Fujifilm FinePix S1800
by Mike Pasini, Stephanie Boozer, Shawn Barnett and Zig Weidelich
Review Posted: 12/21/2010
The Fujifilm FinePix S1800 is based around a 12.2-megapixel sensor, with a Fujinon-branded 18x optical zoom lens. Maximum image resolution is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels in the camera's native 4:3 aspect ratio, and both 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio modes are also available. The Fujifilm S1800's lens offers actual focal lengths ranging from 5.0 to 90.0mm, equivalent to 28 to 504mm on a 35mm camera -- a useful wide-angle to a powerful telephoto. The Fuji S1800 has a two-step aperture, offering either f/3.1 or f/6.4 at wide-angle, and either f/5.6 or f/11 at telephoto, using an ND filter. Minimum focusing distance is ordinarily 16 inches, but drops to as little as 0.8 inches in Super Macro mode. There's no true optical viewfinder on this model, but as you'd expect on a long-zoom digicam like this, there's a 0.2-inch, 200,000 dot LCD electronic viewfinder which takes its place. There's also a 3.0-inch high-contrast LCD monitor with 230,000 dot resolution.
The FinePix S1800 offers ISO-equivalent sensitivity ranging from 64 to 1,600 ordinarily, but can raise the maximum to 6,400 equivalent at a reduced resolution of three megapixels or below. Exposures are determined using 256-zone Multi, Average or Spot metering, and shooting modes include Auto, Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, Manual, and a generous sixteen scene modes that allow a modicum of control over the look of images. Importantly given the reach of its lens, the Fuji S1800 includes true mechanical (CCD shift-type) image stabilization to combat blur from camera shake. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to eight seconds. Burst shooting is possible at full resolution with a rate of up to 1.3 frames per second, albeit with a burst depth of only three shots.
The Fujifilm S1800's contrast detection autofocusing system offers a choice of single-point, multi-point or area focus focusing, and includes both a tracking function and AF assist illuminator. Eight white balance modes are available, including automatic, six presets, and manual. The Fuji S1800's built-in seven-mode flash has a range of 1.3 to 26.2 feet at wide-angle, or 8.2 to 14.4 feet at telephoto (using Auto ISO), which can be reduced to a range of one to 9.8 feet in macro mode at wide-angle, or to 5.9 feet at telephoto. A two- or ten-second self timer is available to allow the photographer to get into the photo, or to reduce blur when shooting on a tripod.
As well as JPEG-format still images, the Fujifilm S1800 can capture Motion JPEG-compressed AVI video with monaural audio. Movie resolutions include high-definition 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels), VGA (640 x 480 pixels) and QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) with a rate of 30 frames per second. The Fuji FinePix S1800 stores its data on Secure Digital cards, including the newer SDHC types, or in 23MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High Speed data and NTSC / PAL standard definition video output. Power comes from four AA batteries, with alkaline disposables included in the product bundle.
The Fuji FinePix S1800 began shipping in the USA from February 2010, priced at around US$230.
Fujifilm FinePix S1800
by Mike Pasini, with Shawn Barnett and Zig Weidelich
Note: The Fujifilm S1800 is identical to the Fujifilm S2550HD (also known as S2500HD in some markets), except it doesn't have an HDMI port, so this review and the test results were actually from an S2550HD.
Fujifilm makes some interesting cameras -- if you love photography. One example for photography lovers on the Fujifilm S1800 that leaped out at me: Program mode on most digicams is nothing but Auto with a few menu options enabled. But on a Fujifilm camera, Program actually lets you select the aperture/f-stop combination, commonly called Program Shift. You know, exactly how Program is supposed to work.
We found the Fujifilm S1800 enjoyable to use, and were impressed at the super low price, but it's not quite the photographer's camera that we'd have liked, with only two aperture settings. That's a disappointment, because many photographers like to shoot in Aperture priority mode.
Another Fujifilm benefit that we found in the FinePix S18000 are the shooting modes and aspect ratios that emulate film ("film" is still a part of their name, after all). And the Photo Mode menu is still unique to Fujifilm.
The Fujifilm S1800 is an 18x superzoom that inherits that love of photography. That love is reflected in the modest 18x lens just when competitors have broken the 20x barrier. As with sensors, more isn't always better. In the case of lenses, it means more distortion and more chromatic aberration. Fujifilm didn't shoot for the highest number with the relatively inexpensive S1800, because it usually brings more distortion.
