Camera Test: Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

There's a whole lot more to this fraternal twin of the Nikon D200 than meets the eye -- or test target.

Camera-Test-Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro

Camera-Test-Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro

Camera Test: FujiFilm FinePix S5 Pro 00074101403008FujiFilmFinePix S5 ProThe moment of truth has come for the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro ($1,900 street, body only). We've completed full lab tests on a production model, and with Excellent marks across the board in resolution (average 1970 lines), color accuracy (a stellar Delta E of 6.61), and noise ratings of Extremely Low through Low at ISOs 100-1600, the S5 gains an overall Image Quality rating of Excellent by a comfortable margin. While these scores put it no higher than the ranks of current 10MP DSLRs, there is more to the imaging quality of this camera than the numbers suggest. The S5 uses a combination of 6.17 million small pixels and 6.17 million large pixels to record a wider-than-normal dynamic range between highlight and shadow, with a choice of six ranges from 100% (narrow) to 400% (very wide). The camera produces both sharp and smooth rendering of detail, with little if any jagged edges at the limits of resolution, resulting in what are best described as creamy images. It also offers an extensive array of imaging controls, including film-emulation modes, any of which can be captured with a simultaneous RAW file. During field testing, we shot highest-quality JPEGs with 400% dynamic range, operating on the principle that it's easier to increase contrast later, rather than reduce it. This produced low-contrast images, even in fairly harsh daylight. When we wanted more snap in the shots, it was simple to boost contrast in image-editing software. Doing this is a bit like making a straight print of a soft, full-range negative on No. 3 or 4 paper (if you remember things like that). See the image gallery for examples.

The moment of truth has come for the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro ($1,900 street, body only). We've completed full lab tests on a production model, and with Excellent marks across the board in resolution (average 1970 lines), color accuracy (a stellar Delta E of 6.61), and noise ratings of Extremely Low through Low at ISOs 100-1600, the S5 gains an overall Image Quality rating of Excellent by a comfortable margin.

While these scores put it no higher than the ranks of current 10MP DSLRs, there is more to the imaging quality of this camera than the numbers suggest. The S5 uses a combination of 6.17 million small pixels and 6.17 million large pixels to record a wider-than-normal dynamic range between highlight and shadow, with a choice of six ranges from 100% (narrow) to 400% (very wide). The camera produces both sharp and smooth rendering of detail, with little if any jagged edges at the limits of resolution, resulting in what are best described as creamy images. It also offers an extensive array of imaging controls, including film-emulation modes, any of which can be captured with a simultaneous RAW file.

During field testing, we shot highest-quality JPEGs with 400% dynamic range, operating on the principle that it's easier to increase contrast later, rather than reduce it. This produced low-contrast images, even in fairly harsh daylight. When we wanted more snap in the shots, it was simple to boost contrast in image-editing software. Doing this is a bit like making a straight print of a soft, full-range negative on No. 3 or 4 paper (if you remember things like that). See the image gallery for examples.

We also became fond of filmemulation mode F2, the "Fujichrome" look. This produces highly saturated images, with more contrast and sharpness than you'd get at standard settings. And we shot simultaneous RAW capture to maintain a full-range "color negative." The S5, in short, comes close to that long-standing ideal of a camera that could shoot two (or more) types of film simultaneously.

Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro Competitive Set • Canon EOS 5D • Nikon D200 • Product Shots Gallery • Image Quality Gallery • Rate this Camera • How to Read a Camera Test

In use, the S5 is both serious business and a ton of fun. The camera body is the tank-tough Nikon D200, with all its metering, exposure, focusing, and flash options, and straightforward control sequences. One disappointment with the S5 is the burst rate. It could meet its rated speeds -- 3 frames per second at 100% dynamic range, 1.6 fps at wider ranges -- but captured fewer than the claimed maximum per burst. We got no more than 16 combined RAW + highest-quality JPEGs at 100% D-range, not the claimed 20; and 20 JPEGs, not 29. (With the LCD monitor off, we got 20 RAW + JPEGs and 25 JPEGs, but this is not how we usually test burst rate.)

At higher D-ranges, it combined just seven JPEG + RAW in one burst. In the field, this can translate to sluggish RAW + JPEG shooting; after seven quick shots, you'll need to count as many as five Mississippis before firing another frame. (Not surprising, given Fuji's unusually large files -- a massive 24.5MB in RAW.)

But this is not really a sports shooter's camera. The S5 will no doubt please its intended audience -- wedding and portrait shooters. The bigger question is whether it will appeal to the broader market of serious amateur photographers. Actually, we think it will. A lot.

Imaging: 12.9MP (effective) Super CCD SR Pro captures 12.3MP images (4256x2848) with 14 bits/color in RAW format.
Storage: CF Type I and II, Microdrive. Stores JPEG, RAW, or RAW + JPEG.
Burst rate: Up to 25 Fine-quality JPEGs at 3 fps (tested, using a Kingston Ultimate 100x CF card and LCD turned off).
AF system: TTL phase detection with 11 selectable AF zones with activation lights. Sensitive down to EV -2 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
Shutter speeds: 1/8000 to 30 sec plus B (1/3-EV increments).
Metering: TTL metering with 1005-segment RGB sensor. 3D Color Matrix, centerweighted (8mm circle), and spotmetering (approx. 2 percent of frame). EV 0-20 (at ISO 100).
ISO range: 100-3200 (in 1/3-EV increments).
Flash: Built-in pop-up with i-TTL autoflash and 1005-segment RGB sensor, GN 39 (ISO 100, feet). Flash sync at 1/250 sec. Dedicated hot-shoe.
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentaprism.
LCD: 2.5-in. TFT with 230,000-pixel resolution. Batteries: NP-150 Li-ion rechargeable; 400 shots per charge, 50% with flash (CIPA rating).
Size/weight: 5.8x4.4x2.9 in., 2 lb with card and battery (body only).
Street price: $1,900, body only.
For info: www.fujifilmusa.com.

