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Fuji FinePix S5000

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

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Page 4:Viewfinder

Review First Posted: 10/01/2003


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.)


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