The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro is a beautiful camera as far as appearance is concerned. The FinePix S2 Pro had a bit of a dull look, the S3 Pro looks better, with its rounder appearance and the use of more rubber on the hand and thumb grip. It is easy to see the comparison with the Nikon F5. The top of the camera comes directly from the Nikon F80. So do the buttons for lens unlocking, the auto focus system and the depth of field control. Other than that the design is all Fujifilm's. Beside the built-in flash, the FinePix S3 Pro enables the use of an external flash through the hot shoe or a so-called PC connector. The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro looks rather sturdy and heavy. But once in your hand you won't notice any heaviness. The rubber grips on the camera provide a good hold, and the camera lies perfectly in your hand. The thumb grip on the back of the camera is especially well designed. Also in vertical position the camera can be held easily. The buttons are well placed within reach, but the tumble-switch is too easy to press. The viewer shows about 95% of the total image, which is not much. Fortunately the large LCD does show 100% of the image. One can project grid lines in the viewer. Very useful to keep the camera straight.
On the FinePix S3 Pro's left side we find the connections for USB, FireWire, remote control, external power and video out. The connectors are nicely closed, but not completely water- or dustproof. On the right side, the welcoming release button for vertical images is placed. This button can be locked, so one doesn't make pictures accidentally. Unfortunately doesn't pressing the second release button wake up the camera when it falls into the ?sleep’ mode.
We find two monitors on the back of the camera and a rather small amount of buttons. The top monitor is used to quickly set the main functions. Pushing the Func button several times makes you browse through the settings. Every setting offers access to a button. Once used to it, it's great to work with. The largest monitor is 2-inch and has an obvious better resolution than the monitor on the FinePix S2 Pro. A cover protects the two monitors from getting scratched or otherwise damaged. An opening in the cover enables operating the buttons in between the monitors.
The tumble switch, to change the focus field for example, sticks out quite a bit. Photographers looking through the viewfinder with the left eye, will undoubtedly regularly operate the tumble switch with their nose, accidentally that is. Beneath the tumble switch we find the buttons to activate the menu and to confirm or cancel an adjustment. The card cover is rather large, but of a firm construction. A small lamp top left of the cover shows when something is being done to the card.
The NiMH batteries are placed on the bottom of the camera. Fujifilm used the same battery holder as used on the FinePix S2 Pro. It is useful to purchase a second holder and carry it along with fully charged batteries. That way it is easy to change batteries in case the camera runs out of power.
The auto focus system is identical to that of the Nikon D100 and F80. The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro therefore features a Nikon F-mount. It supports many lenses. Also the special CS lenses can be used on the S3 Pro. In order to achieve a quick focus,
AF-S lenses are recommended. The built-in flash pops up rather high and is average with its guide number of 12 (ISO 100). It may well serve as fill in flash, unless you use lenses that stick out a lot, because that would cause a dark edge on the bottom of the picture.
A unique feature on the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro is 'live view'. Which comes in very handy when focusing or framing needs to be done very precisely. The auto focus is then deactivated because the sensor won't pick up any signals anymore. In live view you see exactly what falls onto the sensor, for 30 seconds. The sensor will be completely open during that time so don't zoom in too much. It will attract a lot of dust to the sensor. You also have to focus with open aperture otherwise the image is much too dark. In practice it worked excellently but there should be a real purpose to use this feature. Many automatic functions don't work during live view, so beware!