Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom Review
By Movable Type Admin
Replacing the S602 Zoom
at the top of Fuji's consumer digicam product line, the FinePix S7000 Zoom
ups the ante in terms of resolution to 6.3 megapixels while retaining the
high quality 6x optical zoom lens, high resolution electronic
color viewfinder, high-speed shutter and VGA movie mode
of its predecessor.
While it can be used as a simple point-n-shoot in Auto or Scene mode,
the S7000 will appeal most to experienced photographers who will benefit
from its advanced exposure control and optics.
The fourth-generation Fujifilm Super CCD imager captures a native resolution of 6.3 megapixels (2848x2136) with an in-camera interpolation function to record images at 12.3-megapixels (4048x3040). We've never been big fans of in-camera interpolation. It's our experience that interpolated images are generally soft and no better than what can be obtained from the interpolation function of an image editor; our opinion is unchanged with the S7000. Fuji, however, appears to be pushing for its use by eliminating image quality settings (JPG compression level) when using an image size less than the interpolated 12-megapixels. In our sample photos we posted both a 6M and 12M shot of the red brick building so you could see this for yourself. The S7000 image quality settings include 12M Fine, 12M Normal, or your choice of 6M, 3M, 2M or 1M without control of compression. That said, we were generally pleased with the quality of the S7000's 6M images even though the JPG files are aggressively compressed and unusually small at approx. 1.5-megabytes. This "aggressive compression" can be seen as noise in the blue sky areas of our sample pictures. We also noticed considerable shadow noise in low contrast areas of the frame as well but this isn't due to compression, it's sensor noise.
The large diameter f/2.8 6x optical zoom lens will get you really close to the action and admits plenty of light for hand-held shooting. 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 whose quality is equal to or superior to many competitors in the marketplace. The lens moves smoothly and quietly through its zoom range but is not continuous; it has 20 distinct steps in its 35-210mm (35mm equivalent) range, more than enough for carefully composing your shots.
The S7000's shooting performance is quite good. From power-on to the capture of your first image takes about four seconds. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between releasing the shutter and capturing the image, measured a respectable 2/10 second when pre-focused, or 6/10 second including autofocus time. The S7000's viewfinder contributed about 1/10 second to the measured delay; because it has no optical viewfinder, you'll have to adjust your timing for the slight delay while the S7000 presents the live electronic image on either the LCD or EVF. Shot-to-shot delay averaged about 1.5 seconds, while burst mode captured five shots in only 1.3 seconds; the view finder remained usable in both modes of rapid image capture. Sports shooters will enjoy 2 modes of continuous shooting, Top 5-Frame which is a standard burst capture mode, and Final 5-Frame which releases the shutter up to 40 times but records only the last 5 frames captured before the shutter button is released. The S7000 is responsive enough for you to capture many unposed moments and images of your children's sports activities. These above times are based on 2848x2136 images, flash off, and a fast (40x write/52x read) Ridata 512MB CF memory card installed, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time and image capture - these are numbers you can reproduce in everyday shooting conditions.
The shutter speed range in Auto mode is 1/4 to 1/2000 sec., in Manual mode the user can select from speeds of 15 seconds to 1/10,000, and Night Scene offers a range of 3 seconds to 1/250. While we were glad to see that aperture and shutter priority modes are provided, we were disappointed to find that the fastest shutter speed available in these and program mode is 1/1000. Sports shooters will be forced into Manual mode to set shutter speeds higher than 1/2000, and will lose the benefit of automatic exposure by doing so. The S7000 offers ISO settings of 200, 400, and 800; images shot at ISO 800 are limited to 3-megapixels (or smaller) in size, further reducing the S7000's effectiveness for shooting sports.
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 S7000 is always powering either the large LCD or the eye level EVF (electronic viewfinder), so power usage is a concern; we captured an average of over 100 images per charge using four 2200mah NiMH batteries, and this included extensive use of the LCD for reviewing images and testing the S7000's menu system.
We were pleased with the S7000's outdoor results. Images were consistently sharp and well saturated although maybe just a bit blue-biased (as we have seen from other Fuji SuperCCD imagers.) Chromatic aberration (purple fringe) on high contrast back lit subjects is effectively nonexistent. The LCD viewfinder was usable even in the brightest of environments and did not require adjusting its brightness. The EVF was very effective for eye-level shooting, allowing you to easily pan with a moving subject - just remember that there's about a 1/10 second delay with the either viewfinders live image; you may find it necessary to shoot ahead of a fast-moving subject. You can easily switch between the EVF and LCD by depressing the EVF/LCD button. Both viewfinders are fixed to the camera body and are not movable; waist level and overhead shooting are not possible. The S7000 offers of focusing modes, including Multi, in which the camera selects the focusing point and displays it on the viewfinder, Center, in which the camera focuses on the center of the viewfinder, and Area, which allows you to identify the focus point for off-center subjects. All three focusing modes were effective and produced sharp results.
The S7000 also performed well indoors. Fuji claims a flash range of almost 28 feet in wide-angle, and our results were in agreement. The combination of a 35mm focal length at the wide end of the zoom range and the powerful flash will allow you to capture large groups in a banquet room, yet the S7000 squelches its flash nicely to produce pleasing individual portraits and images of small objects for online auction listings. Despite the absence of a focus-assist lamp, the S7000 autofocus system worked very well in conditions of low ambient light.
The overall ergonomics of the S7000 are excellent. I find larger cameras much easier to control and regardless of hand size it's easier to operate then a miniature 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 labeled. The dedicated "F" button (Photo Mode) allows the user quick access to changing image quality, ISO speed or color mode without having to navigate menus. In the S7000, Fuji corrected an issue I had with its predecessor; the S602 did not maintain consecutive file numbers when a memory card was erased or reformatted, leading to images having duplicate file names. The S7000 has an option in its setup menu to number frames continuously - thanks for listening, Fuji!
The S7000 seamlessly blends a 6x optical zoom and a high resolution six 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 with little fuss. Seasoned users desiring more control over the photographic process will be pleased by the camera's advanced controls and exposure modes, but perhaps disappointed with the shutter speed limit of 1/1000 sec. in Program, Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority modes. And if you're looking for a digicam that can also capture high quality video, you'll love the S7000's VGA resolution, 30fps movies -- they're gorgeous. Just be prepared to fill up some large memory cards, these movies consume about 1MB per second. The FinePix S7000 is yet another of Fuji's excellent cameras that will serve you well.
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