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Fujifilm FinePix S100fs Review
Date: Jun 9, 2008
Category: Serious Amateur
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008 - Super Zoom
Thursday, May 23, 2008 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- FinePix S100fs
- No memory card
- Li-ion NP-140 Rechargeable Battery 7.2V 1150mAh
- Battery Charger BC-140 with Power Cords (flat and round plugs)
- Shoulder Strap
- Lens Cap, Retaining String and Lens Cap Holder
- Lens Hood
- USB Cable and A/V Cable
- Documentation (English only): QuickStart;
- Software CDs: FinePixViewer 5.4 (3.6 for Mac), including FinePix Studio
The Fujifilm FinePix S100fs succeeds in being a well-designed and implemented all-in-one solution for serious photo enthusiasts and advanced photographers who desire the manual controls and functionality of a DSLR without having to carry extra lenses and learn the complexity usually associated with DSLR use. The FinePix S100fs comes closest to the working and advantages of a DSLR.
The Fujifilm S100fs is marketed as a DSLR alternative. As if to leave all doubts behind, it is designed to look, feel and handle like a DSLR, and not just the entry-level model type.
The S100fs is big by super zoom standard and, with its 14.3x 28-400mm (equiv.) zoom lens, weighs in at about 918 g (32.4 oz.). It does not really feel heavy when held in two hands and handles really well with a nice large handgrip and a wide zoom ring. You would need to use a shoulder strap if you are carrying it for the whole day.
There are lots of buttons, one for almost every function you can think of. There is a wonderfully huge Mode Dial, circa 35mm SLR, an ISO button, an exposure compensation button, a button to select metering mode, a drive button, a button to turn IS on, another one to turn Face Detection on, and a Focus mode selector (Continuous-AF, Single-AF, Manual Focus) with a middle exposure lock button which also does triple duty as One-Touch AF and AF Area selector.
Would have been nice to have a quicker way to select WB, image resolution, and AF mode (Center, Multi, Area), all three selectable only in the Menu.
There are two customizable settings on the Mode Dial so you could have one set to use RAW, for example.
Want more DSLR-type features? How about a hot shoe and PC sync socket? You can screw in an optional 67mm (2.6 in.)-diameter thin type polarizing filter (Fujifilm warns that standard filters may cause vignetting). And an optional cabled remote release is also available.
But how close does the S100fs come to being a DSLR alternative?
Currently, a DSLR has a number of clear-cut advantages over a non-DSLR digital camera:
- A larger image sensor (4/3 System, APS or Full Frame) for better low noise high ISO capability, better dynamic range, and overall excellent image quality.
- Faster performance: fast startup time, instant AF, fast shot to shot time, negligible practical shutter lag, fast continuous shooting (important if you shoot sports and action).
- Interchangeable lenses that provide flexibility in the type of photography you can take: macro, wide-angle, portrait, tele, zoom, prime, etc.
- PASM exposure flexibility, RAW, Auto Exposure Bracketing.
Let's see how the S100fs stacks up:
- A larger image sensor (2/3-in.) coupled with Fujifilm's unique Super CCD HR design for better low noise high ISO capability, extended dynamic range of 100%, 200% and 400% (thanks to the Real Photo Processor III), and overall very good to excellent image quality up to ISO 400, and even ISO 800.
- Performance is quite fast: camera starts up in under 2 sec.; AF is fast for good contrast subjects (since AF is Contrast-Detect), slows down slightly in low-light; shot to shot time is 1 sec. for 3 shots until the buffer clears; practical shutter lag is negligible; continuous shooting is a fast 7fps (up to 50 frames) but at 3M resolution; write speed is slow (but is unimportant until the 3-shot buffer fills up). The large buffer also means you can shoot Continuous RAW.
- No interchangeable lenses, but a wide-angle super zoom with a 35mm equivalent focal length that spans 28mm to 400mm, covering macro, wide-angle, portrait, and super tele -- all conveniently in one lens that is optically image stabilized.
