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Fuji FinePix S5000

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

Review First Posted: 10/01/2003




MSRP $499 US

 

*
3.1-megapixel Super CCD HR produces 2,816 x 2,120-pixel images. (Interpolated)
*
10x Fujinon optical zoom lens equivalent to 37-370mm lens on a 35mm camera.
*
"Top 5" and "Final 5" continuous shooting modes are great for capturing fast action
*
Full range of exposure control includes Auto, Scene Program, and Full Manual options.
*
Excellent color.


Manufacturer Overview

The Fujifilm S5000 is the latest in Fuji's line of FinePix digital cameras sharing a similar style, with a prominent lens on the left side of the body, balanced by a larger handgrip on the right. The new S5000 is a digital SLR, in that both the rear-panel LCD and eyelevel viewfinder are both electronic displays, showing a "live" view through the lens. The lens on the S5000 is a full 10x optical zoom, with a relatively fast maximum aperture range of f/2.8-3.1. This is a longer zoom than Fuji has previously offered, placing the S5000 squarely in the midst of what has become a popular category, the long-zoom digital camera. Where the Finepix S5000 differs from much of its competition though, is in its flexible continuous-shooting modes, which sport a very fast 5 frame/second capture rate, and a very handy "Last 5" capture mode, which records five shots spanning the last second of time before you released the shutter button. (A real help for catching fast-breaking action, if your reflexes are as slow as mine.) The S5000 carries the other features we've come to expect from Fuji, foremost of which is very appealing, natural color, particularly under outdoor shooting conditions.

With list price at introduction of $499 (and street pricing reaching well below $400), the S5000 appears well-positioned in the long-zoom marketplace, and its unique continuous-shooting modes make it well-suited for shooting sports, wildlife, and other distant, active subjects. If you're in the market for a long-zoom camera, the Fuji FinePix S5000 deserves a good look - Read on for all the details.


High Points


Executive Overview

Falling somewhere between the popular Fuji FinePix 3800 Zoom (now replaced by the FinePix S3000) and FinePix S602 Zoom digicams (about to be replaced by the S7000), Fuji's latest release, the FinePix S5000, offers the simplicity of point-and-shoot photography with the advantages of optional manual control and a generous 10x optical zoom lens. The S5000 retains the styling of the earlier S602, with a large grip providing secure purchase for your fingers, helpful for hand-holding the long telephoto shots its 10x zoom makes possible. Though quite compact (even with the 10x zoom lens), the S5000 definitely won't fit into a shirt pocket, but it ought to do just fine in a large coat pocket, purse, or backpack. The included neck/shoulder strap makes it easier to carry as well. The body appears to be almost entirely composed of structural plastic, but the camera nevertheless has a very solid "feel" to it, with a rubbery outer coating on the hand grip portion for a secure hold. The S5000 features a 3.1-megapixel Super CCD HR, which uses an interwoven honeycomb pixel pattern to produce high-quality, interpolated images as large as 2,816 x 2,120 pixels.

The S5000's 10x Fujinon 5.7-57mm (37-370mm equivalent) retractable lens has a removable, plastic lens cap that attaches to the camera body and protects the lens surface. The same threads that hold the lens cap in place also accept an accessory lens adapter (included with the camera, a very nice touch), allowing a variety of front-element add-on lenses and filters to be used with the camera. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/3.1, depending on the zoom setting, the f/3.1 setting at maximum telephoto being "faster" than that of most long-zoom digicams. A Macro focusing mode gets as close as 3.9 inches (10cm), for roughly average macro performance. Auto and manual focus options are available, as well as a Continuous AF mode suitable for more active subjects. You can set the AF area to Center or Multi positions (Multi basing focus on a broad area in the center of the frame), or manually select the AF point using the multicontroller. An AF-assist lamp helps the camera focus in dark shooting conditions. In addition to the generous 10x optical zoom, the S5000 also features as much as 2.2x digital zoom, although I remind readers that digital zoom directly trades off image quality for magnification. That said, Fuji's approach to digital zoom is more intelligent than most, since they limit digital zoom based on the selected image size, so the camera never interpolates the resulting images, preserving image quality. For framing images, the S5000 features both an "electronic" optical viewfinder (EVF) and a larger rear-panel LCD monitor. The electronic optical viewfinder is actually a miniaturized (0.33 inches) version of the larger, 1.5-inch LCD, and shows the same information displays. An EVF / LCD button switches the viewfinder display between the two monitors, so that only one is active at a time. A dioptric adjustment on the EVF, and its very high eyepoint, makes it convenient for eyeglass wearers.

Accommodating a wide range of users, the S5000 offers full Auto and full Manual exposure modes, and modes in between, including several "Scene" modes. A Power/Mode dial sets the camera to either Record or Playback modes, while the Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera features Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program AE, Auto, Movie, and Scene Program exposure modes. Scene Program offers a handful of preset shooting modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to two seconds, so low-light shooting is a little limited.

