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Fuji FinePix E500 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
10/27/04
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot, Full Manual Control
Picture Quality
Good, 4.1-megapixel
Print Sizes
Good, 11x14 or 8x10 with some cropping
Availability
August, 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$ 249.95


Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
The Fuji FinePix E500 is one of the latest digital cameras made by Fujifilm, being essentially a slightly trimmed-down version of their (excellent) E550 model. The biggest differences between the two models is that the Fuji E500 sports a 4.1 megapixel conventional CCD, while the E550 is built around a 6.3 megapixel Super CCD HR chip, and the Fuji E500 has a 3.2x zoom lens, vs the 4x lens on the E550. Other advantages of the E550 model include automatic exposure bracketing and continuous-shooting modes. That said, the Fuji E500 offers a nice assortment of features, good resolution, a sharp 3.2x optical zoom lens, and good-looking photos, all at an attractive price. Read on for all the details on the Fuji FinePix E500!

NOTE: If you've already read my review of the Fuji FinePix E550, you'll be able to skip much of this review of the E500, as the two cameras have rather similar features. Here's a brief list of ways in which the E500 is scaled down from the higher-end E550 model:

  • Lower resolution (4.1 vs 6.3 megapixels)
  • Shorter zoom lens (3.2x vs 4x)
  • No automatic exposure bracketing
  • No averaging metering mode
  • No custom white balance option
  • No continuous-shooting mode
  • No variable autofocus
  • No RAW file format support
  • Reduced movie mode resolution and frame rate (320 x 240 and 160 x 120 at 10 frames/seecond, vs 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at 30 fps.)
  • NiMH batteries and charger not included

If you've already read the E550 review, you can save yourself some time by visiting the E500's sample-pictures page, or skip down to the Test Results section below.


Camera Overview

More than just a basic "point & shoot" camera, the Fuji FinePix E500 offers the best of both worlds in terms of exposure control. Automatic and "Scene" modes simplify operation for point-and-shoot users, while a range of exposure options including a full manual exposure mode provide enough control to satisfy even experienced photo enthusiasts. Small, compact, and light weight, the E500 is based on a 4.1 megapixel CCD, which produces file sizes as large as 2304 x 1728 pixels.

While the handgrip makes the camera's dimensions a little tight for most shirt pockets, this camera is still quite compact at 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (101 x 60.5 x 32.6 millimeters). The hybrid metal/plastic body is surprisingly light at 8.2 ounces (232 grams), with the batteries and memory card loaded. The 3.2x telescoping lens and built-in lens cover keep theE500's front panel fairly smooth when not in use, allowing the camera to slip into a pocket or purse without a hang-up.

The Fuji E500 features a 3.2x Fujinon lens, equivalent to a 28-91mm lens on a 35mm camera, offering better wide angle capability than most digicams, but at the cost of slightly lesser telephoto performance. Aperture can be automatically or manually adjusted from f/2.9 to f/8, with the maximum aperture gradually reduced to f/5.5 as it zooms to the full telephoto zoom setting. Focus can also be manually or automatically adjusted, and ranges from 2.0 feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, or from 2.6 inches to 2.6 feet (6.7 to 80 centimeters) using the camera's Macro setting. A Super Macro mode takes you as close as 1.0 to 5.9 inches (2.6 to 15 cm) The E500 employs a TTL contrast-detection autofocus mechanism, and offers a manual focus option via its Record menu. After selecting MF (Manual Focus) mode, you can adjust focus with the zoom toggle control, while holding down the +/- button to the left of the LCD display. The view on the LCD display shows you the results of your focus adjustments, but there's no magnification available, so it can be pretty hard to tell when you've achieved accurate focus. There's also no numeric distance scale, so setting focus in less than ideal lighting can be particularly challenging. The FinePix E500's autofocus system works very well in daylight or bright indoor lighting, but does poorly after dark, just barely managing to focus at light levels equivalent to typical city street lighting.

