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Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd Overview

by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 12/04/07

Just two days after Panasonic unveiled the FZ18, Fujifilm unveiled an electronic viewfinder-based digicam that couples eight megapixels of resolution with an 18x optical zoom lens. The Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd has body styling reminiscent of a single-lens reflex digital camera, and uses a 1/2.35-inch CCD image sensor. The front of the Fujifilm S8000fd is dominated by the Fujinon Zoom-branded 18x optical zoom lens, which offers a 27mm to 486mm zoom range and an f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle. With a zoom lens this powerful, image stabilization is a must-have and Fujifilm uses its Dual Image Stabilization system in the Fuji S8000fd, which includes both mechanical image stabilization and high ISO sensitivity/shutter speeds, to freeze camera shake and subject motion.

Other features of the Fujifilm S8000fd include a 2.5-inch LCD display with 230,000 pixel resolution, ISO sensitivity to 1,600 (or 6,400 at reduced resolution), a range of creativity-friendly options including both aperture- and shutter-priority, plus a full manual mode, and 13 scene modes to keep things approachable for the less experienced photographer. Fujifilm S8000fd images are stored in 58MB of built-in memory or on xD-Picture Card/SD/SDHC cards in JPEG format. There is no Raw file format on the Fuji FinePix S8000fd. Power for the FinePix S8000fd comes from four AA batteries, with disposable alkalines included in the product bundle. S8000 connectivity options are NTSC/PAL video and USB 2.0 Full Speed.

The Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd went on sale in September 2007, priced at about U.S. $400 -- setting up a head-on battle with the same schedule and pricing as Panasonic's camera.

 

Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd User Report

by Mike Pasini

Intro. Like the Olympus SP-560 UZ and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, the Fujifilm S8000fd is an ultra long zoom with an 18x optical zoom range and an 8.0 megapixel sensor. I had the Fujifilm and the Olympus here at the same time for review and my gallery shots are nearly identical to make comparisons between the two models even more fun.

Front. You can't put the lens cap on upside down.

Powered On. But not fully extended.

While I can't speak for the Panasonic, the Olympus and Fujifilm models are so similar in specs and capabilities that it's very hard to distinguish between them. In fact, if you look at the lenses, they're identical, and most of the components are located in exactly the same place, though the overall shape is different. We wouldn't be surprised if both were made by the same manufacturer. Whether that's Olympus, Fujifilm, or a third party is tough to know.

Both have a very pleasing tactile grip but the Fujifilm S8000fd's grip is larger with the Shutter button comfortably further forward. The Fujifilm S8000fd is certainly elegant and nicely designed, but the Olympus has a more understated elegance (less chrome), though the Shutter button on the SP-560 is pushed back too far for me.

Performance tests were a bit misleading, too. On the face of it, the Olympus has faster autofocus lag, but in practice you almost always use pre-focus with a long zoom (to see what you're doing) and there the Fujifilm S8000fd was slightly more responsive.

Back. Can't miss the large LCD, but note the sculpted thumb grip.

On those two factors alone, I gravitated more toward the Fujifilm S8000fd and the color it delivered certainly didn't make me regret it. There are certainly differences between these three similar ultra long zooms. Let's explore what the Fujifilm S8000fd offers.

First Impressions. I've never been quite so amused by a lens cap before. This one has a cutout on its rim to avoid the flash housing on the body. But the cutout also guarantees the company name will appear in the correct orientation on the cap. My first experiences with the Fujifilm S8000fd suggested that quite a few features had been subjected to such scrutiny!

Lens cap. Note the notch that avoids the flash compartment.

The Fujifilm S8000fd is a handsome little machine with a better grip than some dSLRs and the Shutter button in just the right place. But the battery door hinge (on the short edge of the cover) is a pin floating in a slot (so the cover can slide open) rather than a hole, which makes it hard to align when you close it. And the memory card goes in only at an angle (another oddity), whether it's an xD card or an SD card.

Zoom Range. 27mm to 486mm to 5.1x digital zoom. Which middle shot is sharper?

