Nov. 7,2008-Yes,boys and girls, Derrel is coming home, to Fuji-land. I ordered a Fuii S5 Pro from Ffordes,which is located in Scotland. Price? Including shipping via Royal Mail,I payed $602.26,which is about three hundred fewer dollars than S5's are going for now that B&H Photo and a few other USA dealers have dropped their MAP price from $1599 down to $899. For the lowest price I've yet seen, please hit the web and go to https://secure.ffordes.com/index.htm now through November 9,2008 for a very,very low price. Be aware that for US customers there is NO VAT,and the price is lower than the 449 Pounds quoted.
Last night I perused dozens of S5 Pro sample images on the web at http://www.pixel-peeper.com/ and although I was unimpressed by the softness and jaggies found on the 12 MP S5 Pro 4256x JPEG images,I have heard from many S5 Pro shooters that the smaller, 6MP in-camera JPEG images look much better than the larger "12 MP" images the camera outputs. And,after looking through dozens of S5 Pro images on pixel-peeper.com, I came away with a very good sense of just how capable the S5 Pro is on scenes with high dynamic range.
Although the large, 12 MP JPEG images had a number of image artifacts,the overall "look" the camera produced was quite pleasant for a d-slr,especially on people pictures,which is what I am buying the S5 Pro for. The manager at Ffordes told me I ought to receive the camera in seven to ten days.
Here is a link that has multiple reviews of the S5 Pro http://www.reviewed.com/product/Fuji/FinePix-S5-Pro/external.htm
The thing I wonder is if I'm misdirecting $602 that could have gone toward the purchase of a $999 Nikon D90? Still, the thing I am anxious to see for myself is how well the S5 Pro can shoot in-camera JPEG files,and how well it can handle scenes with extreme dynamic range. Considering that the S5 Pro was introduced to the market at roughly $1900, the idea of buying a brand new one at $602 shipped was just too good for me to pass up, especially since the MAP was almost $1600 two weeks ago, and it appears as if the B&H Photo blowout prices of $899 last week and then $879 this week are about as low as the price will go before stocks of the S5 Pro are finally totally sold-out in the USA.
The Nikon D40 showed me what superb 6MP captures can look like. I'm anxious to get the S5 Pro and put it through its paces.Based on what I have read and my correspondence with S5 owners, I think the S5's AF system will actually perform _better_ than that of the EOS 5D,especially with off-center AF points. And I have also heard some good things about the seven point wide-area AF mode the S5 Pro offers. Looking at the diagrams of the AF points and how they are spread across the image area, it appears to me that the S5 covers the field more widely than the EOS 5D does,and honestly, I'm looking forward to having the AF mode selection control lever right on the back of the body,where my thumb can control the AF mode. No more goofy Canon UI problems. Speaking of which...on Halloween night I shot my EOS 20D in the dark...it really drove home the superiority of the Nikon body control ethos,where the FRONT control wheel ALWAYS controls the f/stop, and the THUMB wheel ALWAYS controls the shutter speed. While shooting in the dark, the EOS 20D was a royal pain in the butt. There were several instances where I struggled with which control would control which exposure parameter,as is the problem with Canon cameras.
Canon 20D-30D-40D-50D-5D models use a four-button control system with each button having more than one functional role,so I am not always _CERTAIN_ which button will perform _EXACTLY_ which function. My analogy-Canon uses a system where the brake,the gas,and the clutch pedals all swap function, depending on what gear you are in. Will the front control wheel change the f/stop,or will it change the shutter speed? That depends on if the camera is in Aperture Value mode or Time Value mode. The controls perform DIFFERENT functions,depending upon the Exposure mode the Canon is set to! Christ on a Cracker,what a lame idea. With Nikon, the front wheel ALWAYS controls the f/stop,and the thumb wheel ALWAYS moves the shutter speed. No guessing. It's a big,big difference from the way Canon does it. Nikon uses dedicated,single-purpose buttons,where Canon uses four buttons on the top deck, each of which has TWO function settings...not so good an idea.
