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Fujifilm FinePix S5600 / S5200 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 23/01/06
Rating: Recommended
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Introduction: Announced on the 28th of July 05, the Fujifilm FinePix S5600 / S5200 is a new 5 megapixel digital camera with a 10x optical zoom lens - an update to the popular 4 megapixel Fujifilm S5500 / S5100, and 3 megapixel Fujifilm S5000. The cameras 10x optical zoom lens has a 38mm - 380mm film equivalent. The camera features an "Anti-blur" mode using high ISOs upto ISO1600 in order to avoid blur in photos. The Fujifilm FinePix S5600 is available from £206, this makes it good value for money for an ultra zoom digital camera. The camera is enclosed in a black rubberised body styled like a more expensive Digital SLR camera. The S5600 records 640x480 movies with sound at 30fps. The camera is slightly larger than other ultra zoom cameras, such as the Panasonic Lumix FZ3, and Nikon Coolpix S4. The camera takes 4 AA batteries and measures: 113.5 (W) x 85 (H) x 112 (D) mm (without protruding parts), and weighs Approx. 370g (excluding batteries and media).

Fuji have this to say about the camera:

"This camera packs an almost unimaginable level of capability into its contoured, compact body. Not only does it feature Fujifilm's acclaimed Super CCD HR sensor technology, ensuring the best image quality possible, but you also benefit from manual control and the immense optical reach of a 10x Fujinon zoom lens. What's more, this camera has the crucial 1600 ISO setting, meaning that all forms of blur are much less likely to occur."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ30)


Front - Camera off. Focus assist lamp on left.


Front - Camera on, pop-up flash, microphone, rubber lens grip.


Back - 1.8" screen (114k pixels), dioptor corrector, EVF screen, zoom control, EVF/LCD switch, 4-way control, menu/OK button, display, function button.


Top: Focus control / lock, mode dial, continuous shooting mode, exposure, off/play/photo mode and shutter release.


Bottom - battery compartment, plastic tripod mount.


Left Side. Speaker, AV out, DC In, USB connection, Memory card slot.


Lens strap loop.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to another ultra zoom digital camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ30.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5 Megapixel Super CCD
  • Anti-Blur / Real Photo Technology (uses high ISO settings for quicker shutter speeds)
  • 1.8" screen, 114,000 pixels
  • 10x Optical Zoom lens (38 - 380mm equivelant)
  • 5.7x Digital Zoom
  • ISO AUTO, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Video mode: 640 x 480 pixels, 30 fps with sound
  • 10cm Macro mode
  • Pictbridge support
  • RAW mode, Manual controls

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card™
  • 4 x AA-type Alkaline batteries
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable (mini-B)
  • A/V cable
  • Lens cap
  • Owner's manual (138 page)
  • CD-ROM containing: USB driver, FinePix Viewer, ImageMixer VCD2 LE for FinePix, RAW file converter LE

Average box contents - you will need to buy a larger memory card, rechargable batteries and charger, and a case (as with almost all digital cameras).

Battery usage: Up to 250 pictures with alkaline batteries, and upto 500 shots using Ni-MH 2500mAh rechargable batteries according to CIPA testing. Battery life seemed very good, equal with the 500-shot Fuji F10 for example.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the top dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 114,000 pixels is good, but doesn't have a live histogram. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder, instead there is an Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) - which is especially useful outside on bright sunny days - this has a diopter corrector and the size of the EVF means I'm able to use it even when wearing glasses.

Photo menu options: Self-timer, photometry (multi, spot, average), white-balance (custom available), high-speed shooting (on/off), auto-focus mode (center, multi, area), sharpness (hard, standard, soft), bracketing.

Function menu options: (shown below, left) Picture size / quality, ISO setting, Colour mode (Standard, Chrome, Black and White)

Function menu Setup menu

Setup menu options: Image display, shutter volume, beep volume, playback volume, frame numbering, LCD brightness, digital zoom (on, off), CCD-RAW (on, off), zoom position (resume, reset), AF illuminator, auto power off, format (seems slow), date/time, time difference, language, background colour, USB mode, video system, discharge, reset.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the left, below:

Playback mode (extra information) Playback menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick, although initial display can seem a bit sluggish. The zoom is fairly quick (but slower than others). There were three different playback views, normal, thumbs (click to view), and date view. Further photo information was available by pressing the +/- exposure compensation button.

