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Quick Review

Fuji FinePix S5100 Digital Camera

Fuji FinePix S5100 QuickLook
Review Date 12/3/2004
User Level Novice - Amateur
Product Uses Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design Point and Shoot
Picture Quality Good, 4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes up to 11x14, 8x10 with some cropping
Availability Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)



Fuji FinePix S5100 Review Links
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
The Fuji FinePix S5100 is one of the latest in a long line of Fujifilm long-zoom digital cameras. Fujifilm produces a wide range of digicam models, from bare-bones entry-level models up to and including a high-end digital SLR. To my mind though, their greatest success has been in creating good-quality midrange cameras that sell at very competitive prices, and the new Fuji S5100 is another good example of that trend. A couple of years back, Fuji brought long-zoom digicams down to affordable price levels with their FinePix 2800 and 3800 models. Now, the Fuji S5100 advances the cause even further, with a 4.0 megapixel CCD, a 10x optical zoom lens, and a host of exposure features. While it still sports a super-easy fully automatic mode, the Fuji FinePix S5100 goes beyond basic "point & shoot" capability with Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes, as well as a few scene modes. The Fuji S5100 offers very long-zoom capability and greater exposure control at a surprisingly affordable price.


Camera Overview

Featuring a miniaturized, "SLR-style" body design that brings to mind a scaled-down Nikon D70, the Fuji FinePix S5100 offers a 10x optical zoom lens complemented by a four-megapixel CCD. To accommodate the camera's long zoom lens, the Fuji S5100's body is a little chunky, but still compact compared to many long-zoom digicams. Very portable and lightweight, the S5100 will definitely be handy for impromptu outings and social gatherings. An included lens cover/accessory lens adapter ring provides protection and doesn't add too much to the bulk, so users would do well to keep it attached to protect the projecting lens from impact damage. Conveniently, the lens cap fits on both the lens and the lens with adapter ring. Too large for a standard shirt pocket either way, the Fuji S5100 should fit into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a shoulder strap to make carrying easier. Measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.1 inches (112.7 x 81.1 x 79.3 millimeters), the S5100 weighs 15.5 ounces (439 grams) with batteries and xD-Picture Card, and fits well in one hand. A substantial handgrip provides a very firm hold, nicely balancing out the weight of the lens barrel. The Fuji S1500's 4.0-megapixel CCD delivers clear, sharp images as large as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels, suitable for printing as large as 11x14 inches with great detail, or 8x10 inches with some cropping. (A lower resolution is also available for more email-friendly file sizes.)

The Fuji FinePix S5100's Fujinon 10x, 5.7-57mm lens is the equivalent of a 37-370mm zoom on a 35mm camera, representing a focal length range from moderate wide-angle to substantial telephoto. A small, plastic lens cap protects the lens when not in use, and tethers to the camera so you don't have to worry about losing it. The telescoping lens extends about an inch from the camera when powered on, and promptly retracts when the camera is shut off. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, and can be manually set through the Record menu (in Manual mode only). Focus remains under automatic control at all times, with a focal range from 3.0 feet (90cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 3.9 inches to 6.6 feet (10 cm to 2 meters) in Macro mode. In addition to the 10x optical zoom, the S5100 also offers as much as 3.4x digital enlargement, depending on the image size selected. The digital zoom works only in the 2, 1, and 0.3 megapixel mode, to avoid the traditional lossy zoomed images of other cameras; no digital zoom is available at the 4 megapixel mode. Packaged with the Fuji S5100 is a lens adapter ring, which screws into filter threads on the inside lip of the lens barrel. The ring protects the lens when it's extended and accommodates Fuji's wide angle, telephoto, and macro lens adapters, which extend the camera's zoom capabilities. The S5100 offers both a TTL electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) and a 1.5-inch, amorphous silicon color LCD monitor. The viewfinder display switches between the EVF and LCD monitor via a button on the rear panel, which means that the complete display is available on the EVF, including the settings menus. The viewfinder's information display reports various camera settings with a central AF target, and an optional framing guide display divides the image into thirds horizontally and vertically for more accurate framing.

