Kyocera Finecam S4 Review
The Kyocera Finecam S4 is definitely small, they've packed a 4-megapixel imager and 3x optical zoom lens in the same size case as the 3-megapixel Finecam S3. The stylish stainless steel body is about the same height and width as a credit card and weighs only 6.2 ounces. It's easily carried in a pocket or purse and is ideal for those that dislike toting larger cameras around. And it's built to take a beating unlike the plastic-bodied cameras which rarely survive a drop on the floor.
From the S4's tiny MultiMedia Card (MMC) or Secure Digital (SD) memory card comes 2272 x 1704 pixel images that are the equal of those from many of the full-sized 4-megapixel digicams. The SuperFine quality JPEG images average about 1.5-2.2MB in size and are well saturated and sharp. Apparently Kyocera decided that the uncompressed TIFF mode was not desirable in a 4-megapixel camera with somewhat limited storage capability so it was not incorporated into the S4. When using the movie mode you can only fit two 15-second video clips on the supplied 16MB MMC card. Each 320 x 240 resolution video clip is about 5.2MB in size and does not include audio so don't expect it to replace your camcorder. You need a bigger MMC card if you plan on doing any serious picture taking with this camera in Fine or SuperFine quality. Last year's S3 did not have internal I/O port and required an external card reader, the S4 features a builtin USB 1.1 port.
In actual use the S4 takes about five seconds from pushing the power button until the lens is extended and it's ready to capture a picture. Shot to shot time at Superfine quality is about four seconds. When the camera is first turned on the color LCD comes on by default as it is the only information display to let you know what the current settings are. You need to press the DISPlay button and turn off the color LCD or else the battery life will suffer. The S4 is powered by a rather "whimpy" rechargeable lithium battery pack that's about the same length and width as a stick of gum. It takes about two and a half hours for the charger/AC power supply to bring the pack up to full charge. If you're one of those people that likes to use a digital camera with the LCD turned on most of the time this really isn't your camera. If the LCD is kept off the battery life should be sufficient for an afternoon in the great outdoors. Another factor in battery life is the number of pictures taken using the flash. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery, you need to buy a spare battery as no other type of battery can be used.
The zoom lens is quick and smooth but it's quite noisey as it goes from wideangle to telephoto or extending or retracting when powered up or down. The autofocus is about average speedwise and in normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about 1.1 seconds or less. On occasion when shooting a wideangle scenic shot with a lot of sky I had to use the manual landscape focus mode as it failed to lock the AF. I took most pictures using the default evaluative metering mode which is the same as most other cameras' matrix or multi metering mode. The S3 had a tendacy to overexpose flash pictures when the subject was closer than six feet and I'm happy to report that this is not the case with the new S4. The optical viewfinder is large and bright but only about 80% of the captured image is shown, when you review the image on the LCD there's a lot more coverage displayed.
If compact is what you want, four megapixel cameras don't come any smaller than the S4, at least not at the time of this review. I'm still no big fan of the MMC / SD memory cards as they're more expensive than CF or SM cards and the data transfer rate is a bit slow in comparison. At least SD / MMC cards are now readily available up to 128MB and soon in even larger capacities. If you like the Canon ELPH digicams but want more than two megapixel resolution the Kyocera Finecam S4 may be just what you're looking for. Just remember to factor in the cost of a larger memory card and a second battery, you'll be purchasing them sooner or later.
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