Fujifilm S9100 Review
Fujifilm FinePix S9100 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slight oversaturation in bright reds, and blues, though good overall color, and hue accuracy.
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 S9100 pumps the reds a bit, and only nudges the blue tones toward cyan for more appealing skies. We found its color pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects though. 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 S9100 did render skin tones just slightly on the pink side, almost certainly within the range that would be acceptable to most consumers.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Fuji S9100 also performed fairly well. Depending on the white balance setting, the S9100 had a tendency toward slightly reddish, or slightly warm overall color, often resulting in deep blues in the flower bouquet. On the color error chart above right, we see that, as with most digital cameras we test, the S9100 shifts cyans toward pure blues, a very common tactic to improve sky colors. Orange hues are shifted slightly toward pure reds, but all other colors are quite hue-accurate.
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Excessive warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, but Manual option produced very good results. More exposure compensation required than usual, but Incandescent white balance required less.
|Auto White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm in Auto, and Incandescent white balance modes, but the Manual setting produced much more accurate results. The FinePix S9100 required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost in Auto and Manual white balance modes to get a good exposure, which is higher than average for this shot. Incandescent white balance, however, looked best at +0.7 EV, a puzzling variation. Overall color with the manual setting looks good, if a little reddish, though the blue flowers are 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 bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Good overall color balance, though a hint red. Good color, and average to better-than-average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance, +0.3 EV||Auto White Balance,
Outdoor shots generally showed fairly accurate exposure, though highlights were easily blown-out, and the deep shadows lost some detail. The Fuji FinePix S9100 generally required less exposure compensation than average outdoors as well. Color is quite good, vivid without appearing at all overdone, although bright yellows, and greens were a bit more muted than with many consumer-level digital cameras.
Very high resolution, 1,600 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to 1,600 lines horizontal||Strong detail to 1,600 lines vertical|
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height, with extinction past 2,000. (Some reviewers will doubtless argue for higher numbers, but past 1600 lines, the level of artifacts, and aliasing starts to swamp the target detail itself.) 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images, with some blurring of detail from noise suppression.
The Fujifilm S9100's images are sharp, with relatively little over-sharpening, or excessive edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors, and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color, or tone.) Though some edge enhancement is at play here, results are still very good, and the camera's images take strong/tight unsharp masking in Photoshop very well.
Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten 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 somewhat, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited, blurry detail, though individual strands are visible where a lighted strand passes in front of a darker shadow area. On balance, the S9100 shows less detail loss to noise reduction at low ISO settings than average, but more at high ISOs.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though high noise that blurs detail at the highest settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
The S9100's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. As the ISO setting increased, so did the noise level, and the amount of blurring caused by the noise reduction processing. Even so, the S9100 represents an improvement in noise control over the S9000. Images at ISO 400 are visibly soft on-screen, but still look crisp when printed at 8 x 10 inches. You can see that at ISO 800 and 1,600 detail really starts to, then completely falls apart. Prints from ISO 800 and 1,600 images are best kept to 5x7 and 4x6 respectively. See Output Quality below for more on printed output from the Fujifilm S9000.
Extremes: Sunlit, and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast limits both highlight, and shadow detail. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting, and darker.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
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 Fujifilm S9100 handled the above challenge fairly well, but its somewhat high contrast resulted in limited highlight and shadow detail. The effect of noise suppression is visible in the deep shadows, and does contribute to the moderate loss of detail here. The default exposure preserved the strong highlights in this shot, but the +0.3 EV image is just a bit brighter and better-looking overall, despite the loss of highlight detail. (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.)
The Fujifilm S9100 performed very well here, capturing bright images even at the lowest light levels. Color balance looked good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked unusually well, able to focus on the subject almost down to the darkest light levels we test at, even with its AF-assist light turned off. (About 1/8 foot-candle, roughly 1/8 as bright as typical city street lighting at night, as long as the camera, and subject were both motionless.) With AF-assist on, the camera easily handled the darkest level we test at. There was some peculiarity with exposure, especially at the lowest light levels, where the S9100 struggled to set exposure reliably. The AF-assist lamp also changes the exposure while it's on, but seems to settle back down before you shoot. Our first set of low light shots was made with the AF off because we were suspicious of the AF-assist lamp's effect on exposure. They have been replaced, because the manual-focus images weren't focused well enough. Exposure inconsistencies remain at the lowest levels, but we think the S9100 performs better than most point-and-shoot cameras, and not quite as good as most SLRs.
Coverage and Range
The FinePix S9100's flash has a limited range, and produces a slight blue cast in combination with typical incandescent room lighting. However, our standard shots required a little less exposure compensation than average.
|28mm equivalent||300mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, High Intensity
|Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity
Flash coverage was uneven at wide-angle. At telephoto, results were quite dim. In the Indoor test, the flash on the Fuji S9100 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results. Even here, the exposure is a little dim, with a strong, orange cast. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced only slightly brighter results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. The Slow-Sync flash also required a +0.7 EV exposure adjustment for bright results.
Even at six feet at wide angle, our closest test range, the S9100's flash underexposed the target somewhat. Flash exposure then rises and falls as we get out further, finally only falling past 14 feet.
At telephoto, it falls off even quicker, rises, then falls again. It was fairly inconsistent exposure, but it could be due to the reflective chart in the center of the frame, and how the contents of the frame changes as the camera moves back. Ultimately, if you plan on doing a lot of flash shooting, you might want to invest in an external flash unit. The manual states that compatible flash units must meet the following conditions: The aperture can be set, External flash sync can be used, and ISO sensitivity can be set.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 400
Auto ISO 400
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of their claims.
In the shots above, the S9100 seems to perform exactly as Fujifilm says it will at wide angle, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. At Telephoto, the S9100 underexposes the target, even at ISO 400. Since it defaults to 1/125, it could be again argued that the camera is responding to the specular highlight coming off the scale at the center, reducing the exposure to keep from blowing out that part of the target.
Great print quality, great color, crisp prints at 11 x 14 inches, usable ones at 13 x 19. ISO 400 images are usable to 11 x 14 inches, better at 8 x 10. ISO 800 is usable at 8 x 10, but ISO 1,600 is only good at 4 x 6.
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 iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
The Fujifilm S9100 produced reasonably sharp 13 x 19 inch prints. We've observed in the past that Fuji's Super CCD sensor technology really shines in printed output, more so than when viewed on-screen, and the S9100 once again proves that out. Even 13 x 19 inch prints stood up very well to close inspection, appearing sharper than we'd normally expect 9 megapixel prints to look when printed at that size.
As noted above, the S9100 does fine at lower ISO settings, but its image quality degrades fairly rapidly above ISO 400. At ISOs 800 a print size of 8 x 10 inches with a normal viewing distance of a foot or so still shows noise on ISO 800 shots while ISO 1,600 shots are really unusable at that size. Dropping down to 5 x 7 inches, ISO 800 shots are still a little grainy, but should be acceptable to most users, while ISO 1,600 shots are still very rough. Printed as 4 x 6 inch snapshots, the ISO 1,600 images become usable, but still look a bit rough, and have a visibly different color balance resulting from all the noise pixels.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Fujifilm FinePix S9100 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 S9100 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!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.