In all exposure modes except for Auto, Scene Program, and Manual, Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. By default, the S5000 uses a 64-zone, multisegment metering system, but Average and Spot metering modes are available through the settings menu. Through the Drive menu, an Auto Exposure Bracketing function snaps a series of three images at different exposure settings, which can vary by 1/3, 1/2, or one full EV step. In any of the manual exposure modes, the camera's ISO sensitivity setting offers 200, 400, and 800 equivalents, plus an Auto setting that adjusts from 160 to 400 equivalents, depending on the flash setting. (Note that the 800 ISO setting automatically reduces the image size to the one-megapixel setting.) White Balance choices include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. You can also adjust image sharpness, and a Self-Timer mode offers a 10-second countdown before snapping the picture. The camera's built-in, pop-up flash operates in Auto, Forced On, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow-Synchro, and Red-Eye Reduction Slow-Synchro modes, with an intensity adjustment in the settings menu.

Three Continuous Shooting modes are available through the Drive menu: Top-5 Frame, Final-5 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting. The Long-Period Continuous Shooting mode is only available in Auto exposure mode, and fixes the image size at 1.0-megapixel setting, but allows very long sequences of images to be captured. (Up to 40 images, at 0.6-second intervals.) The Final-5 frame continuous mode is unusual, in that the camera begins acquiring images continuously when you press the Shutter button, and then saves the last five it shot just before you released the shutter. This is great for capturing fleeting moments in sports and other fast-moving situations. Just hold down the Shutter button, then release it as soon as the event occurs. In Playback mode, a Voice Memo option records as much as 30 seconds of sound to accompany still images. The S5000's Movie mode records movies with sound at the 320 x 240-pixel resolution, for as long as the memory card has available space, at a full 30 frames/second.

Images are stored on xD-Picture Cards (a 16MB card comes with the camera). Image quality choices include three JPEG compression levels, and an uncompressed RAW option. An included A/V cable lets you connect to a television set for image playback and composition, and a USB cable provides high speed connection to a computer. (The included Windows-only PictureHello software also makes the S5000 into a webcam.) A software CD comes with the camera, loaded with Fuji's FinePix Viewer software for image downloading and viewing. Also on the CD is a RAW converter, for processing RAW data image files. Power for the S5000 is provided by four AA-type alkaline or NiMH batteries, and a set of alkaline batteries comes with the camera. As always, I strongly recommend picking up a couple of sets of high-capacity rechargeable batteries and charger.

 

Design

Looking a bit like a very compact film-based SLR with a "handle" on the right hand side, the FinePix S5000 offers a full range of exposure control options for a variety of users, as well as an impressive 10x optical zoom lens. Its body appears to be almost entirely composed of structural plastic, but it nonetheless has a surprisingly solid feel to it. It's light enough to hold easily with one hand, but the weight of the lens will make you want to hold it two-handed while shooting, despite the counterbalance provide by the mass of the batteries in the hand grip. Despite its relatively light weight, its non-pocketable size means you'll almost certainly want to use the included neckstrap when walking around with it. The camera measures 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.1 inches (113 x 81 x 79 millimeters), and weighs about 15.7 ounces (444 grams) with batteries.

The 10x f/2.8-3.2 zoom lens dominates the front view of the camera, leaving room only for the hefty handgrip. The lens telescopes out an additional 7/8-inch from the camera body whenever the camera is powered on. A ribbed ring surrounds the end of the lens barrel, looking like a focus or zoom ring, but it doesn't turn. It does, however, provide an additional grip for your left hand when holding the camera in shooting position. Just above and to the left of the lens is the AF assist lamp, which projects a bright green pattern when light levels drop below a certain threshold. The handgrip is large enough to provide a firm hold, with a leather-like texture that provides good traction for your fingers as they wrap around the camera. Tucked away above and to the right of the lens (when viewed from the front) and beneath the flash compartment is the tiny microphone used to record audio.

The camera's top panel hosts a number of controls, as well as the pop-up flash compartment. The Power/Mode dial and Shutter button angle down slightly toward the front of the camera, behind which are the Drive and Exposure Compensation buttons, as well as the Exposure Mode dial. On the opposite side of the pop-up flash is the Focus Mode Selector Lock and Focus Mode button.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is one of the neck strap attachments.

The opposite side of the camera features the second neck strap attachment, as well as the memory card slot and terminal connector compartment. A hinged, plastic door protects the memory card compartment. Adjacent to the compartment is the camera's speaker. Just below the speaker is the connector compartment, covered by a flexible, rubbery flap that remains tethered to the camera. Beneath this flap are the USB, DC In, and AV Out jacks. Also visible on this side of the camera is the Flash Release button, on the side of the flash compartment.

