Digital camera

13 Nov 2003

Product: Fuji FinePix S5000
Price: €649.99

With its FinePix range of digital cameras, Fujifilm has firmly established itself at the forefront of the digital camera revolution. The S5000 is aimed at the fast-growing ‘prosumer’ market that comprises serious photography enthusiasts for whom having access to the latest technology is paramount and value for money is more important than simply price.

The S5000 continues the trend towards high-end digital cameras that look like traditional SLR (single lens reflex) machines. Heading its list of impressive features is a powerful 10x optical zoom lens equivalent to 37-370mm on a standard 35mm camera. While the S5000 is primarily a stills camera, it also has a video and sound capture function that gives 26 seconds play time with the 16MB xD-Picture Card that comes with the camera.

One of the camera’s instantly appealing characteristics is its compact design. Just 4.4 inches wide, 3.2 inches tall and 3.1 inches deep, it weighs in at 16.9 oz including 4 AA batteries and xD-Picture Card.

Every camera takes a little time to get used to, but the essentials of the S5000 are easy to grasp and the user experience is essentially the same as when using a non-digital camera. You have the option of sticking the camera on the ‘auto’ setting that lets the camera do all the work, albeit with some loss of refinement or choosing your own settings for total control such as shutter speed, aperture and even light sensitivity/ISO. You can use either the conventional viewfinder or the 1.5-inch LCD screen to view your subject (the latter is heavier on batteries but only slightly).

This camera has an image resolution rating of 3.1 million effective pixels or 6 million recorded pixels — 6 MP (megapixel) — the result of Fujifilm’s Super CCD technology that records pixels at double their normal size. Putting it simply, this innovation means that users can get 6MP-equivalent images from a 3MP camera. As well as this ultra high-resolution setting, there are also 3MP, 2MP and 1MP settings. The xD-Picture Card can hold 33 1MP-sized pictures or just 10 of the largest 6MP ones. The cards are available in capacities right up to 512MB that can hold 347 of the 6MP images.

If you don’t invest in a higher capacity card, you will find yourself constantly flicking between photo and playback modes while doing some pretty aggressive image culling, as well as downloading images from you camera to your PC on a very regular basis in order to free up space on the card. Thankfully, the latter task is a bit of a breeze. You simply load the accompanying FinePix Viewer software onto your PC, hook up the USB cable between camera and PC, turn on the camera and, hey presto, your photos are downloaded in seconds. Using the software program, you can then manage your portfolio — put them into an album, onto a CD (if you have a burner), email them off to friends, print them and so on.

The USB port is neatly tucked away under a flap at the side of the camera, along with video output and AC power adaptor connection points. The USB and video cables are supplied with the camera — the adaptor is an optional extra. There are a range of other accessories available, the most immediately useful of which would perhaps be a carrying case for protection purposes and a battery charger — a must for any digital camera user who has not won the lotto recently.

The joy of digital photography — it has often been noted but nonetheless worth repeating — is that it allows you to view your photographs instantly. If you’ve messed up, forgotten to stick on the flash on or someone has blinked at the wrong moment, you can simply delete the image and try again. The playback function on the S5000 allows you to do this is via a toggle switch to the right of the LCD screen.

Those, in a nutshell, are the essential features, although there are many others the serious hobbyist will want to explore. If you were looking for a camera with advanced features and excellent handling characteristics, it would be hard to better the S5000.

By Brian Skelly