FinePix S3000 Zoom

FinePix S3000 Zoom

Fujifilm FinePix S3000 Zoom Review

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Fujifilm FinePix S3000

Steve's Conclusion

The Finepix S3000 is the entry-level model of Fuji's 2003 "S" series of enthusiast digicams, which also includes the recently-reviewed Finepix S5000 and S7000 models. This 3-megapixel, 6X optical zoom digicam offers the simplicity of fully automatic exposure to the beginner, while appealing to the intermediate user with several scene modes and manual exposure mode.

While most digicams in its price range offer a 3X optical zoom, the S3000 gets you twice as close to your subject with its Fujinon 6X optical zoom lens. This not only offers you more versatility in composing your shots, but it also adds significantly to the "fun" factor of owning a digicam. The lens produces sharp images throughout its 38-228mm (in 35mm equivalence) zoom range, but with noticeable pincushioning at full telephoto and barrel distortion at full wide-angle. At full telephoto there was only slight chromatic aberration (purple fringing) present in its results. The lens is also fast; its f/2.8 aperture at wide-angle only diminishes to f/3 at full telephoto, allowing you to hand-hold the camera in lighting conditions that might otherwise require a camera support.

You have a choice of two viewfinders for composing and reviewing your shots: a 1.8-inch color LCD monitor, or, like most consumer cameras with a big zoom, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) without diopter adjustment. The LCD and EVF are equally-functional; you can setup the camera, and compose and review your images on either one. I favored the LCD for camera setup and image review, and the EVF for shooting; switching between the two needs only a touch of the conveniently-located EVF/LCD button. The viewfinders were easy to use even in conditions of low ambient light, and offer the flexibility to overlay exposure on the previewed image, or not; simply depress the Display button until the viewfinder meets your needs.

The S3000's shooting performance was average. From power-on till the first image was captured measured about 3.5 seconds, with most of that time spent extending its lens. This performance will cause you to miss many unposed impromptu shots, but it is a compromise for having a big zoom lens. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was 3/10 second when pre-focused, and 7/10 second including autofocus time. The viewfinder (EVF or LCD) contributed about 1/10 second to shutter lag, another compromise due to having a big zoom lens. Shot-to-shot delay averaged about 3.3 seconds with captured Image Display on, and dropped to 2.3 seconds by changing the Image Display setting to "off". Burst mode captured two shots in 7/10 second. You will find it difficult to follow a moving subject while composing your shots because the viewfinder (EVF or LCD) freezes during autofocus. This effectively limits you to taking shots of static subjects, shooting action only if there's limited movement, or if you can pre-focus on where the action is likely to occur; unfortunately, this camera is ineffective for shooting most sports.

We were fairly satisfied with the results of shooting indoors. The moderate wide-angle lens affords reasonable field of view, but the short range (11.5 feet) of its built-in pop-up flash will limit your interior shots to small rooms and portraits of small groups; you'll be able to join those portraits because the S3000 has both a tripod socket and self timer. Use of the flash produced accurate exposures and well-saturated colors, but the LCD viewfinder went blank as the flash recharged. In low ambient light, both the EVF and LCD could be viewed by adjusting their brightness, but the absence of a focus-assist lamp frequently prevented the S3000 from autofocusing. The camera was able to squelch its flash at close range, making it a good choice for shooting close-up images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings, although the zoom can't be used in macro mode. There is no provision for the attachment of external flash equipment. We were pleased with our outdoor test shots. Images were sharp, well-exposed and richly saturated. We found the LCD easy to view even in bright sunlight, and the EVF's eyecup was deep enough to block out ambient light.

Intermediate users will find plenty to experiment with in Manual mode, with adjustments available for EV compensation, White Balance, aperture, image sharpness, and flash compensation. In addition, scene modes are provided for Night, Sport, Landscape and Portrait settings. There's also a movie mode that captures 320x240 or 160x120 clips at ten frames per second, but there's no sound and the optical zoom can't be used to compose the movie.

Battery life was acceptable considering the power consumption of the EVF or LCD. We were able to capture nearly 200 shots on a set of 2000mah rechargable NiMH batteries, this with extensive use of the LCD for reviewing images and experimenting with the S3000's menu system. As ever, we recommend that you obtain at least two sets of NiMH batteries so that your once-in-a-lifetime photo op is not lost due to insufficient power.

With a street price of under $300 at the time of this review (November, 2003), many families will find the Fuji FinePix S3000 a good value. The combination of ease of use, flexible exposure modes, and powerful zoom lens will appeal to photographers of all experience levels, and produce pleasing shots of family events and travel experiences. Have a look at our Sample Photos to see if it belongs on your holiday shopping list.

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