Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fuji S5 Special Report from Photokina

One of the most exciting camera announcements made at Photokina in Cologne this year was the new Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, the long-awaited successor to the highly regarded S3 Pro. Fujifilm had a fairly good-sized section of its massive exhibit space devoted to the S5, and showed off an actual working sample, doing some real photo shooting during the show with a live model. In addition, an S5 was on display "under glass", showing its striking similarity to the Nikon D200, the camera body on which it is based (as can be seen in theses photos - click for larger version).

Fuji S5 Front

Fuji S5 Pro back

While the full specs aren't official yet, Fujifilm provided a handout listing the major features and preliminary specs of the camera as they stand as of October 2006. The handout is available as downloadable PDF here if you'd like to see it for yourself.

From reading the provided material and viewing the live presentations at Photokina, it's clear that Fujifilm is once again pursuing a strategy with its flagship DSLR of heavily emphasizing dynamic range capabilities and low noise. The improved Super CCD SR Pro sensor offers 6.17 million S-pixels and 6.17 million R-pixels, delivering an effective resolution of 12.3 million pixels in total. Fujifilm claims the new sensor will offer a large reduction of dark noise in long exposure photography as well as decreased moiré at higher resolution. In addition to the improved CCD sensor, the S5 offers what Fujifilm is referring to as "Real Photo Technology Pro" - the image processing engine and algorithms which they claim deliver a vastly improved signal-to-noise ratio and "two cycles of noise reduction", giving ultra-high sensitivity and low noise up to ISO 3200. While the S3 has always been well regarded for its low noise at high ISO capabilities, the S5 will likely improve quite a bit on this. This is good news for those of us who have come to admire the S2's and S3's excellent capabilities in these areas.


One of the most unique features of the FinePix S3 is its 2 film simulation modes, called F1 and F2, which offer fairly close simulations of Fujifilm's Provia and Velvia 35mm films respectively. The S5 will offer no less than 5 simulation modes - F1, F1a, F1b, F1c and F2. While they aren't saying yet what the differences are between these new film simulation modes, they are certainly welcome, given the excellent results the S3 was able to deliver with only 2. Clearly Fujifilm is building upon it's recognized expertise in the film world and at least attempting to carry this over into the digital world.

Other than the improved sensor capabilities and new film simulation modes, the biggest improvement in the S5 over the S3 will be the use of Nikon's excellent D200 body mechanicals. One of the S3's biggest drawbacks was its operational speed and this is one area where the Nikon body should offer marked improvement. Although FujiFilm hasn't made any claims yet as to frames per second, it is hoped that the D200's 5 FPS will make it into the Fuji version, at least when shooting JPEGs. At the very least, the controls and LCD preview should work very much like the D200, which is to say, fantastically. The D200's excellent larger viewfinder will also carry over, a definite improvement of the S3's rather small viewfinder, and its robust magnesium-alloy body will offer much welcome dust and moisture resistance as well as, finally, i-TTL flash control.

One interesting new feature of the S5 is the new image intelligence capability which allows the camera to detect faces in a photograph and instantly zoom in on them with the press of a button to quickly confirm facial detail, focus, etc. This should be a welcome feature for portrait and wedding photographers, with whom the Finepix DSLRs have always retained a strong following. You can see the button in the lower left hand corner of the rear of the S5, just to the left of the LCD.


Fujifilm Interview at Photokina from Imaging Resource

Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro - interview at Photokina 2006 w/PR Manager

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