Fujifilm FinePix S602 Zoom Review
By Movable Type Admin
FujiFilm has taken the best from their FinePix 6900 Zoom and created the new FinePix S602 Zoom with features such as a low-noise ISO 800 and 1600 mode, shutter speeds up to 1/10,000 second, a "final 5" burst mode, compatibility with both CompactFlash (Type I and II including Microdrive) and SmartMedia memory devices, and full motion video capture at 30 frames per second with sound at full VGA (640x480) resolution. It retains the same high quality 6x optical zoom lens, high resolution electronic color viewfinder and body style but now it's powered by standard AA type batteries rather than a proprietary lithium rechargeable battery pack.
The third-generation Fujifilm Super CCD imager adds ISO 800 and 1600 (1280x960 mode only) image capture capability with relatively low noise which gives the user more flexibility in low light condition, see our Sample Pictures. The large diameter f/2.8 6x optical zoom will get you really close to the action, the 35-210mm (35mm equivalent) lens is a serious tool. This all-glass Fujinon zoom lens is a quality optic that exhibits an average amount of wide-angle "barrel distortion" and telephoto pin cushioning yet captures images superior to many competitors in the marketplace.
The shutter speed range in Auto mode is from 3 seconds to 1/2000, in Manual mode the user can select from speeds of 15 seconds to 1/10,000. We were glad to see the aperture and shutter priority modes included for the more demanding photographers. The easy to use creative functions in "Scene Position" mode consist of Portrait, Sports, Scene, Night Scenery and B/W. The unique "final 5" burst mode allows you to capture sports or fast action shots that most digicams miss due to shutter lag. You can fire away at an incredible 5fps until you have captured just the sequence you were looking for and then it records only the last five images. Even when the camera is set at 1-megapixel and in continuous mode, it records at a respectable 1.8 fps for up to 40 frames.
Before the FinePix S602 Zoom, the S1 Pro SLR was the only Fuji that used dual media (SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards). "Kudos" to Fuji for including the faster and larger capacity CompactFlash card capability. We look forward to other manufacturers including CF2 slots in future digicams that demand faster read/write times and larger storage needs than SmartMedia can presently accomodate. The S602 Zoom is fully Microdrive compatible and also accepts standard 3.3V SmartMedia cards. The faster read/write times of high performance CompactFlash cards (and Microdrives) helps reduce lag between shots or viewings. In Program mode the shot to shot times are a little over 2 seconds and just a second longer when using the flash. With a 1GB Microdrive the S602 Zoom can record 900 seconds (15 minutes) of 30 fps 640x480 full motion video.
It's nice to see some of the camera makers making use of the more practical and readily available power supplied by AA-size batteries. Proprietary batteries exclude the use of any type of "off the shelf" battery when the primary is dead and AC power or your charger isn't handy. I've always recommend the purchase of a second proprietary battery when the camera requires it but this is not an inexpensive purchase. For the same money you can get a rapid charger and four or eight of the high power AA type NiMH batteries. Unlike most other digicams the S602 Zoom is -always- using a color LCD, either the large LCD or the eyelevel EVF (electronic viewfinder) so power is a concern.
And speaking of the EVF, Fuji has put a very high resolution EVF on the S602 Zoom that is noticeably better than the one used on the 6900 Zoom. These EVF displays are small, color LCD displays with a magnifying lens to make them act like a larger display. Most modern camcorders make use of the same type of color EVF displays. They are shielded in the eyelevel viewfinder so they can be easily used in any light condition and they allow for the electronic overlay of important camera and exposure settings. An additional benefit is the ability to display the same menus on the EVF as the large color LCD so you need not worry about being unable to clearly see the larger display.
The S602 Zoom's focus system has been improved speed-wise with the addition of a passive AF sensor combined with thru-the-lens CCD contrast detection auto focus off of the imager. The very low light level focusing can still fail, Fuji failed to include any kind of AF assist illuminator. I find this unexcusable now that many other manufacturers are including these devices on far less expensive models such as the $249 Sony DSC-P31. In normal room illumination the camera has no problem and will yield well focused images. For the more creative digicam user, the S602 Zoom has the ability to use any one of 49 user-settable AF points. These are selected on the LCD viewfinder when a non- centered focus point is desired.
The image processor is very robust and the camera yields very pleasent color in its slightly over-saturated images. Many consumers prefer this over-saturated and snappy image that is common in regular film cameras and I don't find it objectionable. It is easily changed in digital images with post-processing software after download. Chromatic aberration (purple fringe) on highly contrasting areas of an image is effectively nonexistent as should be expected in todays cameras of this caliber. One point of discontent I do have is the camera does not maintain consecutive file numbers when a memory card is erased or reformatted after downloading. The subsequent image will start over the numbering sequence and this can cause a conflict when exporting to the same folder. This is remedied by leaving a copy of the last image on the card and it will number from there, but Fuji could have remedied this with a menu option to reset numbering - ON/OFF like the other digicams in this price point do.
The overall ergonomics of the S602 Zoom are excellent. I find larger cameras much easier to control and regardless of hand size it's easier to operate then a minature camera. When the camera has a long focal length zoom it becomes very important to hold it as steady as possible to avoid blurred images at full telephoto. The camera controls are numerous but well located and clearly labelled. The 'shortcut' button allows the user quick access to resetting image quality, self-timer and others without having to navigate menus.
The FinePix S602 Zoom seamlessly blends a 6x optical zoom and a high resolution three megapixel Super CCD to yield sharp and vibrantly colorful images. Thanks to the Auto and Scene modes novice users can easily produce professional looking pictures without any fuss. Seasoned photographers wanting more control over the photographic process will be more than pleased by the camera's advanced controls and exposure modes. The S602 Zoom, priced right at $699 MSRP, is a sturdy and well designed camera that will serve you well. If you'd like the same image quality in a pocket size design then have a look at the highly compact FinePix F601 Zoom.
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