The Fuji FinePix S5100 offers a full complement of capture modes, from Automatic to full Manual, plus several Scene modes. The Mode dial on top of the camera puts the camera into Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Night Portrait, Sports, Landscape, and Portrait modes. Auto mode determines the entire exposure automatically, with the user able to adjust the zoom, flash mode, and image size and quality settings only. Program mode allows the user to change most settings, including alternate combinations of Aperture and Shutter speed using the up and down arrows. Shutter and Aperture Priority work as expected, also allowing the user to adjust settings with the up and down arrows. In Manual mode, you use the up and down arrows to adjust shutter speed, and you must hold down the Exposure Compensation button on the camera's top panel to adjust Aperture. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds. The FujiFilm S5100 uses a 64-zone metering system to determine exposure, with three modes: Multi, Spot, and Average. Multi metering mode considers all 64 zones, Spot considers only the center 2 percent, and Average places the greatest emphasis on the center portion of the image area. Light sensitivity can be set to Auto, 64, 100, 200, and 400. When shooting in Program, Shutter, and Aperture exposure modes, exposure compensation is adjustable from +/-2EV in one-third-step increments. White Balance offers seven settings, including Auto, Custom, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. The S5100's Scene mode offers four preset "scenes" for shooting in potentially tricky situations, and includes Portrait, Landscape, Sport, and Night Scene modes.

The Fuji FinePix S5100's built-in, pop-up flash operates in one of six modes, which include Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, Slow Synchro, and Slow Synchro with Red-Eye Reduction modes. Through the settings menu, flash power is adjustable from -0.6 to +0.6 EV values in one-third-step increments. For self-portraits or those times when pressing the Shutter button might result in camera movement, the S5100 features a Self-Timer that delays the shutter release until 10 seconds after the Shutter button is fully pressed. The FinePix S5100 can also capture movies with sound up to the limit of the card's capacity while in Movie capture mode. Movie files are saved in the Motion JPEG format, at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels.

The FujiFilm FinePix S5100 can also record still images in Continuous mode, at up to 3.45 frames per second, according to our tests. Top 3-frame mode saves the first three images, and Final 3-frame saves the last three images in the buffer. Long-period Continuous Shooting mode can handle up to 40 frames before the buffer is filled, but it takes a little longer between shots, at a speed of 1.23 frames per second.

Images captured by the Fuji S5100 are saved to xD-Picture Cards. A 16MB card comes with the camera. In addition to the 2,272 x 1,704-pixel resolution size, the S5100 also offers 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; and 640 x 480-pixel resolutions. Two JPEG compression ratios are available, including Fine and Normal. The Playback menu offers DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings for printing images on a compatible device. A USB cable and software CD accompany the camera, allowing for high-speed connection to a computer. The software CD contains Fuji's FinePix Viewer software, which organizes and displays downloaded images, and provides printing and minor editing capabilities.

The Fuji S5100 utilizes four AA batteries for power, and a set of alkaline cells accompanies the camera. As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204W charger, my longtime favorite. An AC adapter is also a separate accessory, but helpful for saving battery power while reviewing and downloading images or when using the S5100 as a webcam. Unless you're taking advantage of the camera's webcam capability though, rechargeable batteries would eliminate the need for the AC adapter.

With its compact and lightweight body, the convenience of full automatic and partial manual exposure control, 4.0-megapixel CCD, and impressive 10x zoom lens, the Fuji S5100 is a good choice for consumers looking for a portable, affordable, easy to use digicam that's also capable of manual control and takes good pictures. The S5100 offers a basic level of exposure control when you want it, complete control when that's desirable, some preset shooting modes for common tricky situations, and a Movie mode for capturing quick bits of action. Given the aggressive "street" prices the S5100 is selling at, it's one of the better bargains in the digicam market today.

Basic Features

  • 4.0-megapixel square-pixel CCD delivering images as large as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels.
  • 10x, 5.7-57mm lens (equivalent to a 37-370mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
  • Digital zoom to 3.6x, depending on image resolution.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Electronic optical viewfinder.
  • Full automatic and manual exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Adjustable apertures from f/2.8 to f/8.
  • ISO settings include Auto, 64, 100, 200, and 400.
  • Built-in, pop-up flash with six modes and variable intensity.
  • Images saved in JPEG format to xD-Picture Card (16-megabyte card included).
  • Power from four AA batteries or AC adapter (separate accessory).
  • Interface software compatible with both PC and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (with sound) and Voice Captioning function.
  • Four preset Scene modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with eight modes.
  • Sharpness adjustment.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