In addition to the 3.2x optical zoom, the E500 offers as much as 3.6x digital zoom, depending on the image Quality setting, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it just crops out the center pixels of the CCD's image. For framing shots, the E500 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 2.0-inch color LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder is a little "tighter" than most, showing only about 79-85% of the final frame area, depending on the lens' zoom setting. The LCD viewfinder is much more accurate, showing 96-98% of the final image area. The optical viewfinder has a rather low eyepoint, which means that eyeglass wearers can just barely see the entire viewfinder image, even with their lenses pressed against the viewfinder bezel. There's also no dioptric adjustment on the viewfinder eyepiece to compensate for less than perfect vision. An information overlay reports camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) on the LCD monitor, and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.

The E500 offers a full range of exposure control, with Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes available via the Mode dial, along with Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene options. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for options like zoom, macro, and some flash settings. (There is no "forced off" flash mode, but if you don't want to use the flash, just don't pop it open.) Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, while the user retains control over all other variables, including exposure compensation. Within Program AE mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, simply by pressing the up and down arrow keys. (This is handy for controlling depth of field or shutter speed, while allowing the camera's automatic exposure system to do most of the thinking.) Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide user control over one exposure variable, while the camera maintains control over the other. Finally, Manual exposure mode lets you control both aperture and shutter speed independently. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to two seconds, depending on exposure mode. Metering options on the E500 include the default 64-zone Multi mode, which bases exposure on contrast and brightness values read from the entire scene, as well as a Spot option for basing exposure on just the portion of the subject lying in the very center of the frame. The camera's Exposure Compensation setting lets you increase or decrease the automatically-determined exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings. The E500 also features an adjustable light sensitivity setting, with Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400 ISO values available. The Auto option actually ranges from 80 to 320 equivalents. The settings menu also offers adjustments for color and image sharpness.

The E500's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, Slow-Synchro, and Slow-Synchro with Red-Eye Reduction modes. The Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a pre-flash a fraction of a second before the exposure itself, to make the irises of your subjects' eyes contract, avoiding the red-eye effect. Slow-Synchro combines the flash with slower shutter speeds, to allow more of the ambient lighting into your exposure. (Slow-Synchro is handy for getting more natural-looking flash photos at night, with more of the background visible.) An intensity adjustment lets you adjust the strength of the flash output, from -2/3 to +2/3 EV, in one-third-step increments. The flash doesn't pop up and fire automatically, even in Auto mode, but the LCD screen shows an Open Flash/"shake" warning when the indicated shutter speed falls below 1/60 second, giving the user the option of opening the flash or firing away without it. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the time that the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. (The shorter delay is handy for times when you want to use a tripod or prop the camera on something when shooting under dim conditions, to avoid blurred photos caused by camera shake.) The E500 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies with sound at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120-pixel resolutions, both at 10 frames per second. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space. A Voice option in Playback mode lets you record audio clips up to 30 seconds in length to accompany captured images.

The E500 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. I have to say, I would much prefer for FujiFilm to reduce the cost of the camera by $10 and include no card at all rather than cripple the user with such a tiny card. At the E500's maximum resolution and image quality setting, you can only fit about 8 images on the included card. So it goes without saying that before you leave the camera store or click on the checkout button, you'll want to add at least a 64MB xD card to the mix. For power, the E500 uses a pair of alkaline or NiMH AA batteries. (A pair of alkaline cells is packed with the camera.) Battery life was on the low side of average, with a worst-case run time (capture mode with the LCD turned on) of 93 minutes with "standard" 1600 mAh batteries. (See my Battery Shootout page for battery capacity ratings.) Also included with the camera is a USB cable for direct connection to a PC or Macintosh computer, and a software CD loaded with Fuji's FinePix software. Installation of software is not required on most Macs or PCs, however, because the camera supports PTP mode, which allows the camera to appear on the computer as a hard drive. An A/V cable connects the camera to a television set for reviewing images in Playback mode.

