Fuji FinePix S5000 Zoom review

4 out of 5
£280

For

10x optical zoom, professional styling, relatively inexpensive

Against

Limited ISO range, visible noise at higher ISOs, not a pocket camera

The Fuji FinePix S5000 Zoom is one of the more distinctive digital cameras on the market at the moment. It looks very much like a traditional SLR camera in terms of styling, but it is actually more like a compact camera in size and weight. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Fuji FinePix S5000 Zoom has a massive 10x optical zoom which is equivalent to 37-370mm on a 35mm camera. It also features Fuji's new 4th Generation Super CCD HR sensor and can record images in RAW mode as well as the JPEG file format. And all of this is available for just over £200! So is the FinePix S5000 Zoom a bit of a bargain? Find out in my review.

Features
The FinePix S5000 Zoom has a 3.1 megapixel CCD that delivers 6 million recorded pixels. There are 4 image sizes available (2,816 x 2,120 (6.0 million), 2,048 x 1,536, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960), which can be recorded as JPEGs in a range of different quality settings or in the RAW format. The camera features a 10X optical zoom lens that is equivalent to a 37 - 370mm lens on a 35mm format camera. The FinePix S5000 Zoom uses the xD-Picture Card memory card format.

This camera offers four selectable exposure modes - Programmed AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE and Manual - plus 4 scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene). The FinePix S3000 Zoom has 3 exposure metering modes, 64-zone TTL metering-multi, spot and average. There are four types of focusing available, Autofocus, AF Area Focus, AF (Centre) Focus and Manual Focus, and the aperture range is f2.8 to f8. Shutter speeds range from 2 seconds to 1/2000 second. The camera has a Macro setting which allows you focus as close as 10cm from your subject.

There are 3 selectable ISO speeds available (equivalent to IS0 200, 400, 800), but ISO 800 is only available at the 1M resolution. There are 7 different White Balance settings to choose from (Automatic, Manual (Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light).

The FinePix S5000 Zoom has a continuous shooting mode with various options. Top 5 allows you to take 5 frames/sec. up to 5 frames and keep the first 5 frames of the sequence. Final 5 allows you to take 5 frames/sec. up to 5 frames and keep the last 5 frames of the sequence. Long-period continuous takes up to 40 shots at up to 1.8 frame per second, but only using the 1,280 x 960 pixels image size.
The built-in flash offers a range of different modes; Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash and Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction and Slow Synchro. The effective range is 0.3m to 6m.

To compose your images, you can use the LCD monitor or the electronic viewfinder. The FinePix S3000 Zoom has a 1.5 inch colour TFT LCD monitor which has 114,000 pixels, and a 0.33 inches 110,000 pixels electronic viewfinder. The camera is powered by 4 x AA size alkaline batteries or 4 x Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.
The FinePix S3000 Zoom can record movies at 320x240 pixels at 10 frames per second, recorded in the Motion JPEG format and can be played back by QuickTime 3 or later.

The camera's dimensions are 112.7mm (W) x 81.1mm (H) x 79.3mm (D), and it weighs 337g without batteries and storage card fitted.

Finally, the standard box kit contains a 16Mb xD-Picture Card, USB cable, AV cable, 4 x AA type alkaline batteries, shoulder strap, lens adapter ring, lens cap and a CD-ROM containing various software. As usual you will need to invest in a few more xD-Picture Cards to store your images on, as the supplied 16Mb can only store approximately 10 JPEG images at the default 6M file quality setting. You will also have to budget for some rechargeable batteries and a recharger, as the supplied alkaline batteries don't last very long.

Ease of Use
The FinePix S5000 Zoom looks like a more traditional version of the FinePix S3000 Zoom that I reviewed a few weeks ago. The hi-tech silver styling of the S3000 is replaced by a more reserved all-black appearance, with the S5000 feeling very much like a minature-SLR camera. If you are accustomed to using a small film or digital SLR camera that you will be instantly at home with the S5000 - it's definitely a refreshing change to the many box-like digital cameras on the market. However, the SLR-styling does come at a price, as the S5000 isn't a pocketable camera, despite being quite compact and not weighing too much. It falls between a compact digicam like the Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital and a bigger SLR-type camera like the FinePix S7000 Zoom. On the other hand, the the chunky hand-grip ensures that the camera that be held comfortably with either one hand or two. Personally I found the FinePix S5000 Zoom a joy to use due to its combination of weight, size and SLR styling.
As with the FinePix S3000 Zoom, Fuji have ensured that the build quality of the FinePix S3000 Zoom is up-to-scratch. Despite that competitive price tag, Fuji haven't cut any corners, with all of the various buttons and switches being well-fitted, and even the battery compartment and memory card door, both typically weak parts of a digital camera, work well despite their plastic construction. A large part of the camera is covered in a rubbery compound which again makes it feel more expensive than it actually is, as well as improving the handling and grip. Due to its diminutive stature, the buttons on the rear of the camera are a little on the small size, especially the button for switching between the EVF and LCD displays and the "F" button, but Fuji have cleverly raised them slightly so that they are still easy to operate. The FinePix S5000 Zoom has a few more options, switches and buttons than the FinePix S3000 Zoom, but it still has an easy to understand layout, both in terms of its menu system and the external controls on the body of the camera.

