Home News Buyers Guide Forums FAQ Links About Advertising
DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix S100fs  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: July 18, 2008
Last updated: July 19, 2008

View Printer Friendly Version



The Fuji FinePix S100fs ($799) is one of the more unique fixed-lens cameras on the market today. It features a larger-than-normal (2/3"), 11.1 Megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor, which (at least in theory) should give it better low light and high ISO performance than other compact cameras. The other "big" feature on the S100fs is its impressive lens: it covers an incredible range of 28 - 400 mm, and it has optical image stabilization, too.

Other drool-worthy features include a tilting 2.5" LCD display, a hot shoe and flash sync port, full manual controls, adjustable dynamic range, and advanced face detection.

All of this comes at a cost, though. The FinePix S100fs has a street price just under $700, which is as much as you'd pay for an entry-level digital SLR kit. To be fair, getting a high quality 28 - 400 lens on a D-SLR is an expensive proposition. Is the S100fs worth your hard-earned cash? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The FinePix S100fs has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 11.1 effective Megapixel FinePix S100fs digital camera
  • NP-140 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Lens hood
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix software
  • 178 page camera manual (printed)

As is the case with many cameras these days, the FinePix S100fs had built-in memory, instead of a bundled memory card. The camera has 25MB of memory, which isn't a whole lot, considering its resolution (it holds just one RAW or five JPEGs). Thus, you'll want to buy a large memory card, and fast. The S100fs supports xD, SD, and SDHC media, and I'd stick with SD or SDHC, as they are generally faster (if you do get an xD card, make sure it's Type M+). I'd recommend a 2GB card to start with.

The FinePix S100fs uses the NP-140 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. This battery contains 8.3 Wh of energy, which is on the powerful side of the spectrum. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S5 IS * 450 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Casio Exilim EX-F1 520 shots NP-100
Fuji FinePix S100fs * 250 shots NP-140
Fuji FinePix S8100fd * 500 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix P80 * 250 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-570 UZ * 390 shots 4 x Unknown NiMH
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 * 400 shots CGR-S006
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50 * 300 shots NP-BG1

* Has image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Compared to other big zoom cameras, the S100fs' battery life is well below average. Thus, you may want to pick up a spare battery. Be warned, though -- they're not cheap: a spare will set you back around $50. Also, when your battery dies, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the rest of the day, as you could on an AA-based camera. If this is important to you, then you may want to consider one of the AA-based cameras on the above list.

When it's time to charge the NP-140, just pop it into the included charger, and then plug the whole thing into the wall. It takes around 130 minutes to fully charge the battery.

As you'd expect, Fuji includes a lens cap (with retaining strap) with the S100fs. You'll also find a lens hood in the box, which you may want to use when you're shooting outdoors.

Despite being the flagship FinePix camera, the S100fs is actually pretty light in terms of accessories. Here's what's available:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Remote shutter release RR-80 $40 Take photos without touching the camera; cable is 2.6 feet long.
AC adapter AC-84V $40 Power your camera without draining the battery.
Soft camera case SC-FXS100 From $25 Protect your investment
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

That's it! No conversion lenses or filters are sold by Fuji, though since the lens is threaded (67 mm), you can buy third party accessories.

FinePixViewer 3.6 for Mac

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the S100fs, which you can use to transfer photos from the camera to your computer. The Mac version is very basic, featuring things like slideshows, image rotating, resizing, and e-mailing. Oh, and there are batch renaming, resizing, and file format conversion tools as well. And that's about it. FinePixViewer cannot open RAW files -- you need to use FinePix Studio (see below) for that.

FInePixViewer 5.4 for Windows

As is often the case, Windows users get a much better version of FinePixViewer. This one does everything the Mac version does, adding image editing and redeye reduction tools, not to mention a slicker interface. While it can view and convert RAW images (and convert them to JPEGs), it can't actually edit them.

FinePix Studio in Mac OS X

For "real" RAW editing, you'll need to use the bundled FinePix Studio software. This lets you change the color space, tone curve, white balance, exposure, color setting, and sharpness. Strangely enough, there are no controls for noise reduction or dynamic range. Something that bothered me even more was the glacial pace of the software. It took something like 40 seconds to load an image, and even zooming into an image for a closer look was like watching paint dry.

For more RAW editing tools and a much snappier interface, you may want to consider using Adobe Photoshop CS3. The latest version of the Camera Raw plug-in is compatible with the files produced by the S100fs.

