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DCRP Review: Fuji
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 1, 2004
Last Updated: April 6, 2008
The FinePix E510 ($349) is one of three cameras in Fuji's new E-series of digital cameras. Here's a quick look at the lineup and what differentiates one model from the next:
After spending some time with the E-series, I realized that this is Fuji's answer to Canon's tremendously popular PowerShot A-series, although the Finepix's have some tricks up their sleeves that make them stand out from things like the A85 and A95. Those tricks include a wider-angle lens and larger / higher quality LCD display.
None of that matters if the camera is slow, poorly-designed, or if it takes bad pictures. How does the 5.2 Megapixel FinePix E510 perform? Find out in our review!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix E510 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with the camera, which holds a grand total of seven high resolution pictures. So consider a larger card "a must". xD cards are currently available as large as 512MB, and I think 128MB is a good starter size for most people. Be warned that xD cards tend to be more expensive than CompactFlash and SD cards.
The E-series cameras use two AA batteries for power. Fuji includes two alkaline batteries which will quickly find their way into the trash (or preferably a recycling bin), so you're going to want to buy a set or two of NiMH rechargeables. Fuji also sells their own NiMH battery pack but you'll get more juice out of the higher-power cells now available.
Fuji says that'll you'll be able to take about 290 photos per charge using 2300 mAh NiMH batteries (using the CIPA battery life standard). Canon says that the PowerShot A95 can take 400 shots per charge, but that's not using the CIPA standard, so these two numbers are not directly comparable.
Along with those batteries you'll want to buy a fast charger as well, so factor all of this into the cost of the camera.
The E-series cameras support the optional CP-FXA10 PictureCradle ($50), which can be used to transfer photos to your computer, view photos on your TV, and charge the Fuji NiMH battery pack. Note that the cradle only charges the Fuji battery pack -- regular NiMH cells are not supported. You don't need to use the cradle to use the camera to its fullest.
The E510 has a built-in lens cover so there's no lens cap to worry about.
There are a few accessories available for the E-series cameras, and I've already mentioned two of them (the battery pack and cradle). Those most interesting ones are the lens accessories. The WL-FXE01 wide-angle conversion lens ($95) reduces the focal length by a factor of 0.76, thus bringing the wide end of the camera down to just 21.3 mm. For those disappointed with the 91 mm top end of the E510's lens, the TL-FXE01 1.94X teleconverter ($95) brings the telephoto power up to 177 mm. To use either of these lenses you must first buy the AR-FXE01 conversion lens adapter ($19). This adapter lets you use any 43 mm filter, as well.
The only other accessories worth mentioning are an AC adapter ($39) and soft case ($30).
FinePixViewer 4.2 for Mac
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the E510. The version numbers are 4.2 for Windows and 3.3 Mac OS 9 and OS X. Even with the differing version numbers, the software acts about the same on each platform. FinePixViewer is for basic image organizing and editing, and is no substitute for something like Photoshop Elements. Fuji also includes a RAW File Converter (not needed for this camera), and ImageMixer VCD (for making video CDs, Windows only) on the CD.
One other software note: Windows XP users can also use the E510 as a webcam for videoconferencing.
The E510's manual is typical of those included with most digital cameras. It's complete, but finding what you're looking for may be difficult. There's lots of small print as well.
Look and Feel
The FinePix E510 is a midsize camera made of a mix of metal and plastic. In terms of build quality, I'd rank it about average, and maybe a notch below the Canon A85/A95. The camera does feel a little "cheaper" than the A-series cameras.
While the controls are logically placed, I didn't care for the "feel" of all of them. Despite having a fairly small right hand grip, I found it easy to hold the E510 with one hand. While not what I'd call a small camera, the E510 fits into most pockets with ease.
The official dimensions of the E510 are 101.0 x 60.5 x 32.6 mm / 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 170 grams / 6.0 ounces empty. Compare that with the Canon PowerShot A95, whose numbers are 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches and 235 grams, respectively.
With that out of the way, we can begin our tour of the E510!
The FinePix E510 has an F2.9-5.5, 3X optical zoom lens. But not just any 3X lens. While most digicam lenses (especially on cheaper cameras) start at 35, 37, or even 39 mm, the one on the E500 and E510 starts at 28 mm -- making it great for wide-angle interior shots. The full focal range of the lens is 4.7 - 15.1 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 91 mm. And there's the tradeoff: while the lens starts out nice and wide, it's got very little telephoto power. You can use the optional teleconverter of course, but that's just one more thing to carry around. Personally I'd rather have more wide than tele, but that's just me.
The E510 allows you to attach conversion lenses, as I mentioned before. Just hit the button to the lower-left of the lens, remove the plastic ring, and attach the conversion lens adapter (and then your lens).
To the upper-right of the lens is the optical viewfinder and flash sensor. On the other side is the microphone, with the self-timer lamp further left. There is not AF-assist lamp on the E510, one of its few flaws.
