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December 17, 2004

NASA READER ROGER MITCHELL EMAILS:

Since you write often digital cameras, I just thought I'd throw a bit more information out for you.

Last week, I had the Fuji Government representative down here at JSC to look at our photo lab (yes, that's where I work) and he also brought with him the new FinePix S3 PRO camera.

At the demonstration later that afternoon, I must say that I was impressed! This camera has such a wide dynamic range that it really does rival film. It does this by using two pixels in tandem, one for highlight detail and one for shadow. Comparing images side by side shot at the same ISO, aperture and shutter using a D2H, D100 and the S3 you can definitly see the difference. More highlight and shadow detail in the image. Also, they had a 30x40 enlargement (inkjet) that was fairly outstanding coming from a digital (we print digital camera files that large all of the time, but you can see some artifacts of the digital image when you look close - of course, most are from the Kodak DCS760 we still use onboard the station).

It's advertised as a 12MP camera, but this is because it counts all of the pixels, although it can output a full 12MB image (uses both pixels to fill in the dynamic range for each other). Also, for those of us out here with a big investment in Nikon glass, it uses all Nikon lenses and flash units (alas, no iTTL support - yet). At a street price about $2K, it is more pricey than a D100 or D70, but it does pack some pretty nice picture taking capability.

Still too pricey for me -- it shows at $2,499 at Amazon, and that's allegedly an 11% discount. But it does sound cool -- and the nice thing is that cameras this good will be a lot cheaper, soon. And when you compare it to $2000 for a Nikon D2H, I guess the price isn't bad. This just illustrates what I've said before about the quality of digital cameras going up, even as prices drop or stay stable. And as I've also noted, that's actually a reason for a working pro with a lot of film cameras to hold off on buying digital.