Lungfish: Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro

It seems oddly appropriate to kick off some intermittent posting on this dusty blog with a digital fossil that was not very fossilized when I started here back in '07. Heck, in 2007, the Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro was barely dead; it didn't exit the catalog until the end of 2003, replaced by the S3 Pro.

Fuji was an early player in the digital photography world. In fact, when legendary German camera brand Leica decided to dip their toe in the consumer digital market, their first offerings were re-skinned Fujifilm digital cams.

During those early years, digital cameras were mostly novelty toys and the few professional digital cameras for use by photojournalists and such were collaborations between Kodak and film camera makers like Nikon and Canon, grafting a digital sensor made by the former onto a conventional film camera body made by the latter.

That early era of Frankenstein DSLRs would seem to have come to an end with Nikon and Canon launching their own entirely in-house offerings in 1999-2001, but there was one holdout.

See, Fujifilm was eager to get in on this DSLR action, and they had some interesting sensor technology to offer the market, but they didn't have a modern autofocus single lens reflex camera , having essentially bailed on the 35mm SLR market in the Eighties. So Fuji turned to a deal with Nikon, who would supply the actual camera bits, onto which Fuji would graft the digital sensor and hardware to make it work.

Fuji had worked with Nikon before, producing sensors for the company's early "E-series" DSLRs. Further, using Nikon hardware for their own DSLR launch would let Fuji buyers immediately piggyback off the vast Nikon F-mount lens library, so it seemed a win-win.

The initial offering from this pairing was the FinePix S1 Pro, which was built on a Nikon N60 body and had two marketing problems: First, asking people to shell out $3500 for a DSLR built on the chassis of a $300 entry-level film SLR is kind of a big ask. Second, Fuji marketing stumbled badly in the description of the sensor.

Fuji's SuperCCD sensor had 3.1 million photodiodes, but rather than arranging them horizontally & vertically, they were in diagonal rows and the resulting image was interpolated into a 6.2 megapixel image...so Fuji marketed the S1 as a 6.2MP camera. At the time, the $3,000 Canon D30 had a 3.1MP sensor and the $5,500 Nikon D1 had 2.7, so this was a big deal, at least until everyone started complaining about the actual number of photodiodes.

At any rate, the S1 Pro was succeeded in 2002 by the S2 Pro which was an upgrade in several ways. Importantly, it used the much more high-end Nikon N80 as the base camera, which made it feel a lot less chintzy and offered much-improved capabilities over the downmarket N60. Second, the new iteration of the SuperCCD had a 6.1MP sensor that, using the same interpolation method, turned out images of a jaw-dropping (for the time) 12MP resolution.

While the S2 was a modest success and was itself succeeded by a couple more iterations of Nikon-based cameras with Fuji sensors, Fuji eventually abandoned the DSLR market in '09 to concentrate on its mirrorless offerings.

A friend noticed this S2 Pro in a pawn shop, where it had languished for a while with a $50 price tag before moving to the bargain table, where it was scooped up along with several old video game carts and one of the old swivel-lens Nikon Coolpix cameras, the whole lot going for a Jackson. Not having much in the way of Nikon glass and knowing my love for weird old cameras, he passed the S2 Pro along.

It's an interesting artifact of its era. Its Frankenstein nature becomes apparent in that the Nikon camera part still runs on the same 2 CR123 batteries as a regular N80, but there's also a pull-out tray for four AA cells to power the grafted-on Fuji digital bits.

There are two card slots, but unlike modern systems, you have to decide in the menu whether you want to record to the SmartMedia or the CF card bay. It won't record to both simultaneously.

SmartMedia is a pretty well dead format, kept alive mostly because apparently some keyboards (the musical instrument, not the input device) use them. The largest SmartMedia cards only ran to 128MB, and I found a new-old-stock Fuji 32MB one on Amazon. Shooting in 12-bit CCD RAW, the 32MB card will hold precisely two images. Fortunately I have plenty of smallish CF cards formatted in FAT16 lying around from the D1x.

