Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD digital camera review

The Fujifilm S2000HD brings some key Fuji technologies together with a super zoom optic and responsive handling with the cherry topping of 720p HD movie compatibility.

As for those key Fuji technologies; Face Detection AF, the 15x Fujinon zoom lens, dual image stabilisation (both CCD shift and high ISO systems are employed) intelligent flash and automatic red-eye removal that combined form Fuji’s so called Real Photo Technology.

Together with a lightweight plastic body - even with its four AA batteries and SD memory card in place - and good ergonomics, the new camera is pitched as both a family friendly all rounder and suitable for the semi-professional snapper.

While the former is certainly true, I’m not sure of the latter claim, not because the camera is not capable of capturing excellent images; or that it lacks features, since it is packed full of clever kit. It just lacks a couple of key control refinements that would make it more enthusiast friendly, as we’ll see.

The S2000HD has a nicely sculpted, deep, handgrip and large easy to use controls that include a large top plate mode dial and, unusually, a dedicated Face Detection AF button. A drive mode button is up next while a large zoom lever that surrounds the camera’s nicely weighted shutter release are more standard fare; the one control that is not up to the marque set by the rest, however, is the sliding on/off switch. On the back plate, which is dominated by the large 2.7-inch colour screen, controls are confined to the right side with four buttons orbiting the Menu/OK button that deal with playback, display modes, exposure compensation and the FinePix button.

While it is a nice size, the screen is too reflective in brighter conditions and flares horribly when shooting in the same bright conditions, both problems that make it hard to compose properly. Thankfully, it is backed up by a 200k-dot electronic viewfinder, which makes framing in bright lighting easier and its design - though it lacks a dioptre adjustment - makes it easy to use even while wearing spectacles.

An exposure compensation button provides a simple exposure adjustment for difficult lighting situations but also doubles as the control to activate aperture and shutter adjustment in manual shooting, the latter selected from the mode dial on the top plate.

You get Program AE and Shutter priority modes, but again, the latter needs a combination of the back plate four-way jog buttons and the exposure compensation button, if you forget to press the exposure compensation button, rather than adjust shutter speeds, you simply select the various modes the four-way jog buttons activate such as flash, macro modes and instant zoom, for example.

The ability to use the manual zoom in HD movie recording is a neat bonus too; HD movies and stills can be captured on the camera’s built-in 55MB of storage or onto external SD/SDHC memory cards that slot into a port on the camera’s side. Interestingly, Fuji has forgone the use of xD Picture Card storage; presumably this has to do with that storage format’s slower read/write speeds and the need to quickly ferry off the huge amount of data generated when shooting HD movies.

Individual HD clip length is limited to 15-minutes at a time but that should be ample for most users since you can shoot another 15-minute clip once the previous clip’s buffered off to the card. Four AA batteries provide power for all this, Fuji espousing the current trend for Li-ion rechargeable cells for this more traditional power pack. Rechargeable 2200mAh NiMH batteries performed well and are still going strong, this despite the camera rather worryingly indicating that the batteries are empty, a red battery icon on remains lit up on the screen for the duration of the test! Alkaline AAs lasted for a very disappointing 50 shots.

Other kit includes a pop-up flash unit that is great as a fill-in but a little underpowered as anything more major; there’s no hot shoe so you’re stuck with this. One of the cleverer items Fuji has pioneered within many of its cameras is the micro thumbnail playback feature where you can view a virtual index sheet of up to 100-shots on the screen with the four-way jog button used to select the required image. This makes playback very fast, particularly if you have loads of shots on a big memory card to pick through.

There are of course a set of 13 scene modes that offer a modicum of automation to oft-shot pictures such as portraits and landscapes. The modes include Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow and Beach modes to name a few.

Another automated and useful feature is the camera’s zoom bracketing mode. Here three images are taken automatically at the set focal length and then two more at 1.4x and 2x crops of the same shot. The framing of the crops will move according to, say, the Face AF’s focus point, so prioritising people in your photos, which is very clever indeed. And while it’s another form of digital zoom, it does provide a quick and dirty range of crop options if there’s not time to recompose fast moving action, say, your child running around at a party.

The camera’s menu system provides a simple interface that includes an animated menu back up for the top plate mode dial, great for when the camera is set high on a tripod for example. The main menus are a set of scrollable screens that provide an arrow to further options where applicable.

However, one slightly tiresome problem is that pressing the Menu/OK button to select an option closes the menus, it takes time to get used to the fact you can simply flip back to the previous menus via the four-way jog button, but it is a minor issue sorted with better familiarity with the camera.

As for the all important picture quality, the 256-segment metering is actually very good indeed and the exposure compensation provides +/-2EV compensation for more difficult lighting. There’s that manual override of course and white balance settings include the usual array of preset options for daylight, shadow, fluorescent with best results gained by using the correct white balance mode for the conditions.

The S2000HD’s FinePix button is the route into key shooting adjustments of ISO, colour and image quality: colour is excellent; the camera’s FinePix Chrome and Mono settings provide boosted vibrancy to back up the Standard setting. ISO setting provides an ISO 100 to ISO 1600 standard range but this is only accessible in the manual settings. ISO 3200 and 6400 settings are available but the camera’s resolution drops to 5-megapixels in order to do it. Outside of the all-manual controls ISO is bracketed so that you can limit the top end of the available settings, such as 100 to 400, or 100 to 800 for example. This helps control noise issues and it’s a good job too.

Between ISO 100 and 400 noise is well controlled, over ISO 800 things become more worrisome and above ISO 1600, as you might expect, noise is just too intrusive to be useful in anything other than small prints or screen use but even then you’ll be optimistic to get anything other than mush from the camera’s pixels.

Verdict

The S20000HD is a camera that I would steer enthusiast or the semi pros away from, despite Fujifilm’s stated aim with this model. But it will certainly prove popular among the more novice snapper and those needing that HD movie recording functionality, which despite being 720p is still very good indeed. More importantly, the excellent lens focal length range and the low ISO image quality are very good indeed, so worth a look over as at that price, it’s good value for money too.