As was the case with the Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro and S3 Pro, it's useful to think of the front half of the camera as a Nikon product, and the back half as Fujifilm's domain. In the case of the FinePix S5, the differences between the fronts of the S5 and the D200 are cosmetic – the front of the pop-up flash says Fujifim rather than Nikon, the right shoulder says S5 Pro, not D200, and there's a little Super CCD SR logo at about 5 o'clock on the lens mount platform. The S5 also lacks Nikon's little red chevron just under the control dial on the hand grip. The grip and the left side of the body are covered with a textured rubbery material that's easy to hold securely.
The functional items on the front include a comfortable hand grip with a control dial and a large autofocus assist/self-timer/redeye control lamp between the top of the grip and the viewfinder hump. Along the left side of the lens mount are the depth of field preview button and a customizable function button. The Nikon F lens mount looks a bit small compared to newer mounts, and it doesn't dominate the front the way the Canon mount does on the EOS D30. The large lens release button is on the right of the mount, above a lever that controls the autofocus mode. A 10-pin connector for remote control, GPS connectivity, and a bar code reader is above the lens release.
The S5 Pro's back has the same arrangement of buttons as the Nikon D200 but a few serve Fujifilm-specific functions. Starting at the upper left are the large and convenient Bracket and delete buttons. Below them, in a column along the left side of the 2.5-inch LCD, are the Playback, Menu, Display/Back, Setup and Face recognition buttons. The relatively large viewfinder is above the LCD, with a large, soft rubber eyecup surrounding. The diopter control is on the upper right of the eyecup and is stiff enough to stay put when bumped. The autofocus/exposure lock button is to the right of the viewfinder, and a ring around it selects the meter pattern. Next to that is a button to activate autofocus, and at far right is the rear control dial. The dish-shaped 4-way controller is to the right of the LCD, with a locking lever below it. Below that, there is a rotating control for the autofocus pattern and a substantial lever for unlocking the memory card slot. The far right of the back is contoured for a comfortable thumb rest and grip.
We didn't set the D200 down next to the the S5 Pro, but the only differences we noted between the two backs are the functions of the buttons along the left side and perhaps the LCD. In our view, the D200's ergonomics are excellent so we're glad to see that Fujifilm didn't fix what wasn't broken.
**Large rubber covers conceal and protect jacks for AV output, USB connectivity, and an external power source. There's a chrome strap high and forward on the side.
**The media card door takes up most of the right side. The strap lug is very high and toward the back which is out of the way for all but the most atypical grips.
The round control on the left side of the top has three pie-shaped buttons on top that are for Quality, ISO and white balance. A ring around the control sets the burst mode and self timer. It's a little embarrassing that Fujifilm kept the High and Low burst modes – High is only 2 frames per second, that only leaves 1 fps for Low. It would be more accurate to label them Low and Lower. The viewfinder is capped with a popup flash and a dedicated hot shoe. As on the D200, the S5's popup flash works as a command module for Nikon's current wireless flash system. There's a large monochrome LCD to the right of the viewfinder that displays exposure data, image quality settings, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation for flash and ambient light and battery status. Two large buttons in front of the LCD controls the exposure mode and exposure compensation. The shutter release is out on top of the grip, surrounded by the power switch, and also activates an illuminator for the monochrome LCD. Again, Fujifilm didn't mess with Nikon's excellent layout.
The metal tripod bushing is directly under the lens axis and is surrounded by a very large non-skid, non-scratch patch of rubber. The battery compartment looks exactly like the one on the D200 and the battery is the same size. Unfortunately, batteries are not interchangeable because of the S5's different (probably greater) power neeeds.
In the D200 viewfinder, coverage is less that 100 percent, but the magnification is very good. Our hands-on reviewer wears glasses (progressive bifocals, actually) and could see the whole frame at once, though the corners darkened a bit. We looked the S5 over at the cavernous yet opulent Las Vegas Convention Center so we couldn't test viewfinder accuracy (whether the viewfinder image is centered on the sensor image.) We'll have more to say in a full review.
