Fujifilm FinePix S1000fd Zoom Review
Building on the success of the FinePix S700, the new FujiFilm FinePix S1000fd offers users many of the features they loved on the S700, but adds new more powerful options. These include a FUJINON 12x f2.8 optical zoom lens, 10-mega pixel image sensor, larger 2.7-inch LCD screen, broader ISO range (up to 3200 at 3M) as well as a more versatile shutter speed settings. The S1000fd now holds the entry-level position in their "S"erious line of FinePix digital cameras. While it's labeled a "Serious" digicam, the S1000fd can be used as a simple point-n-shoot with 15 scene modes and full Auto, or as a photographic tool with modes like Manual, Shutter and Aperture priority.
Like the S700, the S1000fd is what we consider an "SLR" styled consumer model. The Body design is similar to an interchangeable lens system, with a nice large hand grip, pop-up flash unit, etc. Overall, I feel the ergonomics of this model are great. The rubberized hand grip on the right along with the deep textured plastic on the back and left sides of the camera offer a nice secure feel in your hands. Camera controls are also placed in a comfortable manner, just within reach of you finger tips. As with all consumer digicams with almost all super-zooms, the S1000fd is equipped with an Electronic Viewfinder or EVF. It is actually just a tiny 0.2-inch LCD that is magnified (no dioptric adjustment) in the eye-piece. While it does work well, I found it was very small. With my eye firmly pressed against the eye-piece, I still had some light peaking through.
Both the EVF and 2.7-inch LCD offer a live view with either a 30 or 60fps refresh rate. Like all EVFs, they have some advantages and disadvantages. While you can view all of the menus and exposure information, review images, and use the aids like Grid lines, you still have to battle with the fact that the live image blanks out during burst capture. Like we saw on the S700, the LCD works well both indoors and out, but does not feature an anti-reflective coating. While I was able to frame our outdoor shots without much problem, there are still many angles where the LCD reflects the sun, making it difficult to see what you are framing. Indoors, the live image gains up well to help you see the subject in lower lighting. The LCD is also Very prone to collecting finger/cheek prints. The menu system is also similar to the S700, and I liked the F menu. It allows you to quickly change ISO, image quality or Color mode.
The S1000fd's shooting performance results were a bit disappointing. From power-on to the capture of your first image takes about 3.2 seconds. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between pressing the shutter and capturing an image, was about 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and between 5-8/10 of a second including autofocus time. The Shot to shot delay averaged about 4.6 seconds without flash, and 5 seconds with flash. One annoyance I found was, the LCD/EVF blacks out in between shots with and without the flash while the image is being processed, which is a critical time for framing the next shot.
There are several continuous or burst capture modes to choose from: Top 3, Last 3, Long Period, Top 6 (5M) and Top 15 (2M). Top 3 allowed me to capture 3 frames in 1.3 seconds, about 2.3fps which surpassed Fuji's claim of 1.4fps. It then takes about 14 seconds for the camera to clear its buffer and shoot another set. Last 3 captured the first three frames in just 1.3 seconds, then slowed to about seconds between frames, saving the last three shots. Long-period continuous is limited only by available memory. It performed the same as Last 3 mode, capturing the first 3 images in just 1.2 seconds, then slowed to about 4 seconds between frames. I feel these slower continuous capture times are due to the slower M series xD-picture card we used. When I swapped in a Sandisk Extreme III 1GB SD card, Long-period mode was able to continuously capture images at 1.7fps (I stopped at 10 shots). While swapping in the Sandisk SD card also improved the Buffer flush times, I didn't see any change with shutter lag or the shot-to-shot delay. Top 6 lowers the resolution to 5-megapixels, and was able to capture 6 frames in just 1.7 seconds, about 3.5fps. This was actually impressive, and even thought it's at a lower image size, 5-megapixels still has plenty of resolution to do an 8x10-inch print. Top 15 drops to 2-megapixels, and captures 15 frames in just 1.5 seconds, about 10fps. When using either of these modes, both the EVF and LCD blacked out briefly, then displayed the last image captured, making it difficult to follow a moving subject. Our tests were done using a FujiFilm M 1GB xD-picture card, 10M Fine quality, Program mode, flash off, ISO Auto(800), and all other settings at default. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media used, etc.
