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Fuji FinePix S9000

By: Dave Etchells

Fuji's latest bridge camera offers a larger, 9.0-megapixel SuperCCD HR imager with a high resolution electronic optical viewfinder.

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 12/14/2005

Design

The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 looks a lot like a compact film-based SLR, and is much the same size as a small consumer DSLR with a kit lens attached. It's actually quite small nonetheless though, if you take its powerful 10.7x zoom lens, 9 megapixel imager, and panoply of features into account. Getting all that in a 5.0 x 3.7 x 5.5 inch (127 x 94 x 140 millimeters) package is impressive. Its body appears to be almost entirely composed of structural plastic, but it nonetheless has a quite solid "feel" to it, much more what I'd normally associate with a metal-bodied camera. It's light enough to hold easily with one hand, but the weight of the lens and the number of controls on the left side of the lens body will make you want to hold it two-handed. Despite its relatively light weight at 1.72 pounds (27.6 ounces; 783 grams), its non-pocketable size means you'll almost certainly want to use the included neckstrap when walking around with it.

The 10.7x f/2.8-4.9 Fujinon zoom lens dominates the front view of the camera, a substantial optic given the camera's sensor size. The lens telescopes out an additional 1.5 inches or so from the camera body as you move across its zoom range. Ribbed focus and zoom rings surround the lens barrel, with the focus ring being nearer to the camera body, and the zoom ring nearer to the front of the lens. The focus ring adjusts focus using an electronic "fly by wire" system when the camera is put into manual focus mode. The zoom ring adjusts the optical zoom mechanically, which provides much greater control than the electronic zoom controls on many cameras. Mechanically linked zoom mechanisms can usually be adjusted more precisely, and the zoom can be quickly flicked from one end of its range to the other, or gradually tweaked to perfection. Just above and to the right of the lens (as seen from the rear) is the round LED autofocus assist lamp, which doubles as an indicator for the camera's self-timer function. To the right of this is the passive AF sensor, which uses a phase difference detection system to help gauge focus. At the very bottom of the camera's front, below the AF sensor, is a standard PC sync terminal, allowing for the camera to control off-camera / studio flash strobes. A tiny cap protects the terminal, but it has no tether to prevent accidental loss. The handgrip is large and allows a firm hold, with a leather-like texture that provides good traction for your fingers as they wrap around the camera. A groove also runs down the inside of the grip to give the tips of your fingers even more leverage. Hidden on the left side of the lens and beneath the flash compartment is a tiny hole for the microphone used to record audio.

The camera's top panel hosts a number of controls, as well as the pop-up flash compartment and external flash hot shoe. An Exposure Mode dial and Command wheel sit side-by-side on the far right, with the Drive, Flash, and Exposure Compensation buttons closer to the front. A Mode switch controls the main operating mode and encircles the silver Shutter button, which features a screw mount for a cable release. (There are very few digital cameras with an old-fashioned cable release like this, but it makes so much sense we're hoping to see it more often.)

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is one of the neck strap attachments, as well as the memory card compartment. A locking plastic door protects the card compartment, which has one slot for xD-Picture Cards and one for CompactFlash Type II memory cards. It is compatible with the Hitachi Microdrive.

The opposite side of the camera is more feature-laden, with a number of control buttons, the other neck strap attachment, speaker, and a connector compartment. Controls include Macro and Info buttons, as well as a Focus switch and One-Touch AF button (nestled inside the focus switch). The DC In connector jack, USB, and A/V Out jacks sit beneath a fairly thick door that presses firmly back into the side of the camera. Also visible on this side of the camera is a tiny flash release button, just beneath the flash compartment. Finally, a sixteen hole grille at the base of the pop-up flash indicates the location of the camera's speaker.

The rest of the camera controls are on the back panel, sharing the space with the electronic viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. The LCD monitor is mounted on a rather unusual mechanism that allows it to tilt upward 90 degrees, or downward 45 degrees. With both mechanisms extended together, the display tilts 45 degrees upward, projecting about two inches from the rear of the camera body. A small diopter adjustment dial adjusts the electronic viewfinder for eyeglass wearers, and a firm rubber eyecup surrounds the viewfinder eyepiece. Nestled in the middle of a metering mode selection dial to the right of the viewfinder, there's an AE-lock button. A Four-Way Arrow pad with central Menu / OK button, EVF / LCD button, focus check button, FinePix button, and display / back button complete the back panel controls. As seen on many of Fujifilm's other recent digital cameras, the FinePix button accesses more commonly-used functions like resolution, sensitivity, and color settings (without you having to cycle through the main LCD menu options). A small LED lamp next to the memory compartment door (on the right side) lights whenever the camera is writing to the memory card, indicating that you shouldn't open the compartment door. (This LED also lights when the flash is charging, there's a problem with the camera, or to indicate the status of the AE / AF systems.)

The Fujifilm S9000's bottom panel is nice and flat, with a metal tripod mount centered beneath the lens. The tripod mount is centered on the axis of the lens. Panorama enthusiasts will note that it's quite a bit back from the lens' optical center, so you'll still need a special tripod head for seamless panoramic shots; but that's not a real knock against the camera. While becoming more common on prosumer digicams, I still applaud Fuji for their use of a metal tripod socket, rather than the cheaper but less rugged plastic. Also on the bottom panel is the battery compartment, with a plastic door that slides out before opening.

 

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