|Stills & Video Imaging in Color, B&W, and Infrared|
Hands-On With Fujifilm's IS-1
Stills & Video Imaging in Color, B&W, and Infrared
Text & Photos by Allan Weitz
As someone who has owned, used, and borrowed more-than-a-few cameras over the years, I'll be the first one to admit I'm somewhat jaded when yet another camera hits the marketplace. That said, the Fujifilm IS-1, an infrared-capable version of the more pedestrian Fujifilm FinePix S9100, made me sit up and take notice the first time I read about it. A browse through FujiFilm's press release revealed the makings of a rather versatile camera.
The standard-issue FujiFilm FinePix S9100 contains quite a few very worthy attributes including a fixed 6.2 to 66.7mm zoom lens (28 to 300mm equivalent for all you analog folks out there), a 9Mp Fujifilm Super CCD HR sensor, a choice of shooting to RAW or JPEG formats, as well as the ability to shoot in a choice of 2 color modes (natural or vivid) as well as black & white. What makes the Fujifilm IS-1 so special is that, aside from all of the above, it can capture infrared images. And if you've ever dabbled in infrared (IR) photography you're going to be blown away how easy it is to shoot IR with this nifty digicam.
Note- To capture 'normal' color images you must use a Hot Mirror filter in order to capture 'true' color. For IR imaging you must use an 87c filter. Both of these filters are optional.
Taking IR photographs has more than it's share of challenges. First off, our eyes can't see infrared radiation. Secondly, in order to record IR imagery, you have to shoot through an 87c filter, which has the opacity of a rock. What this means is you're photographing things you can't see through a viewfinder and that's as useless as a 2-wheeled tricycle. In many ways IR imaging is akin to shooting in the dark while blindfolded. As for exposure times…bracket, bracket, bracket. And don't even think of leaving infrared film in your car on a hot day, or running it through airport x-ray machines.
The Fujifilm IS-1 plows through these barriers by allowing you to preview images in color, B&W, or infrared. Images can be previewed in real-time using the rear-mounted, tilt-hinged LCD screen, or through the camera's SLR-style electronic view finder (EVF). And while we don't recommend leaving any camera in your car on a hot day, most all of the 'iffy-ness' of film-based IR imaging is hereby null and void.
The camera's 10.7x zoom lens features separate focus and zoom controls, and a toggle switch enables you easily switch between AF and manual focus. There's also a handy one-touch AF button for fast, one-shot focus lock when shooting in manual mode. If you’re into bug portraits, a super macro mode enables focusing down to 0.4" at 28mm.
For viewing the image you can choose between the 2" rear-mounted LCD, or the electronic view finder (EVF), which while somewhat ‘grainy’-looking and hard to focus through in the wide-angle mode, is far easier to view under bright lighting as compared to the rear LCD. The rear LCD also tilts up to 90-degrees when shooting at low or high vantage points. Along with a live histogram, a grid screen and flash-warnings for over and underexposure can be called up as needed.
Images can be acquired at six levels of JPEG compression or as Fuji RAW files, which can be processed using FujiFilm's RAW file processor or Adobe Camera RAW 4.0 (highly recommended). For IR video you can shoot AVI files with audio at 30 frames-per-second. Still and video images can be recorded to either CompactFlash or xD memory cards. Other features include ISO ratings of 80 - 1600 (plus auto), a shutter speed range of 4-sec to 1/4000, 256-zone TTL metering ("Multi", Average, and Spot), and burst-rates of 1.5 frames-per-second up to 4 frames, (or 1.1 fps up to 40 frames). Studio shooters will appreciate the inclusion of a PC connector for syncing with studio strobe lights.
Fun and games aside, the Fujifilm IS-1 can be used for a variety of scientific, industrial, and law enforcement needs. Aside from night surveillance, the IR-recording abilities of the IS-1 can be used to study documents that have been burned, faded, forged, or otherwise altered in ways the human eye may not otherwise detect.
On the scientific front, the Fujifilm IS-1 can be used in the study of plant and crop pathology, i.e. crop diseases, deforestation, coal petrology, and in the textile field, the ability to detect irregularities in fibers, materials, and dyes. Environmental uses include detecting heat loss due to deficient building materials and/or structural design. Infrared imaging is also an enormous tool for astronomy and spectrographic applications.
In order to capture the IS-1's full range of recording possibilities, Fujifilm offers a 9-piece Forensic Filter Kit, which is available separately.
So how does this new imaging device work in the real world? In a word it's fantastic. If IR imaging is your passion, having the ability to preview and capture IR images in real-time will have you yodeling across the countryside. The days of counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…" umpteen times are over. You compose the picture, shoot the picture, and move onto your next visual conquest.
It's also worth noting the camera captures amazing AVI movie files in all three imaging modes. As a jaded old-timer, I can only say the Fujifilm IS-1 is a terrific all-in-one camera, not to mention a real hoot to shoot with.
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