The Fuji FinePix S5100 offers excellent value and a good feature set for photographers interested in more telephoto capability than you normally find in zoom-equipped digicams. Its 10x zoom lens gets you over three times as close to distant objects as the typical 3x zoom you find on most digicams, while Fuji's reputation for color expertise ensures bright, vibrant colors. The S5100 would work well as an all-around everyday camera, as well as for shooting distant landscapes or wildlife, and is portable enough to travel with you. In full autofocus mode, it's shutter lag is only average, but if you can "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself, it's more than quick enough to capture fleeting action, and continuous shooting speed in its "Top 3" mode is excellent. All in all, a nice, easy-to-use camera with a long zoom at a very affordable price.



Small, lightweight, and comfortable in the hand, the Fuji FinePix S5100 adds to Fuji's growing line of very portable digicams. Building on the previous designs of the 3800 and 2800 Zoom models, the S5100 features an all-black, textured plastic body that feels professional. The S5100 easily fits into one hand, but is a little too chubby for most shirt pockets. Still, the Fuji S5100 could easily find its way into larger coat pockets and purses, and the accompanying neck/shoulder strap is a convenient carrying option. Measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.1 inches (112 x 81 x 79 millimeters), the camera's all-plastic body keeps it fairly lightweight at just 15.5 ounces (439 grams) with batteries and xD-Picture Card. The S5100's black exterior is handsome, with a smoothly sculpted handgrip. Camera controls are just about right for such a small camera, with most popular features accessible without visiting the menu.

The front of the Fuji S5100 is attractive, with shiny silver highlights on a black matte body. The lens barrel protrudes from the camera front about an inch or so; the entire camera looks for all the world like a miniaturized SLR. When the camera is powered on, the lens telescopes another inch from the camera body. A plastic lens cap protects the lens from scratches when not in use, and tethers to the camera body to prevent it from being lost. Just inside the lip of the lens barrel, plastic filter threads host the lens adapter ring that comes with the camera. The lens shares the front panel with the self-timer LED (the small, red LED between the Shutter button and pop-up flash). With the pop-up flash released, the flash itself is visible, as well as the tiny flash sensor. The good-sized handgrip on the left side of the front panel ensures a secure hold on the camera, and is substantial enough to be useful without detracting from the camera's portable size. Right of the lens is a small metal dome with holes for the microphone.

The right side of the camera (as held from the rear) is pretty bare, showing only a neck strap attachment eyelet.

The DC In, USB, and Video Out connection jacks are on the opposite side of the camera, and are protected by a tethered rubber cover. Also on this side of the camera is the second neck strap attachment eyelet, mechanical pop-up flash release button, and the xD-Picture Card slot. The card slot is protected by a hinged, plastic door, which snaps firmly into place. When this door is opened, power is cut to the camera, and the camera must be switched off and back on again to resume use. A nice speaker is also located here, one of the clearest speakers I've heard on a digicam.

The Fuji S5100's top panel features the Focus mode selector lock switch and button, the Power/Mode dial surrounding the Shutter button, Continuous Shooting button, Exposure Compensation button, Mode dial, and pop-up flash.

The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the LCD monitor and EVF viewfinder eyepiece. Positioned to the right are the zoom controls and arrow buttons, arranged as a Five-way navigation pad, and including Macro and Flash controls and the Menu/OK button in the center. The Display/Back button controls the information display in Playback and Record modes, and backs out of menu selections. The Low light viewfinder button brightens the display temporarily to aid in composition in bright light; it is reset to normal after each shot. A sculpted thumb rest on the right side of the back panel facilitates a tight grip on the camera, reinforced by the excellent hand grip on the front. Beneath the EVF eyepiece is a small LED, which reports the camera's current status (such as when focus is set, flash is charging, etc.), and the EVF/LCD button, which switches between the back panel LCD and the electronic viewfinder. Left of that is the Photo mode button, which allows the quick and easy setting of the resolution, ISO, and color settings.