The viewfinder shows the 11 autofocus points on screen. Below the image, it shows focus confirmation, f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, the frame counter, a flash ready light and EV compensation for both flash and ambient light. It might show a couple more things in various modes, but we didn't have a manual at the trade show. Look forward to learning more in our full review.
The 2.5-inch, 235,000-pixel color LCD looked good in our brief time with the camera, but it didn't knock us out. The angle of view seemed limited, and the color was fine, but not notably superior. We look forward to comparing it with the D200 LCD so that we can provide a less subjective appraisal.
The monochrome display on the top of the camera is clearly the Nikon unit. It's very large and contrasty, so it's easy to read. The layout makes sense, showing a range of shooting data.
The S5's integral flash is a small flip-up unit. We didn't test its range, but we shot a blank wall with it, and the coverage looked even at the 28mm setting of the zoom Fujifilm provided. It's a small flash which might do okay as a fill unit. Flash exposure compensation runs from 1 EV over the meter reading to 3 stops under. The lopsided range indicates how common it is for photographers to dial down fill flash and how uncommon it is for them to want to overexpose. Flash syncs at up to 1/250 second that is a capability which makes outdoor fill flash an option even under bright skies.
Its major claim to fame is its ability to work in commander mode for wireless flash. We brought a Nikon SB800 flash along on our look-see, and we set the S5 to commander mode and used the two together successfully. The S5 menus suggest that it has all the capabilities of the D200 – multiple groups set to TTL or not, multiple channels, etc.
Fujifilm markets the S5 body-only, but it's compatible with current Nikon lenses and has the same menu options for use of old non-CPU lenses as the D200. In the constrained circumstances of the Consumer Electronics Show, we weren't able to experiment with those capabilities.
Model Design / Appearance**
The Fujifillm FinePix S5 Pro feels solid and looks substantial. It's bigger than entry-level DSLRs such as the Nikon D40, the Canon Rebel XTi and the Olympus Evolt E-500 and looks more like a pro tool. Fujifilm omitted decorative touches. The little red chevron on the D200's grip is a Nikon calling card so it's gone, and Fujifilm didn't replace it with any other accents. The company also left off the translucent logo that the FinePix S3 Pro sported.
Size / Portability
The S5 is 5.8 x 2.9 x 4.4 inches without a lens so it won't squeeze into a pocket or purse, and it's at the high end of DSLR size leaving out the top-of-the-line Nikons and Canons. Wedding shooters who plan to use one for 6 or 8 hours at a time should work on their upper body endurance.
On the plus side, the S5 appears to retain the Nikon D200's better-than-average environmental seals, at least for ports and doors. It's not weatherproof, but it seems to be built for hard use.
The Fujifilm S5 should be comfortable for a range of users – our contributors, who range from petite to "big and tall" said the D200 was comfortable in hand, and the S5 is the same shape and size, with the same anti-slip surfaces covering the grip and left side of the camera. The camera hangs well on a shoulder strap and balances with a range of lenses, including Nikon's husky big-aperture zooms. We're very pleased to see that Fujifilm retained the large top-deck LCD – its readability speeds up camera operations.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
There is a lot to like about the S5's controls – we like the two control dials for the right thumb and index finger, and the large buttons for switching modes, quality, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation. The dish-shaped 4-way controller is comfortable and quick, and the large latches for the memory card and battery slots are both secure and easy to operate. Again, all those features are a matter of Fujifilm retaining Nikon's good design.
The S5 departs from the D200 in the left-hand column of buttons on the camera back, and those changes are driven by Fujifilm-specific technology. Assuming that wedding shooters are the heart of the S5 market, those controls may well be popular. The S5 has a face-recognition button – press it in playback, and the display zooms in on a face in the current image. Press it again, and see a different face. Fujifilm implements the same techonology in point-and-shoots to focus on faces as images are shot. The S5 can't do that, but speeding up the review process for group shots will appeal to many S5 users.
The S5 has two buttons that bring up menus. One is the Menu button and the other is the Setup button. Our impression is that nearly all of Fujifilm's exclusive image-quality controls – film emulation, dynamic range adjustment, its particular white balance tuner – are under the Menu button. The Setup button has the many, many controls carried over from the Nikon D200 – wireless flash controls, varying the circle size in center-weighted metering, and so on. At first blush, we get the feeling that some basic functions take lower priority because of this – the D200 has a dedicated protect button, that the S5 lacks, for instance.
