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Imaging On The Far Side- Fuji’s FinePix S3 Pro UVIR
Home < Digital Photography < B&H Email Newsletter < Imaging On The Far Side

Imaging On The Far Side

Fujiís FinePix S3 Pro UVIR

Text and Photos by Allan Weitz

If thereís one thing that's been missing in the wonderful world of digital imaging it would have to be the lack of a camera that can satisfy the needs of law enforcement agencies and avid infrared landscape shooters. Now as nutty as that last statement sounds, itís actually an accurate description of the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR. In case youíre curious, the last four letters of the nametag stand for Ultra Violet and Infra Red.

Fuji S3 Pro UVIR

Physically, the new camera is indistinguishable from a conventional Fuji S3 Pro. Thereís no extra nameplate or badge, and the imaging sensor, along with all the buttons and menu choices, is one-and-the-same as in the standard Fuji S3 Pro. The key difference is that the filters in front of the UVIRís CCD have been modified to capture UV in the 320-385 nanometer (nm) range and IR images in the 700-1000nm range. The portion of the color spectrum our eyeís can see is in the 400-700nm range. Basically, Fujiís S3 Pro UVIR is capable of capturing images of things we cannot see otherwise.

Your choice of lens filtration and light source determines the extent of the resulting images. As for optics, Fuji DSLRs are Nikon-based and accept most all AF Nikon lenses as well as most manual-focus Nikon lenses. Interestingly, older lenses are somewhat better for use on the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR as todayís advanced optical coatings do a pretty good job of cutting out UV and IR light. New lenses work well, but you might want to dust off your older Nikkors if you plan on playing with this puppy.

While itís possible to shoot in Program, Aperture, or Shutter Priority, the modified S3 is best used in Manual exposure mode. With images appearing on the cameraís LCD a few seconds after you hit the shutter button, establishing the best exposure is quick and easy.

Optimally, the ISO should be set at 200 or higher. Because the cameraís meter is set to read the visible spectrum you should rely on the indicated exposure solely as a starting point as thereís a good probability you might have go a bit lighter or darker. When photographing something you can neither see or measure things are, understandably, not always as they appear.

While youíre at it you should also turn off the AF system as this too is affected by IR and UV imaging. For important images you should always zoom in on the image on the LCD to check for critical focus. If the image is somewhat soft, try shifting your focus ever so slightly and pop off a few additional exposures. As with the original Fuji S3 Pro you can shoot RAW and several compressions of JPEG, all of which open up to about 34-ish megapixel image files. For longer exposure times the Fuji accepts a standard cable release- thereís no need for a dedicated (read expensive) electronic release.

A conversation with Michael Brooks, of Brooks Photographic Imaging, enlightened me to the real-world benefits of Fujiís S3 Pro UVIR. As a beta tester for this new Fuji product, he believes the new camera should prove to be a powerful, time and cost-saving tool for law enforcement agencies.

Detecting evidence of tampering, be it a false signature, altered inscriptions, or overlays of fresh paint, is tedious, time-consuming, expensive (film & processing) and often difficult to detect. ĎExpertsí are routinely fooled by those who know one trick more than the experts. For some time now the use of film-based UV and IR imaging has been used to unmask forgeries of all sorts as well as a variety of law enforcement/forensic investigation work. The ability to perform these investigations digitally is big news for those who spend their days seeking the truth.

Uncovering the truth with UV and IR imaging



Image © Michael J. Brooks - Brooks Photographic Imaging



Image © Michael J. Brooks - Brooks Photographic Imaging

With film-based IR or UV photography, one usually has to shoot extensive variations of exposures, filters, and light sources. Photographing things you canít see takes a bit more time and patience as compared to conventional picture taking. Sometimes you hit upon the right combination of filter(s), light-source, and exposure times in the first few tries, sometimes you donít. According to Brooks, a full photographic investigation of crime evidence could take days, sometimes weeks, to complete.

Using the Fuji FinePix S3 Pro UVIR, the same investigation can start at nine in the morning and be over in time for an early lunch. "One procedure that used to require exposure times of up to 4 hours has now been reduced to exposure times as little as a 1/4sec. Days of work can be reduced to hours."

A feature that Brooks particularly appreciates is the Live Video option, which is programmed to be the first choice on the menu screen on the UVIR version of the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR. "Live Video enables me to view the effects of various filters in real-time. By viewing the image off the cameraís LCD display, or from a larger monitor thatís tethered to the camera, I can flip through a variety of filters and exposure times until I find the combination that produces the desired effect. The Live Video option also enables me to check focus, which can sometimes be tricky when shooting IR or UV images."

Aside from document and artwork tampering, the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR can be used to document the environmental effects of drought, disease or infestations to farm and forested areas, as infected areas show up differently than healthy areas when recorded in IR. Drug enforcement agencies routinely use IR imaging to detect renegade marijuana farms. The Fujiís S3 Pro UVIR can also detect irregularities in surface soil (a freshly dug grave perhaps?) along with latent images of fingerprints and/or footprints. Anybody feeling queasy out there?

Despite the fact that B&H is located in the bosom of the Big Apple we unfortunately were unable to stumble upon any crime scenes while testing the new camera. The closest we came to criminal activity was downstairs at the local deli, where they were selling tuna and egg salad sandwiches without the benefit of air conditioning in the midst of a triple-digit heat wave. The ramifications of this breach of consumer confidence will be appearing in an upcoming episode of Hellís Kitchen CSI.

On the fun side, the Fuji FinePix S3 Pro UVIR is a terrific camera for infrared landscape photography. Aside from all of the earlier mentioned variables common to IR imaging, the hassles of handing, transporting, and processing IR film are history.

The images appearing along with this article were taken with the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR and a 14/2.8 AF-D Nikkor (a 21mm equivalent on the Fuji). Since you canít use screw-in filters with this lens, I cut down a 3x3Ē #87 gel filter and inserted it into the gel filter holder located behind the rear element of the lens. A filter factor of 8x made reflex viewing all but impossible.

As an alternative to using the Live Video feature, I opted for a 21mm Leica-M viewfinder, which format-wise was an exact match for the 14mm lens. The finder made it easy for me to compose photos quickly and quite accurately, although photographing objects closer than 2-feet required a bit of parallax correction.

One of the neater attributes of IR imaging is its ability to pierce atmospheric haze. The accompanying cityscape photo was taken on a day the thermometer was hovering around a hundred with a humidity level running a close second. None-the-less, you can clearly pick out the details of distant buildings through the haze. The sky, which in reality was a harsh glare that all but washed out the clouds, is rendered as if it was a crisp, autumn afternoon. The clouds pop from the darkened sky as if shot through a Polarizing filter. White leaves on the trees are the clue the image was recorded in IR.

The photo of the split-rail fencepost was taken later that same day. Even though the ambient temperature had cooled down to a balmy 92, the resulting image appears to have been taken shortly after a winter ice storm.

If you enjoy photographing the world in a way we canít otherwise see it, or maybe you just want to blow the whistle on that little victory garden you-know-who is growing on the edge of town, Fujiís FinePix S3 Pro UVIR is a very cool tool for alternative wavelength imaging.

B&H Photo is currently accepting orders on the Fuji SV Pro UVIR which is only being produced in extremely limited quantities.


Interested in a career in forensic photography? Our friends at Evidence Photographers International Council are accepting registrations for their highly regarded School of Evidence program.

 

 

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