Fujifilm S100FS Review
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Dimensions:||5.3 x 3.7 x 5.9 in.
(133 x 94 x 150 mm)
|Weight:||35.1 oz (995 g)
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS Overviewby Mike Pasini
Review Date: 07/29/08
The Fujifilm FinePix S100FS is based around a 2/3-inch Super CCD HR VIII image sensor with an 11.1 effective megapixel resolution and Fuji's RP Processor III. The sensor is coupled to a Fujinon-branded f/2.8 to f/5.3, 14.3x optical zoom lens that offers a 35mm-equivalent focal range from 28 to 400mm, and includes both optical image stabilization and a true manual zoom ring (rather than the "fly-by-wire" zooms found on most such digital cameras).
Other Fujifilm S100FS features include a 2.5-inch tilting LCD display, an SD/SDHC/xD-Picture Card combo slot, Fuji's face detection 2.0 with automatic red-eye removal, extended dynamic range control, and ISO from 100 to 3,200 with extensions to ISO 6,400 at 6 megapixels and a very high ISO 10,000 at 3 megapixels. The Fujifilm FinePix S100FS also has the ability to save in RAW format, and offers a selection of film simulation modes.
In addition, the Fujifilm S100FS features:
- Dual Image Stabilization: Fujifilm's Dual Image Stabilization technology combines optical image stabilization with optimized image settings to reduce blur caused by camera movement and subject movement. A mechanically stabilized "floating" lens element reduces blur caused by slow, hand-held shutter speeds. At the same time, Fujifilm's Picture Stabilization technology reduces blur caused by subject movement.
- Multi-Bracketing Function: The S100FS offers expanded bracketing functions including: Film Simulation Bracketing, Dynamic Range Bracketing and AE Bracketing.
- High-Speed Shooting: Reliable high-speed performance is possible with the S100FS through Fujifilm's newly developed Super CCD VIII "HR" and the new image processor RP (Real Photo) III Processor. At 3-Megapixels, a maximum of 50 continuous shots at 7 frames per second is possible. In addition, 14 scene settings and customer settings are available with four auto-focus modes offering high-speed, high-precision shooting and focusing for a diverse range of conditions.
- Movie Mode: The FinePix S100FS offers a Movie mode with sound at 30 fps in VGA quality, and zoom capable with manual zoom ring while in movie mode.
- xD/SD/SD-HC Compatible Slot: The FinePix S100FS features an "xD/SD Compatible Slot" which accepts not only Fujifilm's traditional xD-Picture Cards but also Secure Digital and SDHC cards too.
Fujifilm S100FS User Report
by Mike Pasini
Don't let the price scare you. The Fujifilm FinePix S100FS is the least expensive hybrid you can buy.
The Fujifilm S100FS is not only built like a serious digital SLR, it has a larger sensor than most digicams, a real lens with a manual zoom ring, RAW file capture, and some sophisticated exposure controls beyond aperture and shutter speed.
But the Fujifilm S100FS still retains some of the conveniences and fun of a digicam with Movie mode, Scene modes, a single lens (with digital zoom), and LCD/EVF framing (with a tiltable LCD, too).
The Fujifilm S100FS's lens, with its 14.3x optical zoom and Super Macro focusing to 0.4 inch, is one reason this $800 digicam is a bargain. You'd spend a small fortune duplicating that range in digital SLR glass.
That range makes the Fujifilm S100FS a long zoom, but it gives the impression of being something beyond merely a long zoom digicam. It's a hybrid that avoids many of in the inconveniences and expenses of a digital SLR and many of the shortcomings of a digicam. If you're looking to move up but don't want to pack a separate bag for camera gear, the Fujifilm S100FS might be just what you're looking for.
I fell in love with the lens but there are plenty of other toys to play with on the Fujifilm S100FS.
Look and Feel. Perched on a table, the Fujifilm S100FS could easily be mistaken for a digital SLR. It's actually slightly bigger than a Canon Rebel XSi with the kit lens. And it's built just as well. There's nothing cheap about the body, the buttons, or the dials.