The rest of the camera controls are on the back panel, sharing the space with the "electronic" optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. A small diopter adjustment dial adjusts the viewfinder optics for eyeglass wearers, and a firm rubber eyecup surrounds the viewfinder eyepiece. Zoom controls, a Four-Way Multicontroller, and a handful of other control buttons dot the back panel. Atop the LCD monitor are the Photo Mode and EVF/LCD buttons, along with a small LED lamp that indicates when focus is set, or the camera is accessing the memory card. On the right side of the LCD monitor are the Back and Display buttons.

The S5000's bottom panel is nice and flat, with a plastic tripod mount off-center from the lens, roughly aligned with the camera's center of gravity. Also on the bottom panel is the battery compartment, with a plastic door that slides out before opening. The position of the battery compartment is such that you can't access it with the camera mounted on a tripod plate, but at least the memory card compartment is easy to get to.

 

Viewfinder

The S5000 offers an "electronic" optical viewfinder (EVF), essentially a smaller version of the 1.5-inch LCD monitor that's viewed through the camera's eyepiece. The 0.33-inch eyelevel viewfinder display shows the same detailed information overlay as the larger LCD monitor, complete with exposure information such as aperture and shutter speed. A firm but resilient eyecup surrounds the viewfinder eyepiece, and shouldn't cause any problems for eyeglass wearers, given the S5000's unusually high eyepoint. A diopter adjustment dial on the left side of the eyepiece adjusts the focus of the display across a fairly wide range, so most eyeglass wearers should be well accommodated. An EVF/LCD button on the rear panel switches the display between the viewfinder eyepiece and the larger LCD monitor.

The 1.5-inch, low temperature TFT LCD monitor comes on automatically when the camera is turned on, but goes to sleep fairly quickly to save power, if the camera remains inactive. A display button controls the level of information displayed on both viewfinders. The first press enables the information display, while the second pulls up an alignment grid that divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. A third press of the button cancels both the information display and alignment grid, providing a full view of the subject area. When adjusting the exposure compensation, an overlay appears at the bottom of the screen showing the currently selected compensation amount.

In Playback mode, the Display button cycles between the normal information display, a nine-image index display mode, or a view of the images with no overlay at all. When viewing a single image, pressing the "T" button on the zoom control zooms you into the image, with maximum magnification depending on the size of the recorded image, ranging from 8x for 1280x960 images to 18x for 2816x2120 ones. Once you've zoomed in, you can scroll around the enlarged image by pressing the arrow keys.

Activated through the Setup menu, an Image Display function automatically displays the last captured image on the LCD monitor for a few seconds as it's being recorded to the memory card. Another option on the Image Display menu entry is a "Preview" setting, which gives you the option to delete the image before it's saved. An interesting feature here is that the Preview mode lets you enlarge the captured image and double-check framing or exposure details (using the zoom control to enlarge and the arrow keys to move the view). If you're not happy with the shot, simply erase it and start again. Preview mode also lets you select specific images from a series to record, if you were shooting in one of the Continuous Shooting modes. You can thus save memory card space by keeping only the frames you want, a handy feature.

Like most EVFs, the one on the S5000 is of only limited use in low-light conditions. The problem is that the camera has to use a rather short "shutter speed" when driving the LCD display, to keep the screen refreshed properly. Under low light conditions, this means that not enough light gets in to produce a usable image. As a result, the S5000 can capture an image under somewhat darker conditions than you can see to aim it. In my tests, the S5000's EVF was usable down to a light level of about 1/4 foot-candle, which is about 1/4 the brightness of a typical city street scene at night. (I could still barely make out objects in the scene at 1/8 foot-candle, but wouldn't feel comfortable recommending the EVF for use at that light level.) Like them or not, EVFs are a fact of life with long-zoom digicams, as the cost of making an optical viewfinder with a 10x zoom ratio that accurately tracks the lens framing is prohibitive. Still, while I personally dislike EVFs due to the problem most of them have with dim lighting, many users find them very appealing, thanks to the amount of information they provide while you're shooting.

In my tests, the S5000's electronic optical viewfinder proved to be somewhat tight, showing a frame accuracy of approximately 89 percent at both wide-angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor produced the same results, leaving some room for improvement. (Most digicam viewfinders crop the subject more tightly than the lens itself does, apparently to keep amateurs from inadvertently cutting off their subjects heads and feet in their photos. I really disagree with this approach, feeling that the viewfinder should show you what you're actually taking a picture of.)

 

Optics

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The S5000 is equipped with a, Fujinon 10x 5.7-57mm zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent range of 37-370mm. This corresponds to range from a moderate wide-angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. Aperture ranges from f/2.8 (f/3.1 with the lens at its telephoto position) to f/8, and is manually and automatically adjustable in 10 steps. The f/3.1 maximum aperture at telephoto is better than most long-zoom digicams manage, further suiting the S5000 to sports and wildlife shooting, where you'll frequently be working at telephoto focal lengths, and where you generally want the widest aperture possible, to keep shutter speeds high and depth of field shallow. Focus ranges from 3.0 feet (0.9 meters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 3.6 inches to 6.6 feet (0.1 to 2.0 meters) in Macro mode. Pressing the left arrow key enables the Macro shooting mode.

