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DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix S6000fd  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Posted: November 5, 2006
Updated: April 6, 2008

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The FinePix S6000fd ($499) is really the combination of two of their most popular models. It takes the "guts" from the FinePix F30 and puts them into something resembling the FinePix S9000/S9100. The result is an ultra zoom camera with a 6.3 Megapixel SuperCCD sensor that produces less noise than regular CCDs, giving this camera that potential to be the low light king in its class.

One of the unique features on the camera (which puts the "fd" it its model name) is face detection. The camera actively seeks out faces and makes sure that they are in focus and properly exposed. Other features on the S6000fd include a 10.7X optical zoom lens, manual zoom and focus rings, full manual controls, a VGA movie mode, and more. One thing missing: optical image stabilization.

There are lots of ultra zoom cameras out there, many of which are excellent. How does the FinePix S6000fd compare? Find out now!

The FinePix S6000fd is known as the S6500fd in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix S6000fd has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 6.3 effective Megapixel FinePix S6000fd digital camera
  • Four AA alkaline batteries
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Lens hood
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix CX software
  • 195 page camera manual (printed)

Like so many cameras these days, Fuji built memory into the S6000fd instead of including a memory card. Unfortunately, there's just 10MB built into the camera, which isn't nearly enough. Therefore, you'll want to buy a memory card right away. Like all of Fuji's FinePix cameras, the S6000 uses xD Picture cards, and I recommend a 512MB card as a good starter size. There are now high speed (Type H) xD cards available, and I only recommend one of those if you plan on using the burst modes, as that's the only place where I saw a real performance improvement.

The FinePix S6000fd uses AA batteries for power. Fuji gives you four alkaline batteries, which will quickly run dry and end up in your trash. That means that you'll want to be a set or two of NiMH batteries plus a fast charger. This will save both money and the environment in the long run. Here's how this camera compares to other ultra zooms in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used for test
Canon PowerShot S3 IS 550 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S5200 500 shots 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S6000fd 400 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S9100 320 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Kodak EasyShare P712 250 shots KLIC-5001
Kodak EasyShare Z710 225 shots 2 x 2100 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix S10 300 shots EN-EL5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 320 shots CGR-S006
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 360 shots CGR-S006
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 250 shots CGA-S007
Samsung Digimax Pro815 450 shots SLB-1974
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 400 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 340 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

As you can see, the S6000 has above average battery life. And it uses AA batteries, something I'm a big fan of. A four-pack of NiMH rechargeables sells for maybe a 1/5th of what a proprietary battery goes for, and you can use off-the-shelf alkalines if those die.

The S6000 includes a lens cap and retaining strap, so that big lens won't get scratched up.

Something else you'll find in the box is a lens hood, which comes in handy when you're shooting outdoors.

There are just a few accessories available for the S6000fd, and I've compiled them into this handy chart:

Accessory Model # Price Why you want it
Wide-angle lens WL-FXS6 From $140 Reduces the focal length by a factor of 0.8, giving you a wide end of 22.4 mm
AC adapter AC-5VX From $40

Power the camera without wasting your batteries

Soft case

SC-FXS9

From $31 Protect your camera from the elements

This list is a bit disappointing compared to some other ultra zooms... but since the lens is threaded, you may have some third party options available.


FinePixViewer 3.4 for Mac

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the S6000fd. The Mac version is very basic, doing things like slideshows, image rotating, resizing, and e-mailing. And that's about it. It can't even view RAW images, instead sending you into the FinePix Studio software that I'll describe below.


FInePixViewer 5.3 for Windows

As is often the case, Windows users get a better version of FinePixViewer. This one does everything the Mac version does, plus there are image editing, redeye reduction, and RAW conversion tools as well.


FinePix Studio for Mac OS X

Both Mac and Windows users get roughly equal version of the new FinePix Studio software. This is your RAW editor, and it lets you manipulate nearly all the properties that make the format useful. That includes color, tone curves, white balance, sharpness, and exposure compensation (no noise reduction though). The beauty of RAW is that you can change all of things without reducing the quality of the image -- it's as if you took the shot again. The downside is that you must process every photo on your computer in order to get the RAW image into a more common format like JPEG. Later in the review you'll see why sometimes this may be worth the trouble.

