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this to say about the camera:
the 1/1.6-inch Super CCD HR sensor, the FinePix S9600 boasts a remarkable
9.0 effective megapixels; ultra-high-resolution images characterized
by stunning detail and rich texture. The Super CCD HR offers high sensitivity
with unprecedented image quality. Thanks to effective noise suppression
performed by the Fujifilm's innovative RP Processor, the S9600 produces
beautiful photos without tripod or flash, retaining the natural light
and atmosphere of the scene. With a high-performance zoom lens equivalent
to 28-300mm on a 35mm camera, the FinePix S9600 covers the full range
photographic possibilities from wide-angle landscape or architectural
shots to normal focal length snapshots and telephoto portraits or sports
shooting. With no need to carry additional equipment and no photo opportunities
missed because of changing lenses. Because there's no need to change
lenses, the sensor is protected from dust accumulation, a common problem
that affects the quality of images captured with digital SLR cameras.
With the dust-free, integrated lens construction of the FinePix S9600,
you can always count on maximum image quality and never worry about
sensor cleaning. The FinePix S9600 sports a bright and easy-to-see 2.0-inch
LCD monitor that swivels vertically to let you shoot from high and low
angles with ease."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus EVOLT E-400)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - The camera isn't supplied with a memory card. Purchase of an additional case is recommended to protect the camera (premium leather case available as an option). The camera connects directly via a usb cable and has a separate cable which allows output to a television via A/V sockets. The FinePix S9600 has an optional Wide Conversion Lens, WL-FXS6 , which expands the camera’s wide-angle capability without compromising image quality. It allows the extreme angles of view normally only available with changeable lenses on an SLR camera.
Battery usage: Battery life is good. I have been able to take over 200 photos using 2500MAh NiMh AA batteries between recharging. This is less than the guide of 320 for 2500 MAh NiMh batteries, but I did make a great deal of use of the bracketing feature. As AA batteries are widely available and relatively cheap, carrying a set of back-ups makes sense to avoid missing photo opportunities due to lack of power.
Operation and Options:
The power switch rotates through review to photo mode. The mode
dial has auto, programme, aperture priority, shutter priority, movie,
night, landscape, portrait, natural light, and picture stabilisation
modes. When using the manual options, as well as ISO, shutter
and aperture, it is possible to change saturation, sharpness and contrast.
I found the bracketing feature useful, which enabled 3 sequential shots
at different exposure settings. Another feature was the multiple exposure
option, which allows you to be layer shots on top of each other. In
playback photos can be shown by date, 9 thumbnails and a slide show
feature is also available. Consultation of the extensive printed manual
is recommended to familiarise yourself with the vast range of options.
Photo mode/menus: The Fuji button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has a high resolution of 230,000 pixels and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate for reviewing photos. There is a live and review histogram available; the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read.
Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder, though the Electronic polysilicon TFT viewfinder with approx.235,000 pixels gives approx. 100% coverage. This is very useful in bright daylight, and also appears to be enhanced in subdued light conditions.
Normal - Auto, Anti-Blur, Natural Light, Portrait, Landscape, Night,
Movie, Manual, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Program.
Scene modes: basic scene modes using the mode dial.
Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) The setup menu allows you to set date and time, beep and shutter volumes, to format your XD card, menu system colour, and things like access to long exposure mode and RAW.
Playback (Review) mode options:
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is initially fairly slow. The zoom is quick and works at up to 5.8x on 3:2, in about 40 steps but reduces as the image quality lessens till it reaches 2.5x for 2Mb images. By pressing the Info button, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, saturation, contrast, quality, shot-number and EV compensation information is displayed about the image. There is a histogram and over exposed parts of images are highlighted by flashing black. You can erase, rotate, protect (lock), add voice memo, trim (crop) images that have been taken. The slide show has various transition options.
Software: Hyper-Utility 2
I had no problems installing the software, and once installed, found it fairly intuitive. Converting RAW images using the default camera settings produce detailed results, virtually identical to a Jpeg straight from the camera, though perhaps slightly warmer. Over exposed zones are indicated with red and under exposed zones with blue (as in the screen-shot above left). There is a lot of control over the output from the file converter. Dimensions, File format (Tiff, Jpeg fine, normal, basic), conversion conditions (Camera or Custom), Finepix colour (Standard, Chrome or B&W), Tone curve, White balance, Sensitisation, Colour and Sharpness can all be manually set, if the defaults are not to your taste.
Picture Size / Quality: No memory is provided with the camera. The chart below is a guide as to how many pictures could be stored on a 32Mb xD card.
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, and you can't fit very many photos on a 32Mb XD card, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. There are a reasonable number of choices regarding image size and quality though a 3:2 ratio option with 'Fine' picture quality would be a useful addition. However as this could be considered a semi-professional camera, it is likely that the highest quality setting will be used wherever possible. Note it is not possible to down-sample a fine resolution image to a lower quality or lower size one in-camera.
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, as these are relatively affordable - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes xD-Picture Card and / or CompactFlash or Microdrive. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Fujifilm Finepix S9600 / S9100:
Find the latest
prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £8.04,
1gb (1000mb): £16.16
- (If you also use or plan to use Olympus cameras, buying an Olympus XD
memory card (rather than Fuji) will let you use Olympus panoramic mode.)
Speed: The camera switches on and can take its first photo in less than a second. Focusing is fast at under half a second and continuous focus mode reduces this even more. The camera shutter response seems almost instant when pre-focused (around 0.1 second response) - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of around 2 seconds between shots in continuous mode (this is going to vary dependant on exposure settings). High speed continuous shooting is moderately quick, at roughly 1.5fps for up to 3 shots at the highest resolution. The cameras menus and zooming in seemed responsive but reviewing photos starts off a bit slowly. Moving around the different menu options is rapid, once you know the shortcuts.
