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I would love to think myself a great photographer. I liked that I knew how to use aperture and shutter speed get a desired effect. In truth however, I was a fraud.
In my life, I have owned but two digital cameras. The first, an old 2 Megapixel Kodak point-and-shooter, and more recently the "stills" option on my Panasonic Mini-DV camera. Still, using the limited manual features on that camera inspired me.
Enter the Fujifilm FinePix S5600 Zoom. As it's SLR styling would suggest, this camera includes all the features you would expect from Pro cameras, yet, as it's price point implies, at it's heart, this is a point-and-shoot camera.
The S5600 includes a number of modes, all chosen by a convenient rotary selector on the top right, behind the shutter button. These modes include all the standard fare (Portrait, Landscape, Anti Blur/Motion) and a very useful "natural light mode", which turns off the flash, adjusts the shutter speed and aperture to take in more light and increases the ISO. On top of this, it features a very good "auto" mode, which is where this camera will spend most of it's time.
The camera runs quite happily in auto mode, and will give very good results in most situations. Most people will successfully pick up this camera, and within a few shots be taking beautiful 5 Megapixel shots.
The shutter button is conveniently located (front right) for my slightly large hands (though people with particularly small hands may have some issues), and provides good feedback. It is clear when the button is half/fully depressed. It is surrounded by the off/review/shoot selector. When choosing these modes, there is a large distance between them, and it is sometimes a little easy to miss the mode you are looking for, especially since there is a less distinct "click" than i would like when you hit the mode.
The built in "filler flash" does an average job at short distances, but i would have preferred the option to attach a larger external flash. Still, natural light mode and 1600 max iso makes it un-necesarry in most circumstances.
The lack of image stabilisation on the face seems undesirable when you conceder it's 10X optical zoom. Thankfully an excellent sensitivity range (ISO 64 to 1600) and minimal noise even at ISO-1600 thanks to its fifth generation super CCD sensor mean this is also somewhat un-necesarry. The noise that is there can be minimised even more by shooting in RAW mode.
For the more avid photographer, it includes all the bells and whistles you would expect from the more expensive SLR cameras it seeks to emulate. With Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Full Manual modes, and a somewhat cumbersome manual focus mode, photographers with an eye for that "something more" photo, will achieve results simply impossible for the typical point and shoot camera.
While the pro would laugh at how awkward these modes are, It is certainly in these modes that serious amateur/aspiring pro photographers will have most fun. They are usually surprisingly easy to adjust, through the 4 way selector, and basic changes soon becomes second nature.
However here again, the cameras desire to be used in "auto" mode once again shows up. The features pro's will take for granted often take 3 or more button presses to find and it is a little cumbersome at times. For example "White Balance" is third in the main menu, below "Self Timer". Manual Focussing is a similarly taxing process requiring you to press multiple buttons (EV Compensate+W/T) to set, and the LCD and Electronic Viewfinder are both a little small and low res to effectively determine exactly how in focus your subject is.
In spite of these drawbacks, with a little patience and conditioning, you will be able to duplicate most if not all of the results you would see on much more expensive DSLR cameras.
The look and feel of the camera is perhaps it's most pleasing feature. Between it's fixed lens barrel, matte black (plastic) finish and rubberised grips it feels like a much more expensive camera than it really is, and moreover, except from very close, the average person will not be able to tell this is not a DSLR from looking at it. The only drawback here is that the rubberised grip around the barrel is... well, just that. Looking at it, and even holding it, you expect to be able to twist it to adjust either zoom or focus, but this is not the case, and both of these options are provided by button presses on the back.
All in all, this is an excellent camera which i can highly recommend to both point and shooters looking for a long range zoom lens, serious amateurs, or aspiring pro's looking for a springboard into the world of manual photography, and even pro's as a cheap extra camera.
One final thing of note is that like most Fuji cameras it uses only the proprietary and somewhat expensive xD picture card format, which may be a little off-putting to those who already have large SD or CF cards from prior cameras. It also only includes a 16 MB card which is only good for a hand full of images at 5 Megapixel, and only one in CCD-RAW mode.
Very good summary, I agree with it completely. Seems like we got the camera for the same kind of reasons. :) The only drawback for me is that I find the picture quality quite poor indoors on 5M(F) setting. Other than that, I think you're spot on. Good review!
Forbiddon 03.05.2007 16:40
Wow I wish I could review as well as this.....thanks every thought and query I had you covered. Top notch