A negative about the Studio software specifically is that it's really slow to redraw the image after you adjust one of the RAW properties -- and this is on a real workhorse of a computer too: a Mac Pro with 4GB of RAM. If you've got Photoshop CS2, you can edit the RAW images using the latest version of the Camera Raw plug-in.

Fuji also includes ImageMixer VCD2 LE with the S6000fd, which lets you create Video CDs (for viewing on your DVD player) and CD albums (for your computer) of your photos. If you shell out a whopping $50 for the unlimited version you can also burn to DVD discs.

The S6000fd comes with a thick, in-depth manual. It's not terribly user friendly, but every question you may have about the camera will be answered.

Look and Feel

The FinePix S6000fd looks a lot like the S9000/S9100, so if you've used one of those, you'll feel right at home here. The camera has a plastic shell over a metal frame, and it feels very sturdy in your hands. Speaking of hands, the large grip makes holding the S6000 a piece of cake.

In terms of usability, the S6000 does suffer a bit from button clutter, with various buttons scattered around the body. I'm not a fan of the power switch either, as it's too easy to accidentally bump.

Two really nice things carried over from the S9000 are the manual zoom and focus rings. They make the S6000fd feel a lot more professional than most of the other ultra zooms on the market. Plus, you won't have to mash buttons anymore to precisely adjust the zoom and/or focus.

Now, let's see how the S6000fd compares to other ultra zoom cameras on the market:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot S3 IS 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.0 in. 42.8 cu in. 410 g
Fujifilm FinePix S5200 4.5 x 3.3 x 4.4 in. 65.3 cu in. 371 g
Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd 5.2 x 3.8 x 5.0 in. 98.8 cu in. 600 g
Fujifilm FinePix S9100 5.0 x 3.7 x 5.1 in. 94.4 cu in. 650 g
Kodak EasyShare P712 4.3 x 3.3 x 2.8 in. 39.7 cu in. 403 g
Kodak EasyShare Z710 3.8 x 3.1 x 2.9 in. 34.2 cu in. 285 g
Nikon Coolpix S10 4.4 x 2.9 x 1.6 in. 20.4 cu in. 220 g
Olympus SP-510 Ultra Zoom 4.2 x 2.9 x 2.8 in. 34.1 cu in. 325 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 5.5 x 3.4 x 5.6 in. 104.7 cu in. 668 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 4.4 x 2.8 x 3.1 in. 38.2 cu in. 310 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.6 in. 16.2 cu in. 234 g
Samsung Digimax Pro815 5.2 x 3.4 x 2.1 in. 37.1 cu in. 850 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 4.5 x 3.3 x 3.7 in. 54.9 cu in. 389 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 4.5 x 3.3 x 3.7 in. 54.9 cu in. 406 g

While it's not quite the biggest and heaviest ultra zoom on the market, the S6000 is close.

Okay, let's tour the camera now!

The S6000fd appears to have the same F2.8-4.9, 10.7X optical zoom lens as the S9000 and S9100, and that's a good thing. It has a focal range of 6.2 - 66.7 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 300 mm. That's a pretty nice range, giving you both wide-angle and super telephoto coverage. The lens is threaded for 58 mm filters and accessories.

Directly above the lens is the S6000fd's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The working range of the flash is 0.6 - 8.3 m at wide-angle and 2.0 - 4.6 m at telephoto, both of which are excellent. One difference between the S6000 and S9000/S9100 is support for external flashes. While the S9000-series cameras support them (via a flash sync port and hot shoe), the S6000 does not.

The only other items of note on the front of the camera are the microphone and AF-assist lamp. The latter is used as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it also doubles as the visual countdown for the self-timer.

On the back of the camera you'll find the most glaring difference between the S6000fd and the S9000/S9100: the LCD. While the S9000 had a 1.8-inch LCD that could "tilt", the S6000fd has a larger 2.5" display that doesn't move. Fuji didn't skimp on this screen, which packs 235,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. I found outdoor visibility to be good, and low light visibility to be excellent. In dimly lit rooms the display brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject.