At the top of the picture is the E510's pop-up flash, which has a working range of 0.6 - 4.1 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.0 m at telephoto. The flash range on the PowerShot A95 is just a little better. You cannot attach an external flash to either camera.
On the back of the camera is where you'll find another one of the E510's standout features: it's large 2.0" LCD display. While I like the rotating LCD on the A95, there's something to be said for this beautiful screen which is sharp and bright. It has 154,000 pixels and shows 96% of the frame. LCD brightness is adjustable in the setup menu.
On area in which the LCD wasn't so hot is in low light conditions. Unlike some cameras, the E510 doesn't "gain up" automatically in such situations, rendering that big screen useless in dim light. This made taking my night test shot picture extremely frustrating. The Canon A-series camera do better in this regard.
To the upper-left of the LCD is the E510's optical viewfinder, which is average-sized. It shows approximately 80% of the frame. It lacks a diopter correction knob (as does the one on the A95), which is used to focus what you're looking at. Just to the right of the viewfinder is the button which pops up the flash.
To the left of the LCD is the exposure compensation button, which has the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments range.
At the top-right of the photo is the zoom controller. This controller moves the lens quietly from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.3 seconds. I counted nine steps throughout the zoom range.
Below that is the switch used to move the camera between record and playback mode.
Photo mode menu
Continuing downward we find the "F" or Photo Mode button. Pressing this opens the menu above, which has the following options (in record mode):
Just so you know, the "chrome" color mode boosts the contrast and color saturation.
Next to the Photo Mode button is the four-way controller. This is used for menu navigation, adjusting manual settings, and more. I don't care for how these buttons feel -- they're too flush with the body and they don't have a lot of "play". The additional functions of this controller are:
The final button here is the display/back button. This is used for toggling what's shown on the LCD, turning on thumbnail view while in playback mode, and "backing out" of a menu.
On top of the camera you'll find the power and shutter release buttons as well as the mode dial. The flash is in the closed position, as you can tell.
The items on the mode dial include:
While I'm thrilled to see another low-cost camera with full manual controls, I must admit that I'm scratching my head over that 2 second speed as the slowest option available. Surely there are people with low budgets who want to shoot for longer than that! Even the more expensive E550 cuts you off at 3 seconds.
On this side of the E510 you'll find the speaker as well as the I/O ports.
The I/O ports here include A/V out, USB (1.1), and DC-in.
The E510 has one of those design decisions that makes you say "huh?": it has a plastic cover for those I/O ports -- that's untethered. That means that it's super-easy to lose. Judging by the fact that Fuji gives you a spare cover with the camera, it seems that they realize that you're going to lose this thing pretty quickly.
Nothing to see on this side!
On the bottom of the E510 you'll find the battery compartment, xD card slot, and plastic tripod mount. The batteries and xD card are kept behind a fairly sturdy plastic door. As you can see, the camera takes two AA batteries.
The tripod mount is located right in the center of the camera. Do note that removing the memory card is not possible while the camera is on a tripod.
Using the Fuji FinePix E510
It takes a little about three seconds for the E510 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.
No histograms to be found here
Autofocus speeds were average, with a 1/2 second delay in most cases before the camera locks focus. If the camera has to work a little to lock focus, that number could jump closer to 1 second. Low light focusing was not good -- here's where an AF-assist lamp would've really helped. In addition the LCD was too dark to see anything in those situations.
Shutter lag was not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed was good, with a 1.5 second delay between photos, assuming you've turned the post-shot review feature off.
The E510 lacks the ability to let you delete a photo immediately after it is taken (you must enter playback mode).
Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.
There's no TIFF or RAW mode on the E510 (nor is there one on the Canon A-series).
The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card.
The FinePix E510 has a nice looking, easy-to-use menu system. The camera has an auto mode, where many of the menu options are locked up. If you want full access to the menu, you need to switch into one of the manual modes. Here's a look at the menu now, with the manual mode-only options in bold:
There are a few things worth mentioning here. The first thing is that the E510 lacks any custom white balance feature (the A-series has this), which comes in handy if you're shooting under unusual lighting. Second, there's no continuous shooting mode (the A-series has this as well).
The third thing is manual focus. When this is turned on, you hold down the exposure compensation button and use the zoom controller to adjust the focus. Unfortunately there's no guide on the LCD showing the current focus distance, nor is the center of the frame enlarged so you can verify that your subject is in focus. The A95 does both.
In addition to that one, there's also a setup menu, with the following options:
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
Despite not having a custom white balance feature, the E510 did a good job taking a macro picture of our famous subject under my 600W quartz lamps. The subject is sharp and colors are accurate.
There are two macro modes on the E510: regular and super. In regular macro mode, the focal range is 6.7 - 80 cm, while in super macro mode that drops to just 2.6 - 15 cm. Do note that the optical zoom is limited to 1.0X - 1.4X in regular macro mode, and is locked at the wide-angle position in super macro mode.
