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The successor to Fuji's FinePix S3 Pro made its first, fleeting appearence at Photokina in September 2006, though it didn't start shipping until the spring of 2007 - keeping in line with Fuji's approx two-year gap between SLR models. The S5 Pro may have the same sensor (well, almost - more about that later) as the S3 Pro, but as a camera it is a quantum leap forward over the models that preceded it, being based on the highly-regarded Nikon D200 (all the previous models were based on consumer level Nikon film cameras).

Being essentially a D200 with a Super CCD sensor and Fuji processor means the S5 Pro enjoys all the benefits of Nikon's superb 'semi pro' body; weather-sealed body with a magnesium alloy chassis, latest generation focus, flash and metering systems, better shutter, better viewfinder and expansive lens compatibility. It is also the first Fuji SLR to be a truly 'integrated' digital camera; previous models were based on film cameras (supplied by Nikon) which forced Fuji to use a clunky 'camera of two halves' design, complicating control (and in the early models meaning the 'digital' and 'camera' parts had separate batteries). Finally there are some changes under the hood, including a tweaked sensor, new processor and a host of minor (and a few major) feature upgrades.

The S3 Pro - despite a hefty price tag - carved out a niche for itself amongst wedding and portrait photographers willing to sacrifice speed and durability in order to take advantage of the extra dynamic range offered by the SR sensor. On paper the S5 Pro (which has a smaller $400 price premium over the Nikon D200) seems to address most of the issues we - and many potential purchasers - had with the S3 Pro, so let's find out if it delivers...

Improvements of FinePix S5 Pro over FinePix S3 Pro

Where the original S1 Pro and S2 Pro did well because they offered high resolution at a low price (the S1 was the first 'affordable' digital SLR in the days before the consumer DSLR even existed), by the time the S3 Pro surfaced it looked expensive and under-powered. This was due in no small part to Fuji's reliance on Nikon for the 'photographic' part of the camera, and Nikon's obvious reluctance to give them anything too good. That's all changed with the S5 Pro, which is the most significant upgrade the FinePix Pro series has ever seen. Based on a Nikon D200 it really is a totally different kettle of fish. The key improvements (adapted from Fuji's press release) are listed below:

  • Improved Super CCD SR Pro features an optimised low-pass filter to reduce moiré
  • Newly developed RP Processor Pro features two cycles of noise reduction with a claimed reduction in noise at higher sensitivities (camera now allows shooting at ISO 3200)
  • Users can now choose from up to six preset Dynamic Range settings between 100% and 400%
  • Three new variations of the original film simulation mode (F1) have been added (five modes in total
  • Improved Nikon lens compatability (including manual focus AI lenses)
  • RAW+ jpeg (4,256 x 2,848 pixels, 3,024 x 2,016 pixels, 2,304 x 1,536 pixels) dual-save mode
  • Robust lightweight magnesium-alloy body with moisture- and dust-proof seals
  • Durable shutter unit stands up to approximately 100,000 cycles
  • Adoption of high-precision i-TTL flash control
  • 11-point AF sensor with faster autofocusing than the FinePix S3 Pro
  • Supports 1/3, 1/2, and 1 stop lens aperture control
  • Shutter speed 30 sec. to 1/8000 sec, maximum flash sync speed of 1/250 sec.
  • 3 levels of custom function locking with password protection
  • 2.5 inch LCD with 235,000 pixels, gives 100% frame coverage.
  • Colour and monochromatic 30 seconds live view function to check focusing
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Face Detection Technology for post image verification

Compared to the S3 Pro, major feature and specification differences

Fujifilm S5 Pro

Fujifilm S3 Pro
Body • Magnesium alloy
• Body seams sealed
High-impact plastic (metal sub-structure)
Image sizes • 4256 x 2848 (12.1 million)
• 3024 x 2016 (6.1 million)
• 2304 x 1536 (3.5 million)
• 4256 x 2848 (12.1 million)
• 3024 x 2016 (6.1 million)
• 2304 x 1536 (3.5 million)
• 1440 x 960 (1.4 million)
Raw + JPEG mode? Yes No
Auto focus • 11/7 area TTL
• Multi-CAM 1000
• TTL phase detection
• Detection range: EV -1 to EV 19 (ISO 100, 20°C/68°F)
• 5 area TTL
• Multi-CAM 900
• TTL phase detection
• Detection range: EV 1 to EV 19 (ISO 100, 20°C/68°F)
AF area mode • Single Area AF
• Dynamic AF with Focus Tracking and Lock-on
• Group Dynamic AF
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
• Single Area AF
• Dynamic Area AF
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
Metering • 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• 1005 pixel CCD
• 3D Matrix Metering
• 10 segment sensor
iTTL flash? Yes No
Sensitivity • ISO 100 - 3200 • ISO 100 - 1600
Shutter speed • 30 - 1/8000 sec
• 1/250 sec X-Sync speed
• 30 - 1/4000 sec
• 1/180 sec X-Sync speed
AI aperture ring Yes No
Continuous Standard dynamic range
• JPEG 12 MP / Fine: 3.0 fps, up to 21 frames *
• JPEG 6 MP / Fine: 3.0 fps, up to 21 frames *
• RAW: 3.0 fps, up to 21 frames *

Wide dynamic range (Auto DR)
• JPEG 12 MP / Fine: 1.6 fps, up to 7 frames *
• JPEG 6 MP / Fine: 1.6 fps, up to 7 frames *
• RAW: 1.4 fps, up to 8 frames *

* Before slowing down significantly

Standard dynamic range
• JPEG 12 MP / Fine: 2.5 fps, up to 12 frames *
• JPEG 6 MP / Fine: 2.5 fps, up to 12 frames *
• RAW: 2.5 fps, up to 7 frames *