This is a first impressions review, and we're going to skip the encyclopedic list of all the menu options. There are two reasons for our decision: first, the S5's menus are extensive, and second, a straight list would obscure our reporting of Fujifilms unusual take on some controls.
First, Fujifilm uses its standard menu style that is busy and not attractive. Each entry is superimposed on a gradient background that runs from light blue to white. It uses numbered tabs rather than mnemonic icons.
The FinePix S5's Menu button brings up an entry for film simulation that are similar to Canon's Picture Styles and Nikon's Optimization settings. We haven't tested the film simulations, but Fujifilm's verbose help system says the settings range from a soft negative for portraits to a contrasty, saturated transparency stock.
Fujifilm's D-Range setting is the second menu entry, and it has been tweaked since the FinePix S3. Not only does it go to 400 percent, for even more range than the earlier camera, but it also allows more intermediate settings – it's as if the D-Range control on the S3 worked only in whole stops, and the S5 allows shifts in 1/3-stop increments.
The menu also has settings for color, tone, sharpness, ISO, white balance (the same control accessible with the white balance button on to of the camera), white balance fine tune, and quality, that allows choices between RAW and two levels of JPEG compression, and the option to shoot RAW and JPEG simultaneously, resolution, color space, which offers only two choices: sRGB and Adobe RGB, live preview, menu reset and noise reduction.
The setup menu is more hierarchical – many top-level entries lead to several controls, some of which have additional submenus. The Shooting entry is the top line, and it's a grab bag, including controls for image comments, GPS input, barcode input, the burst mode frame rate, exposure delay, to limit vibration from mirror flop, the self-timer preferences, and data shown in quick review mode.
Other entries cover niceties such as a grid display in the viewfinder, whether the LCD backlight shuts off when the meter is activated, and so on.
The Nikon D200's menus are very deep and it seems as though the S5 retains all those options. There are settings for the type of batteries used in the MB-200 battery grip, and the vertical shooting controls on it (apparently the grip is compatible, even though individual Nikon batteries aren't), how to handle non-CPU lenses, and some very useful controls for setting the limits on the shutter speed range when a flash is active – essentially, the S5 can be set to aperture priority or program, and as long as there's a flash connected, the shutter speed won't go longer than a user-set limit. Setup also allows the user to set the range of autofocus modes available on the D200 – near-subject priority, group dynamic mode, and options for tracking focus. The S5 can be set to rotate images, or simply display them rotated on the LCD. Like the D200, the S5 can set the size of the center circle in center-weighted metering.
More Fujifilm specific options are available in setup, with choices for shooting in tethered mode via a USB 2 connection. The S5 can also tag images for an 8x10, 5x7 or full-frame crop.
The S5 allows any combination of controls to be locked and provides password security for the feature. Lockdown might be useful for school portraits or other production shooting where several photographers are working on a project and the situation demands that certain parameters be consistent throughout the job.
The S5's menus are complicated and not immediately intuitive. Oddball features seem to be shoe-horned into vague categories. The layout is too busy. For a camera that has so many options, this flawed implementation will frustrate users.
Ease of Use
The FinePix's menus are a weak spot in an otherwise excellent interface. Manual controls are easy to access, and the help function offers useful, but long, text guidance. Overall, the camera handles well. The S5 shows histograms for separate color channels as as well as a master graph. We don't know how many S5 buyers will use Fujifilm cameras exclusively. Among pros, we guess there will be a substantial number who use the S5 in concert with Nikon bodies – maybe for their speed, maybe for higher pixel counts, maybe, in the case of the D80, to save some money. Regardless, Fujifilm's decision to keep most aspects of the S5's interface consistent with Nikon's is a convenience to photographers who use both brands.
The FinePix S5 Pro offers a program mode that controls both aperture and shutter speed. White balance and some autofocus options can also be automated. The S5's signature feature, increased dynamic range, has an automatic setting.
