Fujifilm S5 Pro review
Design And Performance
Nikon in Fujifilm Clothes?
It would be easy to say that the S5 Pro is simply a Nikon D200 in Fujifilm clothing, but there’s no other way of describing it. But this is no bad thing – after all, the D200 was WDC’s ‘£1000+ DSLR of the Year 2006’, scoring an impressive 90% overall, including 18/20 for its design. From the rugged magnesium alloy body to the weatherproof seals, the camera (be it a D200 or S5 Pro) is clearly made to a ‘pro’ specification.
In terms of its overall handling it’s essentially the same as the Nikon D200 the S5 Pro is significantly smaller and lighter than the S3 Pro as it loses the built-in grip (which not everyone wants or needs). It also gains a Lithium-Ion battery, which is great given that the S3 Pro relied on AA cells that always seemed to expire at the worst possible time.
In addition to sharing the same physical size and shape, the S5 Pro retains much of the D200’s control layout, with front and rear control wheels for setting the shutter speed/aperture and changing settings. We like this arrangement and the fact that the S5 Pro has the same two-button format option where pressing the ‘delete’ and ‘mode’ buttons simultaneously, releasing them and then pressing again formats your card. It sounds convoluted when written, but it’s far quicker and easier than remembering which page of which menu the format option hides under.
Other benefits of using an existing, ‘winning’ design are the bright viewfinder, with its easy-to-read green LCD readout and 95% coverage and a 230,000 pixel, 2.5in rear LCD. If there was one thing (other than the batteries) we disliked about the S3 Pro it was the secondary rear LCD that accessed various features – much like the Canon EOS 300D and 350D. With the single 2.5in screen this is no longer necessary and the handling is all the more streamlined for it.
One noticeable difference between the Nikon D200 and the S5 Pro in terms of their designs – the ‘face zoom in’ button on the S5 that replaces the conventional zoom option for enlarging images. How useful this will be to you largely depends on the type of photography you do, but if you’re a ‘people person’ a quick press of this button on playback zooms the image to someone’s face so you can check their eyes are open or they’re in focus, say. If you have multiple faces in a frame then a second press of the face zoom button takes you to the next person’s visage, and so on. A maximum of 10 faces can be put under the magnifier in this way – handy for small groups, but less so for extravagant wedding parties – and, provided that your subject is looking straight on at the camera, it does the job.
However, it’s not always going to be as easy as taking a shot, pressing the ‘face zoom’ button and getting the image on screen in an instant, because the S5 Pro isn’t the quickest of cameras when it comes to tidying away files on the memory card – especially if you shoot uncompressed (approx. 25Mb) Raw images. Despite a more powerful processor that’s claimed to deliver faster processing and playback shooting, Raw does tie up the S5 Pro somewhat. Though you can carry on taking shots (at up to 3fps at standard dynamic range and up to 1.5fps at 130%+ D-range), the S5 Pro locks you out of the menu system and prevents playback until the buffer is clear, so if you want to quickly check a shot you have to wait a little while.
The AF, too, isn't one of its strong points but this is not really Fuji’s fault as the system has been inherited rather than developed in-house. It’s accurate and there aren’t many occasions when it will struggle to lock on to the subject, but it isn’t quite as ‘instant’ as I’d like, even with a fast lens.
For studio photographers, the S5 Pro does have another trick up its sleeve to help you achieve ‘perfect’ focus – a live view LCD. Once activated, the mirror flips out of the way and you can use the rear 2.5in screen to compose and focus your image, in colour or black and white. This is a great aid if you focus manually, though if you rely on the AF system it isn’t quite as useful. Nor will it help if you’re shooting subjects that are more mobile as you have to reset the mirror to shoot, so you lose the benefit of the live view. However, for studio still-life it could definitely help.