It's no secret that Fujifilm models its dSLRs on Nikon bodies, but its latest model, called the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, may as well be a clone of the Nikon D200--from the outside at least. Inside, Fujifilm swaps out the Nikon guts for its own array of electronic imaging machinery. Chief among that array is the company's Super CCD SR Pro imaging sensor, which combines two photodetectors per pixel in an attempt to create a wider dynamic range than you'd get from a normal sensor. Fuji also offers an 11-point AF system (up from 5 in the S3 Pro), as well as a 2.5-inch LCD and a nifty face-detection system in playback mode, which can come in handy when checking focus on the faces of your subjects. Considering that the S5 Pro commands a price premium over the D200 and is, in some ways, inferior to that Nikon, you'll have to decide if this Fuji's slightly extended dynamic range and array of features not found in the D200 are essential to your shooting style and thus worth the added cash.
Trade out Fuji's branding and the face-detection button on the camera's back, and this camera would look exactly like Nikon's D200. Of course, that's a very good thing since the D200 has a really nice body design. Its well-formed grip is covered in textured rubber, while the back side of the grip has a contoured ridge that gives your thumb a solid yet natural-feeling place to rest. At the same time, the ridge provides ample leverage when trying to maneuver the camera, which can come in handy when using larger, pro-level lenses.
If you're not used to Nikon's controls, you may find yourself looking for a shooting mode dial but you won't find one. Instead, hold down the mode button while turning the rear thumbwheel to change shooting modes. Most standard shooting settings, such as white balance, ISO, metering, and AF modes--and more--can be controlled by the buttons, dials, and wheels on the camera body. That means once you learn the camera's layout, you won't need to delve into the menus much while shooting. However, you should expect to use two hands while changing settings, since you often have to hold down one button with your left hand while turning the thumbwheel with your right.
Another advantage of Fuji using Nikon's body is that the S5 Pro employs the Nikon F-Mount lens mount and can use some Nikon accessories. According to Fuji, the camera is compatible with most Nikon CPU lenses (except for IX_Nikkor lenses and a few other exceptions listed in the manual) as well as Nikon's SB-800 and SB-600 i-TTL flash units. It can also trigger those units, as well as the SB-R200, when set to its wireless commander mode; the S5 includes a remote terminal as well as a sync terminal. You can't use a Nikon D200 battery in the S5 Pro, however, since Nikon's batteries include a special computer chip to prevent the use of third-party batteries. Nikon's MB-D200 vertical-grip/extra battery pack works with the S5 Pro, but Fuji won't guarantee that it'll work properly if you opt for the AA battery holder in the grip; you're better off sticking with the proprietary batteries if you go for the grip.
In addition to an abundant amount of custom options, such as a variable center-weighting for the metering system and ample user-assignable buttons, the S5 Pro includes a handful of film-simulation modes. The modes attempt to mimic various types of film and thus vary the contrast and tonal range of your images. As we did with the S3 Pro, we liked the F1 setting for portraits. While there is a live LCD preview mode, you have to delve into the menus to activate it, requiring three button presses for each live-view frame shot. Since it lasts for only 30 seconds at a time, this function is best suited for the occasional studio situation.
One of the stranger features of the S5 Pro is its bar code reader compatibility. When turned on, you can connect a bar code reader to the camera and it will store bar code information in an image's EXIF data. (I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, but you can.) A similar but more practical feature is the camera's ability to automatically store GPS information as EXIF data. To use either of these features, you need to buy Nikon's MC-35 GPS adapter cord and attach it to the S5 Pro's remote terminal, then activate the feature in the camera's menu system.
Fuji's Super CCD SR Pro imaging sensor dedicates two photodetectors to each captured pixel. In the S5 Pro, there are 6.17 million of what Fuji calls "S-pixels," which are larger than their corresponding R-pixels and have a higher sensitivity to light. There are also 6.17 million R-pixels, which have a lower sensitivity to light and are better suited to record highlights. Data from both types of pixel is combined during image processing to extend the dynamic range--the range of brightness values in your scene, from the brightest highlight to the darkest shadow, that you can capture with discernable detail in your image. Most of the benefit of Fuji's sensor can be seen in increased highlight detail. To the untrained eye, the difference will be subtle, but if you've been annoyed by blown highlights in the past, this may help you. As with the live preview, studio shooters will likely appreciate this more than most sports shooters would. There are five levels of dynamic range expansion available in the S5 Pro. If you turn expansion off, the camera turns off the R-pixels and uses only the S-pixels to capture images.