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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Fujifilm FinePix S5200

Fuji Digital Cameras

   


Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Review

Review Date: Nov 8, 2005

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Fujifilm FinePix S5200

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award

USER'S EXPERIENCE

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2005 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • FinePix S5200
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • 4x AA type Alkaline Batteries
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Lens Cap and Retaining String
  • USB (mini-B) and A/V Cables
  • Documentation (English only): QuickStart; Owner's Manual
  • Software CD: FinePixViewer 5.1 (3.3 for Mac), ImageMixer VCD2 LE for FinePix, RAW File Converter LE 1.1;

The Fujifilm FinePix S5200 is targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers, providing full exposure flexibility. It is a major improvement over the S5100. The body shape is more sleek and pro looking and the use of Real Photo Technology and the 5th Generation SuperCCD HR image sensor means that its image quality is now excellent with a wide range of ISO values.

Fujifilm has wisely limited the resolution to 5.1MP and incorporated its new 5th Generation Super CCD HR image sensor, Real Photo Technology Processor and quality Fujinon lens to provide true low-light capability to this camera.

You can go up to ISO 400 without being too much bothered with noise. ISO 800 is very usable, and ISO 1600 is an added bonus.

The Fujifilm S5200 is a fast camera! I clocked startup at around 1 sec. There is no practical shutter lag, with shot to shot time at less than a fraction of a second if there's enough light, and taking less than 1 sec. to lock focus in low-light (normal room lighting).

One great thing about this versatile digital camera is that it uses AA Alkaline batteries. I would recommend that you purchase 4 rechargeable AA Ni-MH batteries and an optional battery charger (Fujifilm makes available the Battery Charger BCH-NH2 which can charge 4 AA Ni-MH batteries simultaneously).

There is no optical viewfinder, but an electronic one (EVF) with a comfortably large eyepiece and easy-to-rotate diopter adjustment wheel on the left side of the eyepiece. The LCD monitor is 1.8 in. with a standard 115,000 pixels resolution. A fast refresh rate makes viewing images smooth. One feature I was glad to see is that the LCD gains up slightly in extreme low light to permit composing.

Press the DISP button repeatedly and a Framing Guide of horizontal and vertical lines overlays on the screen. This is very helpful if you take lots of pictures of buildings or pictures with lots of horizontals and/or verticals.

There is an AF Illuminator and the AF is quite fast and precise at all times. Even in extreme low-light, at wide-angle focal length, it locks focus in less than 1 sec. without hunting. In a room lighted by 2 compact fluorescent lightbulbs on the ceiling, with the lens zoomed max., focus locks in less than 2 sec. One thing to remember is that the normal minimum focusing distance is 90cm (3ft), so if you intend to move in closer than this, you need to turn Macro ON to get a sharp image.

The Fujifilm S5200 has 10x optical zoom (38-380mm, 35mm equivalent). There does not seem to be any optional conversion lenses available from Fujifilm, though the lens is threaded (55mm diameter) and should therefore accept optional filters. As usual, don't buy on faith, it's well worth to pay a visit to your friendly retail camera store and try a filter on for size and fit.

I was also pretty glad to see among the optional accessories all the card adapters available for the xD-Picture Card (CompactFlash adapter, USB Reader Drive, PC card adapter), which means that you can use the xD-Picture Card pretty much with any device, such as photo storage viewers (which usually accepts CF or SD media cards).

In the field, the Fujifilm S5200 performed extremely well. There was no fumbling with the controls, no frustration trying to set the functions you want, and the camera was point-and-shoot simplicity. I really liked the fact that the Natural Light scene mode is included right onto the Mode Dial together with PASM. Whenever, I was in a low-light situation, I simply rotated the Mode Dial to "N" and snapped away. No fumbling into the MENU/SETUP to find the option.

As currently implemented, you have to go into the MENU and select AF Area mode everytime you wish to move the AF target point to a new position on the screen. That's 9 button presses everytime. Once set, the AF Frame remains at that new location until you move it elsewhere. To return to center position, go back into the MENU - AF mode - Center. Note that the exposure does not follow the AF Frame but always measures the center of the screen. Not a problem if you are using Multi metering, but if you are using center-weighted average or spot metering, and your subject is way off center, remember to lock AE first.

I use a 1GB xD-Picture Card and it accepts approx. 412 2592x1944 5M-F images, or 819 2592x1944 5M-N images. A 128MB card can save approx. 51 5M-F images and 102 5M-N images. So, depending on how many pictures you usually take in one photo session, you may be able to get away with a mere 128MB, 256MB or 512MB media card, which are quite cheap these days. It is interesting to note that Fujifilm ships the camera from the factory with Image Quality set to 5M-N and ISO set to 200.

Though RAW is available, this option is buried quite deep into the MENU: it takes 17 button presses to select RAW.

The Fujifilm S5200 is comfortably carried in one hand, though you would probably want to attach the shoulder strap for hands-free carrying.

The Terminal Cover is an L-shaped rubber flap that opens up wide for easy access to the terminals. Transferring images to your PC is simply a matter of connecting the USB cable and either using the FinePix Viewer to index the images or simply drag-n-drop in Windows Explorer.

FinePix Viewer

The FinePixViewer software is still one of my favourite 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 do basic image editing, re: brightness, saturation, hue, sharpness. In the above image, we selected the Folder Tree View; see the Fujifilm E900 review for the Menu Panel View.

The Fujifilm S5200 Owner's Manual is well illustrated and written, though the print font is very small. Surprisingly (for Canada), there is no French version included (the Quick Start Guide has a Spanish version), so be sure to request French documentation if this is what you desire.

Anti-Blur Scene Mode vs. Image Stabilization

How effective is Anti-Blur compared to Image Stabilization?

These are different from each other. Image Stabilization is a real technology that works effectively to usually give between 2 and 3 f-stops gain in exposure. Anti-Blur is a scene mode that cleverly adjusts the shutter speed/aperture/ISO to obtain a fast enough shutter speed to prevent camera shake.

In a long zoom digital camera, both Anti-Blur and Image Stabilization has the same goal: reduce camera shake when hand holding the camera with the lens set at the long end of the focal length (i.e. zoomed max).

Image Stabilization does that by stabilizing the lens or image sensor; Anti-Blur accomplishes that by using a higher ISO so a fast enough shutter speed can be used. And, where other cameras fear to use a high ISO because of the resulting high noise, the Fujifilm S5200, with its low-noise image sensor, can boldly do so.

So, though Anti-Blur is definitely not the same as image stabilization, it can nevertheless be effective when used in a situation where a fast enough shutter speed can be selected by upping the ISO. It seems to limit the ISO to not go above ISO 800.

Anti-Blur is a clever scene mode that works quite well in the Fujifilm S5200, though it would have been perfect if it also offered image stabilization (either of the lens or image sensor).

The Fujifilm FinePix S5200 is easily the best looking long zoom digital camera as well as being very comfortable to hold and use in the field. It is extremely fast in operations and consistently gives excellent image quality, including low noise up to ISO 400, with very usable ISO 800. ISO 1600 is a bonus, no noise visible at 4x6 in. or even 800x600 pixels displayed on screen. It's one of those cameras that you just pick up and start using right away -- "so easy even mom can use it. (c) Copyright Photoxels 2005 :)"

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