Fuji S5 Pro Review

I know I’m a bit late to the game here, but I bought a Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro a few months ago and it has really paid off. So why would I buy a three-year-old previous generation camera, when there are so many more modern alternatives around?

I think the picture quality of the S5 Pro speaks for itself.

Thirsty Flamingo

Fuji have taken a completely different philosophy with their sensors. Instead of building ultra-high megapixel sensors, they focus on the aspects of a photograph that really matter. And it works.

The colours it produces have a subtle vibrancy that is both saturated but neutral. It looks like film, it looks like how you want real life to look like. No other camera manages it; Canon colours have a slightly unrealistic look to them, and Nikon colours are professional but dull.

It’s difficult to describe the quality of the colours the Fuji S5 Pro produces, especially if I don’t want to exhaust my supply of dreamy adjectives. They have to be seen to be believed.

The Best is Yet to Come

When I had my Nikon D80, the biggest problem I had with it was it’s overexposing meter. When it overexposed, bright areas of the photo would burn out, leaving washed out skies. Digital sensors have always had a small dynamic range (the amount of detail it can capture between pure black and pure white).

The Fuji, with it’s SR sensors, manages to capture a huge amount of dynamic range. This is because the photocells aren’t arranged in a standard checkerboard pattern, but diagonally grid instead, and also they have more than one photocell at each site, the larger ‘S’ cell that captures the main images information, and the smaller ‘R’ cell that captures only the dynamic range.

This large dynamic range lets you recover overexposed photographs back to something that’s doesn’t resemble a piece of white paper. This means that, unlike with any other DSLR, I tend to overexpose the S5 Pro, rather than underexposing. This means shadow areas are well exposed and low on noise, and the bright areas can be brought back in post-processing.

The downside to this dynamic range is that you have to deal with the huge raw files the S5 produces. If you have the ‘R’ cell active, then each raw file is 25MB in size, for only 6MP of real photographic data. On my 8GB compact flash card, this means I can only get around 230 RAW + JPEG photographs on there. The average day shooting will yield close to 8GB of data! So make sure you have enough storage afterwards to keep up with this camera.

The other downside is a side effect of the RAW file size, the camera is fairly slow at processing all this data. Three frames-per-second is the best you can expect, when shooting RAW with the ‘R’ cells inactive. Shooting full RAW + JPEG with the extra dynamic range, you’ll be lucky to get one frame-per-second. So not a camera for the speed freaks.

Building It Up

But once you use the S5 and see the photographs it’s capable of producing, you’ll get over all it’s shortcomings. It’s based on one of the best DX camera bodies around, the Nikon D200. Handling wise, it’s the best camera I’ve ever used. Fuji have crippled it slightly by fitting their inferior UI to the menu system (the Nikon D200 one is considerably better), but again you’ll get over this.

You’ll especially get over all of these issues once you look at how much you paid for it. £485 is the average you’ll pay, down to £385 when the Fujifilm refurb store has their seasonal discount vouchers.

So, if you have £500 to spend on a DSLR this christmas, and you’re wondering on what to spend it on, forget the Nikon D60, or the Canon 450D, or even the alternatives from Sony, or Olympus. The S5 Pro will give you something truly unique to spend your money on.

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