Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Fuji S5 Pro Fuss is Very Entertaining Reading.

Please see my newest blog essay at

where I explore how groupthink has come to permeate on-line photography forums. Thanks!

The Fuji S5 Pro fuss is very entertaining reading over on the world's largest digital photography site, dPreview. Right now, there are a handful of S3 Pro models being sold for around $1150 with USA warranty and software package. Fuji's September 25,2006 development announcement for the S3 Pro's successor model, the S5 Pro, disappointed many people who were expecting not a D200 body, but maybe an F6 body and a high MP count sensor--something along the lines of 10 Megapixels, or in Super CCD SR lingo, maybe 10MP-R pixels+10MP-S or in Fuji-speak what could be called "20-Megapixel Output" or "20-Megapixel Wide-DR capture",or something like that. But nope, FujiFilm has made its development announcement for the S5 Pro,and have referred to an early 2007 delivery framework; no firm dates have been stated that I know of for the S5, just "early 2007". What makes this entertaining is that the FujiFilm SLR Talk forum has had some whistling in the dark, some disgruntled, "I'm moving to Canon for my next camera" posts,some, "Let's all wait and see" posts, and quite an infusion of cross-brand posters who're merely stopping by to drop a comment or two,to troll,or to denigrate FujiFIlm's engineering or R&D efforts, etc,etc.

Whenever a new camera is released, the various forums are filled with talk,and gossip,and rumors,and misinformation. And,sometimes, I think even a little dis-information is spread. Dis-information in my vocabulary means maliciously-motivated or nefarious misrepresentation of the truth, or lying,or fearmongering,or just the promulgation of fear,uncertainty,and doubt (commonly known as a FUD). Right now it's early October 2006. Fuji says it'll have S5's available in early 2007. If the S5's journey to the marketplace follows in the footsteps of the S3 Pro's development announcement,the Early 2007 ship date could be postponed by months and months and months.Some say the S5 Pro might also,like the S3 pro before it, have its sensor re-designed and the product's ship date pushed back several months--like maybe six months. This is exactly what happened with the S3 Pro,which was announced with a development announcement, and it took FOREVER and a DAY to make it from announcement to actual cameras in stores. Yeah, Fuji made a big splash about the S3's radical new sensor design,complete with schematic drawings and multi-page web materials illustrating the unique design of having DUAL-site photodiodes in the sensor. However, there was a delay during the development phase,and NEW DRAWINGS were distributed thru the photography press, the S3 went on ice for several months longer, and it then finally,finally shipped with a NEW re-designed sensor that was decidedly different from the one that had been touted (and diagrammed out!) on the company's own web pages at the camera's development announcement phase. Based on the S3 experience,there are some people who are spreading the idea that the S5 will be held up by sensor re-design and that when the camera actually ships that it will have an 8+8MP sensor. Other people are speculating or predicting that there will be TWO models of S5; the first,being shipped with the 6+6 sensor,and a second camera costing more and to be announced later, once Fuji can up the pixel count or do 'something' to differentiate itself from the now 10MP entry-level Sony,Nikon,Canon, and Pentax d-slr's ALREADY in stores. Having read carefully some of what Eamon Hickey had written on dPreview forums, it's my interpretation of his comments that that will NOT happen,and that Fuji will go with _ONE_ model of the S5 Pro, with the 6+6 MP sensor exclusively. It's not been a popular or well-received specification,this 6+6 sensor that's basically similar to what's already in the S3 Pro. What I find interesting is how sooooooo many Fuji S2 and S3 users are not very warm to the idea of a good Fuji sensor wrapped in the best Nikon-made body Fuji's used yet, the Nikon D200, and are reaming on the upcoming S5 because of its 6+6MP sensor status.