What is the deal with RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed data from the camera's SuperCCD sensor. This allows you to adjust things like exposure, white balance, and sharpness without reducing the quality of the image. It's like getting a second chance to take a photo. The downsides include the enormous file sizes (over 22MB on the S100fs), slower camera performance, and the need to process them on your computer before you can export them to more commonly used formats.

Fuji includes a thick, printed manual with the FinePix S100fs. While it's not the most user-friendly manual (there's a lot of confusing tables and fine print), it's detailed enough to answer any question you may have about the camera. Documentation for the software I just mentioned is installed in digital form on your PC.

Look and Feel

At first glance, the FinePix S100fs looks a whole lot like a digital SLR. Built like a tank? Check. Manual zoom and focus rings? Yep. You can pull and twist the lens all you want, but it's not going anywhere -- this is a fixed-lens camera.

The S100fs has a substantial right hand grip and plenty of lens to hold onto, so its bulky body fits comfortably in your hands. The S100fs definitely suffers from "button clutter" -- there are buttons on three sides of the camera, a few of which require you to turn your attention away from picture-taking to locate.

Now, here's how the S100fs compares to other super zoom cameras in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot S5 IS 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.1 in. 45.6 cu in. 450 g
Casio Exilim EX-F1 5.0 x 3.1 x 5.1 in. 79.1 cu in. 671 g
Fujifilm FinePix S100fs 5.3 x 3.7 x 5.9 in. 115.7 cu in. 918 g
Fujifilm FinePix S8100fd 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.1 in. 41.3 cu in. 405 g
Nikon Coolpix P80 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.1 in. 41.3 cu in. 365 g
Olympus SP-570 Ultra Zoom 4.7 x 3.3 x 3.4 in. 52.7 cu in. 445 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in. 48.3 cu in. 360 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.4 in. 50 cu in. 415 g

As you can see, the S100fs is a giant compared to the other cameras. In fact, it's larger than most entry-level D-SLRs with their kit lens attached! This shouldn't be too surprising, considering the camera's powerful zoom lens.

Even if you ignore the lenses, the FinePix S100fs is still larger than this Pentax digital SLR

Let's start touring the FinePix S100fs now, shall we?

Front of the Fuji S100fs

The centerpiece of the FinePix S100fs is its stunning 14.3X optical zoom lens. This F2.8-5.3 lens really lets you have your cake and eat it too, with a focal range of 28 - 400 mm (7.1 - 101.5 mm in digital terms). While Fuji doesn't sell any conversion lenses or filters for the camera, the lens is threaded for 67 mm attachments, so third party accessories should work just fine.

Deep inside the lens is an optical image stabilization system. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands that can cause "camera shake". This shake can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. The S100fs can shift a lens element to compensate for this motion, which makes a sharp photo more likely. Now, it won't work miracles, but it will allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could on an unstabilized camera. Want an example? Then have a look at these:

Image stabilization off

Image stabilization on

Both of these photos were taken at 1/5 of a second. As you can see, the photo is noticeably sharper with image stabilization turned on. You can also use the stabilizer in movie mode, and you can see how well it works in this brief movie clip.

Before we continue the tour, I want to briefly mention the S100fs' sensor, and why it's different than what you'll find on most fixed-lens cameras. First off, the sensor is physically larger than your typical compact camera CCD. At 2/3" in size, its area is twice that of the sensors found on most ultra-zoom cameras (such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18). It's not quite digital SLR sized, but it's a lot closer than the competition.

The second unique thing about the S100fs' sensor is its design. It uses an 8th-generation SuperCCD HR sensor, which has a unique hexagonal photosite layout. The design of the SuperCCD sensor captures more light than conventional CCDs, allowing for improved resolution and sensitivity.

Returning to our tour of the front of the FinePix S100fs, the next item of note is the pop-up flash, which is released manually. The flash is quite powerful, with a working range of 0.6 - 7.2 m at wide-angle, and 2.5 - 3.8 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO [max 800]). Should you need more flash power and less chance of redeye, you can attach an external flash either via a hot shoe, or a flash sync port (which is located just to the left of the lens).

The last thing to see on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp. This lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations. It also serves as a sort of visual countdown for the self-timer.

Back-angled view of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

One of the nice features on the S100fs is its articulating 2.5-inch LCD display. As you can see, the screen can be pulled away from the camera body and, once that's done, you have 90 degrees of tilt to work with. The effective viewing range is 135 degrees; the screen can point straight up to the ceiling, angled 45 degrees to the ground, or anywhere in between. While I admit that a rotating screen would've been nicer, this is better than nothing.

