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S5 Pro Review Part II: The Bad

I've had people tell me that they were eagerly awaiting this part so they could save some money. In the end, that's up to you, but I'll do my best. This section will be nearly entirely predicated on comparisons to the Nikon D200, because that's where I see the up-in-the-air market. If you're a Fuji shooter and can't stand the idea of using any other brand of camera, save up for this one. Yes, it has basically the same sensor as the S3 … but all 35mm film cameras use the same "sensors," and yet some cameras were a lot more expensive than others for a reason. The rugged body and i-TTL flash usage alone would be enough for most, not counting esoteric benefits such as metering with manual-focus lenses. If you're a Canon shooter, it's probably not worth the lens exchange unless dynamic range is all that matters to you.

So … keep in mind that the S5 is a great camera all-around, but when you compare it to the Nikon D200, it comes up short in some big ways.

The Problem with Pretty, Part II


1. Price: The D200 was a deal when it came out, and it's come down in price since then. You can get the D200 at B&H for $1,339.95. The S5 Pro is $1,899.95, or about 42 percent more. Is the S5 Pro 42 percent better than the D200? Only for people with some very specific preferences.

2. Speed. The D200 is a fast camera. It's not a world-class sports camera, but its 5 fps and good buffer means that every time you press the shutter, you know a picture's going to be taken. In contrast, the burst mode of the S3 is about half as fast on best settings, and even slower when shooting RAW with extended dynamic range. The shutter will only lock up during the fastest situations, but if you're used to looking at the LCD right after taking a shot, you're going to get really frustrated -- it can take a few seconds for a RAW image to come up even after one shot.

3. File sizes One of the reasons those RAW files take so long? They run close to 25 megabytes if you're shooting with extended dynamic range. That means you have to buy more cards and more hard drives, and those cards should be fairly fast, too, or you're going to have to wait a long time as they load onto your computer. An 8GB Extreme IV is looking really good to me right now.

4. The menus The D200 has one of the best menu systems of any camera. They are easy to read, organized well, and have a brilliant extended "recent settings" menu that can actually change the way you shoot -- it means that any setting you change in the field is only one menu level down, and can often be changed in five seconds or less. Here's a photo of my current D200 menu:

flickr_070408-152210_105_mm


In contrast, the S5 Pro menus are awful. There are TWO different buttons on the camera to get at menu settings, which is wasteful to the extreme, and the individual items are scattered in a disordered mess between them. The only way to be able to change these settings on the fly at all is to memorize each and every last menu, and even then you'll have to dig through four or five levels to get to your most useful settings.

Of course, the S2 "menus" were just a series of numbers that made you refer to the manual to change, so I guess this is Fuji's idea of an improvement.

5. Image review: It doesn't get close enough to check sharpness. Highly frustrating, and hopefully will be fixed in a firmware update. On the plus side, the face-detection button works decently, as long as people are more or less dead-on to the camera.

5. Wonky exposure. I don't want to lay this all at Fuji's feet yet, because there are also issues with Lightroom and other converters that are trying to calibrate the right settings for a recently-released camera, but I've gotten some rather extreme underexposure out of the box. I calibrated mine to expose at a half-stop over the metered reading for every shot, which seemed to do the trick for the actual exposure, measured in JPEG. Lightroom -- one of the few RAW converters than can handle S5 files so far -- can't read the files right sometimes, and underexposes them a few stops. This isn't *actual* underexposure, though, just a mis-read as bringing them back up a few stops doesn't cause undue noise.

6. Resolution It claims to be a 12 MP camera. Not true -- the D200 has higher resolution. Even the lowly D40x has higher resolution. This matters very little to me. 6MP cameras always had enough for me, except possibly when shooting for a magazine double-truck -- and that's just to keep the art directors happy.

Overall, the S5 is kind of a weird camera. It's extraordinary in some important ways, and frustrating in others. I'm keeping mine; I always like the oddballs.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Cheers!

Saw this via stroboist, great review, very straight-forward and informative on a somewhat perplexing subject. With the wide dynamic range this camera could suit panographers as well. BBB)))
www.flickr.com/photos/bigbadbenny

(Anonymous)

Re: Cheers!

You can't possibly compare the S5 Pro to the D200.

Just because the S5 utilizes the D200 body and [some of the] subsystems, they are NOT THE SAME CAMERA, and it is unfair to compare the two.

The reason(s) you would pick up an S5 are different than the reasons you would pick up the D200 ("pick up" as in "use"). I know, I use the D200, S5, D2x, and D80. Each camera offers unique features that the others don't.

The S5 is used for in-studio and outdoor portraits and weddings (mostly), the D200 is used for sporting events (mostly).