The top plate, at first glance, is straight-up Nikon N80. The difference is the Mode Dial, which has been replaced with one that adds the self-explanatory "ISO", whereby you adjust sensitivity by twiddling the Command Dial with the Mode Dial in this position, and the more cryptic "CSM", which puts you in the FinePix's Custom Settings Menu.

On the back of the camera is a small monochrome LCD for toggling through basic camera operations, as well as displaying ISO and resolution. Below that is a 1.8" color LCD for reviewing photos and the camera's basic setup menus: time & date, card formatting, CF/SmartMedia, color space, resolution, and suchlike.

One last feature that seems odd compared to modern DSLRs is the settings menu for the rear display. After every photo you can either have it off; set it to "postview", which is what we would call "preview" nowadays, showing the image you just took; set it to "preview", where it will display the image you just took and not actually record it until you press the F2 button; and "preview + histogram", which is what it sounds like.

I was stumped at first because it wasn't recording the pictures I had taken. This was because I had the camera set to "preview" using my current understanding of the term. Oops.

Once I got it figured out, though, I was pretty happy with the performance of the old SuperCCD...



Beep boop.


I bow to the master.

I've got a few older handheld video games: A Gameboy and a Game Gear and a Game Boy Advance, but this is the best shrine to old handhelds I've seen. And they're all mounted with velcro so he can take them down and play them.

Now I'm all nostalgic for my old Tomy Hit & Missile...


eMac gripe.

I've been using my eMac as my media server-cum-iPod docking station for about a year and a half, and it serves its purpose just fine, but I do have one serious gripe: That keyboard blows goats.

Seriously, could it possibly have less tactile feedback? Perhaps if they used stale marshmallows under the keys instead of fresh ones...

The only reason I haven't replaced it with the old keyboard from the iMac is that it's footprint is so much smaller, which is an important consideration in a keyboard that gets used maybe once a week. That and it's... well, prettier and cooler-looking, and the white keyboard matches the eMac. How Mac-dorky is that?

One thing that I am impressed with, however, is how useful it still is for web surfing; for a six-year-old machine, it's still capable of most everything short of gaming or video-heavy applications.


Handhelds again...

The experiment with the Gameboy Advance was annoying.

The games I tried were remarkably sophisticated for a handheld console, considering that my previous handheld experiences had been limited to the Game Boy and Sega Game Gear. Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed retained at least the flavor of the PC version, and Eye of the Beholder was pretty much identical to the classic SSI PC games; unsurprising considering that the Game Boy Advance probably had roughly the same wheaties as the 286 on which I first experienced the classic "Gold Box" AD&D computer games.

The fatal flaw of the GBA was the unlit LCD screen, which really cut down on the places where I could really enjoy it. It quickly began gathering dust...



The aforementioned Apple IIc has just sat forlornly in its case since it arrived on my doorstep. Last night it occurred to me that I hadn't inspected the flat, zippered compartment on the case's lid...

Hey! 5.25" floppies! With the names of what appear to be games on them!

Today I worked up my mojo to pull the little monitor up from the basement and set the machine up, only to find that I was short a video cable. Now, given who my roomie is, I know there have got to be a squillion cables lying about the house, but I'm going to have to wait 'til she gets home to find one.



It's calling to me.

I have an Apple IIc, complete with the bitty little green screen Apple monitor, that I accidentally won in an eBay auction.

Lately I've had this bad urge to hit the web and see if I could scare up some games for it. It'd be neat to play Castle Wolfenstein, Wizardry, or F-15 Strike Eagle in the old school original.


Back on Mac.

Well, my old P4 tower puked its power supply last night, and that meant cranking up the eMac.

It's only a year younger than the wintel box, and it was a stripper when it was new, compared to the P4, whose video card alone cost nearly a quarter of the eMac's purchase price.

Still, I used the G4/500 "Sawtooth" tower for the better part of a year, and this thing is a ton better than it. We'll see how long it takes me to cry "uncle" and repair or replace the PC.