The S5000's contrast-detection autofocus system operates in either Single or Continuous modes, selectable via the Focus Mode button on top of the camera. Continuous mode may be useful for dealing with moving subjects, but as I've found to be the case with most digicams I've tested, brings relatively little speed benefit when working with stationary ones. (A shutter delay of 0.69 seconds, vs 0.77 in single-AF mode.) The same button also accesses the Manual focus mode, which lets you adjust focus by pressing the Exposure Compensation button while pressing the W/T zoom buttons. When entering manual focus from Single AF mode, the focus is automatically set on the current subject from the Single AF setting. You can then adjust the focus as desired. I have to say that the S5000's manual focus adjustment is one of my least favorite among digicams I've tested. There's no numeric scale provided, so you're entirely dependent on what you see in the viewfinder to set the focus. - And there's no magnification applied to the image during focusing, so it's very difficult to set focus with much precision.

As an aid to shooting in dark surroundings, the S5000 has an autofocus-assist illuminator that projects a bright green pattern on the subject when needed. In my testing, this illuminator was effective down to light levels of about 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux). What I found odd was that the illuminator wouldn't come on at levels darker than 1/16 foot-candle. Generally, AF illuminators will turn on at light levels below a certain threshold (when they're needed), but this is the first time I've seen one that subsequently shut down at the very darkest levels. This may not be a big issue for most users, as 1/16 foot-candle is very dark (and indeed, a factor of two darker than the lowest level at which the EVF is usable), but I'd think that at least some would find it useful to have an AF-assist light available for those times when you want to snap a flash photo in total darkness, trusting to a wide-angle lens setting to capture the subject you're interested in, when it's too dark to use the viewfinder.

A locking selector dial surrounds the Focus Mode button, and prevents you from accidentally pressing it while shooting. An AF Area mode lets you set the autofocus point to Center or Multi (a broader area in the center of the frame), or to Area. In Area mode, you can manually move the AF area point throughout the frame using the Four-Way Multicontroller. The focus point can be moved across the full field of view, in 7 steps vertically or horizontally. (A total of 49 different positions.)

A removable plastic lens cap protects the lens surface when not in use, and comes with a small strap to attach it to the camera body and prevent it from being lost. The two zoom buttons in the upper right corner of the rear panel control both optical and digital zoom. The 2.2x digital zoom feature increases the S5000's total zoom range up to 22x (depending on the image size selected), and is accessed by zooming past the optical zoom range with the telephoto zoom button. The amount of digital enlargement is reported in the LCD display. As with any "digital zoom" function, remember that there's no free lunch: The amount of zoom achieved trades off directly against image resolution. Fuji's way of dealing with this is to restrict the amount of digital zoom to whatever the ratio is between the currently-selected image size and the maximum resolution of the sensor. This insures that no additional interpolation is applied to digitally-zoomed images, preserving image quality. (To my thinking, this is the intelligent approach, rather than upsizing the cropped, digitally zoomed image, which only makes the photos soft and fuzzy-looking. As far as I know, Fuji was the first to employ this approach to digital zoom, but Sony has recently followed suit, with their "Smart Zoom" feature.) The net of all this is that no digital zoom is available at the six-megapixel resolution, 1.4x is available at the three-megapixel image size, 1.8x at two megapixels, and the full 2.2x only for one-megapixel resolution images.

The S5000's lens barrel has a set of filter threads, which accommodate Fuji's accessory lens kits. An adapter ring accompanies the camera, so that you can attach the accessory lens, or other third-party ones such as closeup adapters or polarizing or other filters. The adapter provides a set of 55 mm accessory threads in front of the furthest extension of the S5000's lens.

Optical distortion on the S5000 is slightly better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured only a half-pixel of pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration was higher than average, showing fairly bright color around the edges of the resolution 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.) However, this effect was most likely exaggerated by some corner softness, which appeared in all four corners of the frame at the full wide angle lens setting.

The S5000 has a macro mode that lets it focus down to 3.9 inches (10 cm). That's fairly close, but note that the lens will only focus that closely when set to its maximum wide-angle position, which reduces the S5000's performance to only a bit better than average, with a minimum area of 2.88 x 2.17 inches (73 x 55 millimeters).

 

Exposure

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Exposure control on the S5000 is fairly straightforward, with a range of exposure modes to suit any experience level. A Power/Mode dial on top of the camera puts the S5000 into either Record or Playback modes, with an Off setting that powers down the camera. Once in Record mode, the main exposure modes are all accessed via the Exposure Mode dial, with options of Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program AE, Auto, Movie, and Scene Program. In full Auto exposure mode, the camera controls all aspects of the exposure, leaving you in charge of zoom, flash mode, and any special drive settings. Scene Program mode offers a handful of preset shooting modes, set up for specific situations. Once in Scene Program mode, the up and down arrow keys cycle through Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene modes. Portrait mode biases the exposure system to prefer larger lens apertures, to reduce depth of field and help your subject stand out against cluttered backgrounds. Landscape mode does the opposite, giving greater depth of field to keep foreground and background in focus. Sports mode biases exposure towards higher shutter speeds, while Night Scene mode enables exposure times as long as two seconds. (Program mode shutter times are limited to 1/4 second and higher.)

