So does it work? Does the S5 Pro actually produce better colour and tonal range than an equivalent SLR with a conventional CCD? The short answer is yes, but at a price. I found that in exact comparison shots with the Nikon D40x which I still have, and with my own Sony A100, the S5 produced roughly two stops of extra dynamic range, with enhanced shadow detail and highlights. The Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimiser produces about the same performance, but does tend to introduce some image noise into deeper shadow areas. The S5 brings up extra shadow detail with no noise at all, and will show detail in highlights that would be burned out white on other cameras.
Colour rendition is, in a word, superb. Natural tones such as flowers and skin are reproduced perfectly, and the extra tonal range reduces the banding effect sometimes seen with subtle colour variations.
With all the emphasis on colour and dynamic range another impressive aspect of the S5’s performance has almost been overlooked. Its high-ISO noise reduction is one of the best I’ve seen from any DSLR, producing noise-free images at 1600 ISO and acceptable shots at 3200 ISO.
However I said there is a price, and it is the final image detail and sharpness that suffers. There’s no getting away from the fact that the S5 interpolates its 12MP images from a 6MP sensor, and when examined closely the results simply don’t have the same fine detail as a similar shot taken with a 10MP camera, and there are interpolation artefacts visible on some shots. To be fair the S5 isn’t designed for landscape photographers, and in the world of portrait photography the maximum level of detail is not the most important feature. It’s a case of “horses for courses”, and while the S5 is very good at colour and tone, it’s not so good at fine detail. It’s up to you to decide whether its abilities suit your needs.
The Fujifilm S5 Pro continues in its predecessors’ tradition of providing superior dynamic range and tonal quality for specialist portrait and wedding photographers, who will be delighted with its outstanding capabilities in these areas, as well as its superb handling, build quality and performance. It’s not really an ideal camera for the general consumer though, so if you’re looking for a similarly-priced general-purpose DSLR you’d be better off buying the Nikon D200 instead.