And there are plenty of buttons and dials on the Fujifilm S100FS, just like on a serious digital SLR. I really didn't have to make many trips to the menu system to change settings. There was usually a button to make the change I wanted, whether it was EV, ISO, shutter release, focus mode, or just setting the aperture and shutter speed. The Fujifilm S100FS even has a command dial like a digital SLR, something rarely seen on a digicam).
That digital SLR experience, which in my view is really the optimum photographic user interface, extends to the lens. There's no zoom lever. Instead, you twist the zoom ring on the lens, just as you would with any digital SLR lens. No steps, just a somewhat stiff twist to the perfect composition.
Unlike many digital SLRs, however, you can see the live image in the LCD or the electronic viewfinder. And because the LCD tilts, you can hold the camera at waist level or over your head and still see what the camera sees.
Although the camera is hefty, I never got tired shooting with it. You can't pocket it but you don't have to sling it over your shoulder either. I used a wrist strap and carried it in a holster case.
With the Shutter button free of a Zoom lever, a simple Power switch rings it. So you won't fumble around looking for some small button to power-on the S100FS. Behind it are an ISO button and an EV button (which also displays image info). And behind them is the handy Command dial.
Just to left of that cluster is the Mode dial. It's a thick mode dial, not the coin-thin sort you see on ultracompacts. A full 3/8 inches thick, in fact, so you can easily stretch your thumb over to spin to another mode.
Usually your thumb will rest on the sculptured back panel right next to the Metering ring around the Exposure Lock button. Below that is the EVF/LCD switch and the Playback button. Directly below the Playback button is the four-way navigator with a Menu/OK button. And to the left of that is the Face Detection/Red Eye Removal button. Well below that is the Display/Back button.
Those back panel buttons are arranged rather randomly, but you get used to the layout quickly.
On the left side of the camera are another set of buttons starting with the Shutter Release modes (which include Top 7 high res/Top 3 Raw, Last 50 3-megapixel, Dynamic range bracketing, Film simulation bracketing, Auto exposure bracketing, Last 7 high res/Last 3 Raw, and Long period). The Image Stabilization button is under that and below it is the Focus Modes switch (Continuous or Single autofocus or Manual focus) and a Focus button.
There's a dioptric adjustment on the left side of the EVF, too. And, as noted, the bottom of the LCD flips up for low angles. You can also pull out the top and flip the bottom back in for overhead shots.
The grip is much more comfortable than the small XSi grip, in fact with a nice molded finger slot for your middle finger.
Get your hands on an S100FS and you won't want to put it down. It handles so much like a digital SLR, I kept forgetting to use the LCD to frame my shots, bringing the viewfinder up to my eye.
Lens. The Fujinon multi-coated lens is a new design, optimized for nature photography, according to the company. Its 14.3x optical zoom ranges from 28mm to 400mm with a 2x digital zoom to extend it to 800mm. And optical zoom is all manual, done with a twist of the zoom ring on the lens barrel.
But at wide-angle, it can also get as close as 0.4 inch from your subject in Super Macro mode.
The 10 group and 13 element structure uses a non-spherical surface lens and an anomalous dispersion lens. Fujifilm claims, "The non-spherical surface lens suppresses distortion and the curved surface is ideal for efficient focusing of light onto one point, so it realizes high optical performance with a small number of elements. In addition, the anomalous dispersion lens compensates for chromatic aberration well and reduces color drift and mixing on contours -- a common problem with telephoto lenses."
As Fujifilm notes, with any long zoom lens there are unavoidable optical compromises. At wide-angle, you'll see soft corners and high chromatic aberration. At telephoto you'll still see chromatic aberration and soft corners, just a bit less. This can be corrected in software, but that gets old fast. Still, it's nice to know that you can clean up a great shot with a little post processing.
Barrel distortion was moderate at 0.9 percent and pincushion at telephoto was minimal at 0.1 percent.
Digital zoom was indeed useful, however. And the two Macro modes were really macro not just close-up, providing a tight frame at close quarters.
A sensor in the camera detects any body vibration and activates the lens-shift image stabilization when enabled by the photographer. The mechanism uses a new compensation technology to precisely refract the light to compensate for the vibration. In low light, it can achieve up to three f-stops of compensation.