The updated lens on the S1000fd is a welcomed addition. It offers a 35mm equivalent focal range of 33 - 396mm, and is pretty fast too, with a maximum aperture of 2.8 at wide or f5.0 at full telephoto. While the zoom is not continuous, I counted 14 steps from wide angle to telephoto. The 33mm end of the zoom range is not as wide as many of the S1000fd's competitors (who seem to start around 28mm), but it still offers a nice view for landscape and large group photos. The 396mm end of the zoom range will allow you to single out far off subjects without much problem. Overall I noticed moderate barrel distortion at the wide end as well as several traces of chromatic aberrations present in photos that have objects with extreme contrast.
The S1000fd's image quality is only average for a 10-megapixel digicam. Outdoors the exposure system does well, ensuring the main subject (usually in the center of the frame) is properly exposed. Our outdoor samples were relatively sharp, however I did see several shots that showed some edge softness on both the left and right sides of the image. Using the Standard FinePix Color mode produced very nice results, resulting in colors that were very natural looking. Image noise is something we deal with on all digital cameras. The S1000fd's high ISO performance was rather disappointing. While reviewing our M&M man shots, I noticed that noise became rather heavy as low as ISO 400. As you raise the sensitivity, it get worse and worse. In my opinion, I would leave the ISO set to 400 or below, and if you are using Auto, be sure it's the Auto (400) mode. This limits the camera from being able to choose ISO settings over 400 when using the Auto setting.
The built-in manual pop-up flash seemed to do well indoors during our testing. The opening mechanism or spring was a bit weak though. After depressing the flash open button, I would then have to lift the unit up a bit with my finger in order to fully open it. Otherwise, it would be pointing downward. This could just be an issue with our eval unit, however it was worth mentioning. Fuji claims this flash can cover up to 28.5 feet at wide angle using ISO Auto. I feel these numbers are a bit inflated. The only way I can see this camera covering that range is with the ISO set to 1600 or 3200. By then, image quality is horrible due to nosie. I found the range was average for a consumer digicam when using reasonable ISO settings. I typically use the lowest setting available, and had not problems shooting from 6-7 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. The Face Detection AF mode worked well, finding and locking in to y subjects face(s) rather quickly. The Portrait Scene setting seems to favor using ISO 400, which is a bit high considering the High ISO problems I stated in the above paragraph. I captured the best results using either program mode or Aperture priority, with the ISO set at 64.
The S1000fd offers the same movie mode options as found on its predecessor. While the movie mode options are limited (640x480 or 320x240, 30fps fixed), our movie samples turned out good. Video is nice and smooth with minimal compression artifacts as long as there is plenty of ambient light. Unfortunately, the S1000fd does not allow you to use the zoom while recording. You have to choose the desired focal length beforehand.
As with many "S" series models, the S1000ds is powered by four AA-size batteries. This mean you can grab any type of "off the shelf" cells like NiMH (Highly recommended), Alkaline, and one-use lithium cells. Unlike digicams equipped with an optical viewfinder, the S1000fd is always powering either the large LCD or the eye-level EVF, so power usage can be a concern. I found battery life was good for a model that uses there types of cells. At the time of this review, we have captured about 120 samples (including several short movie clips), and the camera has not indicated that our batteries are low. Fuji claims you can capture up to 500 frames using NiMH cells, like those we used.
Bottom line - the FujiFilm FinePix S1000fd is a bit of a mixed bag. While the feature list makes this seem like a very appealing model, the below average shooting performance, horrible High ISO image noise, and just "average" 10-megapixel image quality results lower its appeal. This model does have the ability to capture nice photos, just be sure you lock the ISO at 200 or below. With a street price of US$249 or less, it is a very affordable super-zoom model, we just suggest you do your research and look at all the offerings in this class and price range.
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