- PASM exposure flexibility, RAW, Auto Exposure Bracketing, Film Simulation Bracketing, Dynamic Range Bracketing.
So is the S100fs a good alternative to a DSLR?
It all depends on where you are coming from, photographically speaking.
If you are a point-and-shoot digicam user and want to upgrade to DSLR quality, functionality and performance, but do not fancy the weight and complexity of a DSLR that would need a couple of interchangeable lenses to match the super zoom reach of the lens on the S100fs, then the S100fs comes the closest with all the advantages mentioned above.
However, if you are already comfortably using a DSLR, the S100fs comes close to a DSLR performance and image quality -- within the limits imposed upon it by a small sensor. The major difference you may notice is that its AF speed and High ISO image quality cannot match those of a DSLR. But it comes close enough and is simply a terrific camera in good hands.
Also, pro photographers will find that the versality of the wide-angle ultra zoom, optical image stabilization, various bracketing modes and extended dynamic range that works as much as it's possible on a small sensor (small compared to the ones used in DSLRs), video... all add to the fun factor when the occasion does not absolutely demand the use of a DSLR.
The price of the S100fs could scare some people away. At around $700 to $800, the S100fs is firmly in entry-level DSLR territory (with a shorter zoom lens).
The FinePix S100fs is also billed as a nature photography digital camera. This is due to the Film Simulation (FS) feature that simulates Fujifilm 35mm Velvia film. There are 3 (really 4) FS modes: PROVIA is for standard colors and tones; Velvia is for landscape using high brightness and sharp tone; and SOFT is for soft tone with muted colors. A fourth mode, PORTRAIT, is for natural skin tones. FSB (FS Bracketing) shoots the first 3 modes.
I am not familiar with Fujifilm 35mm films and I am guessing only pro nature photographers are familiar with the special Velvia 35mm films and can tell if that FS mode is accurate enough. But I am guessing it is just a matter of notching up the sharpness and vivid color mode, which should be reproducible on any brand digital camera allowing these settings. But its availability on the Mode Dial sure makes it easy to use.
Another welcome feature is the Extended Dynamic Range bracketing feature. This is a software solution and you can pay a price in noise at the higher ISOs. But it works within limits, and it's so easy to use so why not when the occasion suggests it.
Some of the ISO 100 images show more noise (or digital artefacts, I'm not sure what they really are) than they should have, and I am unable to account for that. I am guessing it might be some in-camera processing performed by the Extended DR function.
The Owner's Manual is pretty good with lots of illustrations and page links. However, I believe it can be improved in 3 areas: 1) Link page nos to all the Camera Parts. For example, on the Camera Parts page, you won't find a page no. for the Mode Dial (important stuff) but you'll find one for the Strap Mount. 2) An Index is an absolutely must. Without it, quickly finding what you are looking for can be frustrating. 3) Features (e.g. FS and Extended DR) need to be better explained. I would recomend that you take the time to read the manual from cover to cover to discover all the wonderfully practical features of the S100fs.
The FinePixViewer software is one of my favorite
because all the information is contained in one
screen. Each image's filename is clearly visible
and you do not need to launch another window to
view the EXIF info. You can also do basic image
editing, re: auto adjust, manual adjust of brightness, saturation, hue, contrast, sharpness, sepia, B&W, correct red-eye.
FinePix Studio 126.96.36.199
FinePix Studio allows you to convert RAW files into JPEG. Customizations include WB (including Color Temperature fine tuning), Tone curve (Contrast), Sensitization, Color (including B&W), and Sharpness.
The Fujifilm FinePix S100fs is everything you would want in a bridge camera: from the wide-angle zoom with image stabilization to the excellent image quality at low ISOs. If you want to move up or are tired of lugging around a heavy DSLR plus lenses (or end up deciding to leave them home once too often), you will want to try out the all-in-one "almost DSLR" FinePix S100fs.