Sensor & Processor. The Fujifilm S100FS lens was developed with the new Super CCD VIII HR sensor. The 2/3-inch CCD enlarges the receptor area with 11.1 million pixels. Fujifilm claims the octagonal shape of the sensor sites enhances the light collection and light capture efficiency of each photo site.
Noise reduction was another goal of the engineers, who amplified the unprocessed signals before outputting them from the CCD and also improved the amplifier.
The Fujifilm S100FS's new processor uses parallel processing to increase read speed, according to Fujifilm. The unique double noise reduction system separates noise with great accuracy from the input image signals and then meticulously eliminates the noise. This makes it possible to create clear images with extremely low noise for ISO 3,200 images at full resolution, the company claims. ISO 10,000 at 3 megapixel is also available on the Fujifilm S100FS.
Interface. Like a digital SLR, the Fujifilm S100FS provides buttons for the most common functions like ISO, Image Stabilization, and Exposure Compensation, to name the most common.
While I liked the Fujifilm S100FS's buttons, I wasn't thrilled about the menus. For a high resolution LCD, the type was rather low res. But the buttons meant I really didn't have to dig into the menu system very often.
Modes. The Fujifilm S100FS's Mode dial offers a wide range of shooting modes including the standard Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. In those modes, settings are changed by rotating the Command dial. In some cases, I had to half-press the Shutter button to make changes (an odd requirement). And in Manual, you have to press the EV button while turning the Command dial to change the aperture rather than the shutter speed. A little awkward, but not unlike most consumer digital SLRs.
There is also an Auto mode (red rather than green, as it is on most cameras) on the Fujifilm S100FS, which controls everything but image size and high-speed shooting, and the Film Simulation Bracket mode, which will take a series of shots using the three different film simulations.
Two Scene mode settings are available on the Fujifilm S100FS as well. SP1 accesses Nature, Nature Soft, Nature Vivid and Flower Scene modes. SP2 accesses Portrait, Portrait Soft, Baby Mode (no flash), Portrait Enhancer, Night, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Sport, and Fireworks.
Movie mode provides high quality 640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps or a 320 x 240 image at 30 fps, both with sound. Because the Fujifilm S100FS zoom is manual, you can zoom during recording but I found the zoom mechanism too stiff for smooth zooming.
Fujifilm S100FS Special Features
Some of the features on the Fujifilm S100FS truly are special, among them its extended dynamic range and film simulation mode.
Dynamic Range. Fujifilm attributes the extended dynamic range of the Fujifilm FinePix S100FS to the combination of its 2/3-inch 11.1 megapixel Super CCD VIII HR sensor and the new RP (Real Photo) Processor III. Together, they prevent over and under exposure of high contrast subjects, salvaging highlight detail and holding shadow detail.
The model for this, Fujifilm says, is negative film's latitude. Auto mode is always active, but you can enhance this with manual settings of 100, 200, and 400 percent. We took shots of our troublesome hydrant at each setting, which tends to exhibit blown highlights in the white paint (not to mention flare around it) and plugged up shadows in the hedge behind it.
Take a look at the hydrant series in the Gallery. There are four shots which vary the Fujifilm S100FS's dynamic range setting from Auto, 100, 200, and 400 percent. Note how the ISO and shutter speeds vary while the aperture stays at f/8. In Auto, ISO was pegged at 200 for this shot (probably influenced by the dark hedge) while the shutter speed was cut to 1/1,100 second. In the 100, 200 and 400 percent settings, the ISO actually matches the setting. At ISO 100, shutter speed is 1/600. At ISO 200, it's 1/1,200. And at ISO 400, it reaches 1/2,000.
In theory, cutting the Fujifilm S100FS's shutter speed protects highlight detail while raising the shadow detail. No doubt a custom curve is applied as well, differentiating this feature from a simple increase in ISO speed.
The result? In the hydrant series, we see one of the best highlight captures of this difficult subject we've ever seen. Highlights are only a little more exposed on the 400 shot. And the shadow detail of the hedge is likewise well exposed. The dynamic range really has been unusually well managed. But, except for those 400 highlights, there really isn't a discernible difference between the four shots.