Playback menu options: Erase, Rotate, DPOF, Protect, Slideshow, voice memo, trimming.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 16mb memory card provided with the camera:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
 
Ratio
RAW
Fine
Standard
5mp 2736 x 1824
3:2
NA
12
5mp 2592 x 1944
4:3
1
6
12
3mp 2048 x 1536
NA
19
2mp 1600 x 1200
NA
25
0.3mp 640 x 480
NA
122

As shown in the table above, you can fit a very small number of images on the 16mb memory card - a large memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes and aspect ratios, and a good choice regarding image compression.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Fujifilm FinePix S5600 / S5200:

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £15.47, 512mb: £29.71, 1gb (1000mb): £48.94.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: Tested with high-speed mode on. The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just under one second. Focusing seemed fairly quick even in low-light thanks to the bright focus-assist lamp. The playback mode is also fairly quick. The camera shutter response seemed quick (0.1 seconds) when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of just over 1 second between shots without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting is very quick, at roughly 2fps for upto 3 shots at the highest resolution (without flash).

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, especially in AUTO mode, or one of the scene modes, even though the camera has a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straight forward - the menus are responsive and easy to read and navigate. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple, mainly thanks to the right number of dials and buttons on the camera (most options aren't hidden away in menus which makes it easier to use). Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be the right amount of buttons and dials allowing easy access to the most commonly used functions and features. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small. The shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well - although the button used to get extra information in playback mode seems badly placed and badly labelled - you have to use the +/i exposure compensation button for extra information. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, with a good size handgrip, the rubberised cover will appeal to many, as will the SLR-styling and black colour. The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Fujifilm FinePix S5600 S5200 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Group photo (ISO400)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos, although on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting is often increased, in this photo, the automatic ISO chose ISO400, and the photo appears to have high noise reduction applied resulting in a loss of detail, and the photo appears soft. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


ISO Noise Test Photo - Flash on unless otherwise stated

ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels (flash off) ISO1600 - Actual Pixels (flash off)

Noise is visible in photos taken at ISO200 and ISO400, however, there appears to be quite strong noise reduction which does remove detail - ISO200 and ISO400 photos are still usable with quite acceptable results which is good, as a lot of other cameras produce unusable images when ISO200 or above is used. Noise levels at ISO800 and ISO1600 are very high, and there is very high noise reduction, which removes a lot of detail (making 'PEN' almost invisible at ISO1600) - these ISO settings are best avoided if image quality is your highest priority - the camera doesn't seem as capable as the Fuji FinePix F10 in this area.

Outside:

Shops Red Berries, blue sky

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail although images did seem slightly soft. There seemed to be good (but not brilliant) dynamic range. Noise seemed quite low, especially on sunny days. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images. There was quite high purple fringing on the photo of the red berries.

Zoom: The camera has a 10x optical zoom lens, and a 5.7x digital zoom - I've included examples below to show what the zoom range of the camera is. Using the digital zoom degrades image quality and is best avoided.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 10x Optical Zoom

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems good, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and the bright areas of the photo still visible. There is higher than average purple fringing in these photos.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quiet. The shutter is quiet. There are roughly 19 steps between wide and telephoto giving you very good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing seemed quite high (higher than average) - especially noticable when the clock tower photos, or red berries photo were viewed at medium / full size.

Macro: You can use the flash in macro mode, although if the subject is too close, then there will be a shadow cast over some of the image due to the position of the flash and the long lens. The camera can be roughly as close as 10cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in wide setting, when set to macro mode.

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The macro mode is fairly average - colour and detail is good, and there apears to be low noise at ISO100. The camera allows you to get quite close to the subject. Images did seem a bit soft - and may benefit from sharpening. You'll need to be careful when / if using the flash, to ensure the picture is correctly exposed.

Movie: The movie mode on this camera is very good with VGA at 30fps, with sound. The camera also has a 320x240 video mode with sound. The camera did well even in low light. Videos are recorded as .AVI files.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good, the images have good colour, with good saturation, contrast, and detail, with low noise. Image quality problems were higher than average purple fringing, and slightly soft images (although sharpness can be increased in-camera). The camera did a good job focusing even in low light thanks to the focus-assist lamp. I did not notice vignetting in photos, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a good range of image sizes, and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is good, and provides good detail and colour. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be good the majority of the time. Red-eye was not a problem. The movie mode is good, providing 640x480 and 30 frames per second with sound.

