Fujifilm A500 Review

 
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Fuji A500 Exposure

 

 

 

Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slight oversaturation in strong reds and blues, plus a tendency toward slightly warm overall color. Still, generally good results overall.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Fujifilm FinePix A500 does oversaturate strong red and blue tones somewhat, though overall results are still within acceptable limits, and greens and yellows have neutral saturation that may lead some consumers to view them as a little dull. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the A500 does produce slightly warm skin tones, but most consumers are likely to find this modest oversaturation appealing.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Like most digicams, the A500 shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors, but it slightly shifts a greater range of blues and purples than do most cameras we test. That said, overall hue accuracy is better than average.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm casts with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. Less exposure compensation required than usual.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +0.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was pretty reddish in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting resulted in a more yellow color balance that looked a bit more pleasing overall. The Fujifilm FinePix A500 only required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost in the Incandescent white balance setting, though the Auto setting required a +1.0 EV boost. (The highlights on Marti's shirt are a bit bright, but overall exposure looks good.) Overall color is a little dark and yellow here, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Slightly warm overall color, though still pleasing. Contrast is a little high, but exposure accuracy is about average.

Auto White Balance, +0.7 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed pretty accurate exposure, though with a tendency toward hot highlights. Although contrast was a bit high, the shadows still held onto a fair amount of detail. Overall exposure accuracy was about average, though in some cases the camera required less positive exposure compensation than normal. Overall color was generally good, though a hint warm.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,150 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,150 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,600. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,150 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,150 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images overall, though some oversharpening from the camera in high contrast subjects.

Pretty good definition of high-contrast elements. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Fujifilm FinePix A500's images are reasonably sharp overall, though finer details such as the tree leaves and pine needles as seen above are slightly soft. This could in part be cause by the slightly heavy-handed edge enhancement on the camera's part in high contrast areas, such as along the edges of the house trim above and in the branches against the sky. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop of Marti's hair above shows slight noise suppression in the shadows, but detail is still quite strong in the individual strands of hair, and the effect of noise suppression is minimal at the lowest ISO setting.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, higher noise that blurs detail at the highest setting.

ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

The Fujifilm FinePix A500's 100 and 200 ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with only moderate blurring of detail in the low-contrast areas. At ISO 400, the noise level is higher, and the anti-noise processing blurs fine detail quite a bit.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast loses highlight detail. Average low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 had just a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing high contrast with hot highlights and deep shadows. That said, the shadow areas do hold onto a fair amount of detail. Exposure looked best at +0.7 EV, which is slightly less than average, as skin tones and overall exposure became much to hot at +1.0 EV. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
Click to see A500LL1003.JPG
1.2 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL1004.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
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2 sec
f3.3
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2 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL1007.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
ISO
200
Click to see A500LL2003.JPG
1/1 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL2004.JPG
1 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL2005.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL2006.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL2007.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
ISO
400
Click to see A500LL4003.JPG
1/3 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL4004.JPG
1/1 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL4005.JPG
1.4 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL4006.JPG
2 sec
f3.3
Click to see A500LL4007.JPG
2 sec
f3.3

 

Low light:
The Fujifilm FinePix A500 performed fairly well in low-lighting, but was only able to produce bright exposures down to about 1/2 foot-candle at ISO 100. At ISO 400, images were bright to about 1/4 foot-candle, which is about 1/4 as bright as average city street lighting at night. Color balance was slightly reddish with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked down to just under the 1/4 foot-candle light level unassisted. Keep in mind that the longer shutter times demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A limited flash range and a tendency toward underexposure. The camera's exposure compensation adjustment has no effect on flash exposures.

38mm equivalent 114mm equivalent
Normal Flash, Default Exposure Slow-Sync Flash, +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, as well as at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the A500 underexposed our subject at its default setting, and the camera's exposure compensation adjustment had no effect on the overall brightness of the exposure. The dim exposure also has a moderately strong pink cast. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though here again, the exposure compensation adjustment had very little effect on the exposure. The shot above was taken at +1.3 EV, with very little difference from the default exposure.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see A500FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL07W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL08W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL09W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL10W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see A500FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.3
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see A500FL06T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL07T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL08T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL09T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL10T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see A500FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100
Click to see A500FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f5.5
ISO 100

At distances out to about 9 feet, the A500 produced good flash exposures with its lens at the widest angle setting. At telephoto though, the flash was a little dim, even at the 6 foot distance of our closest test.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see A500FL_MFR102WAXXXX.JPG
10.2 feet
Auto ISO
(ISO unknown)
Click to see A500FL_MFR065TAXXXX.JPG
6.5 feet
Auto ISO
(ISO unknown)

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the Fuji A500 underexposed slightly at the officially rated distances, despite a modest ISO boost of unknown magnitude. Somewhat disappointing flash performance, even for a compact camera model

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, sharp 8x10 inch prints. ISO 400 images are very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

In the case of the Fujifilm A500, we found that it had enough resolution to make very crisp 8x10 inch prints, but 11x14 prints looked a little soft. At ISO 400, noise is surprisingly low, even at 8x10 inches, but detail suffers markedly, with 8x10s looking quite soft. The same ISO 400 images printed at 5x7 inches look pretty good though, and they're fine by any standard as 4x6 inch snapshots.

Color from the Fuji A500 was quite appealing. While the laboratory results showed neutrally-saturated greens, we found foliage colors in our images to be very bright and vibrant. Excellent color overall. (Apart from the camera's difficulty in dealing with incandescent lighting.)

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Fujifilm FinePix A500 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Fujifilm FinePix A500 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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