I totally fell into the internet...

The Obsolete Technology Website: All your favorite old computers, plus many of which you've never before heard, plus scans of original ads, downloadable goodies, and more!


Speaking of handheld games...

I had this one when I was maybe ten or eleven that I traded away from a neighborhood kid. You controlled this missile launcher at the bottom of the screen with a knob that moved it left and right and a button that sent your missile shooting straight up towards the top of the screen.

Enemy aircraft crossed from left to right at different speeds and altitudes. When it died, I cracked it open and was fascinated to see that it was entirely electromechanical: Each flight level of aircraft was a filmstrip that scrolled in a continuous loop. Your missile ran on a vertical track; the "reload" time was how long it took to get the little backlit plastic missile back down to the bottom of the screen.

Given all the monkey motion going on inside that little plastic case, it's a wonder that it survived as long as it did in my hands.



I like supporting local retailers, and there's a little joint called The Game Station that I try to stop by once a month or so, even if it's just to take advantage of their 3-for-$20 DVD wall.

Every time I'm in there, I glance in the case full of handhelds, just to see what's new, since I've been planning on adding to my feeble handheld collection for some time now. (Currently I only have the original Game Boy and the Sega Game Gear.) Yesterday, I noticed that they had a couple of Game Boy Advance units for, like $16 each, and a copy of Eye of the Beholder for $8. Heck, that's almost free! And for an old-school D&D geek like myself, that's a nearly irresistible combination.

Let's see how this thing works...


It's too big to be a space station!

At not quite 40 pounds, the original G3 iMac was a handful to move, but the eMac? Yikes. I think it tips the scales at shade over a desk-busting fifty pounds with its built-in 17" CRT.

The one I snagged off eBay (for a buy-it-now price of $80) is a 1.25GHz G4, circa early 2004. At only five years old, it's stretching the definition of "fossil", but with the demise of the PowerPC Macs, even a big G5 tower more or less rates the term these days.

The eMac, which sold new for about $800 in 2004, just absolutely crushes my G4/500 tower in any objective set of benchmarks, and the G4 sold for $3,500 stripped just four years before the eMac, which is ready to boot out of the box. Never let it be said that Apple doesn't have some schizoid pricing practices.

Ports are abundant, with 2 FireWire and three USB 2.0 ports easily accessible on the right side of the case towards the front, and another USB port on the backside of the keyboard. The keyboard is Apple's attractive white/clear "borderless" unit, where it looks as though the keys are hovering above the lucite slab.

One big area of improvement over the earlier G3 iMac is the speakers: while they don't exactly provide floor-shaking bass, they are leaps and bounds better than the tinny units in the old iMac. This makes the machine excel as a second computer for watching movies and doing simple 'net chores, although it will choke on media-heavy sites unless you cram in more RAM than the 512MB with which mine shipped.

I'll post more detailed impressions after I've played with it some more.


Constant craving...

During a recent long car ride with a friend, we got to talking about old video games, reminiscing about favorites from the previous decade like Privateer, Aces of the Pacific, Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe, Full Throttle, and Gabriel Knight.

Man, I need to set up a 486 running DOS so I can get all those old CDs down from the attic...


Mysteries of science.

Okay, so I'm ripping my CD collection to iTunes via my old iMac DV SE.

The target directory is on my external FireWire disc. On some CDs, things bog down to the point where I'm showing stuff being imported at "0.3x", and it will occasionally even choke completely.

What the heck is causing that?



Mac-on-a-stick! Or a keychain...

I'll be giving that a try with my SE.


Friden Flexowriter.

It's like a typewriter for writing love notes to HAL.

If computing technology was the animal kingdom, that thing would be wondering in its little fishy brain whether its fins would support it on dry land or not.


Thanks to the magic of FireWire Target Disk Mode...

...I finally got OS 10.4 running on my G4 Sawtooth.

