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Timings & File Sizes

How you judge the S5 Pro's performance depends on how you intend to use it and what you compare it to. Anyone used to the sluggish performance of its predecessors will be pleasantly surprised by the overall improvements in speed, and particularly by the improved buffering, which now allows bursts of up to 21 shots if you're prepared to sacrifice the extra dynamic range and shoot at a D-range setting of 100%. The camera itself feels very snappy (especially the 'photographic' part, which is, after all, a NIkon D200).

But when it comes to continuous shooting, next to the Nikon D200 - with its fast direct pipes from sensor to buffer - the S5 Pro looks positively pedestrian, and if you do shoot with the dynamic range expansion turned on you'll find yourself hitting the buffer limit with infuriating regularity. The fact that the entire camera 'locks up' whilst data is being written to the card means that - if you shoot 7 or 8 raw files in rapid succession you are in for a half minute or so wait before you can even check the pictures you've taken.

This could be an issue for wedding or studio/fashion photographers wanting to take advantage of all that lovely extra highlight detail, and you soon learn to watch the 'shots remaining' indicator carefully when shooting in such situations, to avoid hitting the buffer limit.

For the kind of high speed photography where dynamic range is less important (sports etc) you can turn the D-Range back down to 100% and see a significant performance boost. Not only is the frame rate more or less doubled, but the number of shots you can take before you hit the buffer limit is in some cases trebled, to 21. By taking the R pixels out of the equation altogether you give the camera's processor a lot less work to do and the result is a camera that - whilst hardly class-leading - is fast enough for all but the most demanding sports work. And let's be honest; no one is going to buy an S5 Pro for demanding sports work.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 12MP 4256 x 2848 JPEG Fine (approx. 5,450 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 8 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card
  • 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II CF card
  • 8 GB Lexar Pro 133x CF card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(8 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(4 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(8GB Lexar)
Power Off to On  
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
Power Off to Shot  
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
Sleep to On  
0.0
0.0 0.0
Power On to Off  
0.2
0.2 0.2
Record Review *1
RAW *2
0.9
0.9 0.9
Record Review *1
RAW *3
1.8
1.8 1.8
Record Review *1
JPEG *2
0.9
0.9 0.9
Record Review *1
JPEG *3
1.8
1.8 1.8
Play
RAW
0.5
0.5
0.5
Play
JPEG
0.4
0.4
0.4
Play Image to Image
RAW
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
Play Image to Image
JPEG 6MP
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
Play Image to Image
JPEG 12MP
~ 0.2
~ 0.2
~ 0.2

*1 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.
*2 D-Range: 100% (STD)
*3 D-Range: AUTO

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/400 sec, F3.2), ISO 200. Continuous shooting mode CH used (maximum speed). Media used were the same as above.

The S5 Pro's buffering is nowhere near as clever - or as fast - as the Nikon D200's, and the sheer size of the files being created means it's not that capacious either. Like the D200 an indicator in the viewfinder shows the remaining capacity of the buffer (in the format 'rXX', where XX is the number of frames you've got left). Once this has dropped to zero (r00) you have to wait for the processor to flush some data out of the buffer to the CompactFlash card, and the gap between shots starts to lengthen, drastically.

The biggest (in fact the only) factor in the number of shots you can fit into the buffer is the D-Range setting chosen; at anything over 100% (i.e. whenever the R pixels are being used) you're limited to 7 or 8 shots; at 100% you can squeeze up to 21 shots into a single burst (I should also note that the indicated remaining capacity is rarely correct, tending to be a little conservative).

So then, with the S5 Pro you cannot have your cake and eat it; to take advantage of the dynamic range capabilities you have to accept some pretty serious compromises when it comes to continuous shooting. There is nothing worse than shooting a studio portrait, telling the model to 'hold it just there' then finding you've filled the buffer and the camera wants 30 or 40 seconds to empty it (or makes you wait up to 5 seconds between shots)... unless of course you simply use the opportunity to polish your small-talk technique..

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How long after the last shot before buffer space is indicated as full again
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the CF compartment light goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images. D-range AUTO

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
8 GB Lexar Pro
133x
Frame rate 1.6 fps 1.6 fps 1.6 fps
Number of frames 7 7 7
Buffer full rate 0.4 fps (2.4 secs) 0.4 fps (2.6 secs) 0.4 fps (2.4 secs)
Next burst (r07 indicated) *2 8.1 sec 8.1 sec 9.5 sec
Write complete 9.9 sec 9.9 sec 12.4

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images. D-range 100% (STD)

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
8 GB Lexar Pro
133x
Frame rate 3.0 fps 2.9 fps 2.4 fps
Number of frames 21 *1 20 *1 20 *1
Buffer full rate 0.8 fps (1.2 secs) 0.8 fps (1.2 secs) 0.6 fps (1.6 secs)
Next burst (r16 indicated) *2 15.7 sec 16.3 sec 21.5 sec
Write complete 17.7 sec 18.9 sec 24.5 sec

