Friday November 21, 2003
The potential of combining the versatility of digital image capture with the comfort and control offered by SLR format cameras has been realised in 2003 as an array of high-performance digital SLR cameras have entered the market at a prices within reach of the creative amateur photographer.
The new breed of digital SLR-style cameras offer sophisticated automatic capabilities coupled with a level of user control that can be varied incrementally according to need. The FinePix S5000 from Fujifilm is no exception - for the first few weeks, every time you pick-up the camera and set about a certain photographic task you learn something new about what the camera has to offer.
Released in late August at a cost of AUD $999, the FinePix S5000 Zoom incorporates 10x optical Fujinon zoom lens, a range of continuous shooting options, video capture at 30 frames per second and produces a six million recorded pixel image via its 3.1 million effective pixel Super CCD HR (high resolution) sensor.
As with most electronic devices, it pays to read the manual to discover the full extent of features at your disposal, but at Gizmo (and undoubtedly many of our readers agree) we tend to take a more hands-on approach by seeing what the camera can do for us, and returning to the manual only when the solution fails to present itself.
By employing either method the range of shooting options available soon becomes apparent. Various continuous-shooting modes include "Top-5" frame continuous shooting which enables 5 shots to be recorded at intervals as short as 0.2 seconds, auto-bracketing for capturing 3 continuous frames at different exposure settings and "Final -5" continuous shooting which allows the last 5 shots to be recorded in a sequence of up to 40 shots.
The effectiveness of continuous shooting is made possible by the shutter speeds of up to 1/2000 second and fast moving objects can be photographed with success.
The three focus modes also add versatility - continuous auto-focus (for capturing moving subjects) is added to the standard auto-focus function and full manual control is also available. Though effective, the manual focus option proved difficult to operate in terms of getting your claws to reach the required buttons and is one of the few usability issues in what is generally an extremely comfortable and tactile unit.
The major settings on the main control dial facilitate full auto or manual use, scene specific settings for portrait, landscape, sports or night shots and partial control options that allow the user to give priority to aperture or shutter.
Beyond these controls, numerous options are provided for scene specific issues - sensitivity, sharpness, white balance (adjustment for when shooting under fluorescent or incandescent lights) and flash brightness can all be varied and the three photometry (or light metering) modes are useful when there is a marked difference between the brightness of the subject and the background.
The result is a camera that strikes a workable balance between fully automatic features and manual control, enabling "smart" functions to be used in a practical way to produce the best results.
Functions that are more likely to be used regularly such as macro photography and exposure compensation are quickly accessible by buttons on the back and top of the units respectively.
The FinePix S5000's 30 frames per second video capture works extremely well in low light and we were surprised by the sensitivity and reproduction qualities of the audio microphone, which can also be used to add voice notes to images. The duration of video is limited only by the size of the xD Media Card, with the largest available card - 512MB - providing more than 14 minutes of recording time.
Videos (with sound) and images can be reviewed in the digital viewfinder or on the 1.5-inch LCD monitor which includes a clever fast forward function that lets you skip quickly through still shots while tiny "mini-thumbs" appear at the bottom of the screen to aid navigation.
The body itself is smaller than a conventional film SLR camera, but not so small as to slip from your grasp when using it (the moulded hand-grip and tactile casing prove that they offer more than aesthetic value in this regard). The buttons are also laid out in a similar way with a thumb operated zoom switch incorporated into the back of the unit above the multi-function menu dial and the small, user-friendly design touches - like a lens-cap that clips onto the strap and out of the way when the camera is being used - are not overlooked.
The image output of the FinePix S5000 Zoom is impressive in terms of sharpness and outstanding in terms of colour reproduction. The images of Australian wildflowers above taken using the macro setting provide an example of the colour reproduction while the shot (original and cropped) below shows the clarity and definition offered by 6 million recorded pixels.
The included Finepix image transfer software worked seamlessly on both PC and MAC systems. It's not a "plug-and-play" device and its recommended that you install the software before trying to plug the camera into your USB port (we didn't find out what happens if you don't).
Four fully charged AA Ni-MH batteries provide enough power for around 400 shots (less if the flash is used frequently).
Given that the 16MB xD picture-card that comes with the FinePix S5000 holds only 10 stills or 26 seconds of video at the highest resolution you, an investment in a more storage capacity is needed to get the full benefit from the camera.
The AV power-adaptor is also an optional extra.
The AUD$999 FinePix S5000 Zoom is currently available in Australia. Visit www.fujifilm.com.au for further reading.