For those who are unfamiliar with Macs, Target Disk Mode (first in SCSI, later in FireWire) is a neat method that allows you to power up a Mac in such a way that you can use it as an external hard drive for another machine. Pretty handy.

In this case, I've had problems with the antediluvian 1X Matsushita DVD on the Sawtooth not being able to read modern DVDs. The situation was to boot the G4 into Target Disk Mode and hook it by FireWire cable to the iMac, which saw it as a local drive. Then I just ran the install for Tiger normally.


It's a beautiful day...

...and I need to write my LEM column.

Also, I need to play with old Macs to get my writing mojo going. I can't decide whether to continue tinkering with the 7100 or to drag down a few of the others I haven't yet booted up and see if they're working and what's on them. There's a Quadra 610 and a Centris 650 that haven't been booted yet; may as well do it while I have the monitor, keyboard, and mouse all down here ready and waiting.



I've got productivity software out the yinyang for old Macs and all the communications widgets I can handle, but I'm desperate to find some games that will work on 680x0 machines and/or early PPC Macs.

Got any? Let's make a deal: tamslick A T aol D O T com.

Punked out.

So I unhooked the TAM from where it's been sitting in the corner of the dining room and parked it away. I schlepped a 14" Apple monitor, and an old keyboard and mouse down from the attic. I went back upstairs, dug out the massive Quadra 950, dragged it to the head of the stairs, and...

...punked out.

I realized that this beast didn't have a CD-ROM drive. I had never booted it up, and had no clue what OS was already on it. I have no OS floppies well, except for system 6.0.7 for my SE; fat lot of good that does me if something's pooched. There's a SCSI external CD burner around here someplace, but hey, look! A Power Macintosh 7100/66! It has a CD drive! And I've played with plenty of Power Macs lately. I'll just work up to tackling the '040 tower gradually by getting my feet wet with a much more familiar old Mac.

I turned the 7100 on for the first time and it chimed to life without a hiccup. It sported 40MB of RAM and (whoah!) a brace of 1.5GB hard drives. That's pretty sexy specs for 1994; I think at the time I was using a 486DX/66 with... 8? 16? MB of memory and a 250MB HDD and there wasn't a game it wouldn't run.

The 7100 was running OS 8.0; I immediately threw in my 8.6 upgrade CD, and while it was crunching away, I went to find my 9.1 CD.

Which was in my TAM. Which was all powered down. Thank $DEITY for paperclips...

Unfortunately, to upgrade from 8.6 to 9.1, you have to boot from the CD, which this 7100 resolutely refuses to do, no matter how I prod it. More later...


Monday's child will boot up in a tower case...

Tomorrow's project: Boot up either the Quadra 900 or Quadra 950 tower, and see if I can get it running OS 8.


Lowered Expectations...

Once something becomes a "mature technology", you begin to take it for granted.

When silicon chips and LCD displays became cheap and common enough, there was no longer any really burning need to spend the money on a Seiko or Casio digital watch if all you needed to know was what time it was; the fifty cent watch from a gumball machine could do that.

Some technologies are more mature than others.

Repeat after me: I will not buy a cheap-ass "powered USB hub".



Drinking from the fire hose.

Moving up here, my CD collection filled two big cardboard boxes slightly larger than longneck beer cases.

The iMac has a 13GB internal hard drive.

To quote Roy Scheider: "You're gonna need a bigger disk."


"Eat up Martha"

I met up with TD at the NRA convention this past weekend. He'd been hinting that he had a totally awesome piece of swag for me that would surely make a good subject for a Digital Fossils column. He wasn't kidding:

Bonus supergeek points for getting the reference in the post title...


State of the Experiment Address.

I'm typing this on my iBook, sitting on the front porch. For the last three weeks or so, I've been doing all my computing on Macs, none newer than eight years old. Not being much of a power gamer any more, this is all blogging, web surfing, writing, emailing, iPodding, and what-have-you. Here's how it's going:

The iBook, a G3/466 Firewire machine, was no great stretch. It's been my de facto portable all along. It's running the latest version of Panther, and has been for about a year. With my recent Firefox woes, I've started using Safari on it and will download Camino as soon as I get around to it. It connects to the network with its internal AirPort card.