It's simple,really. Fuji _is_ going to bring a 6MP d-slr to market in 2007. It'll be called the S5. It will have wide dynamic range capabilitiy,with what Fuji is touting as a decent AA filter in front of the sensor. The files will be larger than other 6MP camera files, which is a result of the Super CCD's design and pixel layout. The camera will offer numerous film simulation modes for in-camera JPEG creation. The body will be almost identical to that of a Nikon D200. The frame rate will be slowish--3 fps absolute TOPS, 1.5 fps or so in Wide-DR mode. The camera will meter in M and A modes with Ai and AiS lenses. The autofocus will be decent,for the first time ever in a Fuji d-slr. The camera will carve out a few niches, but it will not sell all that well for a d-slr. Some people will not buy it. Others will buy it. Fuji will slip farther and farther away from the main pack.FujiFilm SLR Talk regulars will love the S5. It will be a cult camera. It will send many away from Fuji and toward Nikon or Canon d-slrs. For the serious F-mount user, the S5 will be a very valuable d-slr for certain uses. But Canon's 2007 camera with expanded dynamic range capability will put a damper on the wide-DR position that FujiFilm has staked out,while Nikon's D80 and its POST-capture in-camera image adjustments and software tricks will bring the hobbyist/casual market to the D80 in droves. It's interesting to watch the S5 fuss because at this time, I am not concerned about the future of my d-slr platform the way I was when my S2 was growing long in the tooth,and then months later the way Nikon was offering the D2x at $5,000 while Fuji offered the S3 at $2,500--I went with the D2x 17 months ago now,not the S3 Pro. if Fuji brings the S5 to market at $2,400 or so in early 2007,it's gonna meet a slew of 10 MP competition beginning at $899. Even if the S5 is priced at $1699,there will be higher-spec'd 10.2 MP d-slr cameras for $899 and $999.

My Predictions: Total Image Quality, comprised of color,tonality,and overall image acutance with the camera shot in JPEG mode will probably be the S5's strong suit. It will also have a pretty decent viewfinder image,a good body control system,and reasonably fast and modern AF and shutter systems,and adequate battery performance. It will be the _BEST_ and the _HIGHEST-GRADE_ camera plaform Fuji has built upon in the S- series. All the fuss before the camera comes out makes for interesting reading. I think Fuji (as a company) is blowing it,again. But then, I said that same thing when they announced an under-spec'd S3. And while the S5 will be under-spec'd for the 2007 d-slr market, if the price is right, I think I might just buy an S5. I think it'll be the best Fuji d-slr ever,by a wide margin. Not many people will care how good it is, but those who own one will like it.

Addendum, 23 December,2007: I spoke with a FujiFilm,USA representative today and he said he expects retail S5 Pro availablity in late February,2007. I told him that,in light of the new strides in image processing that Pentax with the K100D and Nikon with the D40 have made with a 6MP sensor, that I am now more that EVER, HIGHLY optimistic that with the right antialiasing filter array,and with better demosaicing routines,and better sharpening routines, that the S5 Pro's 6 MP sensor will deliver really awesome image qualiy from 6MP + 6MP in an S/R configuration like the S3 Pro pioneered. I bought a D40 Nikon kit for my wife today a few hours after speaking with the FujiFilm rep,and was muchly pleased that a 6MP d-slr with superior image processing and an 18-55 AF-S kit lens was only $599 retail,all boxed up nicely. Oh,and by the way, I'm not "disgruntled" ,despite what Anthony says. And, a shout out to Anthony, for his blogging efforts. Anthony's working on improving his flash lighting skills and model photography,and Anthony is one of the many dedicated dPreview S2 users who never elected to actually buy a Fuji S3 Pro camera, but who instead opted to stick with the S2 Pro,and waited until the D200 came out to pick up a really "good" second body. Anthony's D70 experience was,like many peoples' D70 experience,a mixed bag--after seeing how good OOC JPEG was in the S2 pro, Anthony was not all that thrilled with Nikon's D70. Anthony's passing over of the S3 and going to the Nikon D200,now more than ever, really looks like a good plan. The D200 has been a MAJOR hit,sales-wise and implementation-wise. Neither myself, nor Anthony, actually BOUGHT an S3 Pro for ourselves,since I think like many people, we decided we needed faster cameras, with things like compressed RAW if/when needed,good software options,reasonable file sizes,and good control over flash exposures,etc. The Nikon D200 at $1699 was a steal; the Nikon D80 at $999 is a steal! A fantastic deal! Now the D40 at $599 with 18-55mm zoom? Simply a lot of value for dollar spent!

