Fujifilm FinePix E510 Review

Steve's Digicams

Steve's Conclusion

As the mid-range model of its 2004 "E" series camera line, Fuji equipped the FinePix E510 with a 5.0 megapixel imager while retaining the same features of the entry-level E500 we reviewed earlier in 2004. Like the E500, the E510 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 E510 is equipped with the same FUJINON 3.2X optical zoom lens as the E500, with a range of 28mm to 91mm in 35mm equivalence. If you frequently find yourself pressed against the wall or corner opposite your subject when shooting indoors, you'll appreciate the generous field of view provided at the 28mm wide angle end of the zoom range; it is quite an improvement over the 35-38mm wide angle typical of consumer digicams, benefiting your outdoor landscapes as well. The 91mm 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, but I noticed some softness at the corners. There was noticeable barrel distortion at full 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, 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 E510'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 3 seconds without use of the flash and between 4 and 11 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. The LCD viewfinder is turned off during flash recharge. The camera is not equipped with a continuous shooting mode. The E510 is responsive enough for family use, able to capture many unposed moments and images of your children's activities. Our tests were done using a Fujifilm 256MB xD-Picture card, 5M/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 E510'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.

I usually advise against the use of digital zoom, but the Fuji E510's is effective. To use it, set the camera to record at less than full resolution; digital zoom essentially performs an in-camera crop without interpolation, digitally zooming up to 1.3x for 3-megapixel images, 1.6x for 2-megapixels, or 3.9x at 640x480 resolution. If you need more magnification than the 91mm telephoto offers, and don't require the full 5-megapixel resolution for those shots, the E510's digital zoom is worth using.

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 E510's tripod socket and self-timer. Although it has no focus-assist lamp, the E510's autofocus system performed quite well in conditions of low ambient light, easily achieving focus lock in average incandescent room lighting. 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 E510 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 E510's battery life is good. Using a single pair of AA NiMH 2400mAh rechargeable batteries, I was able to capture about 125 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 Fujifilm FinePix E510 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 5-megapixel images are capable of producing high-quality 11x14-inch prints, and its movie mode is handy for capturing short clips of family events. The E510's indoor results benefit from its wide angle zoom, good autofocus performance and adequate flash range. If you're looking for a stylish, pocketable family digicam that can do it all, the FinePix E510 is worthy of consideration and, with a street price of less than $300, it's an excellent value.

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