Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd Review
Supplimenting the S9100 at the top of Fuji's consumer digicam product line, the FinePix S6000fd incorporates a useful mix of newly-developed features into an SLR-like form factor with a mechanically-controlled zoom lens. While it offers less resolution (6.3 vs 9 megapixels) than the S9100, it includes the same high-quality 10.7x 28-300mm zoom lens and VGA movie mode, and adds Intelligent Face detection, helping you to capture portraits in sharp focus even when the subject is off-center in the composition. While it can be used as a simple point-n-shoot in Auto and Scene modes, the S6000fd will appeal most to experienced photographers who will benefit from its advanced exposure control and optics.
With its sixth-generation Fujifilm Super CCD-HR imager, Fuji has continued to eliminate the in-camera interpolation that was used to boost the resolution of its predecessors. With a native resolution of 6.3 megapixels (2848 x 2136), interpolation would be of little value in terms of resolution, while introducing artifacts that in our opinion reduced the quality of the resulting images; we're happy that the S6000fd's finest image quality can be captured at the CCD's native resolution.
The large diameter f/2.8-4.9 10.7x optical zoom lens is a versatile piece of glass. It provides a generous field of view for landscapes and interiors at the 28mm wide angle extreme, and a distance-reducing 300mm at the telephoto end. The lens produces a moderate amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast areas), an average amount of barrel distortion at wide angle, and little-to-no pin cushioning in the moderate to telephoto range. From wide angle to moderate telephoto focal lengths, images were sharp corner-to corner at moderate apertures, but suffered a bit of corner softness at its smallest and largest apertures. At full 300mm telephoto, corners were a bit soft throughout the available aperture range. Fuji has produced a high quality lens for the S6000fd, one that complements its 6.3-megapixel imager nicely.
While the zoom lenses of most digicams are controlled by switch-actuated motors, the S6000fd's is controlled by a mechanical ring on the lens barrel. A motorized zoom simply can not compare to the speed and accuracy of the S6000fd's zoom ring; it makes a huge difference when shooting a sporting event and adds an SLR-like degree of precision and responsiveness to this prosumer digicam.
The S6000fd's shooting performance is quite good. From power-on to the capture of your first image takes about 1.5 seconds. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between releasing the shutter and capturing the image, measured a very good 1/10 second when pre-focused, or 5/10 second including autofocus time. Those times include a bit less than 1/10 second delay introduced by the S6000fd's viewfinder; because it has no optical viewfinder, you'll have to adjust your timing for the slight delay while the S6000fd presents the live electronic image on either the LCD or EVF. Shot-to-shot delay averaged about 2 seconds without flash, and between 2.5 and 7 seconds with flash depending on subject distance. Use of the S6000fd's red eye reduction flash mode extended the pre-focused shutter lag to 6/10 second, during which the camera's viewfinders go blank.
Sports shooters will enjoy 2 modes of continuous shooting, Top 3 which is a standard burst capture mode, and Final 3 which releases the shutter up to 40 times but records only the last 3 frames captured before the shutter button is released; both modes captured 3 frames within 8/10 second, followed by a 7 second delay to clear the buffer before the next shot could be taken. In either Top or Final 3 mode, the viewfinder only briefly displayed the last captured image, making it difficult to follow a moving subject. The S6000fd also has a Long-period continuous shooting mode; it captured images continuously at 2 second intervals, limited in depth only by the amount of remaining available capacity on the installed xD card. The viewfinder was also of limited use in Long-period continuous mode, displaying the live image for about 4/10 second of the 2 second interval between shots. The S6000fd is responsive enough for you to capture many unposed moments and images of your children's sports activities. These above times are based on 6.3-megapixel Fine 2848 x 2136 JPEG images, flash off, and a FujiFilm 512MB M xD memory card installed, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time and image capture - these are numbers you can reproduce in everyday shooting conditions.
The S6000fd can also capture RAW images, but its performance suffers. In single shot mode, the S6000fd could capture RAW shots at lethargic 7 second intervals, while continuous shooting mode can not shoot RAW at all. Turning on RAW image capture is hidden deep in the Setup menu; you'll rarely, if ever, use it.
The S6000fd's sensitivity settings have a versatile range of ISO 100 to ISO 3200. All users will enjoy the smooth, essentially noise-free images shot at ISO 100 and 200, while sports shooters will appreciate the ability to shoot full-resolution images at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200. Image noise is usually present in consumer digicams at high sensitivities, and the S6000fd is no exception. Noise can be detected in shadows at ISO 400, in highlight areas at ISO 800, and is noticeable throughout the image at settings of ISO 1600 and 3200. There's also a noticeable loss of image detail at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200, the result of in-camera noise reduction. While image quality suffers at high ISO settings, sports shooters will be happy to have sensitivity settings that may make the difference between getting the shot and not. Sports shooters will also appreciate the ability to select shutter speeds as high as 1/4000 second in manual mode.