Look and Feel. First, let's point out that the Fujifilm S1800 is well built. The recent trend has been toward cheaper and cheaper builds in long and superzooms. So outright prolonged applause for building a solid camera body with a substantial rubberized textured surface instead of the lightweight plastic body panels used on so many superzooms.
Like any superzoom, though, the Fujifilm S1800 is a contradiction. It's compact compared to a dSLR, and yet much too large for a pocket. Appearing much like a mini-SLR format, the superzoom is really a big lens with a big grip and a big LCD tucked into the smallest shape possible.
That shape is almost square, though, so a superzoom like the Fujifilm S1800 doesn't much like to be tucked away in a camera bag. They all ship with shoulder straps rather than wrist straps, although I still prefer to use a wrist strap, dropping the camera in a dSLR holster. It swims around in there, but it's convenient.
The big lens requires a pop-off lens cap, which itself requires a tether of some sort. The Fujifilm S1800 comes with both.
The Fujifilm S1800 big grip houses four AA batteries, which are themselves becoming rare in digital cameras. We had to dig around the bunker a while to find four lithium AAs to use.
And the big LCD is a full 3.0-inch model. It was my least favorite feature, though, because its resolution is only 230K pixels and it can be hard to see in sunlight (although you can bump up the brightness).
So with all these contradictions, I found myself wondering if the Fujifilm S1800 is a big small camera or a small big camera?
Controls. The Fujifilm S1800 controls are arrayed along the top of the grip and to the right of the LCD on the back panel. There are not a lot of them, but there are a few unusual ones.
The Fujifilm S1800's Power switch on the top panel is a bit unusual. It's a spring-loaded switch you move to the right to turn the camera on or off. It has a slightly raised right end to help you pull, but I found it a nuisance. I was never sure I'd pulled far enough right, and the raised end was a little too hard to find. I like switches but I prefer Panasonic's approach, using a switch that powers on to the right and off to the left.
Forward of that switch are two small buttons. The one on the left is the Intelligent Face Detection/Red-Eye Removal button, helped optionally by the Menu option for Blink Detection, which warns you if the camera thinks someone whose face was detected blinked. The one on the right is the Burst mode button. Those are two options you might fiddle with from shot to shot, so it makes sense they're right behind the Fujifilm S1800's Shutter button.
The large chrome Shutter button is surrounded by the Zoom lever.
The Zoom lever has an uncommonly large knob. It may look a little funny but I liked it. And the Fujifilm S1800 zoomed smoothly and slowly enough to aid rather than thwart composition. Something, again, a photographer would appreciate.
The Mode dial is on the top panel, too, just left of the grip but reachable with your thumb. Unfortunately the Photo button is also reachable with your thumb. Mine rested on it often, bringing up the menu unintentionally.
Above left of this is the EVF/LCD toggle button. Long zooms require an electronic viewfinder. Done well they can be an asset but they are often done poorly. The Fujifilm S1800's EVF has a bit too low resolution for my taste and the diopter was not adjustable (although it looked sharp to me with or without glasses). It takes a little of the fun out of using the camera and can fool you into thinking the shots you're capturing aren't as good as they are.
Below that are the Playback button and the Photo mode button to set things like image size, image quality, and color mode. The Playback button offers the nuisance of only putting you into Playback mode, but not allowing you to get back into Record mode with a second press on the button. Instead, pressing that Playback button while in Playback mode will only bring up the message, in all caps, "PRESS THE SHUTTER BUTTON TO GO BACK TO THE SHOOTING MODE SLIDE THE ON/OFF SWITCH TO TURN OFF THE CAMERA." Wouldn't it be more productive to instead just take the user back to Record mode?
The Fujifilm S1800's four-way navigator is under those two buttons. It surrounds a Menu/OK button. The Up arrow doubles as the Monitor Brightness button and Delete button. The Right arrow cycles through the Flash options. The Down arrow is the Instant Zoom button, which shows more of the scene that the sensor will capture so you can track fast-moving subjects, though capture is at a lower quality. And the Left button cycles through the Macro and Super Macro options.
Below the navigator are two more buttons. To the left is the Display/Back button and to the right is the EV/Info button. EV buttons are fast disappearing into the Menu system on many digicams so it's nice to see the Fujifilm S1800 buck that trend as well. Photographers tend to love EV buttons because they let us override the meter reading to expose dark or light subjects appropriately.