The Fuji S5100's bottom panel is nice and flat, though a series of raised bumps gives your fingers something to grip when opening the battery compartment cover. This sliding cover protects the battery compartment, and moves outward (toward the side of the camera) before opening on a hinge to reveal the compartment. This is a great design for making the best use of space on the camera body, but bad for tripod work because you have to dismount the camera from the tripod to change batteries. I suspect this won't be much of an issue for users of this camera however, as its designers were clearly intending it for on-the-go use, not studio shooting. The tripod mount features metal threads (kudos for that) and is slightly off-center from the lens. The off-center mount is a little awkward for shooting panorama photos (a fairly uncommon practice, I suspect), but the position places it close to the camera's center of balance, increasing stability and reducing strain on the tripod threads (though I doubt this lightweight camera is going to strain anything).


Camera Operation

With more of an enthusiast's set of controls, the Fuji FinePix S5100's user interface is nevertheless easy to use and understand with a little practice. Exposure mode, flash, macro mode, and zoom all feature external controls. Settings like exposure compensation and white balance are adjusted through the (likewise uncomplicated) LCD menu. Navigating the LCD menu system is easy, via a menu bar that runs along the bottom. There are only a few options for the Record menu when you're in either the Auto or Scene modes, confined to adjusting the self timer, adjusting the LCD, and entering the Settings menu. In Program, Shutter, Aperture, or Manual mode, additional options include White Balance, AF Mode, Metering (called Photometry), Bracketing, Sharpness, and Flash compensation. The Setup menu is accessed as an option on the Record and Playback menus. The camera's small size and few controls also make it easy to operate one-handed. There are just enough controls and menus, though, that even the experienced digicam user should familiarize themselves with the camera by giving the manual a closer look.

Record Display: In any shooting mode, the EVF and LCD monitors show a concise information readout by default. An outline box and crosshair indicate that the AF and exposure metering are determined from the center of the frame. Also displayed is the exposure mode, resolution, quality, and number of available images. Camera settings such as flash mode, EV, etc. are also displayed if enabled. Pressing the Display button once enables a fine black framing grid in addition to the information display, which divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically. (Grids like this are handy for lining up buildings and other objects.) A second press of the Display button cancels both information and framing overlays, while a third press returns to the default information display.

Playback Display: In Playback mode, the main display shows the captured image and a small playback symbol, while the date and time of capture and the file number appear for just a few seconds as you scroll to each new image. Pressing the Display button removes the icon and disables the momentary information display, showing the image only. A third press calls up the index display mode, which displays images on the memory card as tiny thumbnails, nine at a time, and also shows the date and time of capture and file number of the currently highlighted image for a few seconds.


External Controls

Shutter Button
: Located on top of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway. A full press fires the shutter.

Power / Mode Dial: Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this dial selects the camera's operating mode. Three choices are available:

  • Record: Sets up the camera for recording still images.
  • Playback: Allows the user to review captured images, delete them, zoom in on them, or set them up for printing.
  • Off: Shuts off the camera, signaling the lens to retract.

Exposure Mode Dial
: Adjacent to the pop-up flash compartment on the top panel, this dial controls the main exposure mode. Choices are:

  • Auto: Places the camera under full automatic exposure control. The user can adjust zoom, flash mode, and image size and quality settings.
  • Program: Camera sets aperture and shutter speed, leaving the rest in the control of the user.
  • Shutter Priority: User sets the shutter speed using the up and down arrows, and the camera picks the best aperture.
  • Aperture Priority: User sets the aperture using the up and down arrows, and the camera sets the best shutter speed.
  • Manual: Offers complete manual control over exposure. User can adjust shutter speed with the up and down arrows, but must press and hold the Exposure Compensation button to adjust aperture using the same buttons.
  • Movie: Allows the camera to record moving images without sound.
  • Night Scene: Slows shutter speed for night shots, can be used with or without flash.
  • Sport: Sets higher shutter speeds to capture action.
  • Landscape: Sets focus to infinity for sharper landscape shots and turns off the flash.
  • Portrait: Enhances skin tones and softens colors and focus.

Focus mode selector switch and button
: Button selects between Single AutoFocus (S-AF), Manual Focus (MF), and Continuous AutoFocus (C-AF), and a twist lock keeps the setting from being changed accidentally.

Flash popup button
: Releases flash via a mechanical-only latch (the camera cannot activate the flash when it deems necessary).

