Fujifilm FinePix S9100 Design

The Fujifilm FinePix S9100 handles like a mini-dSLR, providing a comfortable grip, and a big knurled ring for zooming on its large lens. There's even a focusing ring on the lens to seal the illusion you're handling a big camera. But its charmingly compact size makes it very easy to pick up and fire. The large articulated LCD and sharp EVF mean you'll see what you're shooting, too. Although it's a plastic body, it's so well put together it feels indestructible. I used both a wrist strap, and the included shoulder strap to bring it along with me.

The 10.7x f/2.8 - 4.9 Fujinon zoom lens dominates the front view of the camera, a lot of glass for the camera's digicam sensor size. At full zoom, the lens extends an additional 1.75 inches from the camera body. Ribbed focus and zoom rings surround the lens barrel, with the narrower focus ring nearer to the camera body than the wide zoom ring at the front of the lens. The focus ring adjusts focus using an electronic "fly by wire" system when the camera is in Manual focus mode. The zoom ring adjusts the optical zoom mechanically, providing much greater control than the electronic zoom levers on many digicams. 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 its right 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, textured to provide good traction for your fingers as they wrap around the camera. A groove also runs down the inside of the grip to give 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.

The 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 it should be standard.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is one of the shoulder strap mounts, 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, compatible with the Hitachi Microdrive. You can load both slots, telling the camera which one to use.

The opposite side of the camera holds 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 rubber 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 15-hole grille at the base of the pop-up flash indicates the location of the camera's speaker.

The back panel hosts the rest of the controls, 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. 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 S9100's bottom panel is nice and flat, with a metal tripod mount centered on the axis of the lens. Also on the bottom panel is the battery compartment, with a plastic door that slides out before opening.


Fujifilm FinePix S9100 External Controls

Shutter Button: On the top panel in the center of the Power/Mode dial, this silver button sets autofocus, and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the self-timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the two-, or 10-second countdown. A screw mount in the center of the button accommodates a mechanical cable release, useful with Bulb exposures, or any time you don't want to risk camera shake from pressing the Shutter button.

Power/Mode Dial (see image above): Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this dial powers the camera on when you select either Record, or Playback operating modes, and powers it off.

Exposure Compensation Button: Just behind, and to the left of the Power/Mode dial on the top panel, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV units in one-third-step increments, by pressing it while simultaneously turning the Command wheel (except in Manual, Scene Program, and Auto modes). In Manual exposure mode, this same set of actions adjusts the lens aperture setting from f2.8 to f11.

Flash Button: Just to the right of the Exposure Compensation button, this button sets the onboard flash mode. If the pop-up flash is released to its operating position, pressing this button displays the on-screen flash menu. Holding the button down while turning the Command wheel selects Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow-Synchro, or Red-Eye Reduction Slow-Synchro modes. The flash is disabled altogether by pushing the popup mechanism back down, so there's no "Forced Off" setting. Not all flash settings are available in all exposure modes.

Drive Mode Button: Directly behind the Exposure Compensation button, pressing this button displays the on-screen Drive menu. Turning the Command wheel with the Drive Mode button held down selects Single Exposure, Top-4 Frame, Auto Bracketing, Final-4 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting modes. Auto Bracketing only being available in P, A, S, and M modes, and the Long-Period Continuous mode in the Auto, and Scene modes only.

Command Wheel: Located in the far lower right corner of the top panel, behind the Drive Mode button, this ribbed black wheel adjusts various camera settings when turned while pressing a control button. In Manual mode, turning this wheel with no control button pressed sets the shutter speed. In Aperture, and Shutter Priority modes, turning the wheel adjusts the corresponding exposure setting (aperture, or shutter speed, respectively), while in Program AE mode, turning the wheel selects between a range of equivalent exposure settings. (This last lets you bias the camera's exposure system to prefer larger, or smaller apertures, giving you some degree of control over depth of field, and shutter speed, while still maintaining automatic exposure control.)

Exposure Mode Dial: Directly to the left of the Command wheel, this large, ribbed dial controls the camera's exposure mode, offering the following selections:

  • Auto Exposure Mode: Gives the camera control of all exposure parameters, although the user still can adjust ISO sensitivity, metering mode, focusing mode, flash mode, Drive mode/self timer, file size, and quality settings, as well as the optical, and digital zoom.
  • Program AE Exposure Mode: Returns most of the exposure control to the user, although the camera remains in charge of aperture, and shutter speed values. Turning the Command wheel selects a range of equivalent aperture/shutter speed combinations.
  • Shutter Priority Exposure Mode: Gives the user control over shutter speed (from 1/4000 to four seconds at wide-angle, or 1/2000 to four seconds at telephoto), while the camera selects the best aperture value. All other exposure options are available.
  • Aperture Priority Exposure Mode: Similar to Shutter Priority mode, only now the user controls the aperture setting (from f2.8 at wide-angle, or f4.9 at telephoto to f8) while the camera selects the shutter speed. All exposure options are available.
  • Manual Exposure Mode: Gives the user complete control over exposure parameters, including aperture, and shutter speed. The shutter speed range expands to include times from 1/4000 to 30 seconds, and the aperture range expands to include apertures from f2.8 at wide-angle, or f4.9 at telephoto to f11. All exposure options are adjustable, but exposure compensation is disabled since there's no automatic exposure selection to adjust.
  • Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound. The actual amount of recording time varies with the resolution setting, and amount of memory card space, but recording will continue until either the Shutter button is pressed again, or the memory card runs out of space. Limited exposure controls are available, though there are no menu options.
  • Night Scene Mode: Priority is given to slow shutter speeds up to four seconds, allowing night time scenes to be captured with slow sync, or no flash. Limited exposure controls are available, though the camera controls most settings.
  • Landscape Scene Mode: For capturing pictures of landscapes. Flash is disabled, and limited exposure controls are available, though the camera controls most settings.
  • Portrait Scene Mode: The camera is biased for pleasing skin tones, suitable for portraits. Limited exposure controls are available, though the camera controls most settings.
  • Natural Light Scene Mode: Priority is given to high ISO sensitivities, allowing low light scenes to be captured without flash. Limited exposure controls are available, though the camera controls most settings.
  • Anti-Blur Scene Mode: Priority is given to fast shutter speeds up to four seconds, reducing blurring from camera shake, or moving subjects. Limited exposure controls are available, though the camera controls most settings.