That's it for the buttons, but there's an USB/AV port built into the side of the grip and a speaker on the opposite side of the camera (where your hand won't muffle it).
There's also an AF-assist lamp on the front of the Fujifilm S1800 between the grip and the lens. And there's a button to pop up the flash on the outside edge of the flash housing. Just below that in the sculpted rim around the lens is the microphone, shielded a bit at least from the wind.
On the bottom of the camera is the tripod mount and the battery/card compartment. The tripod mount is centered on the bottom panel but not aligned to the lens.
Lens. The lens is a Fujinon 18x optical zoom lens with apertures of f/3.1 or f/6.4 at wide-angle and f/5.6 or f/11.0 at telephoto, using a neutral density filter. Focal lengths range from 28mm to 504mm in 35mm equivalents with digital zoom of 6.3x, up to 113.4x with optical zoom.
Wide-angle focuses from 1.3 foot to infinity and telephoto from 8.2 feet to infinity. Macro focuses from 0.2 foot to 9.8 feet at wide-angle and from 5.9 feet to 9.8 feet at telephoto. Super Macro focuses from 0.1 foot to 3.3 feet at wide-angle only.
Image stabilization is sensor-shift, meaning that the Fujifilm S1800's sensor is mounted on a moving platen that is moved to compensate for camera movement during exposure.
I couldn't find a manual focus mode on the Fujifilm S1800 because there just isn't one. But you can be pretty specific about where the camera should autofocus. Autofocus modes include Center, Multi (for off-center high-contrast subjects), Area (which allows you to move the focus target using the navigator arrows), and Tracking (which follows a moving subject when you half-press the Shutter button).
Modes. Modes are the personality of your camera. And the Fujifilm S1800's modes reveal a traditional photographic personality focused on exposure options rather than post-processing tricks-and-gimmicks.
Real PASM. The first indication of this is that the Fujifilm S1800 includes the full set of PASM options: Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual. Just press the EV button to manipulate the relevant option with the Up and Down arrows. And in Manual, use the Left and Right button to select shutter speed or aperture.
Fujifilm expects the FinePix S1800 owner to want to set just the shutter or the aperture, or both, to handle a particular situation (fast action, lighting and subject that would fool a meter, etc). So the company made it convenient to do.
Pressing the EV button, located in an odd position on the lower right, allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed combinations. It's not exactly a range, though, since there are only two available apertures.
Custom. If the camera can be configured by the photographer, it makes sense to be able to store the configuration and the Fujifilm S1800 provides a Custom mode to do just that. You can record the Photo menu options, Shooting menu options, Setup menu options and a few other items.
Photo menu options include settings for ISO, Image Size, Image Quality and FinePix Color.
Shooting menu options include settings for Photometry, White Balance, High-Speed Shooting, Focusing, AF Mode, Sharpness, Flash, and Bracketing.
The Fujifilm S1800's Setup menu options include settings for Image Display, Dual IS Mode, AF Illuminator, Digital Zoom, and EVF/LCD mode.
Other options including settings for PASM, Continuous release mode, Intelligent Face Detection, Instant Zoom, Macro mode, EV, Flash mode, Shutter speed, Aperture, EVF/LCD, and Indicators/Best Framing.
Auto. There is an Auto mode, don't worry, which turns the Fujifilm S1800 into a competent point-and-shoot camera with an 18x lens. The battery status and focus point are displayed (optionally) on the LCD or EVF and you can also shift the Display mode into Silent mode to turn off the speaker and the AF-assist light.
Auto Scene Recognition. Auto Scene Recognition mode can optimize the Fujifilm S1800's settings for several kinds of scenes automatically, a big help to the newcomer. The mode selected is displayed with an icon when the Shutter button is displayed half way.
Scene recognition includes Portrait, Landscape, Night Landscape, Macro, Night Portrait, and Backlit Portrait. If the Fujifilm S1800 can't decide, it simply uses Auto.
Being able to distinguish between Portrait and Landscape is very helpful all by itself, but being able to slip into Macro mode when necessary is an increasingly common and very welcome addition. Probably most welcome, however, is Backlit mode. It's one of the most common exposure problems you'll encounter.
Auto Scene mode does enable face recognition, using the battery more quickly as focus is continually adjusted, but that's a good trade-off.
SP Scene Recognition. You can also manually select the scene setup you want, which includes a few more options harder to detect automatically. These are worth a little explanation.
