Capturing with a 21-Yr-Previous Digicam: The Fujifilm S1 Professional

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

I believe 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 With archaic cameras sporting outdated know-how we anticipate subpar outcomes, and so we focus extra on what we can management: composition, lighting (when relevant), publicity, and so forth — the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 must always all the time be specializing in.

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

I received’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 slightly 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 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 — 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 is predicated on the Nikon N60 (aka F60) movie digital camera 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 isn’t any 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’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, nevertheless, correct guide focusing is unimaginable for me by means of the straw-like OVF (carrying glasses doesn’t assist both) and the main focus affirmation dot is completely unreliable. Unusually, I had extra points manually specializing in distant objects stopped down than nearer ones huge open — the photograph above was manually centered with the Sigma Artwork 35mm huge 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 perform, and it’s a must 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 digital camera definitely didn’t settle for my 64 or 128GB playing cards, however I used to be in a position to dig up an previous 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 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 should you can guess their which means with out studying the guide.

Neglect chimping. Simply homicide that concept and bury it. It takes a strong 31 seconds (sure, I timed it) for a picture to populate the display. As soon as it does, nearly the one factor you possibly can affirm is {that a} photograph was certainly taken, although a histogram is on the market for extra correct evaluation. JPEGs, nevertheless, are considerably sooner to evaluate.

In a method, should 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 evaluate, roughly 55 most photographs, and no fast adjustment of the ISO.

The S1 Professional means that you can select between both 3.1MP or 6.2MP output. To supply a conventional picture file — which exists in rows and columns — the digital camera should interpolate by utilizing 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 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 stage of pixel acuity. Nevertheless, aspect by aspect with the 4.1 megapixel Nikon D2Hs, there isn’t a lot in it between the 2. So, I believe the actual 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 consistent with the roughly 40% enhance in sensor cell rows (3.1 * 1.41 = 4.37). It additionally is dependent upon the scene — some profit from the bizarre sensor design rather more than others.

CCD sensors usually are not forgiving of sloppy publicity. Pushing or pulling can rapidly lead to blotchy chroma noise, extreme colour shifts, and compromised roll-off from the quartertones into the highlights. It’s not in contrast to slide movie on this method.

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

All the photographs 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 only dial in a 3rd of a cease of publicity compensation slightly 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 stage 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 essentially high-frequency noise. “Movie-like” can 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.

If you happen to 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 by way of offensive noise and pictures are fully usable with none noise discount. Nevertheless, at this level, you’ve misplaced little bit of dynamic vary and should you attempt to push the picture in any method, blocked up patches of low-frequency chroma noise and banding instantly rear their head. There’s basically zero room for pushing the recordsdata in any respect if shot at ISO 800 or larger.

Fairly impressively, there may be virtually nothing by way of colour shift all through all the sensitivity vary — what’s correct or pleasing at base ISO shall 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 virtually identically all through its ISO vary.

ISO 1600, SOOC “Commonplace” colour and tone, auto WB. Noise discount and sharpening zeroed out in ACR. No changes apart from downsizing.

Whereas restrictive by fashionable requirements, a extremely usable ISO 1600 in an APS-C digital camera within the yr 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 believe Fuji’s assertation bears out in apply.

I might estimate roughly 7.5-8 stops of usable dynamic vary, which is up towards 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 dearth of RAW, you want to be very deliberate together with your publicity selections. Even in a scene of average distinction, you’ll virtually definitely have both crushed blacks or clipped highlights.

Nevertheless, 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 actually unimaginable element restoration. CCD sensors don’t work the identical method, and even with a full-blown RAW file, I doubt you’d discover a lot usable info at that finish of the histogram. You possibly can mitigate this considerably through ETTR (“expose to the appropriate”), 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 obtained 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 digital camera’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. Nearly all of the pictures I took required zero tint adjustment and often solely +1 to +4 temperature adjustment. Nevertheless, on three events the photographs 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 thus far off the map that the majority 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 mix 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 most important subject is that with out a RAW file, your choices are extraordinarily restricted — these botched recordsdata required +76 temperature to right. Such a large 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 all the picture. Unusually, a separate shot of a pink step ladder taken 5 toes away on the identical time required solely -3 tint and nil 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 method that CMOS sensors permit — not in contrast to 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.

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

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

What I might like to see is a common “Pure Shade Resolution” (to steal a time period from Hasselblad) adopted by all producers and applied of their cameras as an possibility. In order for you that “Pure Shade” RAW file, you possibly can have it. In order for you the look that you just’ve come to like out of your producer, you possibly can choose that too. Apart from Hasselblad, I’m undecided what can be the chance for producers to do that — apart from that it will take some time and effort.

I might 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 evaluate. And even among the many ones you see right here, there are quite a lot of that I’m not proud of. Usually, I might not accept posting merely satisfactory photos, however on this case, I believe even the lesser pictures right here do have worth by exhibiting each the warts and the ornaments.

Have little question, this can be a difficult digital camera to make use of. I’m certain my photos would enormously 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 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 — one in all regular sensitivity and a smaller one in all decrease sensitivity. Each are mixed to provide 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 just some of the enhancements, however I’ll let you know this a lot: the SuperCCD SR sensor does NOT disappoint.



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