The remaining exposure modes on the dial offer a range of manual control options. Program AE lets the camera control shutter speed and aperture, but gives you control over all other exposure variables. You can also bias the exposure toward a faster shutter speed or greater depth of field. Simply pressing the up and down arrow keys cycles through a range of equivalent exposure settings. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes both offer limited control, letting you adjust either the lens aperture or shutter speed while the camera picks the best value of the other variable. In both modes, the up and down arrow keys adjust the setting you're controlling. An exposure readout on the LCD reports whether the resulting shot will be under- or overexposed, showing one or both of the exposure variables in red. Thus, you have a chance to adjust the setting. Finally, Manual exposure mode offers total exposure control, letting you select both aperture and shutter speed together. In Program, Shutter Priority, and Aperture Priority exposure modes, the Exposure Compensation adjustment lightens or darkens the overall image from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Exposure times range from 1/2,000 to 1/4 seconds in Program and Aperture Priority modes, and to 2 seconds in Shutter Priority and Manual modes.

By default, the S5000 uses a multisegment metering system, which bases the exposure on readings taken from 64 zones throughout the frame, taking both brightness and contrast into account. The camera also offers Average and Spot metering modes, accessible through the settings menu. Average metering reads the entire scene and bases the overall exposure on the average value. Alternatively, Spot metering bases the exposure on a reading from the very center of the frame (good for off-center or high-contrast subjects). If you're not sure of the exact exposure to use, an Auto Exposure Bracketing option can snap a series of three images at different exposure settings, making it easier to get a good exposure in critical shooting conditions. You can set the exposure step size for these series through the Record menu, with options of 1/3, 1/2, or 1 EV units between steps. The camera captures one image at the normal exposure, one slightly underexposed, and one slightly overexposed.

In any of the nonautomatic exposure modes, the camera's ISO sensitivity setting can be adjusted to 200, or 400, regardless of the resolution setting. Selecting the 800 ISO equivalent forces the camera's resolution to one megapixel because the camera uses Fuji's Pixel Data Coupling to achieve the high ISO value with minimum noise. (This feature combines data from groups of four pixels at a time, trading off resolution in order to achieve lower image noise.) The Auto ISO setting automatically adjusts sensitivity from 160 to 400 equivalents, though the maximum setting depends on whether the flash is in use or not. (The camera will limit the ISO to lower values when the flash is being used, to reduce image noise.)

The S5000 has a full range of color balance settings, selected through the White Balance option of the Record menu. Choices include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings. In addition to white balance, a Sharpness adjustment lets you control the in-camera sharpening, with options of Hard, Normal, and Soft. A FinePix Color option offers Standard, Chrome, and Black and White color settings. (The Chrome adjustment increases contrast and saturation.) For delayed exposures, the S5000's Self-Timer mode offers a 10-second countdown between the time the Shutter button is fully pressed and when the shutter actually fires.

Flash
The built-in, pop-up flash on the S5000 operates in one of six modes, all accessed by pressing the Flash button (left arrow key). Modes include Auto (lightning bolt icon with an "A"), Red-Eye Reduction (eyeball icon), Forced On (lightning bolt), Forced Off (lightning bolt with a slash), Slow-Synchro (lightning bolt with an "S"), and Slow-synchro with Red-Eye Reduction (eyeball with "Slow" beneath it). Auto, Forced On, and Forced Off are pretty self-explanatory. Red-Eye Reduction means that the camera fires a small pre-flash before the full flash, to reduce the occurrence of the Red-Eye Effect. The Slow-Synchro modes combine the flash with a slow shutter speed and are good for night subjects because they allow more ambient light into the image. (This helps avoid the common syndrome of a ghastly white subject in front of a pitch-black background so common in flash shots from low-end cameras.) A small release button on the left side of the flash (as viewed from the rear) releases the flash from its compartment. Note that the flash must be popped up in order to change its operating mode. A brightness adjustment accessed through the settings menu increases or decreases the overall flash power from -0.6 to +0.6 EV in one-third-step increments.

Movie and Sound Recording
The S5000's Movie mode captures moving images with sound at 320 x 240 pixels, at 30 frames per second. (Only one resolution/quality option is offered for movie recording.) Movie recording stops and starts with a full press of the Shutter button, and a timer appears in the LCD monitor to report the available recording time. Movie exposures are fully automatic, with no adjustments available for exposure compensation, white balance, or color effects.

Accessed via the Playback menu, a Voice Memo mode lets you record short sound clips to accompany still images. Voice captions can last as long as 30 seconds.