My G3/250 WallStreet is in use as a "bridge" machine, running OS 9.2. It stays more-or-less permanently plugged-in in a corner of the living room with a Farallon WiFi PCMCIA card and an AppleTalk dongle hanging off it. Should I do some writing on one of my "lap savers", a 2400c or a Duo 280c, I'll AppleTalk the file to the WallStreet and email it to myself.

A G4/500 Sawtooth tower is my main machine. Browsing the web with Camino, it's also using Panther because the old Matshita LP-2 DVD drive won't read my Tiger install. Because it's still on Panther, and with its two USB ports clogged by the Logitech mouse and keyboard, it provides a job for the last computer.

Sitting next to the Sawtooth on the desk is a slot-loading G3/400 iMac DV SE. I have Tiger up and running on it. Thanks to the magic of a powered USB hub, it has a Hawking USB WiFi connection, as well as serving as the dock for my iPod Nano and my card reader for the Compact Flash cards from my Nikon Coolpix digital camera. Using the iMac as basically a media server lets me rip CDs or download Firefly episodes without tying up the Sawtooth. As the internal drive fills up, I'll just go ahead and get an external FireWire drive for all the media crap. Since both the iBook and the G4 tower are (barely) just new enough to have FireWire ports, this will pay bonus dividends down the road.

Am I missing my trusty P4/2.4 yet? Nope. Not really. So far, these old machines are doing everything I need them to do. What I can't get over is the fact that I have a very capable, complet, four-computer wireless network, with two laptops and two desktops that could be had off eBay for much less than $1,000. Neat! :)


Browser woes fixed. I think.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I've been having nothing but trouble with the latest release of Firefox 2 running on Panther (10.3.9).

After a frustrating run with Safari, I've downloaded Camino. It seems to be doing everything I need: To wit, acting like an older version of Firefox that doesn't lock up constantly.

With it doing so swimmingly on the G4, I'm going to download it to the iBook next.


That was weird.

Keeping ancient computers around and actually using them means you get to see some pretty weird stuff from time to time. Sometimes you even get to see pretty weird stuff when you're not using them.

I keep a few old PowerBooks stacked atop the bookshelves in the living room where I can grab one on my way out the front door to do some writing on the porch. As I was walking through the room yesterday morning, I heard this weird clicking buzz coming from atop the bookshelf.

Oh, crap! I had just finished next week's column for Low End Mac on the 2400 the night before, and had left the computer sleeping, intending to AppleTalk it over to the WallStreet and polish it up before emailing it in. Could the snoozing Comet have suddenly decided to lunch its hard disk or something?

I snatched the 2400c from the top of the stack, but its sleep light just blinked at me silently. The noise wasn't coming from it. Setting the Comet on the futon, I grabbed the next 'Book off the stack, the Duo 280c. It, too was inert. The noise was coming from the bottom laptop in the stack, the 1400cs. Scooping it up, it became apparent that the strange buzzing sound was emanating from its speaker. This was odd, because the battery was deader than Elvis.

Opening the lid and poking the on/off key got me nothing. I plugged in an AC power supply and hooked up the computer and the noise stopped. I still got no response from the power key, and when I unplugged the AC adaptor, the noise resumed. Ejecting the battery caused the buzz to cease again, and when I went upstairs and fetched another (also dead) battery and inserted it, the noise didn't return.

I hooked up the AC and used the power reset switch on the back of the notebook, and it powered up normally. I shut it down and it stayed silent. The only abnormality I could detect with the battery that had been in it when it was making the noise is that the righthand-most of the four battery terminals was bent slightly outward from the other three.

Who knows what caused the speaker to suddenly go berserk, especially when the battery was run down so flat?


See, this is how it's supposed to work.

I'd been running OS 10.2.8 on the G4 tower.

