S5100 ($399) is an updated version of Fuji's
popular S5000 ultra zoom camera. The biggest change
here is that Fuji has left the SuperCCD sensor behind
in exchange for a traditional 4 Megapixel CCD. Other
features on the S5100 include a 10X zoom lens, full
manual controls, an AF-assist lamp, and support for
There are a ton of ultra zoom cameras
on the market. How does the SLR-like S5100 compare?
Find out now in our review!
Before we go on I should point out
that the S5100 is known as the S5500 in some countries.
Okay, on with the show!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix S5100 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 4.0 effective Megapixel FinePix
- 16MB xD Picture Card
- Four AA alkaline batteries
- Lens adapter ring
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Shoulder strap
- A/V cable
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring FinePix AX software
- 119 page camera manual (printed)
Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with
the camera, which won't hold too many 4 Megapixel photos
at the highest quality setting. So you should plan
on buying a larger card right away. xD cards are currently
available as large as 1GB, 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
Something else you'll need to buy
is a set or two of NIMH rechargeable batteries, as
Fuji includes throwaway alkalines in the box. For best
results, get batteries rated at 2100 mAh or higher
-- and don't forget a charger, too. Battery life on
the S5100 is excellent. You can take 400 photos per
charge using 2300 mAh rechargeables (using the CIPA
standard), which is well above average for an ultra
I'm a big fan of cameras that use
AA batteries. Rechargeables like those included with
the S5100 cost much less than their proprietary counterparts,
and you can use alkaline batteries to get you through
the day when your rechargeables run out of juice.
The FinePix S5100 includes a lens
cap (and retaining strap) so your 10X lens is well
Something else that's included is
the AR-FX7 lens adapter ring. This lets you use conversion
lenses (mentioned below) as well as any commercially-available
Now let's talk accessories. Like its
predecessor, the S5100 supports wide and telephoto
conversion lenses. The WL-FX9B wide-angle lens ($139)
lowers the focal range by 0.79X, bringing it down to
29 mm. If the 10X zoom on the S5100 isn't enough for
you, then consider the TL-FX9B teleconverter ($145),
which boosts the top end by 1.5X to a whopping 555
Other accessories include an AC adapter
($39) and a soft case ($36).
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer
software with the S5100. 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.
RAW File Converter
LE for Mac
Also included is the RAW File Converter
LE software, which converts images from RAW to TIFF
format. JPEG conversion is, unfortunately, not an option,
adding another step to your workflow. More on why RAW
is nice later in the review.
Two other software notes: ImageMixer
VCD2 for Mac is included, which lets you turn your
photos into a VCD slideshow. Drivers are also included
that allow Windows XP users to also use the S5100 as
a webcam for videoconferencing.
The S5100'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
Like the S5000 before it, the FinePix
S5100 is designed to look like a mini-SLR. And it does.
It's not built as well as the real thing, but the plastic
body does feel pretty solid. (In retrospect I think
my comments about the S5000's build quality were a
little harsh.) The right hand grip is substantial,
making the camera easy to hold. The important controls
are all within easy reach of your fingers.
Here's a look at how the S5100 compares
in terms of size and weight with the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
PowerShot S1 IS
x 3.1 x 2.6 in.
x 3.2 x 3.1 in.
x 3.4 x 3.4 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z3
x 3.1 x 3.3 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z10
x 3.2 x 3.7 in.
x 2.9 x 3.4 in.
x 2.6 x 2.1 in.
C-765 Ultra Zoom
x 2.4 x 2.7 in.
C-770 Ultra Zoom
x 2.7 x 3.3 in.
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
As you can see, the S5100 falls right
in the middle of the pack. The dimensions and weight
are exactly the same as on the S5000.
Enough numbers, let's start our tour
of the camera now, beginning with the front.
The S5100 uses the same 10X zoom lens
as its predecessor, and quite possibly the Kyocera
Finecam M410R as well. This F2.8-3.1 lens has a focal
range of 5.7 - 57 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 370
mm. As I mentioned in the previous section, you can
use the included conversion lens adapter to attach
additional lenses and filters.
Directly above the lens is the pop-up
flash, which has the flash sensor below it. The flash
has a hefty working range of 0.3 - 5.0 m at wide-angle
and 0.8 - 4.5 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an
external flash to the S5100.
To the upper-right of the lens is
the microphone, with the self-timer lamp just above
that. On the opposite side you'll find the AF-assist
lamp, a very helpful feature that helps the camera
focus in low light conditions.
On the back of the camera you'll find
a 1.5" LCD display, which is on the small side.