Continuous shooting button
: Selects among continuous shooting mode options, which include Top 3-frame, Auto Bracketing, Final 3-frame, and Long-period continuous shooting. Button must be held down, while settings are adjusted via the left and right arrows on the Five-way navigation pad.

Exposure compensation button
: Available in Program, Shutter, and Aperture Priority modes, EV is adjusted by a total of +/-2EV in 1/3 increments. User holds Exposure compensation button down and uses left/right arrows to set compensation.

Zoom Rocker Control
: In the top right corner of the back panel, this zoom control has discrete "W" and "T" for zooming to wide and telephoto settings. In Record mode, these buttons control the optical and digital zoom. In Playback mode, these control digital enlargement of captured images.

Five-way navigation pad
: Located just right of the LCD, these buttons navigate left and right through settings menus. In Record mode, the left button accesses the Macro shooting mode, while the right button controls the flash mode. In playback mode, the surrounding four buttons can pan around inside a zoomed image. Top and bottom arrow buttons set Aperture and Shutter speed in Manual, Aperture, and Shutter Priority modes. The center Menu/OK button both activates the menus and confirms selections.

Photo mode button
: Allows user to set image resolution, ISO, and FinePix color settings.

EVF/LCD Button
: Tucked away on the left side of the EVF eyepiece, this button alternates the viewfinder display between the eye-level viewfinder and the rear-panel LCD monitor.

Display / Back Button
: Directly below the Menu / OK button, this button backs out of menus and menu selections. When no menu screen is displayed, this button cycles through several LCD display modes. The image and information display is on by default. A framing grid is added to that display with the first press of the Display button. A third press displays only the image. In Playback mode, this button toggles between an image information overlay, no image information at all, and an index of images on the storage card. When playback zoom is enabled, this button switches from panning mode back to zoom mode.

Low Light Viewfinder Button
: Below the Display / Back button, this button brightens the LCD display. Pressing the button a second time returns to the normal brightness level.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked on the Power / Mode dial with a red camera symbol, this mode allows you to capture still images. Ten exposure modes are available via the Exposure Mode dial, including Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Night, Sports, Landscape, and Portrait. Auto mode is fairly self-explanatory: the camera does just about everything. The P, S, A, and M modes offer varying degrees of control up to complete control in Manual mode, and the Scene modes take over control again, biasing settings for a given situation. Finally, Movie mode records short movies with sound. Following is the complete Record menu, though some options are not available in all modes:

  • Self-Timer: Activates the 2- or 10-second Self-Timer mode.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance. Choices are Auto, Custom, Daylight, Overcast, Daylight Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, and Incandescent.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure by +/-2EV in one-third-step increments.
  • AF Mode: Selects among Area, Center, and Multi point AF modes.
  • Photometry: Selects among Average, Spot, and Multi point exposure modes.
  • Bracketing: Sets up exposure bracketing for +/-1, +/-0.3, or +/-0.6EV
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening to Hard, Normal, or Soft.
  • Flash Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases flash power from -0.6 to +0.6 in one-third-step increments. Scene: (Scene mode only.) Places the camera into Portrait, Landscape, Sport, or Night Portrait modes.

  • Option/Set-Up: Accesses the following Setup submenu, as well as the LCD Brightness adjustment.

    • Image Display: Turns on an instant image review, which displays the image immediately after capture.
    • Power Save: Sets the Power Save function to enable after two or five minutes of inactivity.
    • Format: Formats the xD-Picture card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • Frame Number: Continues frame numbering from card to card, or Renews numbering with each new card.

    • Beep: Sets the camera's operational beep sound to Low, Medium, or High, or turns it off.
    • Shutter: Sets shutter sound to Low, Medium, or High, or turns it off.
    • Date Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
    • Time Difference: This option lets you set the time for another time zone. For example, when traveling, you can specify the time at home and for where you are, and the time difference is applied to captured images.

    • AF Illumination: Turns AF Assist lamp off and on.
    • Zoom position: Lens position can be set to go to a certain zoom setting when the camera is powered on, or it can be set to default.
    • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to DSC (storage class device), WEB (for using the camera as a videoconferencing tool on Windows machines, or PictBridge (for connecting to a PictBridge device).
    • CCD-RAW: Enables CCD-RAW mode, whose images must be processed on a computer with special FujiFilm software.