Continuous Shooting
The S5000 really shines in the continuous-shooting department, offering a range of high-speed shooting modes, all selected by pressing the Drive Mode button on top of the camera and cycling through the modes with the left and right arrow keys. The available modes are Top-5 Frame, Auto Bracketing (discussed above), Final-5 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting.

Perhaps the most interesting of the continuous modes are the ones called Top-5 Frame and Final-5 Frame. Top-5 Frame captures five consecutive frames at intervals as brief as 0.25 seconds. After the series is captured, all images are displayed at the bottom of the LCD screen as thumbnails while they are being recorded to the memory card. Final-5 Frame mode captures as many as 40 frames at the same five-fps frame rate while the Shutter button is held down. The camera then records the last five frames of the series, recording what happened just before you released the Shutter button. Final-5 Frame mode is thus especially handy for capturing fleeting moments. If you're like me, you always recognize the perfect expression on your child's face or the perfect pose by your pet a fraction of a second after it's gone. With the Final-5 Frame feature, I can finally capture all those previously-missed moments, since the camera effectively reaches back in time to grab what I was looking at up to a second before I released the Shutter button.

For more extended rapid-fire shooting, Long-Period Continuous Shooting mode works only in Auto exposure mode, and automatically sets the image resolution to one megapixel. What you gain though, is the ability to capture up to 24 seconds of continuous action, albeit with a longer interval between frames of about 0.6 seconds. (That's about 40 frames, at a rate of about 1.7 frames/second.)

 

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a delay or lag time before the shutter actually fires. This is the time required by the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure it with a custom test setup I built for the purpose. The table below shows the numbers I collected for the FinePix S5000.

NOTE: My qualitative characterizations of camera performance below (that is, "reasonably fast," "about average," etc.) are meant to be relative to other cameras of similar price and general capabilities. Thus, the same shutter lag that's "very fast" for a low-end consumer camera might be characterized as "quite slow" if I encountered it on a professional model. The comments are also intended as only a quick reference: If performance specs are critical for you, rely on the absolute numbers to compare cameras, rather than my purely qualitative comments.

Fuji FinePix S5000 Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.6
Lens extends before shooting. On the slow side of average.
Shutdown
4.8
Lens retracts. A little slow.
Play to Record, first shot
1.1
Time to capture first shot after switching from playback mode. Quite fast.
Record to play (max/min res)
1.1/0.8
Time after capture until image displayed in playback mode. Quite fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.772/1.037
First time is for wide angle, second is for telephoto. About average. (Average range is 0.8 to 1.0 second.)
Shutter lag, continuous autofocus
0.690
Continuous AF is slightly faster than single AF. May help more with moving subjects, but I have no way to test that.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.563
A bit slower than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.258
On the slow side of average for full-featured cameras.
Cycle Time, max/min res
1.23/1.15
Quite fast, and no sign of a buffer. (I could take 15 high-res shots this quickly, without waiting for the buffer to empty.)
Cycle Time, continuous mode, max/min res.
0.25/0.25
(4 fps)
Very fast. Camera snaps 5 shots, then there's a 4 second delay (at max res) to write the images to the memory card before the camera is ready to snap the next series.
Cycle Time, "long continuous" mode
0.51
(2 fps)
Image size is forced to 1M (1280x960), but camera can capture up to 40 shots without pausing. There's also no apparently buffer-empty delay in this mode, the camera can capture another series as soon as it's finished with the current one. (NOTE that this mode only works in Auto mode.)

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.

 

Operation and User Interface

The S5000's user interface is a pared-down version of Fuji's earlier and more complex S602 Zoom model. Many exposure features can be adjusted externally, though the LCD displays must be active to see the adjustment. (Of course, given that there's no optical viewfinder, one or the other display is active all the time when the camera is in use.) The Power/Mode dial quickly sets the main operating mode, while the Exposure Mode dial lets you determine the level of exposure control. The dual-function Four-Way Multicontroller lets you adjust flash and macro settings without entering the Record menu, while the up and down arrow keys quickly adjust exposure settings in Aperture and Shutter Priority modes. When you do have to deal with the LCD menu, it's very straightforward, consisting of a row of subject tabs at the bottom of the LCD display. As you scroll through each tab, the relevant options appear above it. A moderately experienced user might spend an hour or so learning to use the camera, but operation becomes progressively easier and faster as you get to know the layout better. (And novices can simply turn the camera on, set the Exposure Mode dial to "Auto" and press the shutter button.)


Shutter Button

Located on the top panel in the center of the Power/Mode dial, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the self-timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the 10-second countdown.

Power/Mode Dial
Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this dial controls the camera's power, and selects either Record or Playback operating modes.


Exposure Compensation Button

Just behind the Power/Mode dial on the top panel, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV units (f-stops for the old timers among us) in one-third-step increments, by pressing it while simultaneously left and right arrow keys (except in Manual, Scene Program, and Auto modes). In Manual exposure mode, this same set of actions adjusts the lens aperture setting from f/2.8 to f/8 (depending on zoom position).


