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Fuji FinePix S7000

Fuji's latest electronic SLR offers a larger, 6.3-megapixel CCD that interpolates to 12.3 megapixels - one of the highest resolution consumer models we've tested to date!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 01/16/2004

Executive Overview
Released as an update to the highly popular FinePix S602 Zoom digicam, the Fuji FinePix S7000 digital camera continues with the traditional 35mm shape that gives the camera a more serious appearance. Though its larger than other Fuji FinePix models, the S7000 is still fairly compact, considering its large 6x zoom lens and exceptional range of features. The body appears to be almost entirely composed of structural plastic, but the camera nevertheless has a very solid "feel" to it. Despite its relatively light weight though, you'll definitely want to attach the neck strap to keep it securely around your neck when walking around.

The big news on the S7000 is its Super CCD HR, which produces high-quality, interpolated images as large as 4,048 x 3,040 pixels (12.3 megapixels). That's higher than any consumer-level camera currently out on the market. A few other improvements over the S602 Zoom include an extremely long flash range, extending to an amazing 27.9 feet (8.5 meters) at the full wide angle setting. Additionally, the camera's electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) has a much higher-resolution display, offering 235,000 pixels. (As a comparison, the S602 Zoom's display offered 180,000 pixels (800 x 225), which isn't too shabby either.) Mimicking higher-end 35mm cameras, the S7000 also features a socket on the Shutter button for attaching a cable release. This is a useful tool when taking long exposures, as you can remotely release the shutter without risking any vibration. Like the S602 Zoom, the S7000 offers Pixel-Mixing Technology for high-quality VGA-resolution movies at an astonishing 30 frame/second frame rate, and a High-Definition Color Processor for more accurate color, in addition to an excellent range of exposure features.

The S7000 features a well designed, retractable lens with 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, allowing a variety of front-element add-on lenses to be used with the camera. Most camera control is accomplished via external controls, so there's less reliance on the LCD menu system than would be the case otherwise. Because the S7000 uses an electronic viewfinder (EVF) system though, you can't conserve battery power by turning off the LCD screen. (Although the eye level EVF does consume less power than the rear-panel LCD.) Though the control layout may seem daunting to the uninitiated, I actually found it quite intuitive after shooting with the camera for a while. I found I could access commonly-used shooting controls very quickly, thanks to an interface design that let me avoid the LCD menu system most of the time.

As just mentioned, the S7000 has both an "electronic" optical viewfinder and a larger rear-panel LCD monitor for framing shots. The electronic optical viewfinder is actually a miniaturized (0.44 inches) version of the larger 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. As an eyeglass wearer, I appreciated both the inclusion of a dioptric adjustment on the EVF, and its relatively high eyepoint, which made it easy to use with my glasses on. With 235,000 pixels, the EVF on the S7000 is also much easier on the eyes when it comes to viewing finer details and menu screens. The 1.8-inch color LCD monitor also has a very sharp display, with some useful focus enlargement options in record mode, and a histogram display.

The Super EBC Fujinon 6x zoom lens (35-210mm equivalent) offers an aperture range from f/2.8-f/8, manually and automatically adjustable. Focus ranges from 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 3.9 inches to 2.6 feet (10 to 80 centimeters) in Macro mode. A Super Macro mode focuses from 0.4 to 7.9 inches, or from 1 to 20 centimeters, about the closest macro range I've seen on a digicam, matched by only a small handful of models. The camera's autofocus system operates in either Single or Continuous AF modes, with an adjustable AF area. (See my later discussion of the S7000's autofocus under the Optics section of this review.) A focus switch on the left side of the camera goes between Single AF, Continuous AF, and Manual focus modes, and the focus ring around the end of the lens barrel adjusts the manual focus. The One-Touch AF button quickly snaps the image into focus in manual mode, letting you tweak the focus from there, while a Focus Check button enlarges the center of the frame 2x to help with manual focusing. (Overall, the S7000 has some of the best focusing options I've yet seen in a prosumer-level digicam, although I do wish it had a numerical distance readout.) In addition to the impressive 6x optical zoom, the S7000 also offers as much as 3.2x digital zoom, though as always, image quality decreases with digital enlargement.

The S7000 offers a wide range of exposure control, from full Auto to full Manual 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, Scene Program, and Movie exposure modes. Scene Program offers a handful of preset shooting modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene. Shutter speeds range from 1/10,000 to 15 seconds in full Manual mode, with a Bulb setting for arbitrary exposures up to 15 seconds, but the range decreases to 1/2,000 to 1/4 second in Auto and Scene Program modes (three seconds in Night Scene mode), and 1/1,000 to three seconds in Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Program modes.

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 S7000 uses a 64-zone, multi-segment metering system, but Average and Spot metering modes are available through the settings menu. An AE Lock button locks the exposure reading independently of focus. 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 (set through the menu system). In any of the manual exposure modes, the camera's ISO sensitivity setting offers Auto, 200, 400, and 800 ISO equivalents (though the 800 setting automatically limits the resolution to three megapixels or less). White Balance choices include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, and two Custom (manual) settings. You can also adjust image sharpness, and a Self-Timer mode offers two- and 10-second countdowns. 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. An external flash hot shoe with a single contact accommodates a more powerful flash unit, but the S7000 also features an adjustment to increase the flexibility of its onboard flash.

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 forces the resolution to 3.0 megapixels or less, but allows very long sequences of images to be captured. 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 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 has occurred.

In Playback mode, a Voice Memo option records as much as 30 seconds of sound to accompany still images, great for more lively captions. The S7000's Movie mode offers 640 x 480- and 320 x 240-pixel resolutions, and records for as long as the memory card has available space, at a full 30 frames/second. For more creative shooting, the S7000's Multiple Exposure mode overlaps as many exposures as you like, producing a double-exposure effect.

Images are stored on either xD-Picture Cards or CompactFlash type II memory cards (a 16MB xD-Picture Card comes with the camera), as the S7000 has dual memory card slots. The camera also accommodates the IBM Microdrive, but since it uses the FAT16 file system, it can't access more than 2GB on the latest solid-state and Microdrive cards which are reaching capacities as high as four gigabytes (six gigabyte and higher cards are well on their way). Quality choices include two 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 makes the S7000 into a webcam). The software CD that comes with the camera, also includes Fuji's FinePix Viewer software for image downloading, and ImageMixer for creating CD albums, as well as a RAW converter for processing the RAW format files. Power for the S7000 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. An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory.

 

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