Right away, though, I appreciated the three auto ISO levels: Auto up to 400, Auto up to 800 and Auto up to 1600. You can decide for yourself just how much noise you're willing to suffer. In well-lit scenes, Auto 400 is the best choice. And in poorly lit scenes, Auto 1600 is your only choice. But you can hedge your bets with Auto 800. That's the kind of feature you miss on other cameras when you've used it on the Fujifilm S8000fd. Our printed results suggest you should stick to Auto up to 400, unless your only use for the images will be online.

I'm becoming increasingly suspicious of the aperture selected in Programmed Auto mode (and Auto, for that matter) on any camera. There seems to be a bias toward a large aperture on the lens. But that isn't usually the sharpest aperture.

So I faced a little conundrum with the Fujifilm S8000fd. I shoot my Twin Peaks zoom range shots as the typical tourist might. Auto or Program, digital zoom enabled, to take three shots: wide-angle, full optical telephoto and full digital telephoto. Most digicams don't have an Aperture Priority mode. But the Fujifilm S8000fd does. Should I use that or Programmed Auto?

I tried both. In Aperture Priority, the Fujifilm S8000fd adjusted with the zoom to f/8.0 at maximum optical zoom. In Programmed Auto, it selected f/5.0. Which was sharper? I had to give the edge to Aperture Priority. I could see window frames in distant buildings that the Programmed Auto exposure just didn't hold.

The lesson? It pays to fiddle. But you can trust the zoom range shots in the gallery for typical results. I've also included the maximum optical zoom shot in the Aperture Priority series for comparison.

I was glad to see that the Fujifilm S8000fd's Playback button turned the camera on without extending the lens (another thoughtful touch on this long zoom). And even happier to see it also turned the camera off, rather than switched to recording mode, extending the lens.

Not a bad start. But it's usually that way with Fujifilm cameras. They're easy to make friends with.

Design. Like the other two amigos, the Fujifilm S8000fd sports a mini-dSLR design that's smaller than a compact dSLR. It's still too large to pocket but it's no burden strapped over your shoulder and small enough to leave room in your bag for other essentials.

Comfortable Grip. The Shutter button is forward so you can easily reach it.

I really like the Fujifilm S8000fd's grip. The rubber was a tactile pleasure and my fingers wrapped around the molded surface like it was designed just for me. You can see in my grip illustration how my index finger is naturally curled over the Shutter button, not spread back as on the Olympus.

There's a touch too much silver and chrome for me on the Fujifilm S8000fd, but I do like its lines, especially the sweep of its flash compartment over the large lens. And it is a large lens, identical in specs to that on the Olympus (both of which are a millimeter wider than the Panasonic and a bit shorter).

The weight was just right, too. Easy to hold in one hand, but unaffected by the press of the Shutter button.

Controls. A bit stiff but simple.

There are very few controls on the camera, unlike a dSLR. For many of the Fujifilm S8000fd's features, you have to dig through the menu system. It's an attractive menu system but I found it difficult to navigate and I made a lot of typing mistakes with the stiff control buttons. I kept wondering how much easier the menu system would be to navigate with a smooth rotating dial like that on a Nikon Coolpix.

Instead, the Fujifilm S8000fd has a more traditional one-piece navigator whose arrow keys double to provide an LCD brightener, Flash modes, Self Timer options, and Macro modes. In the center of the navigator, a Menu/OK button takes you to the menu system.

Top Panel. The Shutter button and Zoom ring up from with the Power slide behind them. The Mode dial with two useful buttons beside it: face detection and dual IS.

You won't find things like ISO, image size, or color options in the Fujifilm S8000fd's menu system, though. Those are on a different button, the F button, located to the upper right of the navigator. The Playback button (which gets my Heisman trophy) is to the upper left. At the lower left is the Display/Back button and to the lower right is the EV button, which is also used to adjust aperture and shutter speeds in the manual modes.

The top panel hosts the usual suspects: Shutter button with a Zoom ring, the Power slide (which is a little too obvious), and the Mode dial. But there are two additional buttons on top, one to toggle dual image stabilization and the other to toggle face detection and automatic red-eye removal. I really liked having both available on a button so I didn't have to dig through the menu system to find them or remember which focus mode I'd set.

LCD. The EVF provides the same view.

