The Fujifilm FinePix S1 isn't the first 50x optical zoom camera that we've seen, but it's full of features that suggest it's among the best of those available. Pitched directly against the likes of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, we checked out the Fujifilm S1 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to see whether or not it delivered the goods.
As with any superzoom, the S1 is hardly a small camera - at least in terms of "compact" cameras. Housed in the body is a 24-1200mm f/3.5-5.6 equivalent lens that offers a huge range: snap wide-angle scenes or group shots, or zoom in and make those far-away subjects appear close up in the frame. It's also one third of a stop brighter than its nearest competitor when zoomed all the way in.
On the show floor at the Fujifilm stand we were quickly zooming in to subjects at a distance and focusing up no problems. Autofocus is super snappy at the wider-angle and mid-zoom settings too but as with some of the other Fujifilm modes there's a slight "freeze" and delay to show an in-focus preview when zoomed right in - but it's improved compared to earlier models. Even though that's a slight negative, the on board image stabilisation system acts as a definite positive - making zooming right in to over the 1000mm equivalent easier to hold steady.
And it's at these longer focal lengths that we found another very cool feature to assist with tracking subjects at longer focal lengths, although we're not sure what Fujifilm is officially calling it. To the side of the lens there's a button that, when held, zooms the lens back a little to give a wider view of the scene on the rear screen or electronic viewfinder. This is useful as at those much longer focal lengths it can get tricky to follow subjects. For the duration of holding this button in a yellow crop line will show up on screen to show where the camera will revert back to via optical zoom once the button is released. Great idea.
In terms of build the water-resistant body also adds assurance about shooting out in the wet. It can't be submerged in water otherwise that's game over, but there is no other superzoom with water-resistance. The design rests well in the hand and feels sturdy without excessive in weight. As a DSLR alternative its £400 price tag ought to appeal, particularly if you're off on safari, are an avid birdwatcher or have similar such hobbies, but don't want to break the bank.
At the heart of the camera is a standard-size 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with 16.4-megapixel resolution. We weren't able to test how well this functioned in pixel-level detail, but like other Fujifilm cameras there are features such as SR Auto mode to auto select the settings based on the scene at hand. Great for point and shoot, or more adventurous and knowledgeable photographers can venture into the manual settings.
Both the rear 3-inch LCD and 0.68-inch electronic viewfinder panels deliver 920k-dots of resolution which is ample for previewing shots and did a good job. The main LCD is mounted on a vari-angle bracket to cater for waist-level, overhead or other positions depending on how creative you're feeling.
Elsewhere there's the usual inclusion of Wi-Fi for sharing from camera, a rechargeable li-ion battery on board rather than AA cells, and continuous shooting up to 10 frames per second. Fully featured is the word, and from what we've seen so far it's looking like a rather good superzoom with all encompassing lens.
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