    • Language: Sets the menu language to one of six options. (English, French, German, Spanish, and two Asian languages.)
    • Video System: Designates the video signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • Discharge: Discharges the batteries completely, handy for avoiding "memory effect" in rechargeable cells (do not use for alkaline cells).
    • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

FinePix Photo Mode Button:
Pressing this silver button marked with an F brings up another menu that allows setting of image quality mode, ISO sensitivity, and FinePix color modes.

  • Quality: Sets the image resolution and quality. Choices are 4M Fine (2,272 x 1,704), 4M Normal (2,272 x 1,704), 2M (1,600 x 1,200), 1M (1,280 x 960), and 0.3M (640 x 480). In Movie mode, options are 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels.
  • Sensitivity: Sets the ISO to Auto, 64, 100, 200, or 400.
  • FinePix Color: Sets camera saturation modes, which include Standard, Black & white, and Chrome (which is color with increased saturation).

Playback Mode: The traditional playback symbol (a green arrow within a rectangular outline) designates this mode on the Power / Mode dial. Here, the user can review captured images, enlarge them, delete them, or set them up for printing on a DPOF-compatible output device. Pressing the Menu button pulls up the following options:

  • Erase: Deletes the selected frame or all frames.
  • Protect: Adds or removes write protection for individual frames or all frames.
  • Playback: Enables an automated slide show of captured images on the memory card, letting you select the transition style and interval.
  • Voice Memo: Records a 30 second voice memo in WAV format to accompany an image.
  • Set: Allows you to adjust the LCD brightness, or pulls up the same Setup menu as in Record mode.
  • Trimming: Lets you crop an image by zooming in and saving the cropped portion as a new file.


In the Box

Packaged in the box are the following items:

  • Fuji FinePix S5100 digital camera
  • Neck / shoulder strap
  • Lens cap with strap
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • USB cable
  • Four AA-type alkaline batteries
  • Lens adapter ring
  • Software CD-ROM containing USB drivers, FinePix Viewer, QuickTime, and ImageMixer VCD
  • Instruction manual and registration information


Recommended Accessories

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. I 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 surprising number 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 digicam 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 receives a 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...



See camera specifications here.


Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.


Sample Images

See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Indoor Flash


Viewfinder Accuracy


Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Fuji FinePix S5100's "pictures" page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Fuji FinePix S5100 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!

Need to compare specs and features? Check out our "compare cameras page," where you can compare all the specifications and features of the Fuji S5100 against other cameras you may be considering.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the Fuji S5100 pictures page, to see how the S5100's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Better than average color accuracy, although some will consider it a little undersaturated. Overly "hot" reds though. The Fuji S5100's color was surprisingly accurate, much more so than most other digicams I test. It tended to oversaturate and over-brighten strong reds somewhat, but other colors were very accurate, much more so than I'm accustomed to seeing in the consumer digicams I test. That said, the more technically accurate color of the S5100 may strike some as a little undersaturated when compared to the overly bright color of most consumer cameras. That's largely a matter of taste but on a purely objective scale, the S5100's color is more accurate than most. White balance was pretty good, handling the tough incandescent lighting of my "Indoor Portrait" shot better than most Fuji digicams have in the recent past. Color outdoors was generally excellent.

  • Exposure: Slightly variable exposure accuracy, but better than average flash exposure accuracy. The Fuji S5100's exposure system performed well, requiring roughly average amounts of exposure compensation on the test shots that normally require it. It underexposed the harshly lit Far Field test shot, but required less exposure adjustment on the Indoor Flash Portrait test. My main complaint was that its rather contrasty tone curve made it very hard to hold highlight detail if the lighting was at all harsh.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,100 lines of "strong detail." The Fuji S5100 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. (Though in the horizontal direction, you could argue for 900 lines.) I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines, in both directions. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,300 lines.

  • Image Noise: Better than average image noise. The Fuji S5100 generally has pretty low noise for a 4-megapixel digicam, and seems to do a good job of not trading away too much subject detail to achieve its low noise levels. The noise levels were very low at ISO 64 and 100. Noise increases somewhat at ISO 200, and becomes quite apparent at ISO 400, but even there, the levels are lower than I'd expect from a camera of this price/performance range.

