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Capturing with a 21-12 months-Outdated Digicam: The Fujifilm S1 Professional


I discover it extremely enjoyable to make use of older, particularly distinctive, digital cameras each as a problem and for sheer enjoyment.

I feel a part of it’s psychological. With archaic cameras sporting outdated know-how we anticipate subpar outcomes, and so we focus extra on what we can management: composition, lighting (when relevant), publicity, and so forth — the issues we should always all the time be specializing in.

Conversely, when we have now a Hasselblad in our fingers, we could let go a bit within the unconscious perception that the digital camera could make up the distinction for our lack of expertise or effort. After all, everyone knows it will possibly’t.

I gained’t get into the boring historical past of why I personal a whole lot of early to mid-2000s digital cameras, however in some unspecified time in the future, I discovered myself the proprietor of a Fujifilm Finepix S1 Professional — the primary in a five-model line of Fujifilm DSLRs that housed some extremely distinctive sensor know-how that it dubbed “SuperCCD.”

Apologies for the subpar product pictures. I didn’t have entry to my full setup.

Within the S1 Professional, the photodiodes of the three.1-megapixel SuperCCD sensor took the type of a honeycomb tessellation, oriented in a zig-zag array relatively than a easy vertical/horizontal mosaic. Due to this, the gap between cells is smaller, making for about 40% extra (sq. root of two = 1.41) sensor cell rows horizontally and vertically than a daily Bayer sensor.

The digital camera then makes use of an interpolation algorithm that supposedly ends in a decision equal to a 6.2 megapixel Bayer sensor. The 45-degree orientation additionally permits for improved seize of horizontal and vertical element. That is good as a result of many of the world, due to gravity, exists in horizontal and vertical planes — nonetheless, this occurs on the expense of diagonal decision, which is the place conventional sensor layouts excel.

The honeycomb design of the SuperCCD sensors.

Launched in January 2000, the Fujifilm S1 Professional relies on the Nikon N60 (aka F60) movie digital camera physique (with modifications by Fuji). It logically sports activities a Nikon F mount and might use AI, AI-S, AI-P, AF, AF-D, or G sort lens — nonetheless, solely AF and AF-D lenses will autofocus. AI and AI-S lenses can solely be utilized in guide publicity mode as there is no such thing as a meter coupling.

Most of those pictures had been shot with both the Nikon AF-D 24-120/3.5-5.6 or Nikon AF-D 50/1.8. Whereas the 24-120 shouldn’t be a high quality optic, it’s a greater than adequate match for this sensor, particularly stopped down a bit — and you’ll cease right down to your coronary heart’s content material with out hitting diffraction on this digital camera.

I had initially gone out taking pictures with some superior G-type lenses, nonetheless, correct guide focusing is unimaginable for me by means of the straw-like OVF (carrying glasses doesn’t assist both) and the main target affirmation dot is completely unreliable. Unusually, I had extra points manually specializing in distant objects stopped down than nearer ones vast open — the picture above was manually targeted with the Sigma Artwork 35mm vast open at f/1.4, but the beneath picture (barely out of focus) was at 24mm and f/8 with the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR.

Shutter speeds high out at 1/2000th. There are a number of metering modes (3D 6-zone, 6-zone, center-weight), a pop-up flash and hot-shoe (Nikon TTL suitable), and ISO choices of 320, 400, 800, and 1600. There isn’t a auto ISO perform, and it’s a must to menu dive every time you need to alter it.

File decisions are JPEG or TIFF solely — no RAW, sadly — recorded to both CompactFlash or SmartMedia. The digital camera actually didn’t settle for my 64 or 128GB playing cards, however I used to be in a position to dig up an outdated 1GB card that may maintain a whopping 56 TIFF information within the highest high quality mode out there (“Hello RGB TIFF”).

That is simply the slowest digital camera I’ve ever used. The menu is the antithesis of intuitive; it’s largely only a assortment of symbols and abbreviations and my hat is off to you in the event you can guess their that means with out studying the guide.

Neglect chimping. Simply homicide that concept and bury it. It takes a stable 31 seconds (sure, I timed it) for a picture to populate the display. As soon as it does, nearly the one factor you’ll be able to affirm is {that a} picture was certainly taken, although a histogram is out there for extra correct evaluation. JPEGs, nonetheless, are considerably sooner to evaluation.

In a manner, in the event you select TIFF over JPEG, utilizing the digital camera is akin to taking pictures a bulked-up Nikon N60 loaded with a roll and a half of movie — no picture evaluation, roughly 55 most pictures, and no fast adjustment of the ISO.

The S1 Professional lets you select between both 3.1MP or 6.2MP output. To supply a standard picture file — which exists in rows and columns — the digital camera should interpolate by utilizing adjoining photosites to generate information between present pixels. In spite of everything, the recorded file can’t exist in the identical zig-zag honeycomb sample because the sensor. After every line is learn out and the lacking information is stuffed, you find yourself with twice the spatial decision (6.2MP).