Now, I like the idea behind OS X, don't get me wrong, but the early implementations left something to be desired. All the swoopy graphics touches that make the interface "pretty" are worthless if they make the machine limp along like an arthritic slug. I had hope, however.

As long as Jaguar was the only game in town, I kept my iBook (a G3/466 with 192 megs of RAM) running OS 9. It just wasn't worth staring at the spinning beachball of frustration every time I tried to do something. When the chance came to upgrade the clamshell to Panther, I jumped at it, and it's been running 10.3.9 just fine since.

That's what gave me hope: I knew that there was no reason that a G3 iBook should be faster than a G4/500 tower with half a gig of RAM, save for the fact that Jaguar is one bog-slow OS. When the mailman came yesterday, he probably wondered why I almost knocked him over getting the padded envelope out of his hands. I had the first Panther install disk in the G4 almost before the front door slammed.

It's like a whole new machine.



I wrote my last column using my PowerBook Duo 280c, a computer that is fourteen years old. Although the comparison isn't exact, it's roughly the equivalent of a 486-era notebook. Mac laptops just seem to dodge the landfill long after they are completely technically obsolete.

The idea inspired me to go crawling eBay to see if I could find an equivalent DOS-powered machine. When I moved, I realized that I had a slew of games still on 3.5" (and even 5.25"!) floppies, as well as plenty of old MS-DOS install disks. Rather than go through the workarounds required to get them to run on my present-day XP box, it'd be nice to have a machine on which they could run in their native environment, yet is easy to stow away when I'm done playing.

Unfortunately, on eBay you just go to "Vintage Apple" to find the old Mac you want, but you have to go nose through "Vintage Computing" for a DOS box. Do you know how long scrolling through those listings takes when you have to stop and look at every Timex Sinclair and Mattel Aquarius ("NEW IN BOX!!!1!!")?

Sadly, the old DOS laptop market is nowhere near as robust. To be fair, neither were most old DOS laptops. With the exception of a few name brands like Toshiba, most PC laptops of the era were pretty flimsily constructed, uninspiring affairs. I wonder what the comparative ratios are between keepers and landfill fodder for both DOS laptops and Mac PowerBooks?


If I had a time machine...

I was messing around trying to get the TAM to talk to the 2400c when it occurred to me that if I had that setup back in late '97, I would have been big pimpin': Apple's super-snob appeal desktop machine and the flavor-of-the-month subnotebook were both serious computing status symbols when they were new, and would have gone together like peaches and cream. Free-range peaches and organically grown cream, of course. From some pretentious yuppie grocery store with carpeted aisles.

This has given me an idea for a post, or a column, or something...

UPDATE: Looking at this more closely, the Macs I'm using during my experiment (a G4 "Sawtooth", a graphite iMac DV SE, and a key lime iBook SE) would have been a pretty swoopy computing suite, circa late 2000. It might be neat to do a series of experiments; go "back in time" and try using a comparable suite from 1992 (Quadra 950/LCII/Duo 270c) or 1994 (Power Mac 7100/Performa 636CD/PowerBook 540c), and see how it feels.

Poverty sucks.


When you have a 270c and a 280c, a full dock would be the ultimate accessory. Sigh. There will be others...


This is me, tearing my hair out...

Remember the other day, when I was going on and on about how easy my little AppleTalk experiment was? Yeah, well, that was then, and this is now.

How come an ancient Color Classic, circa 1993 and running an OS that generated its zeros and ones by banging small rocks together, fired up and chattered back and forth with my much more recent PowerBook 2400 without a hitch, but when my Twentieth Anniversary Mac, a nearly contemporaneous machine, was asked to do likewise I got bupkis? I've tried both the 2400 and the G3 WallStreet and the TAM refuses to divulge its existence to the network through either the modem or printer ports.

Work proceeds apace on figuring out just exactly why. I'm all ears if anyone has any ideas on where to look.

Oh for the glorious days of big hair, skinny ties, teen movies...

...and really lousy keyboards.

(H/T to Dustbury.)