There's a fairly traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the different exposure modes; Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes. Fuji have wisely integrated all of the scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene) into one option on the dial, called SP. Choosing this brings up an on-screen menu, from which you can select a particular scene mode. The last option is Movie. As with a number of Fuji's other digital cameras, the FinePix S5000 Zoom has a Menu button on the rear of the camera which, as you would expect, gives you access to the software menu system. This lets you set various parameters including focusing, sharpness and white balance. There is also a small silver button with an F on it, which opens the Photo Mode menu and allows you to control the file quality setting, ISO speed and colour settings (B&W, Chrome or Standard). I'm not really sure why these 3 settings alone should fall under the heading of Photo Mode, and things like white balance and sharpening are just part of the standard menu. And I'm undecided about whether it is a good idea or not. The F button does give quick access to certain features, but you do have to memorise what another button does.

Thankfully Fuji have solved one of the major problems that I found with the FinePix S7000 Zoom that I reviewed a few weeks ago. On that camera, when you wanted to switch from Camera mode to Play mode, or vice versa, you had to press the EVF/LCD button on the back of the camera to switch between the EVF and LCD displays. This problem didn't arise if you exclusively used the LCD, but if like me you use the EVF and hold the camera up to your eye to take a photo, and then switch to the LCD to review what you have just taken, you had to press the EVF/LCD button EVERY time to switch between the two displays. On the S5000 Zoom, the display automatically changes from EVF to LCD when you switch from Camera mode to Play mode, and vice-versa. I'm not sure why this wasn't implemented on the much more expensive FinePix S7000 Zoom, but I'm glad that it has been corrected on the FinePix S5000 Zoom.

So overall the FinePix S5000 Zoom is an extremely well-built digital camera that is very easy to operate, well-designed ergonomically, and doesn't just feel like a box with a lens, a few buttons and a menu system. Whether the FinePix S5000 Zoom is too much of a compromise between a more compact, pocketable digital camera and a larger, more advanced digicam is something that you will have to decide for yourselves.

Overall Image Quality
In bright sunny conditions the FinePix S5000 Zoom delivered very punchy, colourful images, as you can see from the samples in the next section. They don't require much post-processing or sharpening in a photo editing application like Photoshop. The default 6M 2,816 x 2,120 pixel image size allows you to create prints up to A3 in size. Noise is visible at the slowest ISO setting of 200, whilst ISO 400 and 800 should only be used if you don't have a tripod handy. Chromatic aberrations in the form of purple fringing are largely avoided, although in high-contrast situations they did appear. Overall a fairly pleasing performance from the FinePix S5000 Zoom in terms of image quality.

Verdict

This is the seventh Fuji digital camera that I've reviewed from their current range, from the budget A205s all the way up to the top-of-the-range S7000, and it's been interesting to see which features have been used where. The FinePix S5000 Zoom is like a more grown-up version of the FinePix S3000 Zoom, with a 10x optical zoom, a few extra features and more professional styling, but it also shares the same 4th Generation Super CCD HR sensor as the FinePix S7000 Zoom.

Crucially Fuji have added an ISO 200 option to the FinePix S5000 Zoom - the S3000 only has a single ISO 100 option, which severely limits when you can use it without having to resort to a tripod. Unfortunately ISO 200 is the slowest speed on the FinePix S5000 Zoom, and it is rather noisy, so although it is more versatile it won't deliver the same image quality in terms of noise as the S3000. On the other hand, its sensor delivers bigger (6 megapixel) and more vibrant images than the 3.34 megapixel CCD of the S3000.

Ultimately I feel that the FinePix S5000 Zoom is a better camera than the S3000, without being much more expensive. If a minature-SLR digital camera which delivers images that can be printed up to A3 and has a 10x optical zoom appeals to you, then the FinePix S5000 Zoom definitely fits the bill.