Fuji S8400W Preview
by Mike Tomkins
The SLR-like Fujifilm FinePix S8400W bests its interchangeable-lens rivals in one key area: bulk. When you consider the selection of lenses you'd need on hand to match its whopping 44x optical zoom lens, it's clear you'd have to pack an array of bulky lenses to cover the same range. The Fuji S8400W, then, is a camera for somebody who wants to travel light, but doesn't want to risk missing the shot because they had to frame with their feet. It also packs faster-than-average autofocus, and built-in wireless networking connectivity.
The big story, though, is that Fujinon-branded lens. It's not the longest zoom that Fuji has ever offered; that honor goes to the SL1000's 50x zoom. It's close, though, with a 44x zoom range covering everything from 24mm to 1,056mm equivalents. Maximum aperture varies from f/2.9 to f/6.5 across the zoom range. And there is, of course, optical image stabilization included. A lens like this simply wouldn't be usable towards the telephoto end of the range without proper stabilization, so its presence is more than welcome. The lens formula consists of 17 elements in 12 groups, including aspheric and extra-low dispersion elements, and you can focus to just 0.39 inches.
Behind the lens sits a new 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor with a resolution of 16 megapixels. It's a backside-illuminated design, meaning that some circuitry is moved to the rear (non-light gathering) side of the sensor, freeing up space for more light to be captured. That translates both to better sensitivity, and improved signal to noise rations versus a standard chip. Fuji rates the S8400W as good for sensitivities up go ISO 12,800 equivalent.
Performance is fairly swift, too. Not up to DSLR levels, by any means, but nowhere near as sluggish as many compacts and even some SLRs can be. All times thus far are manufacturer rated, as we've not yet had an opportunity to put the S8400W through our lab. Fuji rates startup time as around one second, autofocus at 0.3 seconds, and shot-to-shot times withough burst shooting at around 0.5 seconds. Continuous full-res shooting is possible at up to 10 frames per second for a full second, helping make sure even fleeting moments are captured for posterity. Willing to sacrifice some resolution? If so, you can improve performance still further, with rates of 60 fps at 1,280x 960 pixels, and a whopping 120 fps at VGA (640 x 480).
Images and movies can be framed either on a 3.0-inch LCD panel, or a small electronic viewfinder, a relatively rare feature these days, even among long-zoom cameras. The LCD has 460,000 dot resolution, while the EVF is a relatively modest 201,000 dots.
Among its creative options, the Fujifilm S8400W has the full complement of Program, Aperture- or Shutter-priority, and Manual shooting modes, and six digital filter effects (pop color, toy camera, miniature, partial color, cross screen, and soft focus). There are two options related to zoom that are less common: instant zoom, and zoom bracketing. The FinePix S8400W can also shoot video at up to sixty interlaced fields per second with 1080i (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution. Rates as fast as 480 fps are possible at an unspecified, reduced resolution. Movies include stereo sound.
Built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking functionality can communicate either with iOS or Android phones and tablets using a free Fujifilm Camera Application, or with PCs via a home router using Fujifilm PC AutoSave software. The Android / iOS app allows review and transfer of images and movies; up to 30 images can be transferred in a single operation. The PC app, meanwhile, backs up everything on your camera whenever it's connected to the wireless network.
Power comes from four standard AA batteries, and Fuji rates the S8400 as good for 300 shots on a charge with a set of alkaline disposables. No information on storage or other connectivity was available at press time.
The Fuji FinePix S8400 will be available in the US market from May 2013, priced at US$350 or thereabouts.