Basic Features

  • 4.1-megapixel sensor chip, delivering image resolutions as high as 2304 x 1728 pixels.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 2.0-inch color, low temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor.
  • 3.2x Fujinon 28-91mm zoom lens, with f/2.8 maximum aperture.
  • Auto and Manual focus options, plus an adjustable AF area.
  • Digital zoom of up to 3.6x, depending on quality setting.
  • Program AE, Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Movie, and four Scene Program exposure modes.
  • Adjustable white balance with eight settings, including a manual option.
  • Adjustable ISO setting with Auto (80 to 320), 80, 100, 200, and 400 equivalents.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to two seconds.
  • Multi, and Spot metering modes.
  • Built-in flash with six modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
  • Power supplied by two alkaline AA cells (included) or NiMH rechargeables (not included).
  • Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
  • Picture Cradle adapter included for optional cradle for connecting to a computer and for in-camera battery charging.

Special Features

  • Movie (with sound) and Voice recording modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer mode for delayed shutter release.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • Video cable for image playback on a television set.


Recommendation
Light weight, portable, and easy to use, the Fuji's FinePix E500 is an good point-and-shoot digicam for novices just getting their feet wet in digital photography, but one with enough manual control to give more advanced users a few more options. With exposure modes ranging from full Auto to full Manual, the E500 is easy to use, yet offers room to grow as users photography skills mature. Four preset Scene modes simplify common shooting situations, and a handful of image adjustment options provide some creativity. The camera's simple, straightforward user interface means little or no downtime for learning, and makes the E500 good for shooting on the fly. With an attractive price for a "middle of the road" 4.1 megapixel/3.2x zoom digicam, the Fuji E500 offers good value in an "all around" digital camera.

 

Design

Measuring 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (101 x 60.5 x 32.6 millimeters), the E500's body is small enough for most coat pockets and should fit easily into most purses. The smooth camera front and rounded hand grip make pocket retrieval hassle-free, and the sleek, silver metal and plastic body is attractive, fashionable, and rugged. Though compact, the E500 fits the hand well, and the plastic handgrip on the right side provides some grip. The included wrist strap provides some extra security. The Fuji E500 weighs in at 8.2 ounces (232 grams), with the batteries and memory card loaded.

The E500's metal front panel is nearly flat with the lens retracted, except for the rounded handgrip, which extends about half an inch. Turning the camera on extends the lens about three quarters of an inch from the camera body. A shutter-like lens cover protects the front of the lens when closed, and quickly retracts when the camera is powered on. Near the top of the front panel are the viewfinder window, the flash control sensor and a microphone. Below the lens on the left is a release button for the lens bezel. Removing it allows attachment of an adapter for filters or accessory wide or telephoto lenses. A self-timer lamp is embedded in the plastic handgrip, and the popup flash is visible near the center when opened.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera features a speaker and three ports: an AV out socket, a USB connection, and a DC In connector. The three connectors can be protected by a single plastic cover, which is not attached to the camera. Fuji provides a second cover with the camera, apparently on the safe assumption that the small, flexible cover is bound to be lost. (As is the second cover, for that matter. Note to Fuji: Protective flaps of this sort really need to be attached to the camera body!)

On the E500's top panel are the Shutter button, Mode dial, Power button and popup flash. The flash is released by a button that can be seen from both the top and back.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece with viewfinder lamp. The exposure compensation button is to the left of the LCD monitor, and the Flash open button is above it, to the right of the eyepiece. The zoom rocker is just below the mode dial on the right. Down the right side is a raised lip that provides a secure thumb rest to counter the front handgrip. The mode switch (record/playback) is below the zoom control. A Five-way arrow pad next to the lower right corner controls macro and flash modes, and provides navigation controls for the LCD menu system, with a Menu/OK button at its center. In record mode, the left arrow doubles as a Macro button, and the right arrow cycles through Flash settings. Adjacent to the Arrow pad are a Function button to access the Function menu, and a Back/Display button, for backing out of menu screens in playback mode, or displaying an alignment grid/turning off the LCD display in record mode.