Auto is the default setting and the feature can't be disabled.
In the Imatest dynamic range test we usually reserve for digital SLRs, we found that at 100 percent, dynamic range was 10.5 f-stops while at both 200 and 400 it was 11.2 f-stops. The lab tests also kicked EV up to 0.3 to push the protected highlights and minimize noise in the shadows, which was detectable at the higher ISO settings. While the Fujifilm S100FS's sensor is larger than most digicams, it still doesn't rival a digital SLR sensor. And the increased noise -- despite the competitive 11.2 f-stop dynamic range -- is the price.
In sum, the Fujifilm S100FS's dynamic range options outperform other digicams, but run at the back of the digital SLR pack.
Film Simulation. If you thought being able to switch ISO between frames was a big deal, Fujifilm has a surprise for you. The Fujifilm S100FS's Film Simulation mode actually lets you switch "emulsions" between frames. You can go from PROVIA to Velvia to a Soft mode and a Portrait mode simulations, with the dynamic range, color, tone, and sensitivity settings of each film simulation mode displayed when you select it. And you can bracket all three, too.
PROVIA sets all four sliders to zero and is the default shooting mode. Velvia bumps color and tone to +2 (the maximum). Soft bumps dynamic range to +1 but sets tone and sensitivity to -1. Portrait bumps dynamic range and tone to +1 but knocks color and sensitivity down to -1.
I used the FSB mode to bracket a set of shots from Twin Peaks to illustrate the differences. They were all identical exposures at ISO 200, f/7.1, and 1/480 second. But a close examination shows subtle but important shifts between them. Click on each cropped image below to see a larger version. The most noticeable differences are in the rendering of the sky and background hills, which are bluer in the Fujichrome shot. But there are slight differences in building details as well as between the three shots.
|Film Simulation Bracketing mode|
ISO 10,000. Our lab ISO tests show good results up to ISO 400 even though some subtle effects of noise reduction are visible even at these low ISO levels. At ISO 800, the noise is more obvious, but still a good deal better than most digicams achieve. Blurring of detail becomes an issue at ISO 1,600 and above. And at ISO 3,200 we start to notice purple blotching from increased chroma noise.
The two highest ISO settings -- 6,400 and 10,000 -- are only available at reduced image size as the Fujifilm S100FS combines neighboring pixels in a technique called pixel-binning to reduce noise. That also reduces detail, however.
Throughout the ranges, color is maintained at the expense of detail. But there's a good deal more detail than we're used to seeing in a digicam.
Our real-world shots of the dolls were take at two exposures: ISO 1,600 and 10,000 (see Gallery images 1915-1918). It's hard to distinguish the difference in color rendering between the two sets of images. But the detail in the ISO 10,000 shots is illuminating.
You can make out fine detail like eyebrows and eyelashes on the braided blonde doll but the cracks in her face are harder to detect. And the noise, particularly in the braided hair, is very evident. There's noise in the larger ISO 1,600 shot, but the detail is much finer, showing the cracks in the face very clearly.
Shirley Temple, in somewhat darker light, didn't fare as well at ISO 1,600, primarily because of the 1/27 shutter speed. At ISO 10,000, color is maintained and you can see the detail in her dress, but facial features are not as sharp as they might be.
For screen display, especially at reduced image sizes, I found even ISO 10,000 useful. For prints, the lab recommends sticking to ISO 800, although usable 5 x 7-inch prints can be made from ISO 1,600 shots.
Storage and Battery. The 1,150 mAh lithium-ion battery is a bit larger than the small lithium-ions in most digicams but there's plenty of room for it in the sizeable grip. A large yellow battery release makes it easy to pop the Fujifilm S100FS's battery in and out of the socket, too; quite a relief from the tiny releases in ultracompacts. An AC adapter is also available.
With either the Fujifilm S100FS's LCD or the EVF on, the battery delivers about 250 shots, according to Fujifilm's CIPA tests.
In use, we did see the battery meter fall to 2/3 before we recharged, but we were never caught without power during a shoot.
The Fujifilm S100FS can use either SD or xD Picture cards. It doesn't say so on the camera itself, but you can indeed slip either card format into the same slot on the side of the camera. That means you can add WiFi capability (including GPS data) to an S100FS using one of the Eye-Fi SD cards.