Yes, the S5 menuing system is a bit on the rough side, but it works. Most photographers will find that the majority of the settings, as with any other DSLR, are static in nature ... you will soon memorize how to get to the menu options that are most changed, that is, beyond the body-buttons. Most other settings are seldom changed.

Any photographer worth their salt will admit that having different bodies (with different personalities) can only offer her a range of choices in different situations - much the same as a mechanic uses different, yet similar, tools to remove a bolt.

Most photographers use more than one lens and most likely, more than one type of light source. The same holds true with multiple bodies - doing so offers him the competitive advantage and allows him to be prepared in any situation.

Personally? My S5 Pro is a camera that will see lots of use (already has) and that offers many advantages over others in its field of view.

Regards, Michael.

Re: Cheers!

The tone of this seems like you disagree with me, but I don't see where you disagree with me.

Comparing two things only makes sense when the things are different.

(Anonymous)

Re: Cheers!

how do you compare s5 vs. d200 for landscapes?

your input much appreciated.

Re: Cheers!

That's an interesting defense of the Fuji menu system, but I don’t think even you are convinced.

I have yet to see anyone feel that Fuji’s menuing is better in any way than the D200’s. I, for one, wish they just copied the way the D200 did since I drop into menus for a couple things from time to time.

Re: Cheers!

I've seen one guy say it's better, but he also says the S5 has better resolution than the D2X. In short, he's a shill.

Thank you

For your insights into this camera. I have been looking at it myself. I too am a Wedding Photographer, and currently use a D70s as a back up to my S3 Pro.

I have always been disappointed in the the colours in the Nikon compared to the Fuji. So the S5 seems like the logical change for me.

I couldn't help but be impressed with the stress test you posted. I hope you don't mind if I refer to your page to show others what you have already found out.

Cheers
John R.

www.jrphotographybc.com

Re: Thank you

Go right ahead. I've done a lot of shooting with the S5 this week, and the colors have never failed to impress.
I have been looking at a camera upgrade myself, and I was totally pissed off at Nikon for not including advanced software with the camera and not making it known that the camera can’t be expected to take more than mediocre photos without it.

One small quibble

The thing is a a 12mp camera. Unless you think that the Nikon D200 is a 3.1 megapixel camera (and not a 10.2).

Here is the way to look at it. The Nikon has 10.2 million photosites which multiplex position information with color information. Side effect: color moire.

The Fuji has 12 million photosites which multiplex position information with color AND luminosity information. If you take just the blown out shot from:
http://ryanbrenizer.livejournal.com/435131.html
then you are only using 6 million pixels.

But if the shot was IR, or all blue or something you’d only be using 1/4 of the pixels.

It’s just that until the S4 Pro, Fuji didn’t take advantage of the extra spatial information in the firmware.

Having said all that, I wish they made a denser sensor. Only because. :-)

(Anonymous)

Nikon D200 vs. Fuji S5 Pro

I hope this may helps:

Nikon D200 SLR Digital Camera (http://www.smartratings.com/review/photography/digital_cameras/53) – has an average expert rating of 88 (based on 21 expert sources).

Fuji FinePix S5 Pro Digital Camera (http://www.smartratings.com/review/photography/digital_cameras/1028) – has an average expert rating of 89 (based on 14 expert sources).

There's not much difference between the two rating-wise, so a closer look at the reviews might help. But one key point to consider is if you are shooting more landscape photos, D200 is the way to go. But if you are into portraits and indoor shots, S5 Pro is very capable. Good luck.

Re: Nikon D200 vs. Fuji S5 Pro

I'm not an expert by any means of the word. Just someone trying to do the best possible w/ what he's got (D80).

I've found limitations on the D80 and have found myself longing for a D200 on occasion. However, the S5 sounds almost like a better deal (for what I imagine). You say that the D200 is better for landscapes, but if the S5's dynamic range is so much better than the D200's, then wouldn't it make sense for the S5 to be better in that regard?

Nikon D200 vs. Fuji S5 Pro

I've have own many digital cameras from Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, Fujifilm. To me Fuji produces best image quality by far, on top of digital. Second is Sony, then come Nikon, then Canon, then Panasonic, last is Olympus.
I am a foto specialist for over 27 yrs now, colors is my specialty...
Im here not to talk about how each camera function or features, im here to tell yall about image quality, after all when you buy the camera you must consentrate on the final products that will sell. most people or clients dont care what camera you have as long as you show them beautiful prints. therefore you must target more about the results that sells.
It sounded to me like most Nikon users here are finding excuses on Nikon products, most said D200 is better for sports, and Fuji S3,S5 better for the rest..its clearly S5 is better in overall. bcuz not every body shoot sports..Duhh!. Most people shoot people and landscapes..
I own S2 and S3 pro, its a bit slow camera, yes!..i dont disagree with that
But Fujis are sure produces best image quality in my opinion. For that reason, ive sold all my Canon and Nikon gears to switch over to Fujis and
Sonys.
You need to try and test out for your own sake...you need to shoot side bt side and compare images to images...Then you will see what im talking about. Ive done so many tests on these cameras..im convinced!.
watch out for new Sony DSLRs coming out this fall 07. could blow everyy one mind.
Cheers.
JV