Back of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

Here you can see the LCD in a more traditional position. The screen has 230,000 pixels, which is a normal resolution for a 2.5" display. The LCD has a very nice 60 fps frame rate, so motion is quite fluid. Outdoor visibility was quite good, and the screen performed equally well in low light situations, where it "gained up" automatically.

Directly above the LCD is the camera's electronic viewfinder. These viewfinders, or EVFs, are essentially small LCDs that you view as if they were optical viewfinders, though they're not nearly as sharp or bright. The EVF on the S100fs uses a new technology known as "field sequential drive" which, in layman's terms, means that you're less likely to see the individual dots on the screen than on a regular EVF. The viewfinder performed well, seeming sharper than its 200,000 pixel count would lead you to believe. Like the LCD, the frame rate here is 60 fps, so everything's very smooth. A diopter correction knob, located to the left of the EVF, will focus the image on the screen for you.

Now let's talk about all those buttons on the right side of the LCD. The one at the top does triple duty. Twisting the dial selects the metering mode, with matrix, center-weighted, and spot as the available options. In record mode, pressing the AE-L button locks the exposure. In playback mode, this same button is used to delete a photo.

The camera locked onto five of the six faces in our test scene

Below that are buttons for switching between the EVF and LCD, entering playback mode, and activating face detection. The FinePix S100fs has one of the most advanced face detection systems out there. It can find up to 10 faces in the frame -- even if they're in full profile -- and then make sure that they are in-focus and properly exposed. In addition, it can remove any redeye that it detects, automatically. The camera's face detection system isn't the best I've seen, but it's close. It usually detected three of the six photos in our test scene though, with a little coaxing, I got it to eventually find five of them.

Right next to the face detection button is the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, viewing photos you've taken, playback zoom, and also:

  • Up - Enlarge frame
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 10 sec, 2 sec)
  • Left - Macro (Off, macro, super macro)
  • Right - Flash (Auto, flash on, slow sync)
  • Center - Menu/OK

I'll cover the macro and menu items later in the review.

The last thing on the back of the camera is the Display/Back button. You can use this to toggle the information shown on the LCD or EVF, and it's also used for "backing out" of menus.

Top of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

The first thing to see on the top of the S100fs is its hot shoe. The hot shoe has just one electrical contact, so there's no integration between your external flash and the camera. Thus, you'll need to set your flash settings manually. Another way to attach an external flash is via the flash sync port that I showed you earlier.

To the lower-right of the hot shoe is the camera's mode dial, which has these options:

Option Function
Auto mode Fully automatic, some menu options locked up
Program mode Point-and-shoot, with full menu access; a program shift feature lets you select from various aperture/shutter speed combos
Shutter priority mode You choose the shutter speed (from a range of 4 - 1/4000 sec), and the camera picks the correct aperture
Aperture priority mode Just the opposite. Select an aperture from a range of F2.8 - F8.0 and the camera uses the appropriate shutter speed
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture; shutter speed range expands to 30 - 1/4000 sec; a bulb mode is also available, though it has a 30 second limit
Custom modes 1/2 Your favorite camera settings, easy to access
Movie mode I'll have more on this later
Scene position 1/2 You pick the situation, and the camera chooses the appropriate settings. SP1 contains nature, nature soft, nature vivid, and flower scenes. The SP2 mode has portrait, portrait soft, baby, portrait enhancer, night, sunset, snow, beach, sport, and fireworks scenes.
Film Simulation Bracketing Take three photos in a row, for each film simulation mode; see below for an example

As you can see, the FinePix S100fs has full manual exposure controls, plus a host of scene modes. Something I don't care for is the fact that the full shutter speed range is only available in full manual (M) mode -- why can't they put it into shutter priority mode too?

The two custom spots on the mode dial can hold your favorite camera settings. The film simulation bracketing takes three shots in a row, each with a different film simulation mode. I'll have more on those later in the review.

The only way to see a live histogram on the camera is to hold down the exposure compensation button

Directly to the right of the mode dial is the command dial, which you'll use to adjust manual exposure settings. Above that are buttons are adjusting the ISO (100 to 10000) and exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV).

Above those buttons is the shutter release button, which is surrounded by the power switch.

Side of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

The first thing I want to mention in this view of the FinePix S100fs are the dual "rings" around the lens. The larger of the two rings controls the optical zoom. It's mechanical, and feels "just right" when you turn it. The focus ring isn't quite as nice. It's not mechanically linked to the lens, working in much the same way as a regular button would.