Right above the LCD is an electronic viewfinder, which is like a mini-LCD. EVFs aren't nearly as nice as a real optical viewfinder, but they are standard features on ultra zoom cameras. The one here is a bit lacking in resolution, with just 115,000 pixels -- and you can tell when you use it. The screen also seemed a little washed out when I was shooting outdoors. In low light the EVF is just as easy to see as the main LCD. To the left of the EVF is a diopter correction knob, which focuses what you're looking at.


Faces detected!

The silver button to the lower-right of the EVF activates Fuji's face detection system. Deep inside the camera is a chip dedicated to locating faces (up to ten of them) in the frame, and then making sure they're both in focus and properly exposed. This all happens in just 0.05 seconds, according to Fuji. And, it worked as promised, based on the times I fooled around with it. Above you can see the camera in action, detecting several faces in a photo on my computer screen. You can even use FD in playback mode -- press the button and the faces in the photo will be highlighted. Press the button again and the camera will show you a close-up of each face, so you make sure that everyone's eyes are open. Pretty cool!

Below the face detection button are two more buttons. The top one switches between the EVF and the LCD, while the bottom one activates the digital zoom feature.

Below that we have the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation, changing manual exposure settings, and also for:

  • Left - Macro mode (Off, macro, super macro)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
  • Center - Menu/OK

Below that we find the Display/Back and F-mode buttons. Press the F-button and you'll get the F-mode menu, which has these options:

  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - I'll have more on this topic later
  • Quality (see chart later in review)
  • FinePix Color (Standard, chrome, black and white)

For those who are wondering, the chrome setting boosts color saturation and contrast, for much more vivid photos.

On top of the camera you'll find more buttons, the mode dial, the shutter release, and the power switch. The last item is wrapped around the shutter release button, and I found it too easy to bump and actually turn the camera on or off.

Here's a look at the items on the mode dial:

Option Function
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, some menu options locked up
Program mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access; a Program Shift feature lets you select from various shutter speed / aperture combinations
Shutter priority mode You choose the shutter speed and the camera uses the correct aperture; shutter speed range is 4 - 1/4000 sec; do note that the fastest shutter speeds are not available near the telephoto end of the lens
Aperture priority mode You choose the aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed; choose from a range of F2.8 - F11
Full manual (M) mode You choose both the aperture and shutter speed; shutter speed range expands to 30 - 1/4000 sec
Movie mode More on this later
Scene Position mode You choose the situation and the camera uses the proper settings. Select from sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, museum, party, flower, and text
Landscape More scene modes
Portrait
Natural light mode Boosts the ISO as high as needed in order to get a sharp photo using available light; a natural light & flash mode takes one photo with the flash and the other with NL mode
Picture stabilization mode Similar to above, except the flash is used in addition to boosting the ISO

As you can see, the S6000fd has full manual exposure controls. It also has numerous scene modes, and Fuji's now famous natural light mode. This boosts the ISO as high as possible in order to get a sharp photo. You can also have the camera take a flash shot too, so you can keep the best one. The picture stabilization feature is similar, except that it will boost the ISO and use the flash if need be.


Flash


Natural Light mode

Above is a great example of when you'd want to use natural light mode instead of the flash. In the flash shot, the flowers are totally washed out and unnatural-looking. Put the camera in NL mode and you get a much nicer result. Of course, NL mode does produce noisy images if the camera has to boost the ISO really high (it used 3200 in this case), which limits the size of prints you can make. You may want to try manually adjusting the ISO instead, shooting in RAW mode, or both, to get the most out of the camera in natural light.

One annoying thing about the shutter priority mode on the S6000 is that you can't get at the full range of shutter speeds -- you must use the full manual mode for that.

Above the mode dial are buttons for continuous shooting and exposure compensation. The second option is pretty standard, with a range of -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments.

There are several continuous shooting options to choose from on the S6000fd. The top 3 mode took three photos in a row at about 2.4 frames/second. The final 3 mode keeps taking pictures at the same rate (for up to 40 shots), but saves the last three photos taken before you took your finger off the shutter release button. The long period mode keeps shooting until you run out of memory, though at a sluggish 0.5 frames/second (since the camera refocuses between each shot). In all three of those modes, the LCD/EVF keep up nicely with the action.

