Apr 25 2006

Fuji S3 Pro Settings and Real Life use

A quick glimpse at the combinations of Fuji S3 Pro settings and Real Life Use of this pretty amazing digital camera. In this article I will present my own choice of settings, so your opinions may differ.

Fuji S3 pro Settings:

Resolution and quality:

RAW or jpeg, 12 Mpx or 6 Mpx, Fine or Normal

This decision is based on the final use of the image and the shooting conditions.

I shoot RAW for ultimate quality – commercial clients, magazines, all situations when the image is going to be used for offset printing at A4 size or larger or printed bigger than A4 using photo printers.

Jpeg is for fast paced assignments and for the images which are going to be used smaller than A4.

The Fuji S3 Pro is THE camera for shooting jpegs and if the exposure and WB are nailed the images can be used confidently for any purpose.

12 Mpx or 6 Mpx: I use 6 Mpx for event shots, since most of them will never be used at more than 5″x7″. This allows for about 333 images on a 1GB card and for a much faster image management on the desktop computer back at the office.

Fine or Normal: I only use Fine, I like to have minimum compression on the images since most images could benefit from some minor corrections before delivery to the client.

Dynamic range

I use Auto most of the time, except in very high contrast situations when Wide 2 could help. If shot in RAW, all the following settings except the ISO can be altered in post processing.

White balance

Again Auto most of the time, except when I have a chance to use Custom and in Tungsten lighting when I use the appropriate setting. Custom white balance is really important in studio settings, to ensure shot to shot consistency.

Tone

Surprisingly, I found that “Hard” is the best choice for me. The “standard” and “original” are much more adapted for the images which will be post processed, but “hard” give me ready to use files.

Color

High. All the time. As with the Tone above, if the shot was properly taken, there is no need for post processing with these settings. Beware that if the white balance is wrong, high tone will make things a bit worse. But you already know that getting white balance right is the key of successfully shooting jpegs.

Sharpness

High, except for portraits where I prefer standard. I do a lot of corporate, industrial, architecture, and high sharpness is very well suited to these subjects, since the images do not need any other additional sharpening.

ISO

100 ISO when possible, but for the event shots I do not hesitate to go to 800 ISO. I like to bounce the flash a lot, and in medium to big rooms, ISO 800 is really needed. Up to 400 ISO there is virtually no visible noise, so I do a lot of available light industrial images at ISO 400.

sRGB, aRGB

I prefer sRGB, unless the client specifically asks for Adobe RGB. As most clients do not know what Adobe RGB is, I deliver sRGB just to be on the safe side.

Real life use:

Studio and location with studio lighting

Since the lighting is abundant and under control I prefer to shoot for maximum quality. This means RAW, 100 ISO, custom white balance, if possible tethered shooting.

Weddings and Event photography

I always have an SB 800 on a Newton bracket attached to the camera, and I am a big fan of fill in flash. This means that I prefer to increase the ISO setting to be able to capture as much as possible of the available light. I determined that for my (and my clients’) taste, ISO 800 offers an acceptable quality so I use it a lot.

I shoot almost always jpegs, in 12 Mpx or 6 Mpx setting, depending on the final use of the images.

Location portraits

When in location, I prefer to mix the available light with some flash, so I use two portable flashes which allow me to cope with most situations. I prefer to do a custom white balance, for precision and consistency. I usually shoot jpegs 12 Mpx, since it is much faster.

Architecture and Industrial

For architecture a good tripod is saving the day, especially in the interiors. I again prefer to show the natural ambiance, so the available light get used as much as possible.

The wide DR of the Fuji S3 comes to the rescue quite often in high contrast situations usually encountered when doing architecture interiors. Since the architectural subjects do not move, ISO 100, optimum aperture and a matching exposure time do the trick.

Industrial images are quite different, since there is usually poor and ugly light combined with moving people. Here I use with great pleasure the high quality ISO 400 of the Fuji S3, combined, if possible with some flash light.

Product shots

The Fuji S3 Pro can be a lifesaver when shooting shiny products because the SR sensor with its wide DR.

Otherwise, the resolution is good enough for the images to be printed up to a double page in the magazine.

Studio – tethered: Fashion, Portraits, Products

Quite strange, the Fuji S3 shoots much faster when tethered to a computer than shooting on CF cards.

I prefer to shoot tethered to a laptop as often as possible, always in the studio and in static setups in location.

Both I and the client enjoy the possibility of seeing the image on a calibrated screen, which makes for a great time saver in many situations.

Using flash: SB 800 and studio

The Fuji S3 has only D-TTL flash, as opposed to the more modern Nikon

i-TTL system. I found that the D-TTL on the S3 does a very decent job when using a Nikon SB-800 flash.

I also enjoy the 5th battery on the Nikon SB-800 which give much faster recycling times, very neccessary if you, as me, like to bounce the flash a lot.

When the Fuji S3 senses an SB flash it will automatically switch to Auto white balance, ignoring any setting you made, except for custom white balance. This can be a bad or a good thing, depending on your shooting style. If I am in a tungsten lit interior and intend to shoot both flash and available light shots, I simply switch the camera to tungsten white balance so when the flash is on it will work on auto, and when the flash is off it will shoot on tungsten white balance, a quite fool proof feature.

Price / performance

When first realease, The Fuji S3 Pro was a quite expensive camera, but only at the first glance.

The combination of wide DR, good resolution (much better than the 6 Mpx cameras and at least as good or better as the 8 Mpx cameras), great jpegs out of the camera and good high ISO performance made it a pretty unique camera for a lot of photographers.

The Fuji S3 Pro is very well suited for architecture, industrial and landscape photography, product shots (wide DR, resolution), social events, portraits and weddings (wide DR, great jpegs).

Especially the wide DR and if shot properly almost no need for post processing make the Fuji S3 Pro an invaluable tool for wedding and social photographers which can save countless computer hours after shooting hundred of frames at each assignment, so thousand images each week.

Conclusion

The Fuji S3 could be either a great or an unusable camera, depending on your shooting needs.

The S3 can not shoot fast in RAW due to a small buffer and incredibly low transfer speed, and even in wide DR jpegs it can’t reach more than 1 fps. So it is out of the question for any fast paced shooting, including press, sports or any situation where you need to shoot a lare number of RAW files in a short time (high end fashion).

But there are situations when the Fuji S3 simply excels: high contrast subjects (including weddings) and all situations when you need to shoot a lot of jpegs and do not have the time or will to postprocess.

Also, even the Fuji S3 is labeled by some as a 6 Mpx camera, its resolution is really incredible, only to be bested by the new 12-16 Mpx cameras.

For my needs I consider the Fuji S3 as one of the best cameras, especially at its price. And even if I will add a Nikon D2x in my bag I do not intend to get rid of my Fuji S3.

One Response to “Fuji S3 Pro Settings and Real Life use”

  • marvin Says:

    i was shooting d300 before until i saw this camera in an second hand retail shop its in good shape except for faded rubber grip. i was intrigue with a cheap price tag.in short i buy it i test it on my studio and i was amazed with how it render the skin tone and color i think canon 60d nikon d300 cant achieve the same result as fuji s3 jpeg output

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