Drive Mode Button

To the left of the Exposure Compensation button, pressing this button displays the on-screen Drive menu. Pressing the left and right arrow keys with the Drive Mode button held down selects Single Exposure (Off), Top-5 Frame, Auto Bracketing, Final-5 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting modes (the latter in Auto mode only).


Exposure Mode Dial

Behind the Drive Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons on the top panel, this large, ribbed dial controls the camera's exposure mode, offering the following selections:


Focus Mode Selector Button and Lock Switch
: On the left side of the camera's top panel, this button and dial combination lets you set the camera's focus mode. Pressing the center button switches between Single AF, Manual, and Continuous AF modes. If the selector dial is set to Lock, the button cannot be pressed.


Zoom Buttons (Playback Zoom Control)

Located in the top right corner of the rear panel, these buttons control the optical and digital telephoto when the camera is in Record mode. In Playback mode, the buttons zoom the LCD view in and out of captured images, enlarging details.


Back Button

Beneath the "W" button of the Zoom controls, this button backs out of menu selections without making any changes. It can also be used to quickly exit from some camera functions. (Such as enlarged image playback.)


Four-Way Multicontroller

Located beneath the Back button and adjacent to the LCD monitor, this multi-directional arrow button toggles up and down or left and right, with an arrow in each direction. In any settings menu, the arrow keys navigate through menu options and selections. The left arrow accesses the Macro focus setting, while the right arrow adjusts the flash mode (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off, Slow-Synchro, or Red-Eye Reduction Slow-Synchro modes). When the Drive Mode or Exposure Compensation buttons are held down, the right and left arrows adjust the selected setting. In Program AE mode, the up and down arrow keys cycle through a range of equivalent exposure settings. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the up and down arrows control the available exposure parameter. In Manual mode, however, the up and down arrows control shutter speed, while the left and right arrows control aperture (with the Exposure Compensation button pressed).

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged in Playback or in Preview mode, all four arrows move around within the enlarged view.

Menu/OK Button
Tucked in the center of the Four-Way Multicontroller, this button calls the settings menu in any mode. This button also acts as the "OK" to confirm menu changes.


Display Button

Directly below the Four-Way Multicontroller, this button cycles through the information display options in both Playback and Record modes. In Record mode, one of the optional displays includes an alignment grid that divides up the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically. (This is very handy for lining up the camera with objects in the scene, to insure that your photos are square and level.) In Playback mode, the Display button also activates a nine-image index display mode.


EVF / LCD Button

Just above the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button switches the viewfinder and playback displays between the electronic viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor.


Photo Mode Button
: To the left of the EVF/LCD button, this button activates the camera's Photo Mode menu in Record mode, and the DPOF menu in Playback mode. Options are as follows:


Diopter Adjustment Dial

Just on the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the focus of the viewfinder to accommodate near- or farsighted users.


Pop-Up Flash Release Button

Nestled on the left side of the camera, just beneath the pop-up flash compartment, this button releases the flash, allowing it to spring open its operating position.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Scene Program Mode
Offers a selection of preset "scene" shooting modes, for capturing good images in specific shooting situations. Available scene types are Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene. Limited exposure controls are available, although the camera controls most settings.

Movie Mode
Records short movie clips with sound. The actual amount of recording time varies with the amount of memory card space, but recording will continue until either the Shutter button is pressed again or the memory card runs out of space. No exposure controls are available.

Auto Exposure Mode
Gives the camera control of all exposure parameters, although the user still can adjust flash mode, drive mode, file size and quality settings, and zoom.

Program AE Exposure Mode
Returns most of the exposure control to the user, although the camera remains in charge of aperture and shutter speed values. Pressing the up and down arrow keys selects a range of equivalent aperture/shutter speed combinations, though.

Shutter Priority Exposure Mode
Gives the user control over shutter speed (from 1/2,000 to two seconds), while the camera selects the best aperture value. All other exposure options are available.

Aperture Priority Exposure Mode
Similar to Shutter Priority mode, only now the user controls the aperture setting (from f/2.8 to f/8 in 10 steps) while the camera selects the shutter speed. All exposure options are available.

Manual Exposure Mode
Gives the user complete control over exposure parameters, including aperture and shutter speed. All exposure options are adjustable, but exposure compensation is disabled since there's no automatic exposure selection to adjust.

Playback Mode
This mode lets you scroll through captured images and movies, view a nine-image index display, zoom into a captured image to inspect it more closely, delete unwanted images, and set up images for printing on DPOF compatible devices.

Record Menu
Accessed by pressing the Menu button in any of the Record modes. Not all options will be available in all exposure modes.

Playback Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode.