There's also an auto bracketing feature, which takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. If you've got the space of the memory card, this is one way to insure a proper exposure (shooting in RAW mode is another). The interval between shots can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, or ±1EV.

There's more to see on this side of the S6000fd. The first thing to see are the manual focus and zoom rings around the lens. Both of these give the camera a real "pro" feel -- a nice touch on a $400 camera. The zoom ring is mechanical (it moves the lens directly), while the focus ring is electronic (it tells the camera to move the lens elements).

To the right of that we find the focus switch. You can choose from continuous, single, and manual focus. Single AF locks the focus when you halfway press the shutter release button. In continuous mode, the camera is always trying to focus, even when you're not touching the shutter release button. This helps reduce focus times. In manual focus mode you'll use that focus ring to set the focus distance manually. While the center of the frame is enlarged, the camera does not show the current focus distance on the LCD or EVF. You can press the one-touch AF button in the middle of the focus switch in order to get a little help from the camera's autofocus system.

Continuing to the right we find the speaker, followed by the xD memory card slot. The memory card slot is covered by a plastic door of average quality.

Below that are the camera's I/O ports, which are located beneath a rubber cover. The ports include A/V out, DC-in (for optional AC adapter), and USB. The S6000fd supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

There's nothing to see on this side of the camera, though it's worth mentioning that the lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery compartment and a plastic (boo!) tripod mount. As you can see, the S6000 uses four AA batteries. The door covering the battery compartment is of pretty good quality, though it could really use a locking mechanism.

Using the Fuji FinePix S6000fd

Record Mode

Since there's no lens to extend, the S6000fd is up and ready to start taking photos in a little over one second. That's really fast.


No live histograms here

The S6000 was pretty snappy in the focusing department as well. Typically it took the camera between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to lock focus -- even at the telephoto end of the lens where focusing is often slower. Low light focusing was excellent, thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot speeds were average, with a delay of around two seconds between shots. If you're shooting in RAW mode then you can expect to wait for twice as long.

You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must enter playback mode first.

Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the S6000fd:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 10MB onboard memory # images on 512MB xD card
(optional)
RAW
4048 x 3036
RAW 13.4 MB 0 38
6M
2848 x 2136
Fine 3.0 MB 3 170
Normal 1.5 MB 6 339
3:2
3024 x 2016
Normal 1.5 MB 6 339
3M
2048 x 1536
Normal 780 KB 12 651
2M
1600 x 1200
Normal 630 KB 15 818
0.3M
640 x 480
Normal 130 KB 77 3993

As I mentioned earlier, the S6000fd supports the RAW image format. If you open the RAW images in FinePix Studio, they will be displayed at the interpolated resolution you see listed in the chart above. I won't go into the details as to why the resolution is so high, but let's just say that it has to do with the design of the SuperCCD sensor. For whatever reason, the RAW photos opened at the "normal" 6MP size in Photoshop.

Files are numbered using a simple convention: DSCF####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained as you swap or erase memory cards.

The S6000 has a pretty ordinary menu system. It's easy to navigate, and there aren't too many options to be confused by. Keep in mind that not all of these options will be visible in the auto and scene modes. And with that, here's the full list:

  • Self-timer (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec)
  • Photometry [metering] (Multi, spot, average)
  • White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent) - see below
  • HIgh-speed shooting (on/off) - speeds up focusing times by limiting focus range
  • AF mode (Center, multi, area) - see below
  • Sharpness (Soft, standard, hard)
  • Flash exposure compensation (-2/3EV to +2/3EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Bracketing interval (±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, ±1EV)
  • Setup - see below

The FinePix S6000fd has a custom white balance feature which lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color even under the most usual lighting.

There's also an "area" autofocus mode which lets you use the four-way controller to select the area in the frame on which to focus. This comes in handy when the camera is on a tripod.