- Natural Light turns off the flash, bumps up ISO and relies on the available natural light to capture the image. That's my favorite setting and is almost never seen on a digicam. Sure, you can leave it in Auto and turn of the flash in many cameras, but having a dedicated mode saves some fiddling with the controls.
- Natural & Flash requires you to pop up the Flash to take both a natural light shot and a flash shot. So that's two shots for every shutter press. This is very handy for backlit subjects where you can't decide it you want to help the light with the flash or not.
- Zoom Bracketing takes three shots for every shutter press, using different zoom settings. The current zoom setting is used for the first shot, which is taken at the Large image size. The second shot is zoomed in 1.4x and cropped to Medium image size. The third is zoomed in 2x and cropped to Small image size. So the lens position never changes but the image processor crops the captured image. Two frames are shown in this mode to indicate what the crops will be. You can switch between landscape and portrait orientation by pressing the Down key. You can't use digital zoom in this mode.
- Smile holds the shutter until Intelligent Face Detection detects a smile. It's a self-timer for happiness.
- Portrait softens detail and emphasized natural skin tones.
- Landscape optimizes the camera for daylight shots of subjects at infinity.
- Sport gives priority to fast shutter speeds using High Speed shooting, reducing focusing time, and sets the EVF/LCD mode to 60 fps.
- Night raises ISO sensitivity for twilight or night scenes.
- Night (Tripod) goes further than Night by using slow shutter speeds, assuming the camera is stabilized.
- Fireworks uses slow shutter speeds to capture the movement of fireworks through the night sky. The EV button lets you select a specific shutter speed.
- Sunset records the vivid colors of either sunset or sunrise.
- Snow adjusts exposure for bright snow scenes.
- Beach adjusts exposure for bright beach scenes.
- Party optimizes camera settings for low-light party conditions.
- Flower sets the camera to Macro mode and vivid color.
- Text sets the camera to Macro mode and adjusts exposure for high-key subjects like paper.
Exposure and White Balance are set with the first shot. Line up each shot with the ghosted image and use the OK button to go on to the next or the Back button to reshoot one of the images in the sequence. Press the OK button to end shooting and start processing the images.
A few seconds later, you'll have a stitched panorama, made right inside the Fujifilm S1800.
With such a wide range of focal lengths, stitching can't always be seamless. At wide-angle and close to our subject, it wasn't very successful. But landscapes were well spliced.
Movie. There aren't many digicams I have enjoyed taking movies with. Usually the zoom is just impossible to control. Often autofocus is inebriated. Sound makes you cringe, especially if there's even the hint of breeze.
But the Fujifilm S1800, while not solving all those problems, didn't do badly with any of them. It did, unfortunately, introduce a high-pitched whine whose source was undiscoverable. The fact that it appears in all audio, regardless of relative ambient noise, tells us that the source is the camera itself.
The Fujifilm S1800's zoom speed, while constant, is slow enough that it's pleasant to use. Autofocus didn't always quite keep up with the zoom but did finally catch up. And the microphone, tucked under the flash housing, is protected from some of the wind noise at least. The zoom motor is quite loud, but at least the zoom works, which cannot be said for many digital cameras. When zooming from telephoto to wide, the Fujifilm S1800's image goes blurry, though, until the zooming stops and the camera is able to focus again.
Options on the Photo menu in Movie mode include just Frame Size: 1,280 x 720, 640 x 480, or 320 x 240, all at 30 frames per second. From the Fujifilm S1800's Menu system you can also set the Zoom Type (Optical, which may pick up the zoom motor in the audio, or 3x Digital).
Movie clips can't exceed either 2GB in size or 15 minutes in length.
There is no dedicated Movie button. You simply switch the Mode dial to Movie and use the Shutter button to start and stop recording.
Menu System. Fujifilm's menu system is a little different from other manufacturer's menu systems. It breaks off the ISO, Image Size, Image Quality and Color options from the Fujifilm S1800's main menu system into a Photo menu accessed by pressing the "f" button.
This can drive you mad if you're looking for the menu item to switch from 4:3 to 16:9 or 3:2 aspect ratio. Or you can't find the option to shoot Black and White. But once you remember it's on the Photo menu, you'll be fine.
The main menu system handles options for Shooting, Playback and Setup, like any other digicam. Shooting and Playback both have two screens of options. Setup, which has three tabs, is the last option on the Shooting and Playback menus. Options are grayed out if the particular camera setup doesn't support them.
