Fujifilm FinePix E500 Review
As the entry-level model of Fujifilm's new "E" series camera line, the FinePix E500 is equipped with a 4.0 megapixel imager and a 3.2X wide angle optical zoom lens. The E500 allows the beginner to obtain good results in Auto mode and offers the intermediate user several Scene modes with optimized exposures for special subjects or lighting. The needs of advanced users are met with Manual, Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority shooting modes, as well as control of exposure compensation, ISO and White Balance.
The FUJINON 3.2X optical zoom lens, with a range of 28mm to 91mm in 35mm equivalence, is biased toward the wide angle end of the zoom range. At 28mm, your interior shots and landscapes will benefit from a wider field of view than most consumer digicams. The telephoto end of the range is good for portraits, but won't provide much magnification for your distant subjects. The lens produced sharp results throughout its range, with noticeable barrel distortion at extreme wide angle and slight pincushioning at full telephoto; some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was present throughout the zoom range, typical for a camera in this class. The operation of the optical zoom is smooth and quiet, but not continuous; it moves through its 28-91mm range in 10 distinct steps, more than adequate for composing most shots. Fuji offers 0.76x wide-angle 1.94x telephoto conversion lenses that extend the zoom range to 21mm-176mm; those accessories were not tested.
The FinePix E500's shooting performance is good. From power up to first image captured averaged about 3.4 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between pressing the shutter release and capturing the image, measured a respectable 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus; the LCD viewfinder adds about 1/10 second to those numbers due to the delayed live image. Shot-to-shot delay averaged 2 seconds without use of the flash and between 4.5 and 10 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. The LCD viewfinder is turned off during flash recharge. Unfortunately the E500 does not offer a continuous mode. The E500 is responsive enough for you to capture many unposed moments and images of your children's activities. Our tests were done using a Fujifilm 512MB xD-Picture card, 4M/Fine size/quality, preview off, flash off (unless otherwise noted), and all other settings at default. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was pleased with the E500's outdoor results. The images were well-exposed and richly saturated. The lens and autofocus system combined to produce good image sharpness. The 3.2X optical zoom lens has plenty of field of view at wide angle for landscape shots, but the magnification at the 91mm telephoto end will do little for your distant subjects. The LCD viewfinder has no anti-reflective coating; it was somewhat difficult to use for menu navigation and image review in bright sunlight despite its brightness adjustment.
Indoor shooting benefitted from the relatively powerful flash (13.5 foot range at wide angle) and generous field of view at the wide angle end of the zoom range. The combination is good for portraits of individuals and moderate sized groups, but don't expect to illuminate a banquet room. You'll be able to include yourself in group portraits thanks to the E500's tripod socket and self-timer. The E500's autofocus system proved limiting, being unable to achieve focus lock in average incandescent room lighting; a focus assist lamp would make the camera much more useful for indoor shooting. The LCD is not very useful as a viewfinder indoors, failing to "gain-up" the live image in conditions of low ambient light; you'll prefer to use the optical viewfinder. The E500 did a good job of squelching its flash during macro-photography, and would make an acceptable camera for online auction product shots. When using the Macro focus mode, the optical zoom is limited to a focal length range of 28-42mm. Super Macro mode can focus as close as 1 inch, but the zoom and flash are disabled and the close working distance makes lighting a challenge.
The E500's battery life is good. Using a single pair of AA NiMH 2400mAh rechargeable batteries, I was able to capture about 150 shots before a low battery warning occurred. We always recommend using NiMH batteries when possible, they last longer, save you money, and you should always have an extra freshly-charged set on hand to avoid the disappointment of a unique photo op meeting a dead battery.
The Fuji FinePix E500 has features that will please photographers of every experience level. Its outdoor results are terrific, making it a good choice for your travel photos and shots of your children's sporting activities. Its 4-megapixel images are capable of producing high-quality 8x10-inch prints, and its movie mode is handy for capturing short clips of family events. But the E500's indoor results suffer from poor low light autofocus performance, a shame because its wide angle zoom lens would otherwise produce terrific interior shots. If you're looking for a stylish, pocketable outdoor and travel camera, the Fuji FinePix E500 is worthy of consideration and, with an MSRP of $299, a good value.
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