Artificial light White Balance
Although it works perfectly well in daylight and handles mixed lighting well, the S5 Pro's auto white balance proved disappointing in artificial light - certainly if your goal is neutral grays. As you can see in both incandescent and fluorescent light a color cast is clearly visible. The incandescent preset doesn't help a great deal but the five fluorescent presets mean there's bound to be one that works. If you want incandescent shots without a cast you'll need to use a custom setting or shoot raw.
|Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 13.6%, Blue -14.6%, Poor
|Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red 6.1%, Blue -5.4%, Average
|Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 3.2%, Blue -9.6%, Average
|Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red -1.4%, Blue 2.0%, Good
Long Exposure Night shots
The S5 Pro doesn't appear to use a dark-frame subtraction system to 'map out' any hot pixels, and as a result there are visible hot pixels at long exposures, though they are few and far between. (Note that the 100% crops below the thumbnails have had their brightness boosted to make the hot pixels more visible). Note also that the noise reduction system (which is designed to reduce ISO related noise) has no effect on the hot pixels.
ISO 100, 30 secs
|NR STD||NR: ORG (low)|
The S5 Pro supports Nikon's latest i-TTL flash metering system which should offer better flash performance by also taking into account subject distance information from type G or D lenses. Even using the built-in flash you can see the improvement over the S3 Pro - exposure is spot-on and the color is slightly warm (which is no bad thing). We also found that the metering and white balance systems worked flawlessly in mixed lighting / fill flash situations too. Being based on the D200 also brings Nikon's CLS multi-flash system to Fujifilm users, an added bonus.
|On camera flash, Skin tone||On camera flash, Test Chart|
Overall Image Quality / Specifics
It's difficult enough to quantify 'image quality' as it is, but the S5 Pro presents an even greater challenge because it produces results that delight and disappoint in almost equal measure.
Let's start with the good. The S5 Pro (even at its default 'out of the box' settings) outputs JPEGs with subtle processing, natural color and superb skin tones, and the extra dynamic range produces a real, visible advantage in situations where highlight detail would otherwise be lost. It's rare to find a digital SLR that produces usable, unclipped JPEG output no matter what you throw at it, but the S5 Pro does. Sure, shooting raw is safer and allows you a lot more scope if you do want to process yourself (and better exposure latitude), but time and again I was surprised to see how difficult it was to better the camera JPEG when using any raw converter. The key here isn't that the S5 Pro JPEGs look 'consumer friendly' out of the box (the S3 Pro files have more contrast and saturation for immediate 'pop'), but that they contain the sort of tonal information we normally only see in raw files, giving you a lot more latitude for contrast adjustments.
And so, if tonality, color and dynamic range are the things you want most from your pictures - and especially if you prefer to work in a simple JPEG based workflow - the S5 Pro will not disappoint.
On the other hand the output is very soft, and despite the excellent resolution measurement in the lab, real world shots seem to be lacking fine detail - something no amount of sharpening can bring back. The 12MP output is much worse in this respect - for the tiny bit of extra detail you get there's a lot of obvious interpolation that doesn't respond well to sharpening. Throw in the usual Super CCD artefacts and strong noise reduction and you have results that do not bear close inspection on screen, and do not respond well to excessive enlargement.
After months with the S5 Pro we came to the conclusion that most other users seem to arrive at; it's fantastic for portraits and studio work, but for landscapes needing pin-sharp detail for enlargement it's a lot less impressive.
12MP or 6MP?
Just like the S2 Pro and S3 Pro before it, the S5 Pro has six million effective photosites ('input pixels'), but Fujifilm's SuperCCD honeycomb layout means these are first interpolated up to a twelve megapixel image. If the camera is in twelve megapixel output mode this is then sharpened and saved, if in a lower resolution mode the image is downsampled, sharpened and saved. A simplified in-camera workflow can be seen below for 12 mp and 6 mp images:
6 mp RAW honeycomb -> 12 mp square -> sharpen -> save
6 mp RAW honeycomb -> 12 mp square -> 6 mp downsample -> sharpen -> save
The S5 Pro's twelve megapixel images do appear to offer slightly more detail than six megapixel images, most of this is down to the quality of the camera's downsampling algorithm (and at what point sharpening is applied). The rule of thumb (in our opinion) is that while 12 mp images may exhibit slightly more detail the gain isn't significant or worthwhile shooting in 12 mp mode all the time (it's often very hard to distinguish the difference between a 6 mp and 12 mp).
Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the difference between 12 mp from the camera, 6 mp from the camera and resizing each.
|12 mp comparison||6 mp comparison|
|12 mp from camera||6 mp from * camera -> 12mp||6 mp from camera||12 mp from * camera -> 6 mp|
* Resized in Adobe Photoshop CS (Bicubic), results would be better with more
advanced interpolation algorithms.
Super CCD artefacts
All Super CCD cameras show slightly unusual artefacts when viewed at 100% on-screen (though you need to be producing pretty large prints to see them in 'the real world'). The moire issues we found with the S2 Pro seem to have been eliminated and overall there is a visible improvement (albeit a small one) over the S3 Pro. Look closely and you can still find some strange patterns and stepping on diagonals in our test shots, though it is a lot worse at 12MP than 6MP.
|Both these crops show stepping patterns on near-vertical diagonal lines|
Dynamic range and contrast
One of the inevitable consequences of squeezing so much dynamic range into a single exposure is that unless you are shooting at noon in the sahara desert JPEGs can often appear quite flat (lacking in contrast).
But the important thing to remember is that this is the beauty of the S5 Pro's out of camera JPEGs; to get this much tonal information out of most other SLRs you have to shoot raw (and even then you're likely to have to employ some kind of HDR technique). What S5 Pro files give you a huge amount of latitude when it comes to post-processing, allowing you to make decisions about contrast and highlight clipping with the convenience of a JPEG workflow.
|The image on the left shows the out of camera JPEG contains a huge amount tonal information but looks flat and gray. The extended dynamic range gives you a lot more headroom for post-processing (there is virtually no clipping at either end of the range) to get the look you want. The image on the right is the result of a quick curves/saturation change for a punchier look.|