Steve's Conclusion

By Matt Metzker

Steve's SnapShot
fuji_jz500_275.jpg
  • 14-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 2.7-Inch LCD Screen
  • 10x Optical zoom lens: equivalent to 28 - 280mm on a 35mm camera
  • SR Auto mode
  • Face Recognition Software
  • Li-Ion Battery power source
  • SD/SDHC memory card compatible
  • HD (1280p) Video Capture

Pros
  • Good outdoor image quality
  • Facial recognition register
  • Solid construction
  • Natural plus flash mode is a cool idea
  • SRAuto mode to help with best shooting selection
  • Good HD video option with "movie" like 24fps frame rate
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Below average shooting performance
  • Poor indoor shooting 
  • No continuous shooting mode
  • Non-existent labeling on the 4-way controller
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 3.6 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = instant
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 3/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 3.3 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.9 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  .57fps (3 shots at a time)
  • Sequential burst w/flash = not available
Bottom Line
The Fujifilm JZ500 is a compact super-zoom  with some impressive features. However, the indoor shooting performance leaves one wanting more. 
Pick This Up If...
You would like to have a pocket-able super-zoom for outdoor photography.

Fujifilm has brought forth unto us a compact camera that could also be classified as a super-zoom. With a body that could fit in any pocket, but a lens that will give you a 10x magnification, the JZ500 could offer the the best of both worlds.  Key features include 14-megapixels of resolution, a Fujinon 10x optical zoom lens, a 2.7-inch, Approx. 230,000 dots, color LCD monitor, Able to capture both photos and movies in high-definition 16:9 format, Li-ion battery source, SD/SDHC card slot, SR Auto (scene Recognition) exposure control, and plenty of manual exposure options.

The SR Auto mode analyzes what the lens sees and selects a scene mode that the camera thinks will create the best picture. There is also a standard Auto mode (this is the mode that Fujifilm recommends using most of the time) that will pick the best settings (iso, aperture, exposure, etc.) for the picture.for those who like to be more hands on, the Program mode allows for personal control over all the settings. The scene modes that are available are accessed from two preset modes on the mode dial.

The JZ500 has a metal body that seems durable and is definitely compact. A little heavy for a shirt pocket, but perfect to throw in a purse or pants pocket. The majority of the controls are set on the back of the camera with the power button, the shutter release, and the zoom toggle on top. All controls were easy to use and in good reach of your thumb. the 2.7-in LCD has great resolution, but outside in the sun I had a lot of reflective images which made it hard to see what I wanted to shoot. due to a majority of cameras placing the flash in the upper left corner of the camera I have gotten used to holding these compacts in a"pinch" grip to avoid my finger slipping into the way of the flash.

The JZ500's performance was mostly slow compared to other cameras in this price range. While it offers fast shutter lag  and autofocus times,things like the time it takes between shots for the camera to process is lengthy. Power up to first image captured measures approx. 3.6 seconds.  Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing an image is instant when using pre-focus, when testing, I even favored the timer over the shutter release a couple times, and still could not capture an image with any time on the clock. When not pre-focusing I did manage to get an average of about 3/10 of a second. When shooting a sequence of still images, the shot to shot delay averaged 3.3 seconds without the flash off and 3.9 seconds with the flash on, these times were an average of 10 shots. The JZ500 does have a continuous shooting mode, but I was disappointed that it  will only capture three images at a time and flash cannot be used when in continuous shooting mode. The good news is that it captured images at .57 frames per seconds which is faster than the shot to shot delay. This means if your shooting pictures of the kids at a sporting event you may want to shoot in continuous shooting mode to capture the action shots. All of our tests were done using a OCZ Class C 6 4GB SDHC memory card, with the image size/quality set at 14M Fine, Program mode, ISO Auto, preview off, with all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.

Image quality from the outdoor testing was pretty good. The images look crisp when I brought them up on the computer screen. One thing I noticed was that there seemed to be several instances of "blow-out" where bright sunlight hit light/white surfaces. Below is a good example of this:

fuji_jz500_blowout_sample.jpgBeyond this, I was pretty satisfied with the results of the outdoor pictures. The 10x zoom will allow for great close-ups of grand vistas such as Niagra Falls or Mt. Rushmore where you may be limited by access (unless you happen to have a barrel with a bay window). Unfortunately I am located near neither, so I zoomed in on the Presidential medallion on the front of the museum. I was impressed with how sharp the picture turned out as It seemed I was having trouble keeping the camera steady at full zoom. So at this point I must give kudos to the Dual Image Stabilization system. The outdoor macro shot turned out quite good with excellent detail.