I'm really looking forward to having a camera that can handle wide DR scenes with just ONE shot,and without the need for application of corrective exposures in the field,and then the application of corrective curves adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw at the computer, just to handle bright highlights and moderate low tones in my scenes. I've read all the reviews,again, and the one thing I'm enthused about is the S5 Pro's ability to handle deliberate overexposure,and then to allow me to pull back the highlights when shooting in RAW mode-- I'm pretty pumped about that. I am also really looking forward to shooting some of my better lenses on the S5 Pro,like the 200mm f/2 VR Nikkor and the 105 f/2 Defocus Control and the 300mm 2.8 AFS-II magnesium barrel model that came out right before the 300 VR was introduced. I'm also kind of enthused about shooting the Asahai Optical 135mm f/3.5 Super-Takumar on the S5 Pro,as well as the 70-200 VR Nikkor which I got back when the S2 Pro was king of the hill.
While an S5 Pro at a discount of anywhere from almost a thousand dollars to about three hundred dollars over the most recent retail prices was a BIG inducement in my purchasing decision, what really got me off the dime was a review of thousands of my own images,comparing the color and tonality of the various d-slr's I have owned. In that review of my digital image archives, I examined the bokeh of Canon and Nikkor lenses, AND the overall,total imaging characteristics of the S1 Pro, Nikon D1, Nikon D1h,Fuji S2 Pro, EOS 20D, EOS 5D, and Nikon D70 and D2x. Whew...throw in a thousand or so D40 images I shot and that makes NINE d-slr cameras that I have shot with,eight of them extensively. A couple of those cameras were kind of disappointing on several fronts. A couple were pretty good. A couple were excellent,with some reservations or limitations. But in terms of pleasing color, the S2 Pro delivered really beautiful color. The pictures the S2 Pro made had probably my favorite color. The D2x always delivered the best AF and the fastest response,but had serious,very serious ISO limitations. The EOS 5D delivered the highest resolution,but failed to focus so many times in low-contrast or indoor social situations that it was a drag and I missed a lot of shots with the 5D indoors. The D1h delivered punchy color,good AF with its 11-area AF system and powerful focusing motor,and I shot a good number of newspaper sports assignments with the D1h and had great results as long as there wasn't much need to crop,but the camera shorted out in a six hour rain/drizzle situation,and it became unreliable so I sold it off.
I'm not going to go through each camera I've used,except to say that of all nine d-slr's I've used,the S2 Pro and EOS 5D have been the best color-wise,and while I like the 5D's file quality, I do NOT like much else about it except for its ability to use Nikkor and Pentax lenses via adapter. I vastly prefer the control ethos that Nikon bodies use,with two wheels, each of which ALWAYS control the SAME function--one for aperture,one for shutter speed, and NEVER do those controls switch function depending on the exposure mode,like they do on Canon bodies. I think Canon's body controls for most camera functions are sub-par compared with the way Nikon bodies control things like AF mode,AF points,exposure mode, f/stop,shutter speed, ISO,and basically everything else. Canon's system of controls is poorly thought out and is simply not as good as Nikon's control ideas,systems,and single-purpose buttons and switches. Canon is too menu-driven,and operation in the field suffers. It's as simple as that. With the S5 Pro I KNOW I will get a better control system over AF mode and area, exposure modes,and exposure controls. I'm hoping for better color than Nikon, and better camera control ergonomics than Canon,and I'm looking for a camera that has better highlight rendition that what I am used to,and apparently the S5 Pro has the best highlight rendition and the widest dynamic range of any d-slr ever made. So, I hope to be happy with my $602 S5 Pro.
UPDATE, 19 November,2008: The S5 Pro arrived from Scotland,in undented packaging,and inside the FujiFilm box was a new S5 Pro in a sealed plastic bag with a tamper-proof FujiFilm sealing sticker. The battery charger needed a US-style power cord, which I had on hand from an old,discarded H-P printer. The camera was _immaculate_ and had version 1.09 firmware,which I updated to 1.1 firmware. I am impressed with the solid feel and the "grippy" rubber used for the body covering.