The FinePix S5 does not have a movie mode. Though it has a limited live-view facility, its sensor is not appropriate for continuous use – like other DSLR sensors, it performs best with short exposures.
**Drive / Burst Mode
**Calling the FinePix S5's continuous shooting modes "burst modes" is a bit like calling ketchup a vegetable – there's a little bit of logic to it, even though it doesn't feel quite right. After all, ketchup sure isn't animal or mineral, so what's left?
We didn't test the S5's speed, but it's slow. Well, from the shooter's point of view, it's slow, but inside the camera, bits and bytes must be getting pushed around like mad. We formatted Fujifilm's 512MB compact flash card, and the S5 said the card could hold 17 RAW images. The camera deals with plenty of data and in D Range mode, processes it heavily.
When we do a full review on the S5, we expect to see a wide range of speed performance, based on the D-Range and file quality settings.
The FinePix S5's playback mode features a 9-up thumbnail mode that shows the selected image a bit larger than the others. It zooms in for close viewing for inspecting focus but not as close as competing cameras and not as close as we'd like. Images shown at full frame can be displayed with a range of image data, including histograms for red, green and blue channels, plus a master. The EXIF data can also be superimposed over the image. It's shown on more than one page and the user can flip through them. The S5 is PictBridge and DPOF compatible for direct printing without a computer.
The slide show function uses the face detection facility to produce a "Ken Burns" effect that actually makes sense – the slide show pans and zooms in on faces, rather than random patches of images. Somebody, we don't know who or why, will really enjoy that.
Custom Image Presets
This heading is more appropriate to compact cameras that have specific settings for portrait, landscapes and so on. The FinePix S5 Pro does not have such presets.
**Manual Control Options
**The FinePix S5 Pro is set up for convenient manual shooting, offering manual control of all exposure and image parameters, as well as focus.
***Auto Focus* - The FinePix S5 Pro uses the same autofocus module as the Nikon D200. It has a total of 11 sensor sites, with 3 columns of 3 sites toward the middle of the frame, and 2 more sites closer to the sides of the frame. The module can be switched to wide mode that consolidates the 11 sites into 7 larger ones. We didn't test the focus system exhaustively or in a controlled way, but it seems to act just like the D200.
Manual Focus - The FinePix S5's focusing screen is bright and contrasty, and the S5's viewfinder image appears larger than competing cameras'. We found it easy to focus manually. We'll look at focusing more closely in a full review, but our first impression is that the S5 is indistinguishable from the Nikon D200 in this respect.
**The Fujifilm FinePix S5 offers program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and full manual exposure control. The meter readout in manual mode is an analog-like scale, with a cursor that slides between plus and minus signs. The user is meant to center the cursor between the two to set correct exposure.
The S5 offers exposure compensation 5 stops above and below the metered setting for ambient light with 1/3-EV increments. The AF/AE button can freeze an exposure reading while the user recomposes the image. The S5 offers options to link control of flash and ambient exposure.
**The FinePix S5 offers matrix, center-weighted and spot metering. The matrix system takes many discrete readings across the field of view, and evaluates them to detect backlighting and other difficult situations, and compensate for them. Our first look at the S5 wasn't sufficient to evaluate the system. Look for our full review for a more definitive evaluation. The S5's center-weighted pattern offers the option of setting the center circle of interest to a diameter from 6 to 13 mm, just as the Nikon D200 does. The S5's spot mode measures a very small area of the frame. We couldn't tell from our first look at the camera, but we guess that the spot measurement is taken at the active autofocus site, because that's what the D200 does.
The S5 offers an exposure fine-tune option that allows the user to bias exposure for each metering mode individually. The control operates in increments of 1/6 EV, up to a full EV. Its effect is not reflected in the camera's readouts, so users need to take care to remember if they set it.
The Fujifilm S5 offers auto white balance, a total of 9 preset balances, direct Kelvin entry, and custom white balance. It can save up to 5 custom settings. The 9 presets are: Daylight, Tungsten, Flash, Shade and 5 fluorescent settings. It feels as though 5 fluorescent settings should be overkill; we didn't like the results from any of them under the fluorescent lighting of the crepuscular yet opulent Las Vegas Convention Center.