Indoors, I was quite disappointed  with theJZ500. The flash has an extremely limited range and was not much use. We shoot a standard shot in each review that uses the flash with ISO Auto, then just to see what happens we shoot again but set the ISO to the lowest setting possible (100 on this mdoel). The result of this test looked like this:

fiji_jz500_flash_iso100.jpg

Now I know that official distances are set using ISO Auto, and to be fair, this picture did turn out much better in ISO Auto (although there was noise present), I have not tested a camera yet that turned out as dark an image as this one when shooting in forced flash, ISO 100.

Our indoor portraits were just average. Whether I was using SRAuto, Auto or Program the camera just did not produce people photos with sharp facial detail indoors. When using the flash, the background was so dark that it ruined the picture. And even with the flash the image had a grainy look to it. Something that I did notice was things went better when I would zoom out fully (wide angle) and just get closer as opposed to zooming in on the subject. Whenever you use the telephoto capabilities of a lens, your flash power is going to drop off significantly (even when using ISO Auto). Our macro samples turned out great when I was in a room with excellent light. The detail and focus were clean and sharp.

The camera does have a few Scene modes and features that I have not encountered before. The most unique is that there is no "pet" scene mode as would be found on most cameras, they split up the pets and created a dog specific and a cat specific scene mode. This mode will detect and focus on pet faces and can even be set to automatically snap a picture when the pet face looks at the camera. Unfortunately for you fish and bird enthusiasts, you'll have to train your pet to either bark or purr. A very cool feature is facial recognition. Face Recognition technology allows you to "register" up to eight individual faces. when the camera then detects a face that is in its register, the focus and exposure are instantly optimized for that person or pet (that's right, you can register Milo and Otis). Once you've registered a family member or pet, any time that face is detected in a scene, it will have a box around it with their name.

Thumbnail image for fuji_jz500_modedial_scenemodes.jpg

Another cool feature is that on the Mode dial you can pre-set two scene modes. SP1 and SP2 are reserved for this purpose. It is very easy to set these, all you have to do is rotate the dial to select either one, press the menu button and choose which scene mode you would like to use from the 16 possible settings. We had Sport and Portrait Enhancer as our two modes. Portrait enhancer will smooth out skin tones and works pretty good as seen in the sample portrait of the little girl. Another new mode is the Natural plus flash mode. This takes two pictures when you press the shutter release; one without flash and then one with the flash. The camera stores both pictures and you can choose the better of the two for your prints.


Like all digicams these days, the JZ500 can capture video and has the capability of shooting in 1280x720 at 24fps. and also shoots in 640x480 or 320x240 using 30fps. The video samples I took turned out pretty good, I happen to like the 24fps as it lends a "movie" feel to the videos. Something cool is that you do have the ability to use the optical zoom during filming. The sample I have on the next page will show the use of the zoom, the drawbacks are that everyone will know when you zoom, even the folks who ran to the kitchen for chips. This is because the zoom is heard incredibly well on playback due to being so close to the cameras microphone. Also it takes a bit of time for the camera to refocus once you zoom in or out. We did have a couple instances where the camera completely lost focus and couldn't regain focus on the subject once I zoomed in. I saw an average amount of noise in our videos, and the mic's mono sound isn't the greatest.

Fujifilm usees a Li-ion battery pack on the JZ500. I prefer this type of pack over traditional AA type cells as they offer better battery life, increased shelf life, and better charge memory when compared to NiMH rechargeable cells. Fujifilm claims you can capture up to 230 photos on a single charge, which sounds about right after our tests. I shot about 200+ still photos, and recorded 8 or so short video clips along with most of our other tests before having to top off the battery to finish up our review. This should get you through a normal day of shooting, however if you are planning a vacation, birthday, etc., I recommend picking up a second battery pack to keep charged and ready at all times if your budget allows.

Bottom line - I was a bit disappointed with the overall results of the fujifilm JZ500. With a MSRP of $249.95 it offers a great price for the features and zoom capabilities, as other cameras in this catagory are in the $300.00+ price range. I just have a hard time recommending this due to our poor flash and indoor shooting results. However, if most of your shooting will be outdoors on vacations or for work, The JZ500 would be a great camera as you basically have a superzoom packed into a pocket sized frame.

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