Fujifilm S5200 Review

 
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Fuji FinePix S5200 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The FinePix S5200 does slightly overdo the strong red and blue tones, though overall saturation is pretty pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The S5200 occasionally pushed skin tones toward a warmer tint, though results were still good overall and quite believable.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The S5200 did push toward either a warm or a cool overall color balance, depending on the white balance setting and composition, though results here were also quite good overall. Fairly tame color control overall.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Moderate warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, though good results in Manual mode. About average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +0.7 EV
 
Manual White Balance +1.0 EV  

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was pretty good with the Manual white balance setting, though the Auto and Incandescent settings resulted in warmer casts. The FinePix S5200 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost for the most pleasing results, about average for this shot. (That said, the Incandescent white balance setting was quite overexposed at +1.0 EV, and looked best with a +0.7 EV adjustment.) Overall color looks good, though the blue flowers in the bouquet are quite dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good overall color, though slightly warm color balance. Lower than average exposure compensation, though high contrast.

Manual White Balance, +0.3 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the FinePix S5200 responded to bright lighting with high contrast, limiting both highlight and shadow detail. Still, the camera required far less positive exposure compensation than normal. Color was usually bright and nearly accurate, though depending on the white balance setting, overall color balance either appeared slightly warm or cool.

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

Resolution
High resolution, 1,100 - 1,200 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 1,100-1,150 lines vertically. Extinction occurred around 1,850 lines horizontally, and around 1,700 lines vertically. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,200 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,100~1,150 lines vertical

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

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images, though some visible edge enhancement as well as slight noise suppression.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with some over-sharpening and edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker and lighter parts of Marti's hair here.

The FinePix S5200's images are sharp overall, though often due to some edge enhancement from the camera, particularly in high-contrast subjects such as the fine foliage above. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this in the lighter and darker areas of Marti's hair, which do show slightly limited detail. Still, highlighted individual strands are quite visible against her cheek and elsewhere.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, very high noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.

ISO 64 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

Noise remains fairly low at the FinePix S5200's lower ISO settings, though it increases dramatically at ISOs 800 and 1,600. At ISO 400, image noise is higher, but not terribly distracting. However, at ISO 1,600, image noise is so strong that it greatly blurs fine detail, and gives the overall image a watercolor effect.

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

Normal +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

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

The FinePix S5200 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Noise suppression in the shadows limits detail there, and the highlights hold onto very little detail as well. I chose a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment because the overall exposure looked best, though the default exposure definitely has less intense highlights. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.) I also chose the Manual white balance, despite the slight warm cast, as the Auto setting resulted in too cool skin tones.

Low light:
The FinePix S5200 performed quite well in low lighting, capturing bright images at the lowest light levels we test at. (Though at ISOs 64 and 100, results were only bright to about 1/4 and 1/8 foot-candles respectively, about 1/4 and 1/8 as bright as normal city street lighting at night.) Color balance was actually pretty good with the Auto white balance setting, and the camera's autofocus system worked unusually well, able to focus on the subject down to the darkest light level, even with its AF-assist light turned off. Though I would expect a 15-second exposure to produce slightly brighter results at ISO 100, the FinePix S5200 still performs very well here.

  1 fc
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ISO
64
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1600
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Flash

Coverage and Range
The S5200's flash proved slightly limited compared to its telephoto capability, and produced a slight blue cast under incandescent lighting. Our standard shots required more exposure compensation than average.

38mm equivalent 380mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.7 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.7 EV

Flash coverage was fairly even at wide angle, though with a hint of falloff in the corners of the frame. However, at full telephoto, the flash was just too weak for use. In the Indoor test, the S5200's flash resulted in the same intensity at the default exposure setting as with a +1.7 EV exposure compensation boost. The flash did produce a slight blue cast in the highlights, though the background incandescent lighting resulted in a warmer, orange cast. In the Slow-Sync flash mode, results were very similar, though with slightly stronger blue and orange casts.

The FinePix S5200's flash illuminated the Davebox target fairly well to about 10 feet, where intensity began to falloff. Results are quite dim at the 13-foot distance.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft
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Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, very usable 13x19 inch prints at ISO 100. ISO 800 images are very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Fujifilm FinePix S5200, we found that it had enough resolution to make very crisp 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14 and 13x19, its prints were still good, more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check, but at the cost of rather soft-looking images. ISO 200 photos look great printed at 8x10 inches, and even ISO 400 images are very good, but ISO 800 and 1600 images are marginal even at 5x7 inches, but look fine at 4x6. As such, the ISO 800 and 1600 images are still usable, but before you venture into that space, remember this limitation. If you're only going to print full-frame 4x6 images, you can feel free to play all over the map; but if you have any inkling of enlarging, stay to ISO 400 or below. Overall, that's still pretty impressive performance from a small camera with a very long lens. Many other cameras ISO 400 setting is about as noisy as the S5200's ISO 800, so Fujifilm has come a long way.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

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

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Fujifilm FinePix S5200 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!

Fujifilm S5200

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