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Fuji Fujifilm S5
Color Rendition

© 2007 KenRockwell.com

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Fuji S5

Fujifilm S5 Pro

I got this one here ($1,899 and free shipping). I'd have gotten it here or here, too. It helps me publish this site when you get yours from those links, too.

More Nikon Camera and Lens tests.

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See also Fuji S5 Film Modes.

April 2007

Color rendition is the most important technical performance aspect of a digital camera. Color is how the picture looks, about the only thing that matters.

The Fuji S5 looks different than my Nikons or Canons. I always can identify an image from the S5 when I put images on my screen. Just as I can identify which film was used for a shot, I can do the same for the images from this Fuji. This takes experience.

Most of the time the Fuji S5 has the look of wedding and portrait negative film, while my other digital cameras look more like slide film.

The S5 makes people look much better than my Nikons do. If you're a people photographer, and if your artistic tastes and subjects match mine, get the S5. Get one today. It makes pink skin look smooth and creamy. It doesn't warm up skin - if you prefer warm, orangey renditions, maybe the Nikons are better.

The Fuji S5's images are optimized for skin, caveat being the pink skin of my baby test target. The Fuji S5's images tended to have a puttylike color palette, with yellows and California's omnipresent stucco homes tending towards tan and beige, while my Nikons and Canons kept yellows yellow or yellower.

I can pump up the colors on my Nikons and Canons as I did with slide film. The Fuji keeps its colors reserved, like portrait print film.

The Fuji's color palette was the same in the normal and the various F1 film modes. The S5 gets yellower in the F2 film mode.

If you're shooting landscapes you'll have to gauge the Fuji's color for your taste. I dislike the Fuji for nutty landscapes, even in it's F2 mode. For huge landscape enlargements, the has S5 less resolution than the D200 or Canon 5D.

I often shoot crapscapes of industrial decay. For that I love wild colors, and I prefer the colors of my other cameras to the people-optimized look of the S5.

Ryan on Daddy

Ryan Rockwell on top of KenRockwell.com. (Fuji S5 at ISO 800, 18-200mm VR, bounced SB-400, snap by mom)

This example is typical. I'm always happy with the shots from my Nikons, but when I see the results from the Fuji, it's just better.

Auto White Balance

The Fuji S5 seems to take skin tones, regardless of the ambient light, and make them look right. Here's a comparison of my kid under incandescent home lighting. The Fuji corrected fully in Auto White Balance, while the others were still too warm even when set to their coolest settings

FUJI S5 - Auto WB
NIKON D200 - 2800 K WB
FUJI S5
NIKON D200
NIKON D40
CANON 5D
NIKON D40 - Tungsten WB
CANON 5D - 2800 K WB

Baby Skin Tones

The S5 is all about skin tones, color, lighting and contrast, so lets look at baby pictures.

Technical details follow the images.

The wife's T-shirt really is dark blue. Look at my baby's skin - these subtle differences are critical if you're a people photographer.

Here are the full images, followed by crops from the same images at 100% and ISO 1,600.

FUJI S5
NIKON D200
FUJI S5
NIKON D200
NIKON D40
CANON 5D
NIKON D40
CANON 5D

D200

Fuji S5

Canon 5D

Nikon D40

Each was on Auto WB and at ISO 1,600, overcast window light.

The Nikons were set to my standards of Saturation + and Color Mode III. Contrast ("color tone") was in Auto, Nikon's default. They would be less yellow in their Portrait modes.

I set the Fuji S5 to Color (saturation) HIGH. I left Dynamic Range and Contrast at their defaults of AUTO and STD.

My D40's Auto WB was set to -1, a tad warmer.

My Canon 5D was set to +2 for saturation.

Everything else on these cameras was at default.

Each had a different lens: Fuji: 12-24mm at 24mm, D200: 18-200mm VR at 24mm, D40: 18-55mm II at 24mm, 5D: 17-40mm L at 36mm.

I set each camera to the same resolution, about 3k x 2k pixels.

The Fuji was at its native M (3k wide) resolution. My D200 was set to a downsampled M resolution (3k wide). My D40 was at its native (L) resolution, 3k wide. I goofed and shot my 5D at its native resolution, and scaled it down to 3k wide before showing it here. It does the same thing if I had thought to set it down to its M resolution, also 3k wide.