The S6000fd's body is SLR-like, with a deep rubberized hand grip that was very comfortable to hold. Its controls are well organized and professional in feel. As with all consumer digicams with a broad zoom range, the S6000fd is equipped with an Electronic Viewfinder; although small, the EVF was very effective, providing a nearly SLR-like view with its 60fps refresh rate, and introducing less delay in the live image than EVF-equipped cameras we've tested in the past. The S6000fd provides the typical EVF advantages of overlaid shooting information and menu access, brightening in dim light, and the ability to playback images. It also retains the typical EVF disadvantages, including blanking between image captures both in single and continuous shooting modes, and introducing a delay in the live image. The large 2 1/2-inch LCD monitor is bright enough to be visible in bright outdoor conditions, presented easy to read menu choices and was effective for image playback. I found myself using the EVF as a viewfinder and the LCD to navigate the S6000fd's menu system and to playback images; switching between the two takes a single depression of the EVF/LCD button. The only disadvantage I found with the S6000fd's body design is that it looks as capable as it performs, attracting the attention of the security staff at events that prohibit advanced cameras.
It's good to see Fuji continuing to use AA-size batteries. Proprietary batteries exclude the ability to use of any type of "off the shelf" battery when the primary is dead and AC power or your charger isn't handy. For the same price of a proprietary battery you can get a rapid charger and two sets of the high power AA type NiMH batteries. Unlike digicams equipped with an optical viewfinder, the S6000fd is always powering either the large LCD or the eye level EVF, so power usage can be a concern; we captured an average of about 200 images per charge using four 2500mAh NiMH batteries, and this included extensive use of the LCD for reviewing images and testing the S6000fd's menu system.
We were pleased with the S6000fd's outdoor results. Images were consistently sharp and well saturated. Controls for sharpness, saturation and contrast are provided to achieve the results you want, and there's a Chrome color mode that emulates the higher contrast and saturation of slide films. The S6000fd's AF modes were effective, complementing the high-quality Fujinon 28-300mm lens in producing sharp results.
The S6000fd also performed well indoors. Fuji claims a flash range of 27 feet in wide-angle, but that is with AUTO ISO. At an ISO setting of 100, the flash had a range of about 15-feet; the powerful flash combined with the 28mm wide angle zoom makes the S6000fd terrific for indoor flash photography. And while the flash is powerful, the S6000fd squelches it nicely to produce pleasing individual portraits and images of small objects for online auction listings. Flash coverage is also very good, illuminating shots taken at full wide angle with almost no light fall off at the edges. The S6000fd's low light AF performance was very good, aided by a focus assist lamp that projects a bright green light that helps the camera achieve focus even on low contrast subjects in complete darkness. The S6000fd viewfinders gain-up in conditions of low ambient light, intensifying the viewfinder image so shots can be composed in marginal lighting.
One note of caution about the S6000fd's Portrait mode - the camera's i-Flash has a tendency to use ISO 400 so that the background of portraits is illuminated by ambient light. While the camera's results at ISO 400 are quite usable, there is a noticeable amount of noise and some loss of image detail. Please see our Sample Photos for examples. If you're unhappy with the results, forego Portrait mode in favor of Programmed Auto where you'll have control of ISO.
The S6000fd is a very capable prosumer digicam. With its 6.3-megapixel imager, 28-300mm mechanically controlled zoom lens, extensive exposure and in-camera processing controls, automatic and advanced shooting modes, there's little that you can't do with this camera. And if you're looking for a digicam that can also capture high quality video, you'll enjoy the S6000fd's VGA resolution 30fps movies -- they're gorgeous, and you can zoom while recording! With an MSRP of $499 and a street price of under $400, the S6000fd is also a terrific value.
High-end digicams and low-end dSLR's have a great deal of overlap in terms of functions and can be close in price. If you are weighing the S6000fd versus a dSLR, you'll find that they have many similarities, including standard zoom range, mechanical zoom ring, sensitivity range, and extensive exposure and processing controls. But a dSLR offers better image quality (especially at high sensitivity settings), the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, more robust continuous shooting, superior support for RAW images, faster AF, and the benefit of an eye-level optical viewfinder. The S6000fd has its advantages, including high-quality VGA-sized movies, intensified viewfinder image in dim lighting, menu operation and image playback on its eye-level EVF, Intelligent Face Detection, built-in macro/super macro modes and a lower price. Only you can place a value on each camera's advantages; please have a look at our sample images to help your decision making process.
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