VIEWFINDER TEST:

Accuracy: 96% (Excellent) Magnification: 0.97X (Excellent)

Competitive Set

Canon EOS 5D ($2,800, street, body only): Has full-frame imager for superior wide-angle capability with EF lenses, fine build quality, best resolution of 12MP DSLRs so far -- but it costs $900 more, and lacks built-in flash. The Fuji does better on noise, color accuracy, and dynamic range.
Nikon D200 ($1,340, street, body only): Same body, with Nikon imager and engine, offers higher burst rates and buffer capacity -- for $560 less. Test results are roughly on par; the Nikon has slightly better noise control, the Fuji better color accuracy and superior dynamic range controls.

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Mixed-traffic-ahead-Im

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Mixed-traffic-ahead-Im

Mixed traffic ahead... Image taken at 1/1000 sec at f/5.6 is crispy sharp and noise-free at ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Fuji-imaging-products-see

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Fuji-imaging-products-see

Fuji imaging products seem to always do a good job with... green! Saturated colors are nonetheless very accurate. 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Fujifilm-S5-s-high-dynami

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Fujifilm-S5-s-high-dynami

Fujifilm S5's high-dynamic-range sensor is adept at capturing subtle gradations of color, even in relatively harsh light. 1/400 sec at f/10, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Smile!-Deep-red-of-sweats

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Smile!-Deep-red-of-sweats

Smile! Deep red of sweatshirt, soft pastels in flowers both get their due from the S5's color rendition. 1/400 sec at f/10, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-A-riot-of-reds-with-satu

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-A-riot-of-reds-with-satu

A riot of reds, with saturation holding strong, even in direct sunlight. 1/320 sec at f/9, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-The-dynamic-range-of-the

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-The-dynamic-range-of-the

The dynamic range of the S5's sensor hangs onto detail over a wide range of highlight and shadow. Can you spot the window-washing scaffold? 1/500 sec at f/11, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Made-in-the-shade-Automa

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Made-in-the-shade-Automa

Made in the shade: Automatic white balance kept colors natural under the dim mixed light of a store awning. 1/40 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-S5-s-handling-of-highligh

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-S5-s-handling-of-highligh

S5's handling of highlight and shadow helps keep this variety of colors vibrant. 1/20 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Not-all-the-flowers-are-i

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Not-all-the-flowers-are-i

Not all the flowers are in the park. Fuji S5's metering (Matrix evaluative, compliments of Nikon) made a good compromise reading of a contrasty scene. 1/160 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-The-NYC-fruitstand-scene

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-The-NYC-fruitstand-scene

The NYC fruitstand scene. Color contrast is strong without being exaggerated. 1/200 sec at f/7.1, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Shot-with-the-S5-s-dynami

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Shot-with-the-S5-s-dynami

Shot with the S5's dynamic range control at the maximum, 400%, results in a pastel rendition in bright sunlight suggestive of a Hopper painting. Too dull? Easy to fix...
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-A-quick-boost-of-the-cont

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-A-quick-boost-of-the-cont

A quick boost of the contrast and saturation sliders in Photoshop CS2 results in the Velvia look. JPEGs shot at the maximum dynamic range of the S5 give you this kind of flexibility. 1/640 sec at f/13, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Someday-soon-baby-will-be

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Someday-soon-baby-will-be

Someday soon baby will be a little more interested in the chocolate goodies in the window. Shot on an overcast day at too low an ISO (200) so there's a bit of blur. 1/10 sec at f/5.6.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-NYC-abstract-art.-You-don

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-NYC-abstract-art.-You-don

NYC abstract art. You don't think anybody actually reads the posters, do you? The S5 made a properly snappy rendition of the colors. 1/500 sec at f/13, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Everybody-s-a-salesman-in

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Everybody-s-a-salesman-in

Everybody's a salesman in the Big Apple. Subtle tones of Mr. Frog's bronzed complexion captured at 1/160 sec at f/7.1, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-We-used-the-400-dynamic

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-We-used-the-400-dynamic

We used the 400% dynamic range setting on the Fuji S5 to get a softer rendition in this brightly sunlight scene. 1/750 sec at f/14, ISO 400.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Dynamic-ranger-With-the

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Dynamic-ranger-With-the

Dynamic ranger: With the highest dynamic range set, Fuji S5 kept detail in the dark metal sculpture without blowing out the highlights in the background. 1/20 sec at f/5, ISO 200.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Ice-skating-on-a-rainy-da

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-Ice-skating-on-a-rainy-da

Ice skating on a rainy day... brr!. Fuji S5 kept the warm golden glow in Prometheus, though. 1/40 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200.
Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-To-keep-detail-in-the-clo

Fujifilm-FinePix-S5-Pro-To-keep-detail-in-the-clo

To keep detail in the cloudy-bright sky, we again went with the 400% dynamic range setting of the Fuji S5. 1/230 sec at f/8, ISO 200.
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