The high ISO settings are an "easy" way of adding a form of "anti-shake / anti-blur" to a digital camera without physically modifying the camera and increasing camera prices, however the inherantly high noise of small digital camera sensors used in all non-DSLR cameras* does cause problems. With the S5600 photos taken at ISO800 and ISO1600 have a lot of noise reduction applied to them and a lot of detail is lost almost to the point where there is little advantage from using these settings. There are situations where these high ISO settings will be useful, but image quality is always quite drastically affected, and in my opinion better results will be always be acheived with either a tripod, a lower ISO setting or real optical or sensor image stabilisation. This is also the case with the majority of other compact digital cameras that offer high ISO1600 settings, such as the Olympus Mju 800, Ricoh Caplio GX8, and Casio Exilim EX-Z120 (and other new Casios), and until digital camera sensors are larger, noise will be a big problem at these high ISO settings. Despite all this, it's good to see digital camera manufacturers working on solutions to common problems such as blur, and image noise, and it's good to see compact digital cameras offering usable images at ISO speeds upto ISO400 as, in the case of the S5600, this will help remove blur from long zoom photos.

* The Sony Cybershot R1 is, currently, the only non-DSLR to contain a larger sensor, allowing low-noise at high ISOs.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is on the large side for an ultra zoom of this class, so will not fit in pockets and a case will be required. The camera is stylish with a black rubber body styled much like a real Digital SLR. The camera has a good screen, and the EVF allows the camera to be used in bright sunlight. The camera feels well built. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls (although not perfect), with the majority on the outside of the camera (rather than hidden in menus). The camera speed is good, especially in high speed mode, with a good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, good flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting.

Value for Money: The Fujifilm FinePix S5600 is very good value for money for an ultrazoom 5 megapixel digital camera, being cheaper than the majority of other ultra zoom cameras (with a 10x optical zoom lens or higher). There is a lot of choice, and alternative ultra zoom digital cameras worth considering include the Panasonic Lumix FZ5, Kodak Easyshare Z740, Sony Cyber-shot DSC H1, Olympus SP 500, Canon S2 IS, Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 , Konica Minolta Dimage Z5, or the Nikon Coolpix S4. Personally I'd be looking at getting one with built in image stabilisation, as they are only slightly more expensive than the S5600, such as the Panasonic FZ5, Sony Cybershot H1, Canon S2 IS or the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5. See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Fujifilm FinePix S5600 is a good ultra zoom digital camera, better than it's predecessor, it's nice to see Fujifilm are developing and improving their digital cameras, rather than simply releasing the same camera with more megapixels. The easy to use camera offers very speedy performance, good battery life, a good camera body and controls, and good image quality, although with higher than average purple fringing, and slightly soft images. The high ISO settings may come in handy on occasion, at the cost of image quality. I would recommend this camera, especially to people who like it's SLR styling, and rubber body, as it is a good camera, and the cameras negatives are mainly minor complaints, but due to the very good competition, I would recommend having a look at some of the other ultra zooms featuring image stabilisation.

Fujifilm FinePix S5600 / S5200 Rating: Recommended
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What I like:

  • Good image quality
  • Very quick performance on high-speed mode
  • Black rubbery SLR-style body
  • Good movie mode
  • Full printed manual
  • High ISO range ISO64 - ISO1600
  • Takes AA batteries - good battery life
  • Very easy to use
  • Good size electronic viewfinder (EVF) with diopter corrector (usable by people with glasses)

What I don't like:

  • Lacks image stabilisation (counter-acts this with high ISOs)
  • Small memory card
  • Purple fringing is higher than average
  • ISO options limited in most modes, i.e. Program / Manual / Aperture / Shutter mode won't allow you to set ISO to AUTO. AUTO / Antishake / N (Natural light) mode won't let you set ISO speed (fixed to AUTO). Scene modes let you have ISO as AUTO or set to your own choice.
  • Doesn't show live preview when using Custom WB (have to wait till photo taken to see result)
  • Higher ISOs have strong noise reduction applied resulting in softer images with less detail
  • Slightly soft images (sharpness can be increased in camera)

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Fujifilm FinePix S5600 S5200 Sample Photo Gallery.
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