I had a heck of a time getting a decent night shot on the E510. Probably 90% of my photos were blurry. I used auto and manual focus. I made three trips to the photo spot with the E510 and got bad results each time. Because of that, the shot above is all I could offer -- my attempts at the ISO test that I normally do failed miserably. For what it's worth, the Canon A95 took a great shot the first time. The E510 leaves much to be desired in the low light photography department.
For some odd reason, the slowest shutter speed on the FinePix E510 is just 2 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds too little for this photo. As a result, the camera didn't bring in enough light and the picture is pretty dark. There is a bit of purple fringing but nothing horrible.
There's a moderate amount of redeye in our flash test shot. Even with a pop-up flash, the fact that the lens and flash are in close proximity tends to make this annoyance worse. Expect to clean up some redeye in software if you buy this camera.
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the E510's lens. You'll notice this especially indoors or when taking pictures of things like buildings. Wider lenses like the one on the E510 tend to have more of this.
Overall, the E510's image quality is good, though not without it's flaws. Color was always very good and exposure was accurate most of the time. I did notice an above average amount of purple fringing, and not just in our torture test photo either. You'll find purple fringing in almost every photo. Another thing I noticed is an overall softness to the images, probably due to the noise reduction algorithm on the camera (noise levels are quite low). This softness tends to reduce the detail in certain things like grass, plants, and roof tiles. Comparing these two images (taken at the same time) gives you an idea as to what I'm talking about: Canon A85 | Fuji E510.
If you're printing images no larger than 8 x 10 or sharing them on the web, these are non-issues. For larger prints, on-screen viewing, or for perfectionists, the issues raised here may bother you.
Don't judge this camera on my words alone, please visit our photo gallery to see for yourself!
The E510's movie mode is pretty lousy. You can record up to 60 seconds of 320 x 240 video, with sound, at a sluggish 10 frames/second. If you want to take a longer movie, you'll have to use the 160 x 120 resolution which lets you record for 3 minutes (the frame rate is the same). Those recording times are fixed: it doesn't matter how big your memory card is, they'll still be 1 or 3 minutes!
You cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's an exciting sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (1.9MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the E510 is typical of those on other cameras. Basic features are here, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, voice annotations (30 seconds worth), and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge your image by up to 14.4X, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. Once you're zoomed in, you can use the trim feature to crop your images right on the camera.
The E510 doesn't show you any exposure information about your photos, which is a shame because the E550 does.
It takes the E510 a little over a second to move from one image to the next in playback mode. There is no low resolution placeholder shown -- it goes from one high res photo to the next one.
How Does it Compare?
While the Fuji FinePix E510 has a lot going for it, I don't think that Canon's A-series has been dethroned just yet as the "best in class" entry-level camera. There are many things to like about the FinePix E510: it has good photo quality (though with some issues described below), reasonably fast performance, a wide-angle lens, large LCD display, and support for conversion lenses. The two standout features on that list are the lens and LCD. The lens, which starts at 28mm, is great for indoor shots. Usually you have to buy a conversion lens to cover that much area, but not on the E510. The downside is that the camera doesn't have much telephoto power. The camera's LCD is a nice 2 inches in size, and it's bright and fluid. The problem with the LCD is that it becomes useless in low light conditions, since the screen doesn't "gain up". The E510 also features a nearly full set of manual controls, though it lacks custom white balance and the manual focus feature leaves much to be desired. Build quality on the E510 is about average.
Now here's what I don't like. While I'd rank the photo quality as good overall, images tend to be soft, and purple fringing levels are above average. Shooting with the E510 is frustrating in low light, as you can't see a thing on the LCD and the camera has great difficulty focusing (it needs an AF-assist lamp). While I appreciate the manual controls on the camera, I'm not thrilled with the 2 second shutter speed limit (on the slow end), the lack of a custom white balance feature, and the uninspired manual focus feature. And speaking of uninspired, the camera bundle isn't great and the movie mode is below where it should be in the year 2004 (not that the Canon A-series does much better in either area).
While I do recommend the E510 (and its 4 Megapixel sibling, the E500, as well), I do think that the Canon A85/95 are the still the leaders of the pack, unless you're really set on the E510's wide-angle lens or its considerably lower price. I don't prefer the A-series for stupid reasons like movie mode or the size of the included memory card: I'm talking about things like photo quality, and low light focusing and LCD visibility. One camera that has impressed me a lot more than the E510 is the more expensive E550. It takes better pictures (at the 6M setting), has better performance, a much nicer movie mode, and more manual controls. Of course, it costs $150 more and the lens isn't as wide. You can't have everything, I guess!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Other cameras in this class worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot A95, HP Photosmart R707, Kodak EasyShare DX7440, Nikon Coolpix 5200, Pentax Optio 555, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1. I already mentioned the FinePix E550, which is also worth a look.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix E510 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see some pictures? Check out the photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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