In comparison with the Nikon D40, which makes use of a 6.1-megapixel Bayer sensor, the S1 Professional doesn’t fairly attain the identical degree of pixel acuity. Nonetheless, aspect by aspect with the 4.1 megapixel Nikon D2Hs, there isn’t a lot in it between the 2. So, I feel the true Bayer-equivalent decision sits someplace in the midst of 3.1 and 6.2MP — round 4-4.5 megapixels. As it will occur, that is precisely in keeping with the roughly 40% enhance in sensor cell rows (3.1 * 1.41 = 4.37). It additionally depends upon the scene — some profit from the bizarre sensor design way more than others.

CCD sensors usually are not forgiving of sloppy publicity. Pushing or pulling can rapidly end in blotchy chroma noise, extreme coloration shifts, and compromised roll-off from the quartertones into the highlights. It isn’t not like slide movie on this manner.

The colours are phenomenally correct and impartial out of the digital camera. “ORG” tone and coloration produce a stunning, impartial file that’s good for modifying, and “STD” (customary) tone and coloration make for a pleasingly usable straight-out-of-camera file. Even with coloration set to “HIGH” and tone set to “HARD,” the pictures aren’t bombastically oversaturated and Disneyland like we regularly see with the “Vivid” setting in fashionable cameras. The truth is, Excessive Coloration/Exhausting Tone pictures exhibit solely a really modest bump in saturation and distinction in comparison with Commonplace Coloration/Tone. One factor is completely clear: Fujifilm was producing cameras with lovely coloration output lengthy earlier than X-Trans.

All the pictures right here had been shot at ISO 320, 800, or 1600. ISO 400 is totally pointless provided that it’s a mere quarter cease achieve over base. It will be simpler to only dial in a 3rd of a cease of publicity compensation relatively than clicking by means of the menu. I actually want there was a decrease base ISO of 160, in addition to intermediate choices like 640 and 1280.

The digital camera’s excessive native sensitivity — mixed with early CCD structure — means that there’s a noticeable degree of noise even at base ISO. Fortunately, the noise is sort of pleasing and largely luminance up by means of ISO 800 — even 1600 has very minimal chroma noise straight out of the digital camera. Anecdotally, I’ve discovered this to be a operating theme with CCD sensors — appreciable noise even at base ISO, however the noise presents very favorably by means of most, if not all, of the sensitivity vary relying on the digital camera. It additionally makes for astonishingly interesting black and white pictures, particularly given the finely grained texture from what is basically high-frequency noise. “Movie-like” could be an apt descriptor for the outcomes.

The appreciable noise on this picture is the results of mentioning an underexposed picture in put up. Black and white helps cowl the colour shifts and chroma noise.

In case you nail publicity in digital camera, ISO 1600 will produce remarkably nice outcomes with an unexpectedly low quantity of noise for a sensor of this kind and age — there isn’t a lot to talk of when it comes to offensive noise and pictures are fully usable with none noise discount. Nonetheless, at this level, you’ve misplaced a great little bit of dynamic vary and in the event you attempt to push the picture in any manner, blocked up patches of low-frequency chroma noise and banding instantly rear their head. There’s primarily zero room for pushing the information in any respect if shot at ISO 800 or increased.

Fairly impressively, there’s nearly nothing when it comes to coloration shift all through the whole sensitivity vary — what’s correct or pleasing at base ISO can be correct or pleasing at 1600. Once more, that is one thing I’ve observed on multiple event with CCD cameras — the Pentax 645D behaves nearly identically all through its ISO vary.

ISO 1600, SOOC “Commonplace” coloration and tone, auto WB. Noise discount and sharpening zeroed out in ACR. No changes other than downsizing.

Whereas restrictive by fashionable requirements, a extremely usable ISO 1600 in an APS-C digital camera within the 12 months 2000 was exceptionally good. Fujifilm claimed the SuperCCD cameras to have superior sensitivity efficiency — the honeycomb photosites permit for extra pixels to be packed inside a given space and their form extra carefully mirrors the round microlenses that sit above them. I feel Fuji’s assertation bears out in observe.

I’d estimate roughly 7.5-8 stops of usable dynamic vary, which is up in opposition to what I presume is an 8-bit ADC (analog to digital converter). Given this, together with the unforgiving nature of CCD sensors and processing latitude additional restricted by the shortage of RAW, you might want to be very deliberate along with your publicity decisions. Even in a scene of average distinction, you’ll nearly actually have both crushed blacks or clipped highlights.