Type is very large (if the font is a bit cheesy) and color is subdued. The menus overlay either the scene in Shooting mode or an image in Playback. That makes it a little busy but it works.
The Fujifilm S1800's menu system is displayed in the EVF if you've toggled to that display.
Storage & Battery. The Fujifilm S1800 has about 23MB of internal memory for use in a pinch. It supports SD/SDHC cards for normal storage, with Class 4 or faster SDHC cards preferred for video capture.
A 2GB SD card will hold about 320 Fine Quality 4:3 images or seven minutes of 720p HD video.
The company sells an HDP-L1 SD card reader that plugs into your HDTV's HDMI port and uses a remote control to run slide shows or play movies.
The Fujifilm S1800 is powered by four AA batteries. A set of alkalines are included as a sort of worst case benchmark, I suppose. You'll want four Ni-MH rechargeable batteries or, in a pinch, four lithium batteries.
Using CIPA standards, Fujifilm specifies alkaline battery capacity at 300 shots, Ni-MH at 500, and lithium at 700, which is pretty good.
A DC coupler (CP-04) with AC power adapter (AC-5VX is) available as an option.
Image Quality. Pixel-peeping a superzoom is a recipe for disappointment. You'll find the unavoidable distortion and chromatic aberration all long zooms suffer. My hunch is that the problems are slight enough -- particularly if you go to print -- that few will bother trying to correct it in a program like Photoshop. Corners are soft, but it's not too noticeable when printing at 8x10. Noise suppression is also pretty active pretty quickly, but our printed results show that the camera's still capable of making a decent 11x14 at the lower settings (see below for image quality).
Shooting. If the Fujifilm S1800 wasn't the first digicam I grabbed on my way out the door, it was only because a superzoom requires some attention when it comes to carrying it. But if I took the effort to bring along a camera bag, I never regretted shooting with the S1800. It handled any situation I put it in and brought back shots as good as anything else.
My first trip was up Twin Peaks. At the same time I took along the Sony Cyber-shot WX5, which makes for an interesting comparison. Many of the shots were exactly the same, if handheld.
The weathered Portola Substation sign shot is a good example. Sony has rich color, but perhaps a bit too rich for the subject. Detail on both is excellent but when combined with the less saturated color of the Fujifilm S1800, the S1800 shot looked more natural, more sun-bathed.
The row of logs is another instructive comparison. Both cameras did an excellent job holding onto highlight detail and giving the sky some color in this south-facing shot. The WX5 held shadow detail better (look at the end of the log closest to the camera) but highlight detail was bleached compared to the S1800's rendering. The Fujifilm S1800 shows a bit more contrast in the field, too. Much as I liked the WX5 shot, I preferred the S1800 capture.
Of course, all of those shots were taken without tweaking the camera. Just point and shoot. And also obvious should be that neither camera's LCD lets you make very intelligent exposure decisions in the field.
When I got to the top of the hill, I was impressed with the Fujifilm S1800's digital zoom. The shot west of the ocean with the hills and (in the very far distance) the California coast shows more detail than the full optical zoom shot of the same scene just before it. In the digital zoom image, you can actually make out a green hammock in the trees below one of the houses that you can't see in the optical zoom shot.
We often disregard digital zoom, but when it can deliver more detail, it earns some consideration.
The same thing happened with my shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. The horizontal support cables are very clear and sharp from one end of the bridge to the other. That's unusual. The weather helped this time, no doubt, but I expect digital zoom to obscure not heighten detail like that.
Next I spent some time at the beach with the Fujifilm S1800. Most of the shots were at the full optical zoom or digital zoom (look in the Composite section of the Exif header for the 35mm equivalent; values over 504mm are zoomed digitally).
The shot of the windmill is very well captured with good color and detail. Shots of the ocean were less sharp (and usually digitally zoomed) but quite acceptable. I did find it hard to frame and focus the camera by hand at long focal lengths, but I was on my bike and quite a distance from the surf.
With closer subjects, the Fujifilm S1800 was much easier to handle.
One exposure puzzle that eluded me was how the S1800 picked ISO. It seems it only goes to ISO 64 when there is a bright highlight that would usually be blown out. It likes ISO 100 and sometimes shoots ISO 250 in bright sun.
The two images of the world's largest sundial (or so I've been told) are a good example. The shot that frames more of the scene (including trees) is taken at ISO 125 while the shot that crops the sundial tightly is at ISO 250. I would have thought the second shot would have been at ISO 64.