Manual focus, with center-frame enlargement

Speaking of focusing, just to the right of the focus ring is a dial for selecting the focus mode. The choices here are continuous AF (camera is always trying to focus), single AF (camera locks focus when shutter release is halfway-pressed), and manual. The manual focus feature leaves much to be desired. Not only is the control all electronic, but the camera uses a bizarre guide to show focus accuracy, instead of presenting you with the actual focus distance. The focus guide encourages you to move the "bar" as far to the right as possible. If you need a little help, you can press the button that's inside the focus switch to activate the AF system. The center of the frame can be enlarged by pressing "up" on the four-way controller.

Above the focus switch are buttons for image stabilization (on/off) and continuous shooting. The S100fs has a host of continuous and bracketing modes including:

  • Top 7 (RAW 3) - takes three RAW or seven JPEGs at 2.8 frames/second
  • Top 50 (3MP) - takes up to fifty JPEGs at 5.8 frames/second; resolution is lowered to 3MP, and ISO is set to 200; RAW not available
  • Dynamic range bracketing - takes three shots in a row, each with a different DR setting
  • Film simulation bracketing - takes three shots in a row, once with each film simulation mode
  • AE bracketing - takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value; choose an EV interval of ±1/3, ±2/3, or ±1EV.
  • Last 7 (RAW 3) - keeps shooting at 2.8 fps, but only the last three RAW or seven JPEGs are saved when take your finger off the shutter release button
  • Long period - keeps shooting at 0.8 frames/second until the memory card is full; camera refocuses between each shot; RAW not available

Hopefully that summarizes the camera's continuous shooting abilities for you. I'll give you examples of the dynamic range and film simulation options when we reach the menu section of this review.

Continuing upward, we find the release for the pop-up flash. Shifting toward to the lower-right of the photo now, we find the camera's I/O ports. These ports, which are under a plastic cover, include DC-in (for the optional AC adapter), A/V output, and USB.

In case you're wondering, the optional wired remote control plugs into the USB port.

As you'd expect, the camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC.

Under that plastic cover are both of the camera's I/O ports, including USB+A/V (one for both) and DC-in (for the optional AC adapter). The S100fs supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol, so data transfers to your computer will be quick.

Side of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

The only thing to see on this side of the camera is its memory card slot. The slot accepts xD, SD, and SDHC media.

The lens is at the full telephoto position in this photo.

Bottom of the Fuji FinePix S100fs

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount, as well as the battery compartment. The door over the battery compartment is fairly sturdy, though a locking mechanism would've been nice.

The included NP-140 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Fuji FinePix S100fs

Record Mode

It takes about 1.7 seconds for the FinePix S100fs to turn on and prepare for shooting. That seems a little slow for a camera with a non-extending lens.

There's normally no live histogram shown in record mode; however, one becomes visible when adjusting exposure compensation

Focus speeds were very good, though not spectacular. In the best case scenarios (read: wide-angle, lots of light), the S100fs took between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds to lock focus. Telephoto focus times were around twice that. In low light situations, the camera's AF-assist lamp helped it focus quickly and accurately.

Shutter lag wasn't an issue at faster shutter speeds, though I detected a tiny bit of it when you get into tripod or use-the-flash territory.

You'll wait around 1.5 seconds before you can take another photo -- whether you're shooting JPEG or RAW. Adding the flash into the mix brings shot-to-shot delays up to around 3 seconds.

There's no way to delete a photo immediately after taking it -- you must enter playback mode to do so.

Now, here's a look at the available image resolution and quality options on the FinePix S100fs:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 25MB onboard memory # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
3840 x 2880
RAW 23.2 MB 1 88
Fine 6.8 MB 5 376
Normal 3.4 MB 8 743
4032 x 2688
Normal 3.3 MB 8 761
2816 x 2112
Normal 1.8 MB 16 1360
2048 x 1536
Normal 1000 KB 31 2460
1600 x 1200
Normal 800 KB 38 3046
640 x 480
Normal 180 KB 170 12794

See why you need a large memory card with this camera? The RAW files are enormous, too -- due mostly to the design of the SuperCCD sensor and its need to interpolate. I'm not a fan of how Fuji hides the RAW option deep within the setup menu -- it should be a lot easier to get to.