Ease of use: The camera is easy to use in Auto mode, but the manual options and features do take a bit longer to use to their best advantage. The controls on the back of the camera are easy to use with the exception of the photometry selector dial which is a bit awkward because of its small size. The menus are responsive and easy to read. One of the shooting modes also shows you your last three shots, a very handy addition. The menus are simple to use and the addition of words to accompany the icons of previous fuji cameras is a big improvement.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The camera handles well, and at no time do you feel it might slip from your grasp. First impressions are that there are too many buttons, & they could be positioned better. However, over time, the logic behind their positioning becomes clearer, as they are easy to reach while composing shots. The shutter release is good, and will take a cable release if required. The buttons are labeled well (with symbols and / or text). The compartments and covers seem well positioned and are easy to open. The bracketed TFT was especially useful for taking shots from low or high angles and would have been even better had it pivoted on both axes to allow similar flexibility for portrait shots.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, 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 S9600 / S9100 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has quite good colour and red-eye in this photo and the others is low. The flash is quite bright at its default setting, but duration / intensity is adjustable through the menu. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light, thanks to the improved focus assist lamp (which is used much less frequently than the F10). Colour is well saturated though saturation, contrast and sharpness options can be adjusted in the menu, and there is an additional F-chrome colour setting in the Fuji menu. Although the camera has a number of continuous shooting modes, none is supported by flash.
ISO Noise Test: 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: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel Pentax K100D DSLR and the 10 megapixel Olympus E-400 DSLR.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm FinePix S9600 in the middle, Pentax K100D on the left, Olympus E-400 on the right. The Pentax was chosen as a comparison as it has very low noise even for a Digital SLR, the Olympus was chosen as the camera has a similar number of megapixels to the Fujifilm FinePix S9600. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.
The Fujifilm SuperCCD sensor and image processing means the Fujifilm FinePix S9600 / S9100 has low noise that is similar to the Olympus E-400 Digital SLR - an impressive feat considering the Fujifilm sensor is many times smaller than the Olympus sensor. Most compact digital cameras have low noise at ISO100 and ISO200 and you start to see problems at ISO400. As can be seen from these test photos, at ISO400 noise is very low (in the S9600 / S9100) especially compared to other point and shoot cameras (not shown here). The results are excellent for a 9 megapixel digital camera, although not as good as the results from the 6 megapixel Pentax K100D DSLR. It should be noted however that I found the ISO1600 images to contain low resolution blotches of colour - and colour reproduction was not as accurate as at lower ISO. You can see how this affects pictures by looking in the gallery. The edges in these tests are much cleaner from the digital SLRs and the S9600 does have some black spots at high ISO settings.
The camera has quite rich, saturated colours, with good contrast. There was very good detail, but areas with huge variation in brightness do show signs of 'bleeding' and slight purple fringes. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artifacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting (4.5mb images). The "Another place" picture was taken at dusk, as can be seen by the street lights in the distance. Looking through the viewfinder the scene looked much brighter than it was in reality, which helped considerably in framing the shot.
Zoom: This camera has a 10.7x optical zoom lens and a built in 2x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software, blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the optical zoom is capable of.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally good. Purple fringing is noticeable in the wide angle but very little is seen in the 10.7x optical zoom photo. Vignetting was not noticed in any of the photographs. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation, bracketing (automatically takes three shots in succession at pre-set exposure values). Also selecting center weighted metering enables the exposure for the area of interest to be set prior to final composition.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is relatively quiet in operation. The manual zoom ring gives excellent control over how you frame your subject with an infinity of steps between wide and telephoto. The digital 2x zoom is deployed by pressing the up or down arrow on the four way selector.
Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was minimal, but occasionally seen in areas where the sky is next to a dark object. Barreling is slight on the wide angle setting, as seen in the dark line at the bottom of the Macro shot below. Manual focusing using the focus ring could be tricky, even with the center enlargement, and takes a while to get used to.
Macro: the macro mode allows you to be roughly 10cm away from from the subject. There are two custom white balance settings, should you find the Auto unsatisfactory. Super Macro: The super macro will focus approximately 1cm from the front of the lens. This does mean subjects will be in partial shade and require more exposure.
The custom white balance helps get better colours in the macro mode. Noise seems low in this photo and detail and colour is very good however some sections of the image are too bright and the colour bleeds. Using soft contrast extends dynamic range, which can be useful with high contrast subjects.
Video mode: The camera features a high resolution VGA 640 x 480 video mode at 30 fps with sound. Video quality was good however this will use memory quickly - a 16 second video recorded at 640 x 480 took nearly 18 mb. Zoom is functional while recording and does not cause audio background noise when operated, as can happen with other cameras.
Summary: The Fujifim S9600 / S9100 is an impressive 9 megapixel digital camera with a wide angle 10.7x optical zoom lens and a large 2" display. The camera is one of very few to include ISO 1600. It has excellent responsiveness and is designed to be able to take great photos in situation the majority of cameras would fail. Although some people may be overwhelmed with the number of controls, with use and familiarity, they become almost intuitive. Particularly welcome is the pivoting screen (which could have been even better had it pivoted on both axes). The FujiFilm S9600 / S9100 is well worth considering - there are few digital cameras that offer so many options and so much quality for such a low price.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Fujifilm Finepix S9600 / S9100 Sample Photo Gallery.