Pricey Fujifilm S3 Pro offers fine photos

The FinePix S3 Pro is the latest in Fujifilm's line of digital SLR cameras. Only the most serious photographers will consider spending US$2499 for just the body, but if you have an existing stash of Nikon-compatible accessories, it can make a good addition to your collection.

At the heart of the S3 Pro is Fujifilm's new 12.3-megapixel Super CCD SR II sensor. It has equal numbers of small and large pixels, which the company says allows it to capture a wider dynamic range for better detail in shadows and highlights. Though our formal tests showed no dramatic improvements from the extended dynamic range, the S3 Pro proved a solid performer comparable to our current top-rated digital SLR, the 8.2-megapixel Canon EOS 20D.

It also performed quite well in our informal outdoor tests. In bright sunlight, with the camera cranked up to its widest dynamic settings, we saw consistently great results.

You can change the settings on the S3--including white balance, quality, and autofocus mode--using four function buttons on the back of the camera. This approach reduces the number of dedicated buttons and simplifies the setup menus viewable on the bright 2-inch color display.

The S3 Pro has an F-mount lens fitting for compatibility with Nikon lenses (our test unit came with a US$400 24mm-135mm Tamron lens).

The unit outlasted our 500-shot battery test on a single charge of its four AA-size nickel metal hydride cells.

If you already shoot with your digital SLR heavily customized, the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro will not disappoint. However, you'll need a professional photographer's budget.

Brief: Produces top-notch photos and will appeal to photographers with a stash of Nikon lenses.

Price: (when reviewed) US$2499