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Fujifilm announces S3 Pro UVIR  
Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | by Eamon Hickey

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See the (Invisible) Light: The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro UVIR. Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy Fujifilm)

Fujifilm has today announced the FinePix S3 Pro UVIR, a version of the company's now venerable S3 Pro digital SLR designed specifically for ultraviolet and infrared photography. It uses a special version of the S3 Pro's Super CCD SR II that has had its standard ultraviolet and infrared cutoff filters removed. With those filters removed, the CCD is sensitive to "light" wavelengths from roughly 350 to 1,000 nanometers, said Darin Pepple, Fujifilm USA's Electronic Imaging Marketing Manager, at a press conference in New York City today. (Visible light is generally considered to span the wavelengths from about 400 to 700 nanometers.)

The CCD appears to be otherwise identical to the standard one in the S3 Pro, incorporating a honeycomb-pattern, two-photodiodes-per-pixel architecture, which is designed to extend dynamic range but which also leads to some confusing resolution figures. We'll note that the sensor possesses 12.9 million separate photodiodes (Fujifilm calls them S-pixels and R-pixels), but its spatial resolution is just a bit over 6 million pixels.

The camera also carries over the special mirror-up live preview mode of the standard S3 Pro, which lets you focus using the live CCD image displayed on the 2-inch LCD. This should be a big aid to precise focusing when using the very dark lens filters often employed for UV and IR photography.

The S3 Pro UVIR is aimed primarily at the law enforcement/forensic market where ultraviolet and infrared photography has long been used to uncover evidence and sometimes for surveillance, but Fujifilm believes it may also find use among some scientific and fine-art infrared photographers as well.

Because of the infinite variability in the state of evidence found at crime scenes, forensic UV and IR photography has always been heavily dependent on trial-and-error experimentation for determining exposure and the proper combination of light source and filtration needed to reveal any particular bit of hidden evidence. The instant feedback that digital photography affords dramatically shortens this trial-and-error cycle compared to film, and that fact spelled a market opportunity to Fujifilm. (Fujifilm's Pepple said that the S3 Pro UVIR grew out of some initial investigations that Fujifilm USA conducted into the feasibility of producing a fine-art infrared camera -- the company had noted that many photographers were home-converting S2 Pro cameras to infrared -- which led them to essentially stumble onto a large latent demand for a digital UV and IR camera within the law enforcement community.)

Aside from the differences in the CCD, there seems to be little or no change in appearance or specifications between the S3 Pro UVIR and the original S3 Pro.

The new camera will begin shipping in the U.S. at the end of August or beginning of September 2006 (Fujifilm has given both dates in separate communications) for an estimated street price of US$1,799.95.

The Fujifilm USA web site has a press release and a technology backgrounder with some interesting accompanying examples of forensic UV and IR photography.

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