, Nikon mount
· 6Mp capture (6.17 million effective pixels), Super CCD for interpolated resolution to 4256x2848 (12.1 million interpolated pixels)
· ISO 100-1600
· Supports both dedicated and conventional-sync strobes
· Supports Microdrive and SmartMedia
· Histogram function
· FireWire and USB connectivity
· Supports Exif Print

At its wide setting, this f/2.8 zoom lens
presents a small footprint. Extend it to the max and it becomes somewhat imposing. The S2 Pro is shown with pop-up flash at the ready.

· Very responsive, with admirable performance, in most situations
· A comfortable fit in your hands, even with a larger-than-average lens
· Good color balance with auto WB
· Under fluorescent lighting, fluorescent WB proves worthwhile, but you may have to use each setting to arrive at the optimum result (auto WB works almost as well and with less fuss)
· Built-in flash delivers a strong-enough burst for balanced fill and as the main light source
· Transparent (to end user) noise reduction produces noise-free images with long exposures
· Good battery life

· Cloudy WB setting results in distorted colors (best to leave auto WB in place)
· Ambient exposure and flash compensation buttons positioned awkwardly
· Auto-bracketing is initially labor-intensive, requiring too many steps
· Depletion of lithium cells leaves camera inoperative (remove them and the camera works on AA-cell set, but without built-in flash)

For more information, contact Fuji Photo Film USA, Inc. by calling (800) 755-3854 or by visiting their web site, www.fujifilm.com.