  • Closeups: A small macro area with high resolution and strong detail. Flash is ineffective, however. The Fuji S5100 turned in a slightly better than average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.82 x 2.11 inches (72 x 54 millimeters). Resolution is high, as the coins, brooch, and dollar bill showed a lot of fine detail. Details were sharp and well-defined for the most part, though details softened in all four corners of the frame. (Soft corners are a near-universal limitation of digicam macro modes.) The S5100's flash had quite a bit of trouble on closeup shots though, as it throttled down too much and was also badly shadowed by the long lens.

  • Night Shots: Surprisingly good low-light performance, with bright exposures and fairly low noise at even the darkest light level of this test. Poor AF performance in dim lighting, but the bright green AF-assist light helped quite a lot. The Fuji S5100 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux), and at ISO 64, images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux). With both ISO settings, the target was visible at the lower light levels, just slightly too dim for use. The Auto white balance setting resulted in a warm cast, which increased at the lower light levels. Image noise remained moderate at the lower ISO settings, though it increased to a moderately high level at ISO 400. Still, results are good at the higher sensitivity. With its autofocus-assist illuminator turned off, the S5100 was only able to focus at light levels a bit darker than 1/2 foot-candle. With the AF illuminator in use though, it could focus in more or less complete darkness. All in all, very respectable low-light capability for a camera of the S5100's class.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder. The Fuji S5100's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) was very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings (though the edge of the lower measurement line was just cut off at wide angle). The LCD monitor was also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S5100's LCD monitor was essentially perfect in that regard.

  • Optical Distortion: Average barrel distortion, though low pincushion. Chromatic aberration is higher than average, particularly at extreme wide and telephoto zoom settings. Geometric distortion on the S5100 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured approximately 0.08 percent pincushion distortion (literally about two pixels). Chromatic aberration was higher than average, showing about seven or eight pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Sharpness in the corners is generally pretty good at wide and medium focal lengths, worse at telephoto settings.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Average shutter lag and cycle times. With full-autofocus shutter lag times ranging from 0.79 - 0.83 second, and shot to shot cycle times for large/fine images just under two seconds, the Fuji S5100 comes is a pretty average performer - neither greatly faster nor greatly slower than much of its competition. It's very fast when "prefocused" by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shots itself (a shutter lag of only 0.055 second), and cycle times in its "Top 3" continuous-shooting mode are very fast at 3.45 frames/second, albeit only for three frames. Overall, not a bad camera, performance-wise, and potentially very useful for sports shooting, if you can take advantage of its fast prefocus response and good speed in Top 3 continuous mode.

  • Battery Life: Really excellent battery life! With a worst-case run time of just under four hours with a "standard" set of 1600 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries (and proportionately longer with modern, high-capacity cells), the Fuji S5100 has some of the best battery-life numbers of any camera currently on the market. (Run time in playback mode is an astonishing 7.45 hours.) You'll still want a couple of sets of good-quality NiMH batteries and a good battery charger, but the S5100 will run a long time on a single charge.



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The previous Fuji FinePix 2800 and 3800 Zoom cameras were exceptional values for the money, and the updated Fuji FinePix S5100 offers the same great value with the addition of a 4.0-megapixel CCD and a longer 10x zoom lens. The S5100's higher resolution is a welcome improvement, providing great image quality for a budget-priced digital camera, and its 10x optical zoom is excellent for distant subjects. Its color is more accurate than that of most consumer digicams, although that means it's less saturated on bright colors than most consumer cameras. My only real complaint about its images is that they tend to be a little contrasty. But then, most consumers seem to like more contrast than I do personally, so most folks would likely find the S5100 pleasing in this regard. Overall, the Fuji S5100 has just about all an enthusiast user could want in terms of expanded photographic controls, including full Manual exposure mode for ultimate creativity. About all it lacks relative to its competitors in the 10x zoom category is image stabilization. For the price though, that's no surprise. Given its price and its 4-megapixel resolution, its lack of stabilization really can't be counted against it. For everyday shooting indoors or out, under bright or dim lighting, the S5100 does very well and really sets a benchmark for an affordable long-zoom digicam with enthusiast features. Recommended, and a Dave's Pick as one of the best digital cameras on the market, thanks to its combo of features, image quality, and price.

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