Our typical file sizes ran from 2.5MB to 5MB, all 2,880 x 3,840 pixels. Actual image size is confusing on a Fujifilm camera because the sensor is not arrayed in neat rows and columns but in a honeycomb pattern. The actual Raw image size is a strange 2,060 x 5,600 (5,472 actually). Fujifilm's FinePix Studio software converts that data into a 4,080 x 5,440 pixel image (which is also the size of the Large Fine JPEG) but Adobe Camera Raw reads it as a 2,880 x 3,840 pixel image. And ACR creates a much better image with less bleeding.
Performance. In the long zoom category, the Fujifilm S100FS scores very well with above-average ratings in most categories.
Those stellar ratings begin with its startup and shutdown times, which at 2.4 and 0.3 seconds respectively are well above average for a long zoom.
Even more impressive -- and particularly important for a long zoom -- are its autofocus lag times. The combined time of just 0.659 second is better than average, but more importantly the difference between finding focus at wide-angle (0.510 second) and at telephoto (0.808 second) is small. With a long zoom, the focus time at telephoto is the important number. You use a long focal length to capture sports, wildlife and other action and need a camera that can find focus fast under those quickly changing conditions. Pre-focus shutter lag was also better than average at just 0.027 second, too.
A quick 0.34 second per large/fine image (2.91 fps) in Continuous Top 7 release mode ranks above average, as does the six second flash recycle time.
Those are the numbers that really matter -- and they're all above average for the category.
The Fujifilm S100FS scores average ratings for just its USB download speed (which is pretty quick at 2155 Kb/s) and its 2.5-inch LCD size. But I wouldn't prefer a 3.0-inch LCD to the 2.5-inch tiltable LCD on the S100FS, so we can discount that rating.
Optical zoom comes in below average with several competing models offering 18x zooms but the 14.3 range of the S100FS isn't really timid. You're getting out to a 400mm equivalent without tapping into the 2x digital zoom (which brings you to 800mm, if my math is correct).
The other category in which the S100FS ranks below average is its weight. At 35.1 ounces fully loaded for bear, it's more like handling a digital SLR than a compact camera. But that's just a testament to how well built it is.
All in all, the S100FS holds its ground very well in this competition.
Image Quality. I've snuck in a lot of image quality observations in discussing the camera's finer features already but there are a few more points to be made.
Our ISO 100 Still Life image demonstrates the long zoom design issues in regard to corner sharpness and our Multi Target tests show the high chromatic aberration at both wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths. Any long zoom will suffer from the same issues, however. Fortunately, chromatic aberration can be addressed in software. And while some digital SLRs are automatically correcting it in JPEG processing, we haven't seen that feature migrate down to this class of camera.
I find Fujifilm color to be realistic, although it is a bit oversaturated to qualify as natural. It isn't so oversaturated, though, as to fall into that class of digicams that use too much lipstick and mascara in a vain attempt to be more appealing.
Instead, it's realistic renderings were really rather pleasing. The ribboned books were shots as a Raw file (the JPEG is a computer creation, as is the JPEG for the geranium) but it's the kind of shot that is just ruined by digicams that oversaturate.
Likewise the color of the fire alarm (a difficult red that tends to wail when oversaturation is the game) is accurate. That shot, as well as the fire hydrant series, was taken on a sunny day. But my first outing with the S100FS was an overcast day and the colors of buildings in Pacific Heights are very pleasing indeed.
These are subtle colors with pleasing tonal shifts, something you don't usually capture with a small digicam. The S100FS held all the highlights very well but also captured tonal gradations in the shadows. A good example is the shot of the stained glass windows whose color is held and in whose light facade the speckled pattern shows clearly, while despite that emphasis the lovely variation in the dark leaves of a tree on the sidewalk has been held. When you look at an image like this, you don't see corner softness or chromatic aberration (which is barely visible in the openings between the leaves to the sky. You just see an uncommonly well rendered image.