At full screen resolution, neither shot looks particularly sharp and detailed, as if noise suppression had smoothed over the detail. But back away a bit and the color and contrast makes the shots.
In many of these shots, if you look very closely, you'll see some evidence of chromatic aberration in the corners but I found it quite mild and acceptable in general and particularly well controlled for a superzoom.
My last set of shots were of the dahlia garden in Golden Gate Park. Dahlias make good subjects. Bright color, lots of detail, even more variety. Hard to take a bad picture of dahlias.
And the Fujifilm S1800 took some very nice ones.
If highlight detail was blown out on some of the white flowers, it seemed sacrificed for overall contrast. Those are the kind of images I would spend some time on in a photo editor to reclaim just a tiny bit of detail for the petals. The images are worth it.
But for more mid-range flowers, the results were very nice. To the point, actually, that using Super Macro or even just Macro let me compose shots that had a rhythm to them beyond straight portraiture. The petals seemed to swing.
But you expect that kind of shooting experience from a real camera.
Fujifilm FinePix S1800 Lens Quality
Note that the Fuji S1800's full telephoto focal length (90mm or 504mm eq.) is too long for our standard lab lens quality test shots, so most telephoto lab shots below were taken at approximately 75mm (422mm eq. or about 15x).
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft at upper left
Tele: Sharper at center
Tele: Some blurring, upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Fujifilm FinePix S1800's zoom shows strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, and blurring extends quite far in toward the main image area. At 15x telephoto, performance is a little better, though softening in the corners is distinct.
Wide: Less than average barrel distortion; noticeable
Tele: Higher than average pincushion distortion, noticeable
Geometric Distortion: There is less barrel distortion than average at wide-angle (0.4%), though pincushion distortion at 15x telephoto is a little stronger than normal (0.3%). While distortion is noticeable at both zoom settings, the effect isn't overly strong.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, though pixels are a little bright. The effect is also a little distorted, thanks to strong blurring in the corners here. At 15x telephoto, magenta and greenish fringing is also quite bright.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Fujifilm FinePix S1800's normal Macro mode captures a fairly sharp image with good detail, and manages to do so with only slight blurring in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 2.14 x 1.60 inches (55 x 41mm), which is fair. In Super Macro mode, the minimum area measures 1.51 x 1.14 inches (39 x 29mm), which is pretty good, though blurring and chromatic aberration are very strong. The exposure is also quite uneven. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens in the lower right portion of the frame.
Fujifilm FinePix S1800 Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Fujifilm FinePix S1800's EVF and LCD monitor showed about the same frame accuracy, capturing about 103% of the image area at wide angle, and about 98% at 15x telephoto. This is below average for an EVF and LCD. Note that the framing at wide angle cuts off some of the lower portion of the target, likely due to heavy distortion correction.
Fujifilm FinePix S1800 Image Quality
Color: Overall color is fairly good, with pretty good saturation levels even in the brighter colors. Strong reds are pumped a little, but not greatly, while cyans and aquas are a little muted. Hue is also pretty good, though orange is noticeably shifted toward yellow, and yellow toward green. White is also shifted toward yellow/green, indicating manual white balance isn't terribly accurate. Dark skin tones are pushed toward yellow and orange, while lighter skin tones are just about right. Fair results overall.
Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though it does have a slightly cool, magenta tint. Auto was much too warm, and Incandescent very pink.
Horizontal: 1,700 lines
Vertical: 1,700 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,300 lines per picture height.
Tele: Fairly bright
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't work well at wide angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet, because that takes the camera out of the main lab, so the wide-angle result is inconclusive. The telephoto test came out fairly bright at 14.4 feet, but required a hefty ISO increase to 800.
Auto flash produced slightly dim results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining only a hint of the ambient light at 1/60 second, and raising ISO to 400. Because the shutter speed is fairly quick, you should be able to avoid subject motion blur for most indoor portraits. The Fuji S1800's CCD-shift image stabilization will also help avoid blur due to camera shake.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is relatively good up to about ISO 100, though with a certain smoothing characteristic of noise suppression. Visible softening begins at ISO 200. Chroma (color) noise is controlled up to ISO 800, where it becomes more noticeable. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, however, blurring is quite strong. ISOs 3,200 and 6,400 limit resolution in an effort to control the visible distortion, which actually works fairly well at 3,200. At 6,400, results are again very cloudy and soft. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.