Fortunately, Fuji didn't skimp on the resolution of
the screen, putting 115,000 pixels into the screen.
The screen is sharp, bright, and motion is fluid. In
low light, it's very hard to see anything, even with
the LCD brightness boost feature turned on.
Above the LCD, at the top of the photo,
is the S5100's electronic viewfinder. This is like
a small LCD that you view as if it was an optical viewfinder.
It shows exactly the same thing as the LCD, and there's
no parallax error to worry about. Unfortunately EVFs
never can recreated the sharpness and clarity of an
optical viewfinder, and the skimpy 115k pixel resolution
on the EVF doesn't help matters. Low light performance
was a little worse than the LCD -- not great at all.
There's a diopter correction knob which you can use
to focus the image on the screen.
In between the LCD and EVF are two
buttons: the "F" button and the EVF/LCD button.
The latter toggles between the two screens, while the
F button opens this menu:
This is the Photo Mode button, which
has the following options:
- Image quality (see chart later
in review) - I always like how the camera tells you
how many shots you can take at each resolution
- ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400)
- FinePix color (Standard, chrome,
black & white) - "chrome" boosts the
contrast and color saturation
To the right of the LCD you'll find
two more buttons plus the four-way controller. The
top button, display/back, toggles what is shown on
the LCD/EVF and also "backs" out of menus.
The button with the light bulb on it increases the
brightness of the LCD and EVF instantly, though it
helps more in bright outdoor light then it does in
The four-way controller is used for
menu navigation and can also do these additional functions:
- Left - Macro (on/off)
- Right - Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye
reduction, forced flash, slow synchro, slow synchro
Above all those buttons is the zoom
controller. I do wish that these buttons had a little
more "play", but that's just a minor quibble.
The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto
in about 2.1 seconds. I counted 11 steps throughout
the zoom range.
There are plenty more knobs and buttons
to see on top of the camera. As usual I'll work my
way from left to right.
The dial on the far left is used for
selecting the focus mode. You can chose from autofocus,
continuous autofocus (where the camera is constantly
trying to focus, thus reducing AF lag), and manual
focus. You can avoid accidentally bumping this button
by turning the dial around the button to the lock position.
The manual focus feature lets you
use the exposure compensation button and the zoom controller
to manually adjust the focus distance. Using this feature
is frustrating. You have no indication of the current
focus distance and there's no "focus check" enlargement
feature either, so getting the proper focus is really
hit or miss.
Over on the opposite side of the camera
you'll find the mode dial, which has the following
| Automatic mode
||Point-and-shoot mode, many menu options
||Still automatic but with full menu access;
a Program Shift feature lets you choose from
several aperture/shutter speed combinations
|Shutter Priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed and the camera
picks the correct aperture. You can choose
from a number of speeds ranging from 3 sec
- 1/1000 sec.
|Aperture Priority mode
||You pick the aperture, the camera picks
the appropriate shutter speed. Aperture range
is F2.8 - F9 and it varies depending on the
|Full Manual mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed.
Aperture range is the same while the shutter
speed range expands to 15 - 1/2000 sec
||More on this later
Pick the situation and the camera uses the
I've grumbled about this before and
I'll do it again here. I don't like it when the shutter
speed range is crippled in shutter priority mode. I
believe people should have access to the full range
in this mode (that means 15 seconds, instead of 3,
in this case).
Above the mode dial are two more buttons,
which do the following:
- Continuous shooting
- Top 3 frame - takes 3 shots
in a row at 3 frames/second)
- Auto bracketing - takes 3
shots in a row, each with a different exposure
value; you can choose the interval between
photos in the menu; choose from ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV,
- Final 3 frame - keeps taking
pictures at 3 frames/second (up to 40 pictures);
when you release the shutter only the last
3 photos are actually saved to the memory card
- Long-period continuous -
take up to 40 shots in a row at 1.6 frames/second
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV, 1/3EV increments)
I like that long-period continuous
mode -- very nice! Do note that it's only available
in the fully automatic mode. The LCD/EVF pause briefly
between shots, which can make following a moving subject
a bit of a challenge.
The final item on the top of the camera
is the shutter release button, which has another mode
dial wrapped around it. The options here are power
off, record mode, and playback mode.
Our tour continues with a look at
one side of the camera. Fuji has changed the zoom label
since the S5000 to something less misleading. On the
S5000 it read "22X zoom" (which counts digital
zoom... please), and now it says "10X". Thank
Toward the top of the photo is the
release for the pop-up flash. Continuing to the right
we find the speaker, I/O ports, and xD memory card
slot. The I/O ports are protected by a plastic cover,
- DC-in (for optional AC adapter)
- A/V out
The xD Picture Card slot is protected
by a sturdy plastic door.
