Fujifilm FinePix S5200 Zoom Review
By Movable Type Admin
One of the latest super-zoom models from Fuji (as of 2/2006), the FinePix S5200 incorporates many of the features found on its predecessors, like the S5100 that we reviewed back in 2004. The S5200 brings back the Super CCD HR image sensor and increases resolution to 5-megapixels (native, not interpolated), compared to the S5100's 4-megapixels. Other features include a powerful FUJINON 10x optical zoom lens, "cool" green AF illuminator, 1.8-inch LCD and color EVF, 640x480 (30fps) movie mode, and ISO speeds from 64-1600. It offers an exposure mode for every member of your household or office. The less experienced will enjoy using its Auto mode and with five creative scene modes, they're sure to capture great shots in a variety of different shooting conditions. Novices can opt to use the Program AE mode, which gives a bit more control over the exposure process with options for white balance, metering, program shift, etc. And Fuji didn't forget about the photo enthusiasts either, with three exposure modes (Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and Manual) that allow you to toggle more advanced settings like aperture and shutter speed values.
Ergonomics were great - this model really gives you that SLR feel with its large handgrip and lens barrel. Although it is not quite as compact as past models, I think it fits great in your hands, whether they're small or large. The various camera controls are placed well on the body and make for easy accessibility. However, with having the power switch mounted around the shutter release, I found myself turning it Off and switching to playback mode quite often. Because there are so many buttons that control different settings, the menu system is very neat and well organized, allowing for quick and simple menu navigation.
Like just about every "Big zoom" model, the S5200's most dominant feature has to be the powerful Fujinon 10X optical zoom lens. Covering a focal length from 38 to 380mm in 35mm equivalence, it offers the user enormous versatility in image composition over the typical 3x zoom lens found on most consumer models. The 38mm wide-angle extreme covers most interior and landscape shots, while its 380mm telephoto magnification will please the nature enthusiast and sports photographer by bringing distant subjects up close. This lens helped produce sharp images throughout its zoom range, with a bit of barrel distortion and pin cushioning present at the wide-angle and telephoto extremes, respectively. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing around highlights) are present, but were well controlled. The lens is relatively fast too; with a wide-open variable aperture range of F3.2 (wide) to F3.5 (tele), allowing you to use faster shutter speeds in dim lighting, which reduces the chance of shots being ruined by camera shake at long focal lengths.
The S5200's shooting performance is very good. From power-on till the first image was captured measured under just 2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was almost instantaneous (less than 1/10 of a second) when pre-focused, and only 4/10 of a second including autofocus time. Shot to shot delay averaged about 1 second without flash, and between 2.5 and 5 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. Things slow down quite a bit when shooting CCD-RAW images; Continuous shooting is disabled, and shot to shot time slows to between 5 and 6 seconds. RAW mode is not well supported by Fuji's FinePix Viewer; all you can do is convert the RAW file to TIFF and save it. But, I think that most users will be very satisfied with the image produced by its 5-megapixel Fine JPEG mode. If you'd like to use the RAW mode then have a look at the freely-distributed S7RAW program, it works with Fujifilm Finepix S7000, S5000, S20pro, S9000, S9500, S5200, S5600, F700, F710, F810, E550, E900, S5500, S5100, S2pro and S3pro cameras.
The S5200 provides 4 unique continuous shooting modes: Top 3 which captured 3 frames in 8/10 of a second. Final 3 which captured 10 frames at 3/10 of a second intervals but saved only the last 3. Bracketing captured images at about the same rate, while adjusting the exposure setting for each shot (±0EV, -1/3EV, +1/3EV.) Long-period continuous shooting is available only in Auto mode or one of the five creative scene modes. Using it allowed me to capture 10 images in about 9 seconds, saving all of them. Both of the viewfinders go blank momentarily between shots, making it difficult to follow a moving subject. The recovery time in Top or Final 3 mode was about 5 seconds before the next sequence could be taken. Our tests were done using a 512MB xD-picture memory card, Program AE mode, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.
I was very pleased with the quality of its 5M Fine mode. Indoors it produced pleasing portrait shots, with good flash exposure, sharp facial and hair detail as well as natural skin tones. The built in automatic, pop-up flash boasts an effective range of approx. 13 feet at wide angle. This is sufficient for most interior shooting in average sized rooms (living rooms, kitchens, etc.) Unfortunately, it just does not have the power to illuminate large open rooms, like a church, gymnasium, etc. The AF system did an excellent job focusing in dim lighting, thanks to the very "cool" green Focus-assist illuminator. The only problem I found was that it is very bright and sometimes "blinds" your subject. Both the color EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) and LCD worked great indoors, and when shooting in dim lighting, they "gain up" to help aid in framing.
Outdoors, it also performs very well. All of our sample images were nice and sharp, with almost no visible edge blurring. The metering and white balance systems worked very well, produced well exposed images, that show very accurate color temperature. You can see for yourself by looking an our M&M man sample , that was taken in some very mixed lighting. Noise levels were extremely low, especially when you consider that the sensitivity can be turned up to 1600, unlike most models that top out at about 400. When viewing our ISO 800 sample at 100%, you can see some noise that gives the image a slight grainy look to it. But, this was very acceptable, because normally you would see horrible amounts of multi-colored pixels that make the image look terrible. In fact, I had no problem making a beautiful cropped 4x6-inch print from our ISO 800 M&M man sample, that showed no visible traces of imager noise. The 1.8-inch LCD display worked very well outdoors, but due to its reflective surface, there are still some angles that reflect the sun; this is when the EVF comes into play. Its image was nice and sharp and the depth of the eyepiece was very sufficient at blocking out unwanted ambient light; plus the feature of a dioptric adjustment, helped in making this model a more user friendly choice to those with fading eyesight or glasses.
Movie mode allows you to record at resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240 with audio. The frame rate is fixed at 30fps. Because sound is recorded the zoom may be used before recording but not during. Overall it produced good results, our movie clips showed very little compression artifacts (noise) and its AF system seems to do well. Be sure to check out all of our examples both photo and video on the samples page.
Power is provided by a set of 4 standard AA batteries, and as always we recommend using rechargeable NiMH batteries over alkalines. You can even use one- use lithium cells in a bind. Using a set of 2500 mAh rechargeable cells, I found that the battery life was quite acceptable when using the camera's power-saving features. We were able to capture over 110 images and performing some other of our tests before a low battery warning was displayed.
Bottom line - Fuji has struck gold with this winning combination of versatility, great image quality and robust performance. With a street price of $399 or less, the S5200 offers an excellent value for an SLR style "super zoom" model. And, it can be used by any member of your family no matter what level of experience they have or what event you may be attending. We feel this model will make a great choice for any family, business, tourist or nature photographer in the market for an affordable digicam with a generous zoom range and the ability to capture and create beautiful prints; whether you're expecting the typical 4x6- inch print or a massive 13x19-inch.
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