Oct 17 2008

Thoughts on my beloved Fuji S5 Pro Cameras (Part I)

I’d like to talk about my experiences with the S5 Pros and not so much about the specs.  You can head over to DPReview.com or KenRockwell.com for that kind of e-literature.  I’ve had much success with the camera and have produced, in my eyes, some pretty decent images.  But first, a bit of background on how I gravitated to the S5.

My first digital camera was an old Fuji Finepix 6800 point-n-shoot back in 2001.  I picked it up at Ritz for, get this, $900!  The selling point?  3MP sensor that interpolates to 6!  Whoa, momma!  In 2004, I eventually graduated to the highly anticipated Sony Cybershot DSC-F828.  Great ergonomics, but terrible in low light.  I loved having both CF and MemoryStick slots in one body.  After getting serious about photography, I moved up to a Nikon D80.  Again, great camera, but terrible in low light–especially at or above ISO 800.  I shot a wedding or two with the D80 for Chris, but I wanted more homogeny shot-to-shot.  I picked up two Fuji S5 Pros.  These too were highly anticipated for their dynamic range and build quality thanks to Nikon a la the D200.

Firmware.  Firmware for those that don’t know, is core software that drives the functionality and features that exist on the camera.  One issue I’ve had with the S5 is with firmware and how it interfaces with the Nikon products.  As I’ve mentioned, the Fuji borrowed the body from the Nikon D200, an excellent camera body with equally impressive menus, but installed their image sensor and firmware.   Back when I first started shooting with the S5, I’d periodically, if not regularly, experience a state in which my camera would shoot, then lock up.   The battery indicator on the top LCD would blink with the dead-battery icon; I’d have to turn the camera OFF then ON to fix the problem.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Was it a dirty connectory?  Was it the combination of lens and flash?  Was it the battery grip?  Were my batteries dead?  I searched blogs and boards with not definitive solution.  Mixed results across the board.  Well, long story short: Battery grip and Firmware version before 1.11.  I was running 1.06.  Even 1.09 didn’t work as promised.  I don’t know how many shots I missed and how many sleepless nights I’ve had over this.  I am glad to say, knock on wood, that I haven’t had the problem since the firmware upgrade.

Weather Seals.  I can’t speak enough about these seals.  Again, props to Nikon.  This past September, Chris and I shot a pro-bono wedding in St. Lucia for the Biggest Losers contestants, Marty and Amy Wolff.  During our coverage, we had the opportunity to accompany the couple in a series of activities like a yacht cruise, archery, helicopter rides, fencing and zip-lining.  Well, during the zip-lining the clouds encroached and began dumping what appeared to me torrential rain.  I might as well have dunked my camera in the water it was raining so hard.  It was insane.  Everyone was worried about the camera getting fried.  I have to admit, I was worried a bit as well, but knew that the weather seals would do their job.  It rained non-stop for 30 minutes, all the while my camera is perfectly exposed.  I was NOT thinking about rain so I didn’t bring rain gear.  I also knew that as long as I didn’t open the battery doors, memory card bay, or replace my lens that I’d be fine.  Sure enough, the rain stopped and I check the camera.  No problems at all.  Hey, did I mention that I was firing the flash all the while?   Haha… I love it!  Yeah, even my SB-800s held up.  ‘Nough Said.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this camera.  More good than bad, of course.  Follow-ups to come…