Nothing to see here.
We end our tour with a look at the
bottom of the S5100. Here you'll find a plastic tripod
as well as the battery compartment. As you can see,
the camera uses four AA batteries. A sturdy plastic
door keeps your batteries in place.
Using the Fuji FinePix S5100
Startup times on the S5100 are about
average. It takes 3.6 seconds for the lens to extend
and then you're ready to start taking pictures.
to be found here
Autofocus speeds were also average,
with a typical delay of about 0.6 seconds. The AF-assist
lamp helped the S5100 focus in low light conditions,
and I'd rank it above average (though I've seen better).
Shutter lag was not an issue, even
at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent,
with a one second delay between photos, assuming you've
turned off the post-shot review feature. Delays in
RAW mode aren't too bad -- I was able to take two shots
before having to wait for the buffer to empty.
There's no way to delete a photo immediately
after it is taken on the S5100.
Now, let's take a look at the resolution
and quality choices available on this camera.
||Approx. file size
images on 16MB card
(2272 x 1704)
(1600 x 1200)
(1280 x 960)
(640 x 480)
Despite being a lower-cost camera,
the S5100 supports the RAW image format. It's as close
to "original" as you'll get on the S5100.
The catch is that you must process the image later
on your PC to get in into a more usable format like
TIFF or JPEG. The benefits of RAW are clear, though:
you can edit things like color and white balance without
reducing the quality of the image.
The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG,
where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering
even if you erase the memory card.
The FinePix S5100 has a nice looking,
easy-to-use menu system. Here's a look at what you'll
find in the record menu, keeping in mind that many
of these options are not available in auto mode:
- Self-timer (Off, 10 sec, 2 sec)
- White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight,
shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent,
cool white fluorescent, incandescent) - see below
- AF mode (Multi, center, area) -
- Photometry [metering] (Multi, spot,
- Option (Setup menu, EVF/LCD brightness)
- Bracketing (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV)
- Sharpness (Soft, normal, hard)
- Flash brightness (-2/3EV to +2/3EV,
The S5100's custom white balance feature
lets you use a white or gray card as a reference to
get perfect color under any lighting.
Now, about those AF modes. AF center
always focuses on the center of the frame, while AF
multi will pick an area of the frame automatically.
AF area lets you choose one of 49 focus points by using
the four-way controller.
There's also a setup menu, of course,
which is accessed from the record or playback menu.
The items here include:
- Image display (on/off) - post-shot
- Power save (Off, 2, 5 min)
- Format card
- Frame number (Continuous, renew)
- Beep (Off, 1-3) - camera operation
- Shutter (Off, 1-3) - fake shutter
- Date/time (set)
- Time difference (set) - for setting
a different time when you're on the road
- AF illuminator (on/off)
- Zoom position (Reset, resume) -
whether the lens remembers its previous location
when you turn off the camera
- USB mode (DSC, web, PictBridge)
- the second option lets you use the S5100 as a webcam
for videoconferencing (Windows only)
- CCD-RAW (on/off) - turns RAW mode
on; why this is buried here is beyond me
- Language (Japanese, English, French,
German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese)
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Discharge - discharges rechargeable
- Reset - settings to defaults
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
I didn't get a great macro shot out
of the S5100 for some reason. Despite numerous attempts
and a lot of fiddling with white balance, I was never
really satisfied with the colors. So I ran the image
through the "auto color" function in Photoshop
CS and got the image on the right, which I think is
much more representative of the actual figurine. In
addition to the color issue, the subject was really
noisy/grainy. All-in-all a disappointing performance
for the camera in this area.
You can get as close to your subject
as 10 cm at wide-angle and 90 cm at telephoto while
in macro mode -- nothing spectacular.
The S5100 fared better in the night
shot department. Thanks to the manual shutter speed
controls, the camera was able to take in plenty of
light. Do remember that to get at the full shutter
speed range you must use "M" mode! There's
a bit of noise here, but it doesn't really destroy
any detail in the image. Purple fringing levels are
Now, using that same shot, let's see
how the camera performs at higher ISO sensitivities:
Things really aren't too bad until
ISO 400 where the image detail really goes south.
Just like on the S5000, the FinePix
S5100 did a great job in our redeye test. I always
get excited when a camera performs well in this test!