There is also a setup menu, which you get to from either the record or playback menus. Here's what you'll find in that:

  • Shooting options
    • Image display (1.5, 3 secs, zoom/continuous) - post-shot review; that last option enlarges the photo on the LCD
    • Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
    • AF illuminator (on/off)
    • CCD RAW (on/off) - here's where you turn on the RAW mode. This really shouldn't be buried in the setup menu
    • EVF/LCD mode (30, 60 fps) - frame rate for each
    • Focus check (on/off) - center-frame enlargement in manual focus mode
  • Setup 1
    • Date/time (set)
    • Beep volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Playback volume
    • LCD brightness (-5 to +5 in 1-step increments)
    • Format (Internal memory, xD card)
  • Setup 2
    • Language
    • Auto power off (Off, 2, 5 mins)
    • Time difference (Home, travel) - for when you're on the road
    • Background color (Blue, purple, pink, orange, green, black) - choose the menu background color
    • Discharge - drains NiMH batteries
    • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
    • Reset

Enough menus, let's talk about photo quality now!

The S6000fd did a fine job with our standard macro test shot. The colors are nice and saturated, and the subject is very sharp. I used the camera's custom white balance feature in order to insure accurate colors under my quartz studio lamps.

There are two macro modes on this camera. In the regular macro mode the minimum distance to the subject is 10 cm at wide-angle and 90 cm at telephoto. Put the camera into super macro mode and you can be just 1 cm away from your subject. Do note that the lens is fixed at the full wide-angle position in super macro mode.

The night shot turned out very well. The camera took in plenty of light, thanks to its manual shutter speed controls. The buildings are tack sharp, and purple fringing is well controlled. While there isn't much in the line of noise in the photo, you will see the results of the S6000's heavy-handed noise reduction. Just have a look at the sky to see what I mean -- it's got all kinds of junk in it. I'll have more on this topic in a bit.

Below is the first of two ISO tests in this review. This one uses the night scene you see above. Here we go:


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The most obvious difference between the ISO 100 and 200 shots is the amount of noise reduction artifacts in the shot (again, look at the sky). Still, there are plenty of details left for a good-sized print. At ISO 400 we start to see a loss of detail, but it's still very usable. Details start getting really smudged at ISO 800, and it's all downhill from there. I would avoid those three settings if possible when shooting in very low light.

To see how the camera performs at high sensitivities in better light, see below.

There's minimal barrel distortion at the wide end of the S6000's 10.7X zoom lens. The chart shows no corner softness or vignetting, and neither of these were a problem in my real world photos, either.

Will you look at that: no redeye! Since the S6000's flash is pretty far from the lens, I'm not too surprised at this result.

Here's ISO test number two. This one is taken in my studio under two 600W quartz lamps, and you can compare it to other cameras I've reviewed. While the crops below give you an idea about the noise levels at each ISO setting, you should really check out the full size images for a detailed comparison.


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The differences between ISO 100 and 400 are pretty minor. As the ISO goes up, you don't see more noise, but rather more noise reduction artifacts. All three of these settings are great for large sized prints. We finally start to see some noise at ISO 800, but the shot is still very usable. There's a lot more noise at ISO 1600, making this one only for small prints. ISO 3200 is for desperation only (it's a muddy mess), though I did use it on a recent trip, and I could still squeeze out a 4 x 6 inch print. This camera definitely has an edge over the competition in terms of high ISO shooting -- if you need proof then have a look at the same test in my Canon PowerShot S3, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 reviews.

And now, let me teach you how to get better images out of the FinePix S6000fd at high ISOs. As you can see in the photos above, the camera applies heavy noise reduction when you shoot in JPEG mode, which makes details look fuzzy. This shot is a fabulous example of what I'm talking about. Now, the fuzzy details won't matter when you're making a small print, but let's say I want that deer shot turned into an 8 x 10 for the wall? If I could turn back time and take the shot again, I would shoot in RAW and post-process it.

Above you see a crop of our test scene that I took at ISO 1600. Details are fuzzy, and there's a lot of digital junk in the photo that really lowers the quality of the photo. Now let's look at the same scene taken at the same ISO, but taken in RAW and then run through noise reduction software (NeatImage in this case):

While the resulting images has more "noise", the images retains a lot more detail than the JPEG image. Now I'm the first to admit that shooting in RAW and post-processing is a pain in the butt, it's worth it if you want the highest quality image you can squeeze out of this camera. So, if you're in a situation where you're taking a high ISO shot and you might want a large-sized print, then consider taking these extra steps.