The most recent advance in white balance to diffuse from manufacturer to manufacturer is white balance fine-tuning. Fujifilm's take on it is distinctive. The user can create a fine-tune setting with two sliders, one on a Red to Cyan continuum and the other running from Blue to Yellow. That one setting, which is created with a menu, applies equally to auto white balance and all the presets. Each custom setting – the ones a user makes by photographing something white – can be fine-tuned individually, using the same two-slider interface. Kelvin settings run from 2500 to 10,000K, and can't be fine-tuned.
Our evaluation of the S5's white balance performance will have to wait for our full review, when we test the camera under controlled conditions.
When we reviewed the FinePix S3, we wondered why it lacked 1/3 EV steps and a 3200 setting. Our logic about 3200 was this: the S3's 1600 blew away the competition, and most of them offered a 3200 that looked like the dog's lunch from last week. It followed that whatever Fujifilm delivered at 3200 would look good comparatively. Such is our power in the camera industry that Fujifilm acquiesced on both counts. 1/3 EV steps are a significant convenience, matching the increments for the other exposure parameters. We look forward to testing the S5's high ISOs for color and noise levels.
The FinePix S5's shutter runs from 30 seconds to 1/8000, with flash sync up to 1/250, plus B for longer exposures. The regualr range can be set in 1/3 EV increments. We have found that exposures as long as 30 seconds tend to tax cameras' noise control algorithms, and we look forward to testing the S5 on this front as well.
The FinePix S5 accepts all new Nikon autofocus lenses and most of the old ones, and controls their apertures via electrical contacts in the mount. Manual focus lenses can mount, and be used in manual and aperture-priority exposure modes. Many auto flash capabilities are also available for old lenes if the user manually enters focal length and aperture data. Again, this level of lens compatibility owes its existence to Nikon's D200 design, and the fact that Fujifilm didn't muck with it.
Picture Quality / Size Options
Fujifilm CCDs have their photosites arranged in a honeycomb fashion, an arrangement that justifies up-sampling their images in-camera, for the company, at least. We are skeptical. In any event, the S5 offers files in three pixel dimensions: 4,256 x 2,848; 3,024 x 2016 and 2,304 x 1,536. The middle size is the sensor's native resolution. RAW files are recorded at native resolution, but JPEGs can be recorded at either of two compression settings, and any of the resolutions. The RAW files are gigantic – a whopping 17 of them fit on a 512 MB Compact Flash card.
**Picture Effects Mode
**This may be an odd spot to write up a camera's marquee feature, but there you go. The FinePix S5 uses a sensor with two photosites for each pixel: a regular-sized site with normal sensitivity, and a small, lower-sensitivity site right beside. The S5 can use data from the small sites (the data are called R pixels) when the regular data (from the S pixels) are overexposed. Fujifilm claimed that the S3 achieved a 300 percent increase in dynamic range, and the company claims 400 percent for the S5. Our tests on the S3 were persuasive, so we look forward to testing the S5.
The function, which Fujiflm calls D-Range, is available in steps labeled by percentage. The steps are: 130, 170, 230, 300 and 400.
The S5 also offers what Fujifilm calls film simulation modes, which vary contrast, saturation, and according to Fujifilm, particularly the rolloff from pale skin tone into pure highlight. Fujifilm likens the settings to the company's esteemed color negative and transparency films. Again, we look forward to testing these in a controlled setting.
The S5 also offers individual controls for contrast, saturation and sharpness. Each offers 5 steps of variation. Saturation adds a black-and-white setting.
The FinePix S5 will be packaged with a RAW converter. The latest version of Hyperutility that we've seen does an excellent job with Fujifilm RAW files, but has an interface that looks like it was designed by the same people who wrote the core conversion software. Engineers are probably comfortable with it; at least some photographers are not. Our full review will report on the current version.
Jacks, Ports, Plugs
The FinePix S5 has a USB port, an AV port, a jack for external power, a dedicated hot shoe, and a 10-pin jack for Nikon remote controls, GPS units, and a bar code reader. The USB jack offers not only connectivity for printing and image downloads, but also for tethered shooting.
