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Fuji FinePix S5000

Fuji's latest electronic SLR offers a full 10x optical zoom lens.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 10/01/2003

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 S5000's "pictures" page.

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 S5000's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The S5000 generally delivered very pleasing color, with good hue accuracy and appropriate saturation (although it tended to slightly oversaturate very bright reds). It rendered Caucasian skin tones very attractively, slightly more pink than in real life, but the effect was quite pleasing. Indoors, it handled the very difficult household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test fairly well, although it left a bit more color cast in the final images than I would personally prefer. (Overall, it tended to leave slight color casts in most shots, but they were small enough that most users probably wouldn't notice them.) All in all, very pleasing color.

  • Exposure: The S5000's exposure system handled a variety of lighting situations well, and stood up to the high-key Outdoor Portrait quite well. In general, it seemed to need less positive exposure compensation with high-key subjects than most cameras I test, although it did call for a lot of adjustment on the Indoor Portrait image. Its tone curve is a little contrasty, which produces bright, punchy images with lots of color, but which also leads to blown highlights and plugged shadows when shooting under harsh lighting.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The S5000 performed well for its 3.1 megapixel class on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800~850 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions, and the artifacts were more pronounced at spatial frequencies close to the camera's limit than typically found with conventional CCDs. Interestingly though, at least in the instance of the test target image, there's very clearly more detail to be found in the S5000's 6 megapixel interpolated images than in the 3.1 megapixel ones. (Even resizing the 6 megapixel shots downward results in noticeable loss of detail, so it's clear that Fuji's interpolation scheme is more than just smoke and mirrors.) I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400 lines.

  • Image Noise: Due at least in part to its minimum ISO rating of 200, I observed higher than average image noise in the S5000's photos throughout my testing. How you feel about this will have a lot to do with your intended use of the S5000's images. If you plan to view them 1:1 on a computer screen, or print at sizes of 11x14 or larger the noise is quite visible. Printed out at image sizes less than 8x10 though, it's relatively innocuous.

  • Closeups: The S5000 performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.88 x 2.17 inches (73 x 55 millimeters). Resolution was high, with strong detail in the dollar bill and coins. The brooch also had good detail, but was slightly soft due to some corner softness, visible in all four corners of the frame. (A frequent limitation of digicam macro shots, caused by curvature of the field in their lens systems.) Color balance was a bit warm, but still pretty good overall. The S5000's flash throttled down for the macro area almost too much, underexposing the lower portion of the frame. (Plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots, but the S5000's flash is much more usable than average for macro shooting.)

  • Night Shots: The S5000 did fairly well under low-light conditions, thanks to its default ISO setting of 200, and a bright AF-assist light that really helped it focus under dim lighting. It was able to capture usable images down to 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) at ISO 200, 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) at ISO 400, and 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) at ISO 800. As in the rest of my tests, image noise was higher than average across the board, even at the ISO 200 setting. If you don't mind trading off image resolution for higher ISO, the 1.3 megapixel shots at ISO 800 are surprisingly usable, given the noise levels at ISO 400 in the full-sized images. Overall, I liked the bright AF-assist light, and the camera could work quite effectively at light levels a good bit darker than city street lighting at night (1 foot-candle), but the noise is higher than I'd like to see. (As I noted in the main review, I was surprised to find that the AF assist light didn't operate at very low light levels. Other reviewers apparently haven't seen this, but my unit exhibited the behavior very consistently.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The S5000's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) was surprisingly a little tight, showing 89 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor resulted in the same measurements, since it shows the same view. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S5000's LCD monitor has some room for improvement here.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the S5000 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only a half-pixel of pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is higher than average, showing fairly strong color around the edges of the target lines in the corners of the frame. (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.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The S5000 is a bit of a mixed bag in the speed department. It starts up and shuts down a little slowly, and its shutter lag performance is solidly average. On the other hand, its shot to shot cycle times are very good, and it's very fast indeed in its high-speed continuous modes. Its "Last 5" continuous mode in particular would be very useful for sports and other fast action, with its ability capture images before you tell it to.

  • Battery Life: The S5000 is really a stellar performer when it comes to battery life. While you don't have the automatic advantage of a camera with a purely optical viewfinder (no need to power an LCD when shooting with an optical VF), the S5000's power consumption is quite low, even when the full LCD is being used. An automatic "sleep" mode stretches battery life dramatically, yet leaves the camera ready to go on a few seconds' notice. Worst case run time (capture mode with the rear-panel LCD enabled) is an amazing 4.4 hours with a set of 1600 mAh NiMH batteries (true, not advertised capacity). Given that current high-power batteries achieve true capacities of 2100 mAh, you can expect very long run times from the S5000. Overall, a great performance, but my advice to purchase at least a couple of sets of high-power NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger still stands.

 

Conclusion

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The S5000 offers some impressive capabilities, with a 10x zoom lens, good color, really excellent battery life, and its unique "Final 5" capture mode, which lets you snap photos of what took place just before you let up on the shutter button.(!) Its feature set is that of an advanced point & shoot camera, rather than a true "enthusiast" model. - In this respect at least, the S5000 isn't truly a replacement for the earlier and hugely popular S602, that role being reserved for the forthcoming S7000 model. The S5000 enters a relatively crowded field though, with multiple cameras offering the same combination of 10x zoom and nominally 3.1 megapixel resolution at the same or lower price points. The S5000 also showed somewhat higher image noise in my tests than some competing models, which will be an issue for some users, but matter not at all to others. (If you plan on printing most of your photos at sizes of 8x10 inches and below, I'd wager that image noise will be a non-issue for you.) Bottom line, if you're looking for a long-zoom digicam with good color, great battery life, and great continuous-mode capture capability, the S5000 deserves a serious look.

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