There's mild barrel distortion at
the wide end of the S5100's 10X lens. There's also
noticeable vignetting (dark corners) in the top-left
corner, just as there was on the Kyocera M410R, which
uses the same lens. This vignetting can be seen in
most of the shots in my photo
gallery, as well. This is one of those image quality
issues that will show up on your prints, even at 4
Overall the image quality on the S5100
was good and quite an improvement over the S5000. Images
are still a little noisier than I'd like to see, but
the noise will disappear if you downsize or print the
images at a reasonable size. Color and exposure were
both good, and images were fairly sharp. Fuji has done
a good job minimizing purple fringing on this ultra
Don't just take my word for it, though.
Have a look at our extensive photo
gallery and print the photos as if they were your
own. Then decide if the S5100's photo quality meets
The FinePix S5100 has an excellent
movie mode -- one of the best to be found on an ultra
zoom camera. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30
frames/second) with sound until the memory card is
full. Unfortunately the included 16MB card holds 13
seconds of video, so you'll want a large xD card if
you're serious about video (a 512MB card holds about
7.4 minutes worth).
A lower resolution option is also
available: 320 x 240 at 30 frames/second.
As is usually the case, 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, taken at the high quality setting:
to play movie (15.6 MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the S5100 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 14X, 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.
By default the S5100 doesn't tell
you much about your photos. But press the exposure
compensation button and you'll get plenty of info,
including a histogram.
The camera moves between photos without
delay -- it's pretty much instantaneous.
How Does it Compare?
Fuji has made some nice improvements
since the S5000, and I now feel comfortable recommending
the latest version, the FinePix S5100. The S5100 is
a mid-sized, SLR-style (albeit plastic) ultra zoom
camera which has a nice selection of manual features
and good photo quality (though there are a few issues
to note). The S5100 looks like a little digital SLR,
though the build quality isn't nearly as nice. Still,
it's not bad for a plastic camera. Unlike on some cameras
(even metal ones!), Fuji put solid plastic doors over
all the slots and compartments on the camera. The S5100
has full manual control over shutter speed, aperture,
white balance, and focus, though some of them could
be better implemented. The full shutter speed range
is only available in full manual mode, which I'm not
a fan of. Also, manual focus is basically useless,
since you have no idea as to the current focus distance,
and there's no "focus check" feature either.
Performance on the S5100 is average in most areas and
better than average in terms of shutter lag and playback
speed. The camera has an AF-assist lamp for help focusing
in low light situations. Photo quality was good, though
noise levels were higher than I'd like to see and there
was noticeable vignetting in nearly every photo I took.
Redeye and purple fringing were not problems, to my
surprise. The S5100's movie mode is excellent, featuring
unlimited recording at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second.
The camera supports conversion lenses, as well.
Beside those two image quality issues,
I have a few other complaints about the camera. While
the brightness boost feature for the LCD and EVF was
nice, it didn't help much in low light, as both were
still very difficult to use in those situations. On
the whole, the small LCD and low resolution EVF weren't
as nice as on some other ultra zoom cameras. The bundled
included with the S5100 could be a lot better, with
alkaline batteries, a tiny memory card, and lackluster
software in the box. Lastly, I was puzzled by the S5100's
poor performance in our macro test.
Overall I recommend the S5100 as a
good, low-cost ultra zoom camera. Do note that it doesn't
have an image stabilizer, which comes in handy for
those long telephoto shots, but few cameras in this
category have that feature at this point.
What I liked:
- Good photo quality for the most
- Stylish, mini-SLR design
- Full manual controls (though somewhat
- AF-assist lamp
- Great redeye test performance
- Excellent movie mode
- Supports conversion lenses
- Great battery life
- RAW image format supported
- Can be used as a webcam (Windows
What I didn't care for:
- Noticeable vignetting in images
- Noise levels a little above average
- Small LCD, low res EVF; both are
hard to see in low light
- Poor macro test performance
- Manual focus feature poorly implemented
- Full shutter speed range only available
in "M" mode
- Poor bundle: tiny memory card,
no rechargeable batteries, unimpressive software
(most notably the RAW converter)
Other low-cost ultra zooms worth looking
at include the Canon
PowerShot S1 IS (image stabilizer), HP
Photosmart 945, Kodak EasyShare DX6490 and DX7590,
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 (image
stabilizer) and Z10, Kyocera
Finecam M410R, Nikon
Coolpix 4800, Olympus C-765/770 Ultra
Zoom, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 and DMC-FZ15 (both
have image stabilizers).
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the FinePix S5100
and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see some pictures? Check out
the photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Read another review over at Steve's
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.
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