The E500's bottom panel is flat, with the threaded plastic tripod socket roughly centered, but slightly out of line with the lens. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. The distance between the battery compartment and tripod mount is too short to allow quick battery or card changes while shooting with a tripod. A supplied Cradle Adapter can be used with an optional Picture Cradle to provide instant connection to a computer, as well as in-camera battery charging. A connector terminal inside the dock connects to the camera's USB/AV Out terminal, so the camera sits on-end in the cradle.

 

Camera Operation

Although the E500 offers a varied range of exposure control modes and a pretty good feature set, its user interface is pretty straightforward. The Power control is a simple on/off switch, and the Mode Switch sets to either record or playback. The Mode Dial rotates to five standard exposure control settings, a Movie mode, and four preset scene modes. Exposure Compensation can be controlled without using the menus. Instead, you hold down the Exposure Compensation ("+/-") button and make adjustments in 1/3 stop intervals (up to +/- two stops) by using the left/right arrows on the Arrow Pad. The Function button accesses a simplified menu for quickly adjusting Quality (image size), ISO equivalent, and Color (choices are Standard, B&W, and a Chrome setting for vivid color and contrast). Menus are accessed through the Menu/OK button. When you need to access these menus, screens are short and sweet, and require little navigation. Users familiar with typical digicam features and nomenclature should be able to operate the camera straight out of the box, referring to the manual only for more specific details. Even novice users should need less than an hour of studying the manual and playing with the camera to become familiar with its main features.

Record Mode LCD Screens
In Record mode, the E500's LCD monitor reports the basic exposure settings, as well as other exposure settings such as flash mode, focus mode, etc. The number of images available and resolution also appear. Pressing the Display button enables an alignment grid, turns the information overlay off, or disables the LCD display altogether.

Playback Mode LCD Screens
In Playback mode, the information display includes the image number and date of capture, but this information disappears after a few seconds. The Display button enables an index display mode as well, for seeing quickly what images are on the memory card. When in playback mode, the zoom toggle lets you zoom in on the image to check small details.

External Controls


Shutter Button
: Located on the camera's top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power Button
: Between the Shutter button and Mode dial, a little left of both, this button turns the camera on and off.


Mode Dial
: In the right rear corner of the camera's top panel, this dial controls the camera's exposure modes, offering the following options:

  • Auto: Puts the camera in control of all basic exposure settings, including aperture and shutter speed. The user has control over zoom, macro mode, and some flash settings.
  • Program AE: The camera maintains control over the aperture and shutter speed, though the user now has control over all other exposure variables, including exposure compensation and the full range of flash settings. Pressing the up and down arrow keys lets the user select between a range of equivalent exposure settings.
  • Shutter Priority: In this mode, the user can adjust the shutter speed from 1/2,000 to two seconds, while the camera controls the aperture setting.
  • Aperture Priority: Here, the user controls the aperture (from f/2.8 to f/8 depending on zoom), while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.
  • Manual: This mode provides the user with total exposure control, including aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels, both at 10 frames/second.
  • Night: This preset night scene mode adjusts ISO to 100 by default, if previously set to Auto, or leaves ISO at whatever value was last set by the user in one of the other modes. (ISO in all Scene modes can be changed by user), favors slow shutter speeds.
  • Sports: Sets ISO as above and favors faster shutter speeds.
  • Landscape: Sets ISO as above and cuts off flash.
  • Portrait: Sets ISO as above and softens sharpness.


Zoom Rocker
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, this rocker controls the 3.2x optical and the up-to-3.6x digital zoom. In Playback mode, these buttons let you zoom in on captured images, for closer viewing.

Mode Switch: Below the zoom rocker is a switch that selects either Record or Playback mode.

Flash Open Button: Opens the pop-up flash. The Flash only pops up when activated by this button, remaining unavailable until it is activated in this fashion. When the indicated shutter speed falls below 1/60 second, an Open Flash warning appears on the LCD panel, warning of the increased chance of a blurry picture due to camera shake. The flash won't pop open automatically though, as on some cameras.