Viewfinders. You can't have an ultra-zoom without an electronic viewfinder. The EVF on the Fujifilm S8000fd shows exactly the same scene as the LCD, a very accurate rendering of what the camera will actually capture. Unlike the Olympus EVF, the Fujifilm S8000fd's EVF does not revert to the LCD for playback. Once you toggle to the EVF, it displays everything in the EVF. I found that view sharp and clear if not quite as pleasing as the LCD. I did have a difficult time adjusting the diopter, which was very stiff, but I appreciated having a diopter adjustment.

The LCD, though, has 230,000 pixels to show off. It was too reflective to use in bright sun but otherwise it did fine. You can increase its brightness by pressing the Up arrow key, but I preferred to put my eye up to the EVF.

Big Glass. Extends about 7/8 inch at wide angle.

Lens. The Fujifilm S8000fd's lens is big glass. It ranges from 27mm to the equivalent of a 486mm 35mm lens. But it also has a good Macro and terrific Super Macro mode that really do pack all the optics you could want into one lens. Add to that 5.1x digital zoom to scope out your scene. Available apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8.0 with 10 steps in 1/3 EV increments.

Optical stabilization is provided by a sensor-shift design in the Fujifilm S8000fd. A gyro-sensor detects the amount of blur and an image stabilization chip calculates how much correction is needed. Based on the result, the CCD is shifted to compensate for camera shake. Digital stabilization uses higher ISO to minimize camera shake. In addition, the Fujifilm S8000fd offers a Picture Stabilization mode (on the Mode dial) to both adjust sensitivity as high as ISO 1,600 and increase shutter speed to minimize subject movement blur.

Fully Extended. It's not called an ultra long zoom for nothing, extending 2 3/8 inches.

A long zoom like this exhibits more distortion than a zoom with a shorter range. There is noticeable barrel distortion at the Fujifilm S8000fd's wide angle setting, and pincushion distortion at telephoto as you can see in our tests shots on the Optics tab. The question is whether that reach is worth it to you. If you shoot groups of people, for example, the wide-angle distortion that smears the faces on the edge of the frame would be unacceptable without some sort of post-processing correction.

You'll also find a good deal of chromatic aberration in this lens, as our test shots show in the corners. It tends to be worse at the edges than it is just inside them. Oddly enough, the Fujifilm S8000fd deviates from the norm here with much better results at wide-angle than at telephoto.

Ultra High ISO. Fujifilm describes the S8000fd's ISO sensitivity as "ultra high." At a reduced image size of four megapixels (which, I hasten to remind, exceeded those old three megapixel wonders of just a few years ago), the Fujifilm S8000fd can reach ISO 6,400. That's a 2,304 x 1,728 pixel image. At the full eight megapixel resolution of the sensor (3,264 x 2,448 pixels), ISO can go as high as 1,600.

Coupled with image stabilization that opens a door to natural light photography that you can't pass through without such magic. The price you pay for good color at the higher ISO is a lack of detail (since the pixels are combined in creating the lower resolution image). The ISO 6,400 shot of Marti is almost an Impressionist painting when viewed at full resolution, although the color is accurate.

But even at ISO 400, there are objectionable color artifacts despite good detail. You can see this particularly around her eyebrows, but it's all through her hair and the shadows on her face. A look at the ISO 100 image shows you what the S8000fd can do in good light. Go to the Exposure tab to see these images.

On the other hand, a peek at my gallery shot of the mask shows rather good results in poor light at ISO 1,600. Color is true and there's good detail with only a little noise, certainly nothing to discourage a good enlargement. Our printed results from our Still Life shot, however, leave a lot to be desired when compared to other long zoom cameras in the same category. Feel free to download both the mask and our high ISO Still Life shots to see if the Fujifilm S8000fd's high ISO settings will be useful for you or not.

ISO 1,600. Sharp detail.

Fortunately, the Fujifilm S8000fd (like many a Fujifilm digicam) features intelligent flash. The twist to intelligent flash is that it includes subject position, camera distance, and scene brightness in calculating the flash power. Coupled with Fujifilm's excellent face detection technology, the flash will properly expose the people in your shots.

That may seem like quite a dilemma (to use flash or rely on high ISO) when you're taking pictures at a birthday party or some other fast moving event. But Fujifilm has a special shooting mode to solve that problem for you, too.