Setup Menu: The following menu options automatically appear when entering Set mode:


Image Storage and Interface

The FinePix S5000 stores images on xD-Picture cards, and comes with a 16MB card. Since this won't hold very many high resolution images, I highly recommend buying a larger capacity card right away, given the camera's high maximum resolution setting and optional RAW recording mode. (A 64 MB card should probably be considered a minimum for this camera.)

The LCD display reports the number of available images at the current resolution setting, so you always have an idea of the remaining image capacity. The table below shows the number of images of each size that can be stored on an average 64 MB memory card, and the approximate level of JPEG compression used for each. (Note that this is NOT the size card shipped with the unit, but rather a typical and fairly useful size many owners may end up using. Divide the image capacities shown by four, and you'll see why I say you really have to plan on buying an extra card or cards with the camera: The included 16MB card really isn't very useful with files this large.)

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
64MB Memory Card
RAW
Fine
Full
Resolution
2,816 x 2,120
Images
(Avg size)
- 43
1.5 MB
Approx.
Compression
- 12:1
High
Resolution
2,048 x 1,536
Images
(Avg size)
9
6.5 MB
81
790 KB
Approx.
Compression
1.5:1 12:1
Standard Resolution
1,600 x 1,200
Images
(Avg size)
-
101
634 KB
Approx.
Compression
-
9:1
Low
Resolution
1,280 x 960
Images
(Avg size)
-
137
467 KB
Approx.
Compression
-
8:1


As you would expect, the memory card should never be removed while the camera is in operation to avoid damaging the media. A flashing orange and green LED lamp above the LCD monitor lights when the camera is accessing the card. Through the Playback menu, you can write-protect individual frames or all frames on the memory card. Write-protection prevents accidental erasure, except through card formatting.

A USB cable and software CD accompany the camera, for connection to a computer. Like many USB-equipped cameras these days, the S5000 is a "storage class" USB device, meaning that it will show up on the desktop of Mac OS 8.6 and higher machines, as well as those of Windows Me, XP, and 2000 computers, without having to load driver software. This is a handy and increasingly common feature on digicams, since it makes it a lot easier to connect the camera to computers other than your own, without having to worry about special driver software, etc.

The S5000 is pretty speedy when downloading images to a host computer, as I clocked it at 673 KB/second on my Windows XP machine. (Sony VAIO desktop, 2.4 GHz PIV, 512 MB RAM) This is faster than most cameras with a USB v1.1 interface, but slower than some that have USB v2.0 connections.)

Thanks to its SuperCCD technology, the S5000 can also function as a "webcam," streaming video imagery over the USB connection to a host running the appropriate software. Fuji includes the Windows-only package PictureHello in the box with the S5000.

 


Video Out

The S5000 comes with an A/V (audio and video) cable that allows you to connect the camera to a television set for reviewing images and movies. Since the viewfinder signal in record mode is also routed to the video jack, you can also use a video monitor as an expanded viewfinder for composing shots. A Setup menu option changes the video mode to PAL or NTSC.


Power

The S5000 uses four AA-type batteries for power, and comes with a set of single-use alkaline cells. As always, I strongly recommend buying a few sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger, and always keeping a freshly charged set on hand as spares. You can read my battery test results here, or see this article for a review of my favorite charger.

An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory, potentially handy when downloading images or reviewing captured files, and essential if you plan to use the S5000 as a webcam. (If you don't plan on using the camera as a webcam, a good set of rechargeable NiMH cells should more than do the trick.) An Auto Power Off function shuts off the camera automatically after either two or five minutes of inactivity (adjusted through the Setup menu), but can be disabled if you want to keep the camera ready all the time, at the obvious cost of shorter battery life. There's also a "Discharge" function accessible through the Setup menu, which discharges the batteries. (Only use with NiMH rechargeable batteries, and never alkaline cells.) The Discharge utility completely discharges the batteries, so that they can be recharged completely. - This is a nice feature, handy if your NiMH charger doesn't have a "conditioning" option on it. (For best results, discharge-condition your NiMH batteries every 20 charge cycles or so.) The table below details power consumption in various operating modes.

Operating Mode
Power Drain
(@ 5v)
Estimated Runtime
(1600mAh, 4.8v
4 NiMH Cells)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
402 mA
3.8 hours
Capture Mode, EVF
349 mA
4.4 hours
Capture Mode, "sleeping"
157 mA
9.8 hours
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
399 mA
3.8 hours
Half-pressed w/EVF
337 mA
273
Memory Write (transient)
526 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
1099 mA
n/a
Image Playback
417 mA
5.8 hours

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. 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.

 

Included Software

Packaged with the S5000 is a software CD containing Fuji's "Software for FinePix," compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms. In addition to USB drivers, the software package includes FinePix Viewer for organizing files, and a RAW File Converter for processing RAW data files. Windows users can take advantage of the PictureHello application, which turns the S5000 into a webcam.

 

Included Hardware

Included in the box are the following items:


Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. 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 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.

 

Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
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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.

<<S5000 Sample Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

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