AE-L Button: To the right of the electronic viewfinder on the rear panel in the center of the metering mode dial, this button locks the exposure setting, either while held in, until it is pressed again, or the Shutter button is fully pressed, and released (depending upon camera setup).

Metering Mode Dial (see image above): Surrounding the AE-L button on the rear panel, this dial selects from the available metering modes: Multi Pattern, Spot, or Average.

EVF/LCD Button: Directly below, and to the right of the AE-L button, this button switches the viewfinder, and playback displays between the electronic viewfinder eyepiece, and LCD monitor.

Focus Check Button: Directly below the EVF/LCD button, this button enlarges the center portion of the frame on the LCD monitor by about 2x, making it easier to see the results of manual focus adjustments.

FinePix Button: Below, and to the left of the Focus Check button, this button calls up the FinePix menu, with the following options:

In Record Mode:

  • Resolution/Quality: Sets the still image resolution, and JPEG quality to 9MB Fine (3,488 x 2,616 pixels); 9MB Normal (3,488 x 2,616 pixels); 3:2 (3,696 x 2,464 pixels); 5MB (2,592 x 1,944 pixels); 3MB (2,048 x 1,536 pixels); 2MB (1,600 x 1,200 pixels); or 0.3MB (640 x 480 pixels).
  • ISO: Adjusts the camera's sensitivity setting to Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600
  • Color: Sets the color mode to Standard, Black-and-White, or Chrome (increased contrast, and saturation).

In Movie Mode:

  • Resolution: Sets the movie resolution, options are 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 pixels.

In Playback Mode:

  • DPOF: Accesses the camera's DPOF menu, where you can browse images, and set the number of copies of each image to be printed.

Four-Way Arrow Pad: Located to the right of, and below the FinePix button on the back panel, this multi-directional button toggles up, and down, or left, and right, with an arrow in each direction. In any settings menu, the arrow keys navigate through menu options, and selections.

In Record mode, the Up, and Down arrows respectively enable, or disable the camera's fixed 2x digital zoom. In Playback mode, the right, and left arrows scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged in Playback, or in Preview mode, all four arrows move around within the enlarged view.

Menu/OK Button (see image above): Tucked in the center of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button calls up the settings menu in any mode. This button also acts as the "OK" to confirm menu changes, or acknowledge menu prompts, and selects an image to enlarge when in the multi-frame, or "by date" playback modes.

Display/Back Button: Beneath the FinePix button on the back panel, this button cycles through the information display options in both Playback, and Record modes. In Record mode, the Display/Back button pages through the live image preview with text overlay, without text overlay, with framing guidelines, or with post-shot assist window. The framing guideline display mode includes an alignment grid that divides up the image area into thirds, horizontally, and vertically (very handy for lining up the camera with objects in the scene, to insure that your photos are square, and level). The post-shot assist display mode shows the last three photographs captured alongside the current preview, helping you to take shots with similar compositions. In Playback mode, the Display/Back button pages through the single image display with text overlay, single image display without text overlay, multi-frame playback, and "sorting by date" display modes. Multi-frame playback shows nine thumbnail images on screen at once, and "sorting by date" mode up to 12 images at once, all captured on the same date, alongside an indication of the dates of images stored on the camera's flash cards. This is great for quickly jumping to a particular date so you can browse photos from a specific trip, for example.

The Display/Back button also backs out of menu selections without making any changes. It can also be used to quickly exit from some camera functions, such as enlarged playback of images.

Diopter Adjustment Dial: Just on the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the focus of the viewfinder to accommodate near-, or farsighted users.

Pop-Up Flash Release Button: Nestled on the left side of the camera, just beneath the pop-up flash compartment, this button mechanically releases the spring-loaded flash to its operating position.

Info Button: Just beneath the neck strap eyelet on the left side of the camera, this button displays exposure, and camera information in both Record, and Playback modes. In Record mode, it lists the current exposure settings, as well as a small histogram (in Single AF mode only). In Playback mode, it shows a histogram of the captured image, as well as the exposure settings used to capture it.

Focus Switch: Below the Info button, this switch sets focus to Manual, Single AF, or Continuous AF modes.

One-Push AF Button (see image above): Centered inside the Focus switch, this button momentarily triggers the autofocus system to quickly adjust the focus when you're in Manual focus mode. This is great for getting the focus "in the ballpark" before fine-tuning it manually.

Macro Button: Directly below the Focus Switch (and marked with the standard Macro flower icon), this button cycles through Normal AF, Macro, and Super Macro modes when pressed repeatedly.

MF Adjustment Ring: One of two rings encircling the end of the lens barrel, this notched ring is the closer of the two to the camera's body, and adjusts the focus using an electronic "fly-by-wire" style system when the camera is in Manual focus mode.

Zoom Ring: The second of two rings encircling the end of the lens barrel, this notched ring is the further of the two from the camera's body, and mechanically adjusts the camera's lens when the camera is in manual focus mode. Markings on the ring, and barrel indicate the 35mm equivalent focal length of the current setting.


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