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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 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 12/14/2005

Executive Overview

Released as a successor to the popular (but now rather long-in-the-tooth) FinePix S7000 model, the Fujifilm FinePix S9000 digital camera continues with the traditional 35mm shape that gives the camera a more serious appearance. Though it's larger than other Fujifilm FinePix models (and indeed, quite a bit larger than the S7000), the Fuji S9000 is still no bigger or heavier than a typical consumer digital SLR with a kit lens. When you consider its powerful 10.7x zoom lens, the FinePix S9000 has a significant size and weight advantage. The body appears to be almost entirely composed of structural plastic, but the camera nevertheless has a fairly solid "feel" to it. Despite its reasonable 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 Fuji S9000 is twofold: its Super CCD HR image sensor, which produces high-quality images as large as 3,488 x 2,616 pixels (9.0 megapixels) without the need to resort to interpolation, and its powerful 10.7x Fujinon optical zoom lens. The resolution is higher than any consumer-level camera currently out on the market, and the zoom range puts it near the top of the line as well. A few other improvements over the S7000 include an unusual double-tilting LCD display that helps when shooting from waist level or over the head, a greatly expanded range of ISO sensitivities, a new high-speed shooting mode that trades some battery life and focusing range for reduced focusing lag, and a refined control layout that includes a mechanical zoom control for greater accuracy and control.

The Fuji FinePix S9000 features a lens that dominates its front face, giving the camera a serious, professional look. A removable, plastic lens cap attaches to the camera body or the neck strap, and protects the lens surface from harm. The same threads that hold the lens cap in place also accept 58mm accessories, although Fujifilm itself doesn't offer any at the current time. 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 S9000 uses an electronic viewfinder (EVF) system you can conserve some power by switching to the EVF over the LCD, though not as much as you can with an optical viewfinder. 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 Fuji S9000 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 S9000 is also easier on the eyes than some rivals 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 Fujinon 10.7x zoom lens (28-300mm equivalent) offers an aperture range from f/2.8-f/8 (or f/11 in manual exposure mode), manually and automatically adjustable. Focus ranges from 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 3.9 inches to 9.8 feet (10 centimeters to 3 meters) in Macro mode. A Super Macro mode focuses from 0.4 inches to 3.3 feet, or from 1 centimeter to 1 meter, 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. 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 back of the lens barrel adjusts the manual focus with a fly-by-wire system. 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 S9000 has some of the best focusing options of any prosumer-level digicam, although I do wish it had a numerical distance readout.) In addition to the impressive 10.7x optical zoom, the S9000 also offers a fixed 2x digital zoom, though as always, image quality decreases with digital enlargement.

The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 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 Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Night, Landscape, Portrait, Natural Light, and Anti-Blur exposure modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds in full Manual mode, with a Bulb setting for arbitrary exposures up to 30 seconds, but the range decreases to 1/2,000 to 4 seconds (wide angle) or 2 seconds (telephoto) in other 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 Fuji S9000 uses a 256-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 exposure mode except Natural Light or Anti-Blur, the camera's ISO sensitivity setting offers Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600. 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, contrast, and saturation, and a Self-Timer mode offers two- and 10-second countdowns. The camera's built-in, pop-up flash operates in Auto, Forced On, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow-Synchro, and Red-Eye Reduction Slow-Synchro modes. An external flash hot shoe with a single contact and PC sync connector both accommodate more powerful flash units, but the S9000 also features an adjustment to increase the flexibility of its onboard flash.

Three Continuous Shooting modes are available through the Drive menu: Top-4 Frame, Final-4 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting. The Long-Period Continuous Shooting mode is only available in Auto exposure mode, but allows very long sequences of images to be captured. The Final-4 frame continuous mode is unusual, in that the camera begins acquiring images continuously when you press the Shutter button, and then saves the last four 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 Fuji S9000'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 S9000'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 S9000 has dual memory card slots. The camera also accommodates microdrives, and since it uses the FAT32 file system, it can access the full capacity of the latest solid-state and Microdrive cards, where cameras that support only FAT16 would be limited to seeing the first 2GB of available space. 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 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 Fuji FinePix S9000 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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