Photograghy News,Reviews

Monday, October 31, 2005

Fuji FinePix S9000

DCRP Reviews Fuji FinePix S9000 and says:

The Fuji FinePix S9000 ($699) is a full-featured, high resolution ultra zoom 9 Megapixel camera. The S9000 (also known as the S9500) uses Fuji's 5th generation SuperCCD sensor, with the most noticeable change since the previous generation sensor being the lack of an interpolated mode. The sensor is nine Megapixel and so are the resulting images. (For the technically included, the sensor still does interpolate to a higher resolution before downsizing to your selected size.)

The S9000 uses Fuji's Real Photo Technology which allows for lower noise at high ISOs than comparable cameras, fast performance, and good battery life. Fuji says that the camera's good high ISO performance allows the S9000 to take sharp pictures without the need for image stabilization (we'll see how well it performs in a bit).

The other big feature on the S9000 is its 10.7X zoom lens. While most ultra zoom lenses are 38 - 380 mm (or similar), the S9000's lens starts at 28 mm for some good wide-angle action.

There's much more to talk about, so let's just move into the review now.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix S9000 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

* The 9.0 effective Megapixel FinePix S9000 camera
* 16MB xD Picture Card
* Four AA alkaline batteries
* Lens cap w/retaining strap
* Lens hood
* Shoulder strap
* A/V cable
* USB cable
* CD-ROM featuring FinePix CX software
* 143 page camera manual (printed)

The S9000 comes with a tiny 16MB xD Picture Card, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. That makes a larger memory card a requirement, and I'd suggest 512MB or even 1GB as good starter sizes. One of the nice features of the S9000 is its dual memory card slots, support both xD and CompactFlash cards. The CF slot supports Type II cards, including the Microdrive. Since CompactFlash cards are cheaper and generally faster than xD cards, I'd recommend sticking with those. The S9000 takes advantage of high speed CompactFlash cards, and probably the "M-type" fast xD cards as well.

Something else you're going to be needing are some rechargeable batteries and a charger, since the camera doesn't come with either (kind of disappointing given the price of the camera). Instead you'll get four alkaline AAs, which will die after about 140 photos. For better battery life pick up two sets of NiMH batteries, 2300 mAh or better. Here's how the S9000 compares to some other cameras in its class when you've got good batteries in it:

With the most powerful NiMH batteries installed the S9000 performs pretty well, though not quite as good as the D-SLRs.

I am a big fan of cameras that use AA batteries. For one, NiMH batteries cost way less than their proprietary counterparts. Second, if your rechargeables die you can always buy some alkalines to get you through the day.

The FinePix S9000 has an impressive 10.7X optical zoom lens. Where most ultra zooms start at 36 or even 38 mm, the S9000's lens starts at 28 mm, so you get wide-angle capability without the need for conversion lenses. The exact focal range of the lens is 6.2 - 66.7 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 300 mm. The lens is threaded for 58 mm filters.

The lens isn't quite as "fast" (in terms of aperture) as some of the competition, though: the maximum aperture is F2.8 - F4.9. The Canon PowerShot S2 (F2.7-3.5), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 (F2.8-3.7), and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1 (F2.8-3.7) all have faster lenses. What this means in real world is that near the telephoto end of the lens those other lenses let in more light, which allows for faster shutter speeds, and thus less camera shake.

One thing you won't find on the S9000 is an optical image stabilization system. Instead, Fuji is relying on their Real Photo Technology (which boosts the ISO sensitivity and therefore the shutter speed) to keep images sharp. We'll see how well it works later in the review.

Directly above the lens is the camera's pop-up flash. The flash, which is released manually, has a decent working range of 0.3 - 5.6 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 3.0 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). If you need more flash power then you can take advantage of the hot shoe on the top of the camera or the flash sync terminal that's to the lower-left of the lens. Just remove the plastic cover, plug in your flash via a PC sync cable, and you're set.

To the upper-left of the lens are two components of the S9000's autofocus system. The round thing is the AF-assist lamp (which doubles as the self-timer countdown light), while the item to the left is the external AF sensor. The external AF sensor helps the camera focus quickly in all situations, and when it's dark the AF-assist lamp kicks in for some additional help.