Modes. Fujiflm's shooting modes include some special options like Natural Light and Natural Light with Flash. Before discussing them, though, let's look at the often overlooked manual modes.

The Fujifilm S8000fd is a PASM machine with Programmed Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and full Manual exposure modes. Put simply, that lets you -- not the camera -- decide what kind of a photo you want to take. Programmed Auto lets you select from a range of aperture and shutter speed combinations that deliver the same exposure value so you can emphasize depth of field or stop motion dead in its tracks. Aperture Priority lets you fine-tune depth of field while leaving shutter speed up to the camera. Shutter Priority lets you set the shutter speed to avoid motion blur or stop a waterfall in its droplets. And Manual lets you control both aperture and shutter speed to exposure for the values you want to capture rather than what the camera thinks you want.

The Fujifilm S8000fd provides a range of f-stops from f/2.8 (or f/4.5 at telephoto) to f/8.0 in 1/3 EV increment steps. The shutter speeds range from four seconds to 1/2,000 second. Those are pretty good ranges for a digicam with a small sensor. You often have to step up to a dSLR to beat that. And the Fujifilm S8000fd takes full advantage of them in its Natural Light mode, bumping up the ISO to capture images you would usually need flash to record. But what about situations in which you aren't sure which would be better, natural light or flash?

Sunset Scene mode. Better than my Programmed Auto capture.

The Fujifilm S8000fd's Natural Light with Flash mode takes two shots, one without flash in natural light and the other with the flash. They fire very rapidly, so the shots are just a fraction of a second apart. Shooting the natural light shot first won't disturb your subject either. It's another great idea from Fujifilm that deserves to be imitated.

The Fujifilm S8000fd's low light focusing without the AF assist light tested better than most digicams, too.

Scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Museum, Party, Flower, Text, and Auction. But there are two Scene mode positions on the Mode dial: SP1 and SP2. The Fujifilm S8000fd actually lets you assign a particular Scene mode as the default at each position. You can set SP1 to default to Museum, say, and SP2 to default to Party (depending on your lifestyle). A press of the Menu button gives you access to any of the Scene modes not assigned to the other position, so you don't lose anything either. Just one of those little touches that makes shooting with the Fujifilm S8000fd such a pleasure.

Bottom. Hard to latch the door.

Card Compartment. Delicate little latch and an odd angle for insertion.

I relied on Sunset mode for a recent sunset and it beat my Programmed Auto shot without breaking a sweat. The color was truer and there was no camera blur from too slow a shutter speed.

Storage and Battery. You can use either xD or less expensive SD cards in the same slot on the Fujifilm S8000fd. The slot is somewhat angled into the body. I had a hard time inserting a card at all until I realized it had to go in at an angle. After that it was just a nuisance, but I managed. The angle is the inconvenient one: you are pushing toward the back of the camera from inside the door rather than pushing toward the front of the camera with the door out of your way.

The lab reports that there wasn't any real difference in the speed of the camera using either type of card. Fujifilm claims xD cards will hold a few more images than similarly sized SD cards, but SD cards are less expensive.

Mulitmedia cards are not supported, however. Nor are mini or micro SD cards in SD adapters, which have additional electrical contacts on the back that may cause the camera to malfunction, according to Fujifilm.

I used both xD and SD cards in the camera without detecting any difference in performance.

A 1GB xD card holds about 261 3,264 x 2,448 pixel images with Fine compression, according to the company, while a 1GB SD card holds 252. At 640 x 480 and 30 frames per second, you can record 18.7 minutes of video on the xD card and 18.1 minutes on the SD card. No zooming in Movie mode, though.

Click to view movie. AVI player required.

Good Quality Movie. A 3.7MB file lasting four seconds. Zoom was disabled. (Click to download AVI file.)

Powering all that fun are four AA batteries. Fujifilm publishes CIPA figures for both alkaline and NiMH batteries. Single-use alkalines deliver about 350 images whether you use the LCD or the EVF. With rechargeable NiMHs, that number goes up to 500 images, although NiMHs do vary in capacity.

Performance. Where it counts, the Fujifilm S8000fd performed very well, scoring above-average marks for pre-focus lag. I find it impossible to compose images or track subjects without half pressing the Shutter button, so the 0.018 second pre-focus lag is really sweet to me.