Appraisal. From the ergonomic body with the luxury of lots of buttons to the long zoom with great macro performance to its extended dynamic range and high ISO shooting, the S100FS was a greater and greater pleasure the more I used it. It fell short, as do all long zooms, in some optical tests. And Raw shooting was pretty painful, with long writes and longer file processing times on the computer. But it would make a great companion for a trip to Europe or a hike in the back country.
Fujifilm S100FS Basic Features
- 2/3-inch Super CCD HR VIII image sensor with an 11.1 effective megapixel resolution
- RP Processor III
- 14.3x zoom lens (28-400mm eq.) with 2x digital zoom
- Electronic viewfinder
- 2.5-inch LCD (the specs say 230K pixels but it seems less)
- ISO sensitivity from 100 to 10,000
- Shutter speeds from 30 to 1/4000 seconds
- Apertures from f/2.8 to f/11 in 13 steps
- SDHC/SD or xD Picture Card in same slot
- USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
- Custom lithium ion battery
Fujifilm S100FS Special Features
- 25MB internal memory
- Four Auto ISO settings to limit highest sensitivity
- ISO 6,400 at 6-Mp or lower and ISO 10,000 at 3-Mp or lower
- PASM modes plus two Custom settings
- Live histogram
- Film Simulation Bracketing (PROVIA, Velvia, SOFT)
- Extended Dynamic Range with bracketing (100, 200, 400 percent)
- Three full-resolution frames per second continuous shooting
- 14 Scene settings
- Face detection with red-eye removal in Playback
In the Box
The S100fs ships with the following items in the box:
- S100fs body
- Rechargeable battery NP-140
- Battery charger BC-140 with power cord
- Shoulder strap
- Lens cap with tether
- Lens cap holder
- Lens hood
- A/V cable
- USB cable
- CD-ROM with FinePix software
- Owner's manual, note and cautions, warranty card
- Large capacity SD memory card. These days, 2 GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 4GB should be a minimum.
- Large capacity xD memory card. These days, 1 GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
- Camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
- AC Power Adapter AC-84V
- Remote Release RR-80
Fujifilm S100FS Conclusion
The minute I took the S100FS out of the box, Fujifilm had my full attention. This was no ordinary digicam, half designed by the marketing department. I could tell from the way it fit in my hand, with the controls within reach of my thumb, that the Fujifilm S100FS was designed as a photographer's tool.
The Fujifilm S100FS operates just like a digital SLR down to the zoom ring on the lens except that you must compose your shots through the tilting LCD or the EVF (electronic viewfinder). And like any digicam, the Fujifilm S100FS can capture movies. It was disappointing that the zoom ring was too stiff for smooth zooming, however, because the ability to pull zoom silently while shooting video is one advantage you only get in either high-end movie cameras costing thousands of dollars, or high-end digital cameras like this.
Inside, the Fujifilm S100FS has some pretty good capture tools, with extended dynamic range, high ISO and film simulation you don't see on other digicams, if they fall a bit short of digital SLR standards.
RAW captures took a long time to write to the card, and even longer to process on the computer. If you want to shoot Raw, move up to a digital SLR. But I didn't feel the need to use RAW as much on this camera with its extended dynamic range.
Still, as good as the Fujifilm S100FS was in some areas, we were very disappointed by the severe chromatic aberration that extends very far into the center of the frame. Perhaps it goes without saying that this is a camera for enthusiasts, but even those folks will have to spend a lot of time post-processing each image to compensate for the chromatic aberration, which varies at different focal lengths. The good news is that you can compensate for it quite well using Adobe Camera RAW (part of Photoshop). Whether software like Bibble will bother to build a batch process to delete the CA based on the EXIF data is unknown at this point.
Until then, we can say that Fujifilm has built a beautiful hybrid for photographers who want a serious camera that doesn't require a bag of gear to accompany it; but you'll have to be prepared to clean up the heavy chromatic aberration after capture to access the rest of the Fujifilm S100FS's excellence. You get better detail from the FinePix S100FS when you shoot RAW and process it through Adobe Camera Raw, especially in photos of foliage. Overall, the Fujifilm S100FS is a great choice for the careful photographer who will post-process every image anyway, but we cannot recommend it for snapshooters who just want to shoot JPEGs.
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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.