Burst of RAW images. D-range AUTO

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
8 GB Lexar Pro
133x
Frame rate 1.4 fps 1.4 fps 1.6 fps
Number of frames 8 *1 8 *1 8 *1
Buffer full rate 0.3 fps (3.3 secs) 0.2 fps (4.85 secs) 0.2 fps (4.46 secs)
Next burst (r08 indicated) *2 25.3 sec 39.8 sec 38.5 sec
Write complete 28.5 sec 40.9 sec 38.5 sec

Burst of RAW images. D-range 100% (STD)

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
8 GB Lexar Pro
133x
Frame rate 3.0 fps 2.9 fps 2.9 fps
Number of frames 21 *1 20 *1 20 *1
Buffer full rate 0.5 fps (1.9 sec) 0.4 fps (2.6 secs) 0.4 fps (2.7 secs)
Next burst (r19 indicated) *2 25.3 sec 49.0 sec 48.2 sec
Write complete 28.5 sec 49.5 sec 48.0 sec
*1 Varies slightly (by 1 or 2 frames) - this is the maximum
*2 The estimated buffer capacity (indicated as 'rXX' where XX is the number of frames) varies according to the file type and D-range setting. Anything other than D-range 100% (STD) reduces the number significantly, JPEG (including RAW+JPEG) modes reduce the number slightly.

Whilst the S5 Pro is hardly a speed freak when it comes to card writing there is certainly an advantage to finding the fastest card you can - this will significantly reduce the amount of time you have to wait between bursts. With a maximum speed of 3.0 fps and a maximum buffer capacity of 21 shots - and even then only if you turn off the dynamic range expansion - this is not the fastest camera in the world, but it's an improvement on the S3 Pro and (as long as you exercise some self-control) is just about usable even in a fast-moving studio shoot.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to "process and flush" the image to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity indicator beside the storage compartment went out. The S5 Pro appears to start writing to the card the instant the shutter is pressed (the CF light comes on immediately), and whilst this light is on you can't use any of the rear-screen based functions (menus, playback etc), though you can keep shooting as long as there is space in the buffer.

Image type
Time, secs
(8 GB San)
Time, secs
(4 GB San)
Time, secs
(8 GB Lex)
Approx.
size
*1
RAW D-Range Auto 7.1 7.0 6.8 25,132 KB
RAW + 12MP JPEG (F) D-Range Auto 8.9 9.3 8.9 30,469 KB
RAW + 6MP JPEG (F) D-Range Auto 6.5 8.2 8.3 28,517 KB
12MP JPEG (F) D-Range Auto 3.6 4.1 4.3 5,433 KB
6MP JPEG (F) DD-Range Auto 3.2 3.3 3.7 3,387 KB
RAW D-Range 100% 3.3 4.1 4.2 12,800 KB
RAW + 12MP JPEG (F) D-Range 100% 4.6 5.8 6.3 18,233 KB
RAW + 6MP JPEG (F) D-Range 100% 4.1 5.0 5.7 16,187 KB
12MP JPEG (F) D-Range 100% 2.7 3.0 3.4 5,433 KB
6MP JPEG (F) DD-Range 100% 2.1 2.3 2.5 3,387 KB

*1 File size for RAW+JPEG is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.

The write speeds for single images are actually not that bad at all, particularly at D-Range 100%, but just look at those file sizes for raw images using Auto D-Range and you can see why the S5 Pro struggles to compete with the fastest cameras in its class.

USB transfer speed

To test the S5 Pro's USB transfer speed we used sixteen standard images totaling 200MB (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme IV 2 GB CF card (the same card used in the other readers). We used Windows Explorer copy in each case (the S5 Pro supports standard Mass Storage drivers, so acts as a large, expensive card reader). As you can see it's a lot slower than using a dedicated reader, but not bad at all for a USB connected camera.

Method Time taken Transfer rate
Fujifilm S5 Pro 46.4 sec 4.3 MB/sec
Sandisk Extreme USB 2.0 Card reader 8.34 sec 23.9 MB/sec
Sandisk Firewire 400 Card reader 5.3 sec 37.7 MB/sec

Battery life

The S5 Pro uses a slightly modified version of the battery used by the D200 (it has a different 'chip' inside and is not compatible with the EN-EL3e). The NP-150 Lithium-Ion has a capacity of 1500 mAh at 7.2 V (a marginally different voltage to the Nikon version). The battery communicates a variety of information back to the camera including current charge status and battery life (based on number of recharges carried out). We found the S5 Pro battery life to be perfectly acceptable a long as you don't use the built-in flash or spend too much time reviewing images on the LCD screen. There are so many variables that the quoted capacity - 400 shots (CIPA) is almost meaningless (we were shooting raw without flash and getting around 300 shots per charge), but I think it's fair to say the S5 Pro is a camera I'd want to carry with at least one spare battery.

This is what Fuji has to say about the 400 shot quote:

CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) standard procedure for measuring digital still camera battery consumption (extract):

  • Using the battery supplied with the camera and AF50mm/F1.4D lens.
  • The storage media should be CompactFlash card.
  • Pictures should be taken at a temperature of +23°C (+73°F), shoot every 30 seconds with the AF-moved for each shot.
  • The flash used at full power every second shot and the camera turned off and then on again once every 10 shots.
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