(Anonymous)

Re: Nikon D200 vs. Fuji S5 Pro

I'm very interested in your comments, JV, and would also like to know to what extent Ryan might agree or disagree with your summary. I've been shooting 35mm film in bodies like the FE, FE2, F4 and F100 for about ten years. My in-camera skills with film are well-honed, and I routinely create quality images under adverse conditions without resorting to post processing. I've been holding off on DSLRs for the last few years due to a combination of price and performance. For the latter, it's boiled down to the usual: tone and color, which of course includes digital's innate difficulty in maintaining those two characteristics when faced with high contrast scenes.

The Fuji S5 may be the first camera to respond to each of my primary objections sufficiently to justify taking the plunge. However, having no experience with bodies like the Nikon D200, Canon 5D and the like, I harbor a certain lack confidence when it comes to plunking down $2,600 for the Fuji APS digital and ultra-wide Nikkor zoom (I already own Nikkors sufficient to cover my needs from wide-angle to tele). Worse, I borrowed a D50 several weeks back, and was thoroughly disappointed by the amount of Photoshop time required to render each image suitable for printing. Anyway, maybe if I tell you how and what I shoot, you can tell me if you think the S5 would be a suitable means of transitioning to digital. It would be the ony DSLR I would buy for the foreseeable near future.

To begin, I'm not a commercial photographer. I shoot for my own pleasure, mostly ruins, street scenes, nature closeups not greater than 1:1, family photos/portraiture and travel photography. Although I sometimes carry a tripod, I prefer handheld shooting, sort of a "grab and run" style. Among others, I have some impressive handheld night scenes from mainland China to show for my trouble. Speaking of which, I try to visit Asia for a month or so every year or two, so I need something reliable, relatively unaffected by dust and smog. I always take a backup, but this would be the first time to carry two different systems (digital and film), and with my trusty F100 relegated to the hotel.

Regarding resolution, I never enlarge any dimension beyond 14-18". Also, I seldom crop in more than 10-15% after scanning a slide or negative, and when I do, I expect not to enlarge so much.

So, what do you think? Is the S5 a good choice? Will the klunky menus get in my way? Will I miss shots while it writes to the card? Is 6Mp enough for this work? Is there another gotcha I'm not aware of? Battery life? SB flash compatibility? Anything?

Many thanks to Ryan for the terrific blog!

Filmguy

Re: Nikon D200 vs. Fuji S5 Pro

I think it might be a good choice for you. Sure, the menus are a bit clunky, and yes, the buffer is small, but one of my favorite things about the Fuji cameras is how hard they've worked to get it close enough in-camera. It definitely saves me time in post-processing. I haven't worked with the D300 in post long enough to know how it competes, but the S5 outshines the D200 in that regard without question.

As for resolution, I've printed 24x36 prints from the S2 Pro for gallery shows, and they looked great at viewing distance.

(Anonymous)

Beware of Adobe's loader

I have the Fuji S2 Pro, and i have conducted several comparison tests between Adobe RAW, Fuji's raw converter, in-camera JPEG, Bibble, QimagePro and dcraw. The verdict is clear:

Only use Fuji's RAW converter. Even though Adobe claims to "support" the SuperCCD, they misinterpret the sub-pixel positioning of the sensor pixels. This leads to a very low resoultion. Adobe RAW gives you lower resolution than in-camera JPEG!

Please use Fuji's converter.

(Anonymous)

Fuji S5 vs. Nikon D200

I use both cameras for wedding photography. I shoot RAW and process in Lightroom. On overexposed images, I can bring out the highlight detail with the Fuji S5 by reducing the exposure in Lightroom. The D200 highlight detail is gone when I reduce exposure. To me that is a huge difference. The Fuji is an under rated camera based on reviews I have seen, versus performance in real world situations. Getting the shot is everything. For me it is a one time opportunity at weddings. But I do recognize it is a slower camera than the D200 for quick action (sports). Base you purchase decision on that criteria.

(Anonymous)

D3

Very informative, actually, I really enjoy my reading and the insight from everyone who participates.
I find it to be refreshing.
I recently upgraded to a Nikon D3 (http://www.alldigitalcamerasstore.com) myself. I'm getting serious :-)
I bookmarked it and will be back time to time.
photography

January 2011

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