Nonetheless, like most CCD cameras, you do begin to lose dynamic vary rapidly when you increase the ISO by a few stops. There additionally isn’t a lot within the shadows — fashionable cameras (CMOS) are inclined to have a whole lot of their dynamic vary bunched up within the shadows, permitting for some really unbelievable element restoration. CCD sensors don’t work the identical manner, and even with a full-blown RAW file, I doubt you’d discover a lot usable data at that finish of the histogram. You’ll be able to mitigate this considerably through ETTR (“expose to the precise”), however with what’s already a suboptimal quantity of dynamic vary, you’ll solely have a small quantity of latitude for ETTR, if any.

Oops, freeway patrol bought me. Excessive distinction scenes like this are troublesome – the whites are simply on the cusp of clipping, however the blacks are gone in quite a few areas.

Whereas the digital camera’s gentle meter, notably the 3D 6-zone multipattern meter, is exceptionally adept at balancing publicity in troublesome scenes, the auto white stability is a duality: it’s both one of the vital correct I’ve ever seen or it’s the worst. Virtually all of the pictures I took required zero tint adjustment and often solely +1 to +4 temperature adjustment. Nonetheless, on three events the pictures had been off by a lot I’m nonetheless baffled as to precisely why.

Probably the most egregious had been pictures taken about two hours earlier than sundown within the shade — they had been rendered extraordinarily blue and about half a cease underexposed. The white stability went thus far off the map that almost all of a plain white T-shirt measured blue values from 240 on as much as fully clipped! I assume the offender for this error is a mixture of the digital camera’s CCD gentle meter design and spectral response — the infrared filter could also be inflicting points in sure conditions too. IR filters can strongly have an effect on the blue channel and it’s doable there was a little bit of Rayleigh scattering at work.

The foremost concern is that with out a RAW file, your choices are extraordinarily restricted — these botched information required +76 temperature to appropriate. Such an enormous shift in an 8-bit TIFF file ends in horrendous noise — particularly unhealthy as a result of the blue channel is all the time the noisiest — and excessive spectral shifts throughout the whole picture. Unusually, a separate shot of a pink step ladder taken 5 toes away on the identical time required solely -3 tint and 0 temperature adjustment.

Utilizing the S1 Professional jogs my memory of taking pictures with the unique 18-megapixel Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom cameras — each with Kodak CCD designs. Neither these cameras nor the S1 Professional has any tolerance for “underexpose to guard the highlights” or comparable approaches in the identical manner that CMOS sensors permit — not not like how slide movie doesn’t take kindly to push processing. Individuals who fear about how a digital camera handles being pushed 5 stops might want to alter — it’ll assist them in the long term to allow them to lastly be taught to cease underexposing a lot.

In the end, whereas the information from the S1 Professional don’t include anyplace close to the latitude of even fashionable JPEGs, not to mention the ability of RAW, my greatest takeaway whereas utilizing this digital camera was how a lot I like and worth transparency as a place to begin out of the digital camera. In a manner, the naturality of colours and tones from this digital camera makes it much more aggravating that the information can’t stand as much as a lot manipulation — I’d completely LOVE outcomes like this out of my Nikon Z7, and each different digital camera I’ve for that matter.

My father aiding within the restore of a Pentax 6×7. In scenes like this, you simply have to reveal in your topic and let the acute ends clip.

What I’d like to see is a common “Pure Coloration Resolution” (to steal a time period from Hasselblad) adopted by all producers and carried out of their cameras as an possibility. If you need that “Pure Coloration” RAW file, you’ll be able to have it. If you need the look that you simply’ve come to like out of your producer, you’ll be able to choose that too. Apart from Hasselblad, I’m undecided what could be the chance for producers to do that — aside from that it will take some time and effort.

I’d not name the Fujifilm S1 Professional a enjoyable or nice digital camera to make use of in any respect. To be trustworthy, I most likely instantly deleted 99% of the pictures I took whereas doing this evaluation. And even among the many ones you see right here, there are various that I’m not proud of. Usually, I’d not accept posting merely satisfactory photographs, however on this case, I feel even the lesser pictures right here do have worth by displaying each the warts and the ornaments.

Have little doubt, it is a difficult digital camera to make use of. I’m certain my photographs would tremendously enhance with continued use, however how a lot I’m not certain — I really feel such as you hit the ceiling faster than you may think.

Maybe I can observe this up with a retrospective evaluation of 2005’s Fujifilm S3 Professional, which sports activities a brand new SuperCCD SR sensor with two photodiodes per photosite — one among regular sensitivity and a smaller one among decrease sensitivity. Each are mixed to supply enhanced dynamic vary (and it really works very, very nicely). The overall precept behind such a design comes from the construction of the crystal coating in silver halide movie.  The S3 additionally has a 14-bit ADC and produces 14-bit RAW information! That’s only a few of the enhancements, however I’ll let you know this a lot: the SuperCCD SR sensor does NOT disappoint.



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