Combined wide-angle/telephoto focus lag was only average at 0.905 second, with telephoto taking a tad longer as expected.

Startup was average at 4.2 seconds but shutdown was above average at 2.5 seconds. What with fiddling with the lens cover, startup isn't going to be quick anyway, so I don't weigh these scores very heavily.

Cycle time was below average, although you have some options like high-speed burst modes on the Fujifilm S8000fd if you're willing to accept smaller image sizes.

Flash cycling time was average at 7.4 seconds, a price I'd pay for a powerful flash. But USB download time was 673.8Kb/s, throttled by the slower USB port on the Fujifilm S8000fd (USB 2.0 Full Speed actually means just a little faster than USB 1.1; USB 2.0 High Speed is preferred). I used a card reader to move my images to a computer. For more on the performance numbers for the Fujifilm S8000fd, see the Performance tab.

Appraisal. Fujfilm has added a lot of value to the basic 18x, 8.0 megapixel, image stabilized ultra long zoom. Value for photographers, I should point out. I appreciated the two default Scene mode options on the Mode dial, the Natural Light and Natural Light with Flash options, the very quick pre-focus shutter lag, and the comfortable grip. I wasn't too happy about the stiffness of the control buttons or the menu system, but that's small stuff. Printed results were not as good as we expected, however, with quality falling off too rapidly as ISO went up. ISO 64 produced a good 11x14-inch print, but it got softer very quickly from there, really stopping at ISO 400 in terms of acceptable quality. Since long zoom digital cameras seldom get away with sticking to low ISOs, it's a heavy strike against the Fujifilm S8000fd, especially considering the print quality we've come to expect from Fujifilm cameras.

 

Basic Features

 

Special Features

 

In the Box

The Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd ships with the following items in the box:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Powerful 18x optical zoom with 5.1x digital zoom
  • Optical image stabilization with digital image stabilization, too
  • 8.0 megapixel sensor
  • Fast Fujifilm face detection technology also sets exposure and flash
  • High resolution 2.5-inch LCD
  • Sharp, clear electronic viewfinder
  • Natural Light and Natural Light with Flash shooting modes
  • Two Scene mode options on the Mode dial with user-settable defaults
  • Excellent pre-focus shutter lag
  • Excellent Super Macro mode
  • Excellent low light focusing without assist lamp
  • Very good battery life from AA batteries
  • High distortion and chromatic aberration (Somewhat typical of the long-zoom class, but still higher than average)
  • Corners are soft at telephoto
  • Noisy above ISO 400, blurred by heavy noise reduction
  • No RAW mode
  • A little too much chrome and silver (A matter of personal taste)
  • Stiff control buttons
  • Wobbly battery compartment door is hard to close
  • MMC cards are not supported (a minor point, few are sold these days)
  • High-speed burst modes record only reduced resolution images
  • Auto white balance indoors was warm and pinkish
  • Printed results at mid to high ISOs were poor, with oversaturated color and little detail

 

Like the Olympus SP-560 UZ and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, the Fujifilm S8000fd is an ultra-long zoom with an 18x optical zoom range and an 8.0-megapixel sensor. But Fujfilm has added a lot of value to the ultra long zoom with the S8000fd. I particularly liked the two default Scene mode options on the Mode dial, the Natural Light and Natural Light with Flash options, the very quick pre-focus shutter lag and the comfortable grip. I even liked the way the company designed the lens cap for the S8000fd.

I wasn't too happy about the stiffness of the control buttons or the menu system, but that's inconsequential. The Fujifilm S8000fd was a pleasure to shoot with. And that's not easy for an ultra long zoom to do. Unfortunately, the printed results from the Fujifilm S8000fd were disappointing above ISO 400, and really not that great at 400, so we can't give this digital camera the ringing endorsement we'd hoped. If you can remain content not shooting above ISO 800, and ignore the camera's ISO 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400 the Fujifilm S8000fd is a pretty good long zoom digital camera. But if high ISO is important to you, look at the cameras we've tested below that deliver better low light performance. So while we think the Fujifilm S8000fd is a pretty good camera for daylight shooting, with a great zoom and cool features, it just misses a Dave's Pick due to its high ISO performance.