Don't fret sharpness in these examples; the sharpness here is more dependant on how much the kid moved, the different lenses and my ability to focus.

Nikon in Portrait Mode

My Nikons are better for people in their Portrait modes than how I usually use them as above, but still not as good as the Fuji S5. To get the portrait mode in the D200, go to Menu -> Shooting -> Optimize Image -> Portrait -> OK. (more at my Nikon D200 User's Guide.)

Each of these shots was made by overcast window light in a light tan room. Sucky light, yes, but representative of the crappy available light most people shooters are dealt unless they resort to flash. There are a load of variables involved. These particular examples represent what I saw most of the time from these cameras in many conditions.

Nikon D200

Nikon D200, ISO 3,200, cropped from middle third, Portrait mode.

Fuji S5

Fuji S5 , ISO 3,200, cropped from middle third.

The D200 looks too green for me. See High ISO Color Rendition, where I'll show how the colors of the D200 get much worse at ISO 3,200 while the color of the Fuji S5 remains unchanged.

Here are crops from the above images at 100%. Both were shot in each camera's M (3k x 2k) resolution.

Nikon D200

Fuji S5

Color Comparisons

It's almost impossible to compare colors between cameras, much less show it sensibly on the internet.

One must learn a camera's color rendition through making thousands of shots, and comparing the camera's rendition to reality. Without reference to reality, the results shown here are meaningless. New photographers don't comprehend this. Examples mean nothing if you weren't there with me to understand how the scene looked. This is critical to making great images, because one needs to learn intimately how each camera interprets reality, so one can previsualize final images while at the scene.

Art comes from artists, not spat out of cameras. Color varies so much from minute to minute in nature as the light changes that the camera is just one tiny part of the creative process. Your patience and powers of observation are more critical than your camera.

With these very strong caveats, let's waste some of your boss' time looking at dry comparisons.

Here are four cameras shot in their default modes. This is a house in semi-clear afternoon light, two hours before sunset. This is what you'll get if you're like 99% of all users who never tweak the camera's image-look settings.

FUJI S5
NIKON D200
NIKON D40
CANON 5D

Colors at factory default modes

Note how contrast varies among them. The Nikons have auto contrast, and cranked themselves down. The D40 defaults to Nikon's brighter Color Mode IIIa., while all the others default to less saturation.

Now let's party and crank them to where I'd shoot them.

FUJI S5
NIKON D200
NIKON D40
CANON 5D

Colors cranked as I prefer each camera

For these, I set the Fuji S5's color to HIGH. That's all there is, it doesn't go to 11 as I like.

My D200 and D40 are at my personal defaults of Color Mode III and + Saturation. This is a contrasty scene, so the Nikons turned down their contrasts automatically which preserved more color in the darker green and yellow flowers up front. The Fuji and Canon aren't as smart, so they stayed at normal contrast and lost some of the darker areas. If I cared, I could have turned down the contrast manually on the others, but I didn't see this need as I shot.

My Canon 5D is at normal (0) contrast and +2 or +3 color. My 5D goes to +4 saturation, which I spared you here. I should have used an extra third of a stop exposure for the 5D to match the others, but tough - you get what you pay for reading my free website.

Now you can see how it's easy for me to pick out the S5 shots on the light table. It;'s even easier with larger images. It has a puttier, duller look - perfect for portraits, but dull for headbangers me. I shoot my cameras with their colors cranked further than the Fuji can, and the Canon 5D still has more where this came from.

Let's put on the elevator music and set these cameras to their portrait modes for comparison.

FUJI S5
NIKON D200
NIKON D40
CANON 5D

Colors set back to Portrait mode.

Boring, I know. Only my Nikons have a "portrait" mode. My Canon 5D has one, but it's merely setting the saturation to normal (0) and clicking the sharpening back a notch, invisible at this size. The Fuji has no dedicated portrait mode; all its modes are for portraits except the F2 mode.

Color Summary

I prefer the Fuji S5 for people, and any of the other cameras for other subjects. Most of my subjects aren't people.

PLUG

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

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Thanks!

Ken

 

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