I think the S5 Pro,scheduled to be priced at $1999 full kit w/software and $1899 in reduced-kit form, represents,at least from the specifications, one hell of a lot of Fuji goodness,in a camera body that's finally got semi-pro Autofocus, metering with the 20-something AiS manual focus Nikkors I own, PLUS finally being brought more up toward parity with the Nikon bodies with their i-TTL or Creative Lighting System through the lens flash metering and flash control systems. I am actually old enough to have shot the Nikon system before TTL flash metering was possible with a Nikon,having been using Nikon 35mm motorized cameras since 1982. When the Nikon FE-2 came out with TTL flash control,I saved up my hard-earned dollars and bought an FE-2 and SB-16 spedlight after about a year's worth of penny-pinching. A camera body that can NOT meter with a manual focusing Nikkor lens is not worth much to a guy like me who wants to leverage the AiS lenses I built up over two decades of buying used lenses as time and money warranted. The S5 Pro's ability to meter with Ai and AiS lenses will be a big boon toward FujiFilm offering a real semi-pro camera body that will compete in many fields,except where AF speed/surety is paramount,like demanding sports situations and some wildlife/nature where the autofocusing advantages of the D2-series is really where even small-time pros are putting their dollar investments.
I seldom buy version 1.0 of anything,especially if it costs $2,499. The S5 pro will be version 2.0 of the SuperCCD S-R type sensor,and I am really,really hoping that Fuji has fine-tuned the AA-filter they're installing in the S5, and I hope that Fuji has worked really,really hard at getting rid of the JPEG artifacts the S3's sensor suffered from. I bought an S1 and S2 Fuji,and I KNOW, first-hand, about the problems the SuprCCD sensor suffers from. If Pentax,and Nikon can both squeeze class-leading image quality out of the K100D and D40, then Fuji can surely work on the AA filter,the demosaicing routines,and the in-camera image sharpening. Fuji has a chance to tweak the S5's sensor to output outstanding files. Here's hoping Fuji does what Pentax and Nikon both did,which is turning the engineering focus on the anti-aliasing filter array, the demosaicing of the sensor data,and the image processing and sharpening of the image before writing it to a JPEG.


Don KeyShot said...

By far the best review/market analysis for the S5 I have read.
As a modest enthusiast, I am not in the position of buying such a beast, but I definitively would put aside a couple of megapixels when comparing it with other cameras.

VJabotinsky said...

The S5 will be another radical camera from Fuji.

Anonymous said...

Bla-Bla... Bla... Burp... Bla-Bla...Enough already. S5 will be a working instrument, for a working Pro, just like it's predecessors. It'll surely have some quirks, it'll surely have some strengths, like any other camera, from any other manufacturer.
It'll surely cut production times thanks to OOC IQ, it surely does have just about the right price, it is surely not your average shitbox-with-a-lens-sold-for-under-$1K.
Ignorant dilettantes may, or may not buy this camera, but surely may fret as usual. Who cares?

Anonymous said...

Simply an excellent overview of Fuji's DSLR past, present and possible future. Thanks.

Katie Cahill said...

It's mid 2010 now , and there doesn't seem to be much , if any, difference , between the S2 , S3 and S5 models in hindsight of all the fuss back then .
If anything a good secondhand Fuji S2 Pro , not much used , might be the best buy for any amateur looking for a digital SLR capable of shooting weddings, portraits or landscapes.

Certainly for weddings the S2 Pro will team up with a Metz 45 CL hammerhead sdaving you hundreds - the S3 and S5 won't .

Whichever one you decide upon - and they are still second only to the Nikon D3S for Dynamic Range in DXOmark rankings - make sure to have a backup as they might just 'nod' for a shot , one that doesn't matter anyway , but they always revive almost immediately , same as any other DSLR I guess .

One presumes you are doing your important wedding shots on film Medium Format , one hopes ! ( if you have any time for your client ) .

The heaviness and handling of these models aids steadiness so there is not much need for VR - I've never used it on the S2 , found no need to . The standard Nikkor 35-70 f3.3-4.5 ( that only Ken Rockwell hates ) can be got cheap and is always on my S2 - even for product photography , and it is GOOD !

As I don't ever use the pop-up flash , all I ever need to drive my S2 are four AA's , no two-sets of batteries needed at all - no need to carry a spare set as that kiosk in the middle of the Kalahari will have them : I hope it doesn't turn out to be a mirage as the S2 dies suddenly and without warning when its set of AA's run out .

( Otherwise Ken Rockwell is usually right ) .

Michael McGrath
Pro Photog
Kilkenny City
Ireland .