Oh, and you might want to pass on using FinePix Studio for RAW conversion. That's because when you use it to convert a RAW image to another format, it applies the same level of noise reduction to the image as the camera does -- even if you're saving to TIFF format. Here's an example (you'll find the full size images in the gallery):

Cat eyes

Converted with FinePix Studio

Converted with Adobe Camera Raw 3.6, NeatImage noise reduction applied
Cat tail

Converted with FinePix Studio

Converted with Adobe Camera Raw 3.6, NeatImage noise reduction applied

The difference is very obvious. You're basically trading noise for mush when you use FinePix Studio, so if you have Photoshop, you'll want to use it for RAW processing. Noise reduction software is a must, and I'm a big fan of NeatImage myself. Oh, and yes, you can see the difference in a print -- even at 4 x 6.

Aside from the heavy-handed noise reduction, the photo quality on the S6000fd is very good. Photos were generally well exposed, with pleasing, saturated colors. Photos were quite sharp -- maybe a little too sharp for some folks. Purple fringing levels were moderate.

Ultimately you need to be the final judge of the FinePix S6000fd's photo quality. Have a look at our extensive photo gallery, print the photos if you'd like, and then decide if the S6000fd's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The FinePix S6000fd has a very good movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card is full. It takes just eight seconds to fill up the internal memory, so you'll want a memory card for longer movies. A 1GB xD card holds about 15 minutes of video.

For longer movies you can drop the resolution to 320 x 240, which doubles recording time.

Since the camera's zoom is operated manually, you can zoom all you want while recording video.

Movies are saved in AVI format using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a different take on the usual train sample movie. Sorry about the "shakes" on this one.


Click to play movie (17.9 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The FinePix S6000fd has a standard issue playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, 30 second voice captions, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom & scroll. This last option lets you enlarge the frame by as much as 4.5 times and then move around in the zoomed-in area.

Photos can be viewed one at a time sequentially, or by date (see above). You can rotate, resize, and crop photos right on the camera. In addition, you can copy photos from the internal memory to an xD card and vice versa.

And, in case you missed it earlier, you can use the face detection feature here too. Press the FD button and you can zoom in on the faces that the camera recognized.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you much about your photos in playback mode. But press the exposure compensation button on the top of the camera and you'll get much more, including a histogram.

The S6000 moves between photos at an average clip. Expect to wait a little over a second between each one.

How Does it Compare

If the Fuji FinePix S6000fd had image stabilization and less intrusive noise reduction then it would be the perfect ultra zoom camera. Alas, it does not have either -- but it's still a very capable camera, and one which I can recommend easily. It's got a ton of features, a great "pro-style" body, and excellent low light shooting ability. The S6000 lets you take high ISO images that are far better than other ultra zooms on the market -- especially if you're willing to shoot in RAW mode and post-process a bit.

The FinePix S6000fd looks more like a digital SLR than a $400 consumer-level camera. It has a well built, black-colored body with rings for both zoom and focus. The camera has the same 10.7X optical zoom lens as the FinePix S9000, covering a very nice 28 - 300 mm range. You can attach an optional wide-angle lens or any 58 mm filter, if you wish. On the back of the camera is a large and sharp 2.5" LCD, which is visible in both bright outdoor light and dimly lit rooms. The electronic viewfinder isn't quite as nice as the LCD. While it's still visible in low light, it seemed to wash out easily outdoors, and the resolution isn't great. While the camera does suffer a bit from "button clutter", it's fairly easy to just pick up and use. Another nice thing about the camera: it uses AA batteries.

Regardless of your skill level, you'll be happy with the features that the S6000fd offers. Beginners will enjoy the numerous automatic modes, including a dozen scene modes. There are also natural light and picture stabilization modes, both of which boost the ISO in order to get a sharp photo. While these modes are fine for those of you making small prints, if you're doing 8 x 10's you may want to just set the ISO manually and keep it as low as humanly possible (more on this in a bit). While it sounds gimmicky, the FinePix's face detection system really works -- and it may be even more useful in playback mode, where you can quickly verify that everyone had their eyes open for the shot. The camera also has a nice movie mode, which can record VGA quality video until you run out of memory. Since you operate the zoom with your own hands, you can zoom all you want while recording a movie clip.