Direct Print Options
The FinePix S5 is compatible with Pictbridge and DPOF, and will crop images. It has a feature to tag images for 8x10 or 5x7 aspect ratios, which we expect is part of a direct print function, but or first look didn't give us specifics on that.
The FinePix S5 uses a battery that is exactly the same shape and color as Nikon's batteries for the D200, D70 and D80. Unfortunately, those batteries are not compatible with the S5. We guess that the S5 draws more current than the Nikons. S5 batteries have a chip, and the camera looks for it. If it doesn't sense the chip, it won't use the battery. We don't know how this incompatibility affects use of the MB200 battery pack and grip, though the S5 has provisions for accepting that unit.
Clearly, it would have cost Fujifilm to change the size of the battery compartment – whatever the deal is between Fujifilm and Nikon, Nikon must charge less for parts it's already making than for parts it makes to Fujifilm specs. So, it's too much to ask that the S5 battery be a different shape. For photographers contemplating using S5s side-by-side with Nikons, it would have been really nice if Fujifilm would have made their batteries a different color, so they could be distiguished at distance.
The Fujifilm S5 takes Compact Flash cards, and it needs big ones. Only 17 RAW files fit on a 512 MB card. Compact Flash is the most common media format for DSLRs. They are relatively tough and cheap, and available as large as 16GB.
30 sec Live Preview - The FinePix S5 has a live preview mode, which allows the user to focus with a magnified view on the LCD for about 30 seconds.
Maintenance Mode – The S5 reports battery life, remaining charge, number of charge cycle the battery has had, number of frames shot on current charge, total number of frames shot with the camera and firmware version.
Cleaning mode – Fujifilm recognizes that some users have to get dust off their sensors without returning their cameras to the manufacturer. We didn't activate the feature, but on previous FinePix DSLRs, it's recommended only with an external power source.
The Fujifilm S5 lists for $1999, more than the D200 on which chassis it is based. Fujifilm is betting that its image quality and dynamic range will overcome the price difference, and the difference in shooting speed. The speed difference is not trivial, even for the wedding photographers at the core of Fujifilm's target market. It takes a long time for the S5's buffer to clear, long enough to miss a couple's first kiss, or a large part of a food fight during a raucous cake-cutting ceremony.
We don't have any basis for judgment about the S5's image quality, but it certainly could be good enough to outweigh its speed deficit and its price.
**Who’s this Camera For?
***Point and Shooters* – Casual shooters won't make head or tail of the S5's options
Budget Consumers – Call this "Budget Pro's," and the S5 has potential. Compared to a Canon 5D, it's cheap, and it may deliver better images in typical-sized prints.
Gadget Freaks – Gadget freaks may be compelled by the S5's dynamic range technology, even though it's a few years old.
Manual Control Freaks – This is a very good fit, if the image quality is there. The S5 has extra controls to set manually.
Pro's/Serious Amateurs – This is Fujifilm's target, particularly the wedding and portrait subset. If the S5's quality is consistent with its predecessors, Fujifilm will maintain its niche in this segment.
The Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro depends on its image quality – if it's not great, the camera doesn't compete. That makes it difficult to reach a solid conclusion in a first impression because we can only guess about image quality. Our educated guess is that the quality will be strong enough to make the camera competitive, but that's based on Fujifilm's history, not on anything we experienced while handling the camera.
That said, it is great that the S5 is based on Nikon's D200. The S2 and S3 were based on a much less capable, much more consumer-level Nikon film camera. They sorely needed better autofocus and such amenities as 1/3-EV steps on their ISO scale. The S2 had a terrible battery configuration – requiring both AA's and CR-123's -- and when the S3 replaced that, it felt as though Fujifilm had at least stopped being self-destructive – like the friend who stopped bringing his pet ferret on blind dates. Using the D200 platform, and keeping it so much intact, Fujifilm's newest S Pro camera has become much more compelling. They've done so much so well, that we have to figure that the speed problem just can't be fixed cheaply enough yet. If it could, Fujifilm would have done it.
Meet the tester
Patrick Singleton is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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