Function Button: Located on the right side of the LCD monitor, this button displays the Function menu when pressed in Record or Playback modes. The following options are available:

Record Mode Function Menu Options

  • Quality: Sets the image resolution to 4M F(fine) (2,304 x 1,728), 4M N(normal) (2,304 x 1,728), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels), or 0.3M (640 x 480 pixels) for still images. In Movie mode, resolution options are 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.
  • ISO: Adjusts the camera's sensitivity to Auto (ISO 80 to 320), 80, 100, 200, 400 equivalents.
  • Color: Adjusts the color to Black and White, Chrome (high saturation and contrast), or Standard.

Playback Mode Function Menu Options

  • DPOF: Accesses the camera's DPOF settings, with options to print the image with or without a date stamp.
  • DPOF All Reset: Resets the DPOF settings to their defaults.


Display/Back Button
: Directly below the Function button near the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD display in Record mode. Pressing the button toggles the image and information display on and off, and activates an alignment grid display for setting up shots. In Playback mode, this button turns the image information display on and off, and activates the index display mode, or turns the LCD of entirely. When navigating the menu system, it backs out of menu screens and options without making any changes.


Five-way Arrow Pad and Menu/OK Button
: In the lower right corner of the back panel, this large rocker button features four arrows for navigating through menu screens and captured images. The central Menu/OK button activates the menu system in any camera mode, and subsequently confirms menu selections. In Record mode, the up and down arrows control exposure parameters: In Program AE, the up/down arrows select from among a range of equivalent exposure settings, while in aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, they control aperture or shutter settings as appropriate. In Manual exposure mode, the up/down keys normally control shutter speed, but switch to controlling the lens aperture when the +/- button is held down. The left arrow turns Macro mode on or off in all non-Scene exposure modes, while the right arrow controls the flash mode when the flash is open. In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images. All four arrow keys pan the enlarged view when you've zoomed in on an image in Playback mode, using the Zoom Toggle.


Exposure Compensation Button
: To the left of the LCD screen, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments when held down while pressing the right and left arrow keys. In Manual mode, however, this button adjusts the aperture setting instead.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked with a red camera icon on the Power/Mode switch, this mode allows the camera to capture images. Exposure modes include Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Night, Sports, Landscape, and Portrait. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options (not all options are available in all modes):

  • Self-Timer: Activates the 10-second Self-Timer, or turns it off.
  • Photometry: Metering can be set to Average, Spot, or Multi (Pattern).
  • White Balance: Sets the white balance to Auto, Custom (manual setting), Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, or Incandescent.
  • Focusing: Controls the focusing mode. Options are MF (Manual Focus) and AF (Auto Focus).
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening to Hard, Normal, or Soft.
  • Flash Exposure Compensation: Adjusts the flash power from -2/3 to +2/3 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Option (SET): Allows user to change LCD Brightness or activate Setup Menu (see below).
  • Flash Brightness: Adjusts the flash power from -2/3 to +2/3 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.


  • Setup Menu: Adjusts the LCD brightness, and offers the following setup menu options:

    • Image Display: Turns the post-capture image review screen on or off. If set to Preview, this function lets you delete the just-captured photo before it is recorded.
    • Power Save: Turns the power save option off, or sets it to shut down the camera after two or five minutes of inactivity.
    • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, which erases all files, regardless of whether they've been "protected" via the Playback menu.
    • LCD: Turns the LCD monitor on or off. If on, the LCD monitor automatically comes on whenever the Power/Mode switch is set to the Record position. If off, you must enable the display via the Display button.

    • Beep: Controls the volume for the camera's operating sounds.
    • Shutter: Adjusts the volume of the shutter noise.
    • Date & Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
    • Time Difference: Allows a second date/time setting for another time zone.

    • Frame Number: Renews frame numbering with each new memory card, or continues numbering from card to card.
    • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to Printer (Direct), DSC (Storage device), or PC Cam (allows the E500 to be used as a webcam).
    • Start-Image: When enabled, displays a "FinePix" welcome screen when the camera is powered up.
    • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese.