Printed: ISO 64 makes a pretty good 13x19-inch print, with good color and contrast. There are a few soft or smeared areas on close inspection, where noise suppression was active, but it's pretty good otherwise. Blurring in the corners is visible at this size. Printing at 11x14 inches makes a much sharper image.
ISO 100 shots are a little soft at 13x19 inches, but get crisper at 11x14.
ISO 200 shots are also good at 11x14, with some soft areas. High-contrast red areas are a little soft, and fine detail is also absent on very close inspection, but it's not as bad as it looks onscreen.
ISO 400 images are better at 8x10, with good detail.
ISO 800 images are usable but soft at 8x10; low light scenes would look good, but brighter scenes give away the noise suppression blur. 5x7-inch prints are a good deal better, though some noise still shows in darker blues and purples.
ISO 1,600 shots are noisy and soft at 5x7, quite similar to how the ISO 800 images looked. They look a little better at 4x6, but not much. The color seems a bit off and the softness is still apparent. We'd call it usable, though.
ISO 3,200 images are made from smaller files created by "pixel-binning," taking a group of pixels to represent one in a smaller image. It actually looks pretty good at 4x6 inches, but not any larger.
ISO 6,400 images, also made from a reduced-size file, have a watercolor effect and a blur that seems to glow as well. It's not a good thing unless that's the effect you seek.
Overall, considering the price, the Fujifilm S1800 does a good job. Compared to other 12-megapixel cameras, it's a bit behind the curve, but since most of its likely users won't enlarge above 8x10, I think most users will be satisfied.
Fujifilm Finepix S1800 Performance
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is about average for a long zoom, though slower than some recent competitors, at 0.64 second at wide-angle and 0.77 second at telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag was slower than most, at 0.12 second, but still reasonably fast.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is also a bit slow, capturing a frame every 2.80 seconds or so in single-shot mode. Cycle time varied a lot during our testing, ranging from 1.7 to 5.3 seconds. The Fuji S1800's full resolution burst mode is rated at 1.3 frames per second which is slower than average, though there are faster modes available at lower resolutions (up to 8 fps at 3 megapixels).
Flash Recycle: The Fujifilm S1800's flash recycles in about 11 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is quite slow.
Low Light AF: The Fuji S1800's AF system was able to focus down to almost the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled. Good performance here.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Fujifilm S1800's download speeds are fairly slow compared to others on the market. We measured 2,813 KBytes/sec.
In the Box
- Fujifilm FinePix S1800 camera
- 4 Alkaline AA batteries
- AV/USB cable
- Lens cap
- FinePix software CD
- Basic manual
- Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries and a good charger
- Large capacity, Speed Class 4+ SDHC memory card. 4 to 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
Fujifilm S1800 Conclusion
I didn't look at the price of the Fujifilm S1800 until I'd finished this review and I was just shocked. The price, if not the camera, would make it a good deal. (The Fuji S2550HD is the same camera with the addition of an HDMI port, for about ~$20 more.)
But the camera is also worthy.
It's got a solid build for one thing. That's not just a pleasure but it counts for ruggedness when backpacking or hiking and looking for wildlife. You don't have to baby the Fujifilm S1800.
Sometimes I think shooting modes are packed into digicams to make them look more competent than they are. But in the Fujifilm S1800 they actually highlight the camera's capabilities. They all work well, that is. It's wonderful to see PASM but it's also great to see Natural Light in the Scene modes. And an Auto Scene mode that can slip into Macro mode really makes us smile.
Smile shutter is not the gimmick it may first appear. And Blink Detection helps reveal a problem with a group photo. There really wasn't much in the Fujifilm S1800 we didn't find useful.
Image quality was reasonably good. Bravo to Fujifilm for working with less zoom range to maintain better quality. There's a little trouble with corner softening and chromatic aberration, but it's not too bad at 8x10 and smaller. Noise suppression is a bit overactive as well, though it is effective. Those with a discerning eye will notice, but most casual shooters will not. We started out saying how much the Fujifilm S1800 is made for photographers, so we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it as a factor. Photographers will also want a few more aperture choices than the Fujifilm S1800 offers, as having Aperture Priority is nice, but having more than two settings at any given focal length is a little more versatile.
The Fujifilm S1800 is a good, affordable superzoom in a small, tight package. All superzooms are a compromise in the same areas that the S1800 has trouble, but Fujifilm manages to make the FinePix S1800 a pleasure to use, whether you're experienced or not.