Wide dynamic range (Auto DR)
• JPEG 12 MP / Fine: 1.2 fps, up to 9 frames *
• JPEG 6 MP / Fine: 1.1 fps, up to 6 frames *
• RAW: 1.2 fps, up to 3 frames *

* Before slowing down significantly

White balance • Auto
• Nine presets
• Manual preset (five)
• Kelvin temperature
• Fine tunable
• Auto
• Six presets
• Manual preset (two)
• Fine tunable
Film Simulations • F1
• F1a
• F1b
• F1c
• F2
• F1
• F2
Dynamic Range • Auto
• 100% (Std)
• 130%
• 170%
• 230% (W1)
• 300%
• 400% (W2)
• Std
• Auto
• Wide 1
• Wide 2
Shutter speeds • 30 sec - 1/8000 sec
• Bulb
• 30 sec - 1/4000 sec
• Bulb
Flash Synch 1/250 sec 1/180 sec
Exposure control: steps 1/3, 1/2 or 1 1/2 or 1
LCD monitor • 2.5 " TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixels
• Removable protective cover
• 2.0 " TFT LCD
• 235,000 pixels
• Removable protective cover
Live View

• Color or mono
• 30 secs max

• Mono
• 30 secs max
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed • USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
• IEEE 1394 (Firewire)
Remote • 10-pin remote terminal
• USB 2.0 remote control using optional software
• Mechanical release socket on shutter button
• IEEE 1394 remote control using optional software
Battery Lithium-Ion NP-150 (7.4 V, 1500 mAh) 4 x AA batteries (2300 mAh NiMH supplied)
Storage Compact Flash Type I/II • Compact Flash Type I/II
• xD-Picture Card
Vertical grip MB-D200 Built-in
Dimensions 170 x 113 x 74 mm (6.7 x 4.4 x 2.9 in) 148 x 135 x 80 mm (5.9 x 5.3 x 3.2 in)
Weight (no batt) 830 g (1.8 lb) 835 g (1.8 lb)
Other • New version of 'Real Photo' processor and 'improved' Super CCD SR Pro sensor
• GPS and barcode reader compatible
• Function locking (password protected)

Compared to Nikon D200

Unlike its predecessors the S5 Pro isn't just 'based on' a Nikon body, it is essentially the same camera with Fujifilm innards. It's got a different sensor and a different processor (at the very least), and it doesn't have Nikon's 4-channel readout or amazing buffering capabilities (so the continuous shooting is a lot less impressive), but there's no doubting the S5 Pro's pedigree - it's as close to a Nikon as you'll get without actually buying one. Feature-wise there are some minor differences:

  • Separate 'setup' menu for custom functions (and no shooting banks to store custom settings)
  • No White Balance bracketing
  • No interval timer
  • No 'Shade' white balance setting but extra Fluorescent presets
  • S5 Pro's ISO and flash compensation can only be changed in 1/3 EV steps
  • No 'basic' JPEG mode, missing D200's JPEG compression options
  • No Raw compression option
  • The two cameras have totally different menu system
  • Several buttons on the rear have different functions
  • Face Detection (playback mode)
  • Film simulation modes and D-range options
  • There are slight differences in image parameters and only one Adobe RGB option
  • Slower continuous shooting speed, smaller buffer
  • Slightly different (and incompatible) battery
  • Not compatible with WT-3 wireless transmitter (and no Fujifilm alternative)
  • S5 Pro has option to attach a barcode reader (inserts data into EXIF)

Lens compatibility

Thanks to its new AI aperture ring connector the S5 Pro supports A / M modes and metering with AI manual focus lenses (essentially anything made since 1977) - as well as the majority of AF-G, AF-D, AF-S and AF-I Nikkors, bringing the Fujifilm DSLR series in line with the Nikon semi-pro and pro cameras for the first time. The full lens compatability information is available in our Nikon D200 review (click here).

Fujifilm SuperCCD SR II

Like the S3 Pro before it, the S5 Pro utilizes Fujifilm's unique "extended dynamic range" SuperCCD SR sensor. This features two photodiodes at each photosite (a single 'input pixel') and is designed to overcome the inability of standard CCD sensors to capture the full range of tones in scenes with a wide dynamic range (from deep shadows to bright highlights).

The 'S' pixel has normal sensitivity and captures the same range of light as a conventional CCD photosite, the 'R' pixel is smaller and has a lower sensitivity and is designed to capture detail above the saturation point of the 'S' pixel (in other words the brightest highlights). The 'Real Photo Processor Pro' can then combine the information from the 'S' and 'R' pixels to produce an extended dynamic range and avoid the loss of detail due to over-exposure.. (click here for more information).

Like the S3 Pro the S5 uses some nifty processing to turn what is effectively a six megapixel capture into a twelve megapixel output image (in its earliest incarnations Super CCD always came with a healthy dose of interpolation). This is despite the fact that the S and R 'pixels' are in fact dual photosites that are combined to produce a single input pixel.

Although details from Fujifilm are rather thin on the ground they have confirmed that the Super CCD sensor in the S5 Pro is not the same as the one used in the S3 Pro, but is a refined/improved version. It would appear that the difference is fairly minimal, there is mention of a stronger low-pass filter (to reduce moire), but that's about as much as we can get. We think it's safe to presume that if there were any really fundamental differences Fuji would be making more of a fuss about it. Any image quality improvements over the S3 Pro are as likely to be a result of the new Real Photo Processor PRO (the image processor) than of tweaks to the sensor itself.