    • Video System: Sets the video output signal timing to match either the NTSC or PAL standard. (NTSC for the US and Japan, PAL for Europe.)
    • Discharge: Lets you fully discharge NiMH batteries to avoid reduced capacity due to the "memory" effect.
    • Reset All: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: The traditional green playback symbol marks this mode on the Power/Mode switch. Here, you can review captured images and movies, as well as manage files and set up images for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Erase: Deletes the current frame or all frames.
  • Protect: Write-protects the displayed image, preventing it from being accidentally erased or manipulated (except via card formatting). Removes protection if the image is already protected, and offers options to protect or unprotect all images on the card.
  • Playback: Enables an automated slideshow of captured images on the memory card, with options for either diagonal wipe or full-frame transitions, and short or long intervals between images.
  • Voice Memo: Lets you record a short audio clip to accompany a captured image, with a maximum duration of 30 seconds.
  • Trimming: Lets you zoom in to part of an image and trim away the remainder. The result is saved as a new image on the memory card, leaving the original undisturbed.
  • Option (SET): Lets you change LCD brightness, adjust the memo Volume, or access the Setup Menu.

 

In the Box

In the box with the E500 digital camera are the following items:

  • Adapter for Picture Cradle camera dock.
  • 16 MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Alkaline AA batteries (2).
  • Extra port cover.
  • Wrist strap.
  • USB cable.
  • Software CD-ROM.
  • A/V cable.
  • Instruction manual, Quick Start guide, and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories



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. I 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 surprising number 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 digicam 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...

 

Test Images

See my standardized test photos and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy


"Gallery" Photos

For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the FujiFilm FinePix E500, we've put together a "photo gallery" of more pictorial shots captured with the E500.

 

Specifications

See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details

Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the FinePix E500's "pictures" page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the E500 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!

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the E500's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Good color, a tendency toward slightly warm color balances, and some oversaturation of warmer colors. The E500 tended to produce slightly warm-toned images on many of my standard test shots, but the effect was probably within the range of what most consumers would tolerate, if they notice it at all. Color was good and mostly accurate, although it tended to oversaturate warm hues somewhat. Skin tones were a little on the orange side, but still within a range that most people would consider healthy-looking. While it left a little more color cast in the images than I'd personally prefer, the E500's automatic white balance system did a better than average job with the difficult household incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait test.

  • Exposure: Average exposure accuracy, limited dynamic range. The E500's exposure system performed well, requiring roughly average amounts of exposure compensation on those shots that normally require it. Its images tend toward the contrasty side though, causing it to lose detail in strong highlights under harsh lighting, even when midtone exposure levels are on the dark side. In more moderate lighting though, it produces the sort of bright, snappy-looking images that most consumers seem to prefer. On a positive note, it did a bit better than average, in terms of holding detail in deep shadows.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,100 lines of "strong detail." The E500 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines, although you could perhaps argue for as high as 1,200 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 lines. Overall, its resolution and sharpness were pretty typical for a 4-megapixel digicam.

  • Image Noise: Generally good noise levels, and a good job of balancing image noise against subtle shadow detail. Image noise was generally low on the E500, increasing to only moderate levels at ISO 200. At ISO 400, while the noise level was high, the grain pattern was fine and tight. To its credit, the E500 doesn't trade away too much detail in its effort to suppress image noise, something other digicam makers would do well to emulate.

  • Closeups: Excellent macro performance, with a lot of fine detail and a tiny macro area in Super mode. Flash is partially blocked by the lens at closest focal distances though. The E500 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.26 x 1.70 inches (57 x 43 millimeters) at the standard macro setting, and only 1.09 x 0.81 inches (28 x 21 millimeters) at the Super Macro setting. Resolution was very high, and the dollar bill showed a lot of fine detail in both shots. The coins and brooch also showed strong detail in the wider shot, with good definition. However, in both macro shots, details softened significantly toward the corners of the frame, a common failing of digicam macro modes. The E500's flash was partially blocked by the camera's lens, producing a strong shadow in the lower portion of the frame. (Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the E500.)

