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Taking pictures with a 21-12 months-Outdated Digicam: The Fujifilm S1 Professional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 With archaic cameras sporting outdated expertise we anticipate subpar outcomes, and so we focus extra on what we can management: composition, lighting (when relevant), publicity, and so forth — the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 must always at all times be specializing in.

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

I gained’t get into the boring historical past of why I personal loads 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 expertise 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 fairly than a easy vertical/horizontal mosaic. Due to this, the space between cells is smaller, making for about 40% extra (sq. root of two = 1.41) sensor cell rows horizontally and vertically than an everyday Bayer sensor.

The digicam then makes use of an interpolation algorithm that supposedly leads to 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, because of gravity, exists in horizontal and vertical planes — nevertheless, 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 digicam physique (with modifications by Fuji). It logically sports activities a Nikon F mount and may use AI, AI-S, AI-P, AF, AF-D, or G kind lens — nevertheless, 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 is just not a top quality optic, it’s a greater than adequate match for this sensor, particularly stopped down a bit — and you may cease all the way down to your coronary heart’s content material with out hitting diffraction on this digicam.

I had initially gone out capturing with some superior G-type lenses, nevertheless, correct guide focusing is unimaginable for me via the straw-like OVF (carrying glasses doesn’t assist both) and the main focus affirmation dot is completely unreliable. Surprisingly, I had extra points manually specializing in distant objects stopped down than nearer ones large open — the photograph above was manually targeted with the Sigma Artwork 35mm large open at f/1.4, but the under photograph (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 appropriate), and ISO choices of 320, 400, 800, and 1600. There isn’t any auto ISO operate, and it’s important to menu dive every time you wish to alter it.

File selections are JPEG or TIFF solely — no RAW, sadly — recorded to both CompactFlash or SmartMedia. The digicam definitely 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 recordsdata within the highest high quality mode accessible (“Hello RGB TIFF”).

That is simply the slowest digicam 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 for those who can guess their that means with out studying the guide.

Overlook 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} photograph was certainly taken, although a histogram is out there for extra correct evaluation. JPEGs, nevertheless, are considerably quicker to evaluate.

In a manner, for those who select TIFF over JPEG, utilizing the digicam is akin to capturing a bulked-up Nikon N60 loaded with a roll and a half of movie — no picture evaluate, 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 digicam should interpolate through the use of adjoining photosites to generate knowledge between current 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 knowledge is crammed, 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, facet by facet 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 course of 3.1 and 6.2MP — round 4-4.5 megapixels. As it could occur, that is precisely according to 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 should not forgiving of sloppy publicity. Pushing or pulling can shortly end in blotchy chroma noise, extreme coloration shifts, and compromised roll-off from the quartertones into the highlights. It’s not in contrast to slide movie on this manner.

The colours are phenomenally correct and impartial out of the digicam. “ORG” tone and coloration produce a beautiful, impartial file that’s excellent for enhancing, 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 trendy cameras. In actual fact, Excessive Shade/Laborious Tone pictures exhibit solely a really modest bump in saturation and distinction in comparison with Normal Shade/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 on condition that it’s a mere quarter cease acquire over base. It might be simpler to simply dial in a 3rd of a cease of publicity compensation fairly than clicking via the menu. I actually want there was a decrease base ISO of 160, in addition to intermediate choices like 640 and 1280.

The digicam’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 via ISO 800 — even 1600 has very minimal chroma noise straight out of the digicam. Anecdotally, I’ve discovered this to be a working theme with CCD sensors — appreciable noise even at base ISO, however the noise presents very favorably via most, if not all, of the sensitivity vary relying on the digicam. It additionally makes for astonishingly interesting black and white pictures, particularly given the finely grained texture from what is essentially 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 photograph in submit. Black and white helps cowl the colour shifts and chroma noise.

When you nail publicity in digicam, ISO 1600 will produce remarkably nice outcomes with an unexpectedly low quantity of noise for a sensor of this sort and age — there isn’t a lot to talk of by way of offensive noise and pictures are fully usable with none noise discount. Nonetheless, at this level, you’ve misplaced little bit of dynamic vary and for those who attempt to push the picture in any manner, blocked up patches of low-frequency chroma noise and banding instantly rear their head. There may be primarily zero room for pushing the recordsdata in any respect if shot at ISO 800 or greater.

Fairly impressively, there may be virtually nothing by way of coloration shift all through the whole sensitivity vary — what’s correct or pleasing at base ISO will likely be correct or pleasing at 1600. Once more, that is one thing I’ve seen on a couple of event with CCD cameras — the Pentax 645D behaves virtually identically all through its ISO vary.

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

Whereas restrictive by trendy requirements, a extremely usable ISO 1600 in an APS-C digicam within the 12 months 2000 was exceptionally good. Fujifilm claimed the SuperCCD cameras to have superior sensitivity efficiency — the honeycomb photosites enable for extra pixels to be packed inside a given space and their form extra intently 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, it’s good to be very deliberate together with your publicity selections. Even in a scene of reasonable distinction, you’ll virtually definitely have both crushed blacks or clipped highlights.

Nonetheless, like most CCD cameras, you do begin to lose dynamic vary shortly when you increase the ISO by a few stops. There additionally isn’t a lot within the shadows — trendy cameras (CMOS) are inclined to have loads 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 suitable”), 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 tough – the whites are simply on the cusp of clipping, however the blacks are gone in quite a few areas.

Whereas the digicam’s gentle meter, notably the 3D 6-zone multipattern meter, is exceptionally adept at balancing publicity in tough scenes, the auto white stability is a duality: it’s both some of the 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.

Essentially 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 up to now 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 wrongdoer for this error is a mixture of the digicam’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 main problem is that with out a RAW file, your choices are extraordinarily restricted — these botched recordsdata required +76 temperature to appropriate. Such a large shift in an 8-bit TIFF file leads to horrendous noise — particularly unhealthy as a result of the blue channel is at all times the noisiest — and excessive spectral shifts throughout the whole picture. Surprisingly, a separate shot of a pink step ladder taken 5 toes away on the similar time required solely -3 tint and 0 temperature adjustment.

Utilizing the S1 Professional jogs my memory of capturing 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 related approaches in the identical manner that CMOS sensors enable — not in contrast to how slide movie doesn’t take kindly to push processing. Individuals who fear about how a digicam handles being pushed 5 stops might want to alter — it’ll assist them in the long term to allow them to lastly study to cease underexposing a lot.

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

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

What I’d like to see is a common “Pure Shade 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 Shade” 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. Except for Hasselblad, I’m unsure what could be the chance for producers to do that — aside from that it could take some time and effort.

I’d not name the Fujifilm S1 Professional a enjoyable or nice digicam to make use of in any respect. To be sincere, I most likely instantly deleted 99% of the pictures I took whereas doing this evaluate. And even among the many ones you see right here, there are quite a lot of that I’m not pleased with. Usually, I’d not accept posting merely satisfactory photos, however on this case, I feel even the lesser pictures right here do have worth by exhibiting each the warts and the ornaments.

Have little doubt, this can be a difficult digicam to make use of. I’m positive my photos would vastly enhance with continued use, however how a lot I’m not positive — I really feel such as you hit the ceiling faster than you may think.

Maybe I can comply with this up with a retrospective evaluate of 2005’s Fujifilm S3 Professional, which sports activities a brand new SuperCCD SR sensor with two photodiodes per photosite — considered one of regular sensitivity and a smaller considered one of decrease sensitivity. Each are mixed to supply enhanced dynamic vary (and it really works very, very effectively). The final 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 recordsdata! 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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