Dp Review Reviews Fuji FinePix S9000 and says:

Fujifilm today announces the launch of the FinePix S9000 Zoom, a new model that marks the point where compact digital cameras and digital SLRs meet. Aimed at amateur and enthusiast photographers, the FinePix S9000 Zoom features resolution good enough to challenge entry-level digital SLRs. It combines this with a range of features that enable a level of photographic flexibility more often associated with compact digital cameras.

The FinePix S9000 Zoom features Fujifilm’s brand new 5th generation Super CCD sensor, and offers an image size of nine megapixels. Recognising that image quality is determined by more than just pixel count, the inclusion of Fujifilm’s Real Photo Technology gives the FinePix S9000 Zoom a true advantage. It has a class-leading sensitivity range of ISO 80 - ISO 1600, which reduces the need for reliance on image stabilisation. The ISO range means that sharp, focused images can be achieved in all light conditions – from bright sunny days to night-time shots – without the use of a flash. Fast shutter speeds not only lessen the effect of blurring from camera shake, but subject movement, too.

The camera incorporates a 28-300mm (equivalent on a 35mm camera) Fujinon zoom lens with twist-barrel zoom control. This is a zoom range that encompasses all the major focal lengths, and the manual zoom control enables the photographer to make precision adjustments. Furthermore, because the lens and body on the FinePix S9000 Zoom are built as a closed unit, it eliminates the possibility of dust on the lens and CCD – a serious problem when removing lenses on a digital SLR.

A new tilting LCD screen on the camera means that it is possible to view images at awkward angles, such as close to the ground or above the head. Unlike digital SLRs, the LCD can also be used to compose images, which means even more convenience for the photographer.

In addition, the camera features a 30-frames-per-second movie mode with manual zoom capability, giving high quality moving images with sound – a function that cannot be integrated into traditional digital SLRs due to the physical design of the cameras.

With a 0.8 second start-up time, and just 0.01 second shutter lag, the FinePix S9000 Zoom will give users a near-instant response so that spontaneous shots and unexpected action need never be missed. The camera also incorporates RAW mode, for uncompressed and unprocessed image quality. A hotshoe attachment and PC sync terminal for external flash make it a camera that’s as happy in the studio as it is out and about.

FinePix S9000 Zoom features at a glance:

  • New Fujifilm Super CCD sensor with 9.0 million effective pixels
  • New 28-300mm (10.7x) Fujinon zoom lens with manual twist-barrel zoom control
  • Class-leading sensitivity setting of ISO 1600 for photography in low light conditions
  • Low sensitivity of ISO 80 for ultra-high quality photography
  • 1.8” tilting LCD screen for easy high and low angle shooting
  • Ultra-fast response times (0.01 second shutter lag and 0.8 second start-up)
  • Real-time histogram to assist exposure settings before shooting
  • Highlight Warning feature for displaying highlight areas in playback
  • VGA movie capture of 30 frames per second with zoom capability and sound
  • Closed unit design to eliminate dust accumulation on the CCD
  • Hotshoe and PC sync terminal
  • RAW format shooting for uncompressed and unprocessed images
  • xD-Picture Card™ providing large storage capacity, lower power consumption and fast write speeds (16MB to 1GB capacities currently available)

Adrian Clarke, Director of Photo Products, Fujifilm, said, “Enthusiast photographers are drawn towards digital SLRs because of the image quality they offer. Certainly, a digital SLR is the definitive tool for professional photographers wishing to take stills photography. However, as DSLRs are specialist cameras, they inevitably offer less flexibility when it comes to everyday photography. We’ve introduced the FinePix S9000 Zoom to add a credible alternative for consumers considering an entry-level DSLR.

“Photography enthusiasts will be delighted by the image quality produced by the new Fujifilm-designed sensor and the 10.7x zoom capability. Usually, with an optical range like this, you’d also be dealing with detachable lenses and the problem of dust, which is incredibly tricky to deal with. The FinePix S9000 Zoom’s closed unit eliminates this problem.

“At the same time, the camera offers a freedom of functions more usually associated with a compact digital camera, such as a tilting LCD screen that can be used to compose images, and a high quality movie mode. Our aim was to design a camera that gives the best of both worlds, and the S9000 Zoom truly delivers.”


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