  • Night Shots: Very limited low-light shooting capabilities, not even enough for average city street lighting at night. Poor low-light autofocus as well. The E500 produced clear, bright, usable images only down to the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level, and even then only at the 400 ISO setting. At ISO 200, the target was fairly bright at the one foot-candle light level, but still a little dim for use. At ISOs 80 and 100, the target is very dark, even at one foot-candle. Given that one foot-candle corresponds to typical city street lighting at night, the E500 really isn't usable under typical urban nighttime conditions. The camera's autofocus system also proved to be quite limited, just barely able to achieve focus at light levels a bit above one foot-candle. Color balance is warm with the Auto white balance setting. Image noise is high at ISO 400, but the grain pattern is fine and tight. Overall, if you plan to shoot outdoors at night very often, the E500 isn't the camera for you.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but pretty accurate LCD monitor. The E500's optical viewfinder showed about 85 percent of the final frame area at wide angle, and about 79 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor showed about 98 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 96 percent at telephoto. The optical viewfinder is just a bit less accurate than average, but the LCD does very well.

  • Optical Distortion: Average barrel distortion, and average pincushion as well, but relatively little chromatic aberration, and very good sharpness from corner to corner. Optical distortion on the E500 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, as I measured approximately 0.3 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration was very low at medium and telephoto focal lengths, showing only about two or three pixels of light coloration on either side of the target lines. At wide angle focal lengths the distortion increased slightly, but only to what I'd call a "moderate" level. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The E500's corner-to-corner sharpness was very good all focal lengths, unusual in a consumer-level digicam.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Faster than average shutter lag and cycle times. With a shutter delay ranging from 0.65 - 0.83 second in full autofocus mode, the E500's shutter response is better than average. (Average for this class of camera is a range from 0.8 - 1.0 second, way too slow in my opinion.) When prefocused by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself, it's very fast at 0.08 second. Cycle times are good if not spectacular, at 2.1 seconds, regardless of image size or quality setting. That's not too impressive, but the E500 can maintain that pace until the memory card is full. (That is, there's no buffer memory to fill up, so all shots are equally fast or slow, depending on your perspective.) The E500 has no continuous shooting option.

  • Battery Life: Battery life on the low side of average, but very low-power "sleep" mode. With a worst case run time of 93 minutes in capture mode with the LCD turned on, and running from "standard" 1600 mAh capacity NiMH cells, the E500's battery life isn't terrible, but isn't too impressive either. With the LCD off though, runtime in capture mode stretches to more than five and a half hours, and run time in playback mode is more than four hours. When the camera powers down to "sleep" mode after a period of inactivity though, it can stay on all day with almost no effect on battery capacity. (Note that all of the numbers above are based on 1600 mAh batteries, to facilitate comparison with cameras I've tested in the past. Modern NiMH cells with true (as opposed to advertised) capacities of 2100 mAh would stretch the worst-case run time to more than two hours.) As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger to maintain them. (See my Battery Shootout page for test results from a variety of batteries, and read my review of the Maha C-204W to see why it's my new favorite AA-cell charger.)

 

Conclusion

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The 4 megapixel, 3.2x zoom Fuji FinePix E500 offers a good assortment of features and generally good color in a compact stylish package, all at an attractive price. It's a very workmanlike digicam, and would make a good choice for many situations where novices and slightly more advanced users have to share a camera between them. While a decent enough camera though, the E500's overly high contrast and limited low-light capability made it hard for me to get too excited over it. For roughly the same money, I think the Canon PowerShot A85 offers a better set of features and capabilities, without some of the limitations the E500 shows. If your budget can handle it, for an extra $80 or so at retail, the Fuji FinePix E550 offers much higher resolution, expanded features, and generally broader capabilities. Bottom line: A good enough camera if you can get it for a low price, and certainly nothing to be disappointed in if you receive one as a gift, but you can do better at the same price with some other models on the market, or get much more camera for a relatively modest increase in price with Fuji's own E550 model.

 

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