If you like manual controls then you'll be pleased with the full set of them on the S6000. That includes shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and focus (for which you'll use that handy ring around the lens). The camera also supports the RAW image format, though it has a few issues. For one, you have to dive into the setup menu each time you want to turn it on. Second, while the bundled FinePix Studio software does a nice job of letting you edit the various RAW properties, as soon as you save the image it applies the same over-the-top noise reduction as the camera itself.

Camera performance is very good in most areas. The camera starts up very quickly (since it has no lens to extend), and focus times were good, even at the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was very good as well, thanks to the S6000's AF-assist lamp. Shutter lag wasn't much of a problem, and the shot-to-shot speeds of 2/4 seconds (JPEG/RAW) were good, but not great. While not best in class, battery life on the S6000 was still better than average. The one real weak spot in terms of performance are the camera's continuous shooting modes. While the 2.4 frame/second frame rate is not, the 3 shot maximum is disappointing.

Photo quality was very good for the most part. The S6000's photos were well-exposed, with accurate and saturated colors. Photos were tack sharp, perhaps a bit too much so. Purple fringing levels were a bit above average, a fairly common issue on ultra zoom cameras. Redeye was not a problem, which is always good news.

As I've mentioned throughout this review, the S6000's SuperCCD sensor allows it to take photos with less noise than cameras with a traditional CCD. If you look at what this camera produces at ISO 400 and then check the competition, you'll see what I mean. At higher sensitivities you'll need to do a little extra work to get the best results out of the camera. At those settings, the S6000's noise reduction system really smudges the details of your photos, as my examples earlier have shown. Step one to getting a better photo is to shoot in RAW mode, which bypasses the in-camera noise reduction. Then, skip FinePix Studio and use Photoshop or another RAW editor to open the file. Finally, you'll want to use the noise reduction software of your choice. Yes, it's kind of a pain, but if you want a large print of a high ISO shot, this is the way to get the best results.

A few last complaints before I wrap things up. I don't like how you can't get at the full range of shutter speeds in shutter priority mode. The plastic tripod mount is a disappointment, considering the solid build quality of the camera. And finally, the 10MB of built-in memory is just too little for a 6 Megapixel camera.

The Fuji FinePix S6000fd takes the "guts" of the popular FinePix F30 and puts it into a SLR-style body. It offers a 28 - 300 mm lens, manual focus and zoom rings, a big LCD, manual and automatic controls, and better than average high ISO performance. Yeah, it's missing image stabilization (Fuji really needs to get on the ball in this area) and you need to go out of your way to get the best results at ISO 800 and above, but I ended up really enjoying using the camera. It won me over when I took it to two not-so-famous California National Parks (pictures here). Being able to take sharp photos in a cave without having to use the flash on a consumer-level camera is pretty amazing. This camera is definitely worth a look.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
  • 10.7X zoom lens with great 28 - 300 mm range
  • SLR-style body with manual zoom and focus rings
  • Superb high ISO performance, especially if you shoot in RAW and post-process
  • Large 2.5" LCD is visible in bright outdoor light and dimly lit rooms
  • AF-assist lamp; very good low light focusing
  • Full manual controls
  • Face detection really works; can also be used in playback mode
  • Powerful flash; redeye not a problem
  • Nice movie mode; zoom can be used
  • Support for wide-angle conversion lens and filters
  • Above average battery life; uses AA batteries
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Over-the-top noise reduction system smudges details at higher ISO settings (see workarounds in review)
  • No image stabilization
  • Unimpressive continuous shooting mode
  • Electronic viewfinder resolution could be better
  • FinePix Studio software doesn't let you control noise reduction; performance was pretty sluggish, as well
  • Full shutter speed range only available in full manual (M) mode
  • Tiny amount of built-in memory
  • Plastic tripod mount

Some other ultra zooms to consider include the Canon PowerShot S3, Fuji FinePix S9100, Kodak EasyShare P712 and Z710, Nikon Coolpix S10, Olympus SP-510UZ, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7, DMC-FZ50, and DMC-TZ1, Samsung Digimax Pro815, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 and DSC-H5.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix S6000fd and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned out? Then have a look at our gallery!

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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.

Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of the S6000fd at CNET and TrustedReviews.