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 S100fs' menu system hasn't changed much since earlier models. It's fairly easy to navigate, though I never liked how pressing the "OK" button exits the menu system entirely. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the complete list of record menu options:

  • Scene position (Nature, nature soft, nature vivid, portrait, portrait soft, sunset, snow, beach, sport, fireworks) - only shown when mode dial is set to SP 1/2
  • Film simulation (Standard/Provia, Velvia, soft, portrait) - see below
  • Dynamic range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%) - see below
  • Quality (See chart above)
  • Color (High, mid, low, black & white)
  • Tone (Hard, standard, soft)
  • Sharpness (Hard, standard, soft)
  • White balance (Auto, custom 1/2, fine, shade, fluorescent 1/2/3, incandescent) - see below
  • WB fine tune (-3 to +3, in 1-step increments) - see below
  • AE bracketing steps (±1/3EV,± 2/3EV, ±1EV)
  • Flash brightness (-2/3EV to +2/3EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • External flash (on/off)
  • AF mode (Center, multi, area) - the last option lets you select the area in the frame on which to focus
  • High speed shooting (on/off) - shrinks the focus range to speed up focusing
  • Custom settings (C1, C2) - save current settings to either of the spots on the mode dial
  • Setup - see below

Lots to talk about before we move on, and I'll start with the film simulation modes. The standard mode simulates Fuji's Provia film, and has all settings at their defaults. Velvia cranks the color and tone up two stops, which the Soft mode turns down the color and contrast. The portrait mode attempts to make skin tones more natural. Do note that the minimum ISO sensitivity is 200 for the Soft and Portrait options.

Using the film simulation bracketing feature, I am able to show you how the first three options compare:

View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image

Moving onto dynamic range now, there are four options to choose from on the S100fs: Auto, 100%, 200%, and 400%. The more dynamic range is applied, the better the overall exposure will be (less over/under-exposure). The "catch" is that the camera must boost the ISO in order to use the 200% and 400% settings, to ISO 200 and 400, respectively. Thus, images will be noisier. Does this feature work? Look at this:

100% DR
View Full Size Image
200% DR
View Full Size Image

400% DR
View Full Size Image

The most obvious difference as you crank up the dynamic range can be seen on the ground in front of the statue. It starts out with a lot of clipping, but as the DR goes up, you start to see what's actually there. You can see an improvement in the contrast levels on the trees in the background, as well. There isn't a huge difference between the 200% and 400% option, and considering that the ISO gets bumped up to 400 for the latter, you may want to use 200% as your maximum.

White balance fine-tuning

The S100fs has your usual set of preset white balance options, plus the ability to create two custom settings using a white or gray card. If that's still not enough, there's a fine-tuning option, which lets you adjust the WB in the red/cyan and blue/yellow direction.

There's also a large setup menu on the FinePix S100fs, which is accessible from the record or playback menu. The options here include:

  • Shooting options 1
    • Image display (Continuous, 1.5 or 3 secs, zoom/continuous) - post-shot review; continuous shows the image until you hit the Menu button; the zoom option enlarges the image automatically
    • Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
    • Dual IS mode (Continuous, shooting only) - see below
    • Save original image (on/off) - whether the unretouched photo is saved when using auto redeye removal
    • AF illuminator (on/off)
    • CCD-RAW (on/off) - here's how you shoot RAW; why this is buried down here is beyond me
  • Shooting options 2
    • EVF/LCD mode (30, 60 fps) - refresh rate
    • AE-lock mode (AE-L1, AE-L2) - whether you must hold down the AE-lock button
    • Focus check (on/off) - auto center-frame enlargement in manual focus mode
  • Setup 1
    • Date/time (set)
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Playback volume (0-7)
    • Autorotate PB (on/off) - whether portrait photos are automatically rotated
    • LCD brightness (-5 to +5 in 1-step increments)
  • Setup 2
    • Format (Internal memory or memory card)
    • Language
    • Auto power off (Off, 2, 5 mins)
    • Time difference (Home, local) - for when you're on the road
    • Background color - choose the menu background color
    • Guidance display (on/off) - whether function explanations are shown
  • Setup 3
    • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
    • Reset - back to defaults
    • Custom reset (C1, C2) - reset the two custom spots on the mode dial

The only thing I want to mention here are the two "dual IS" modes. Continuous mode activates the IS system as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release, allowing you to compose your photo with less camera shake. For more effective stabilization, you'll want to use "shooting only" mode, which doesn't activate the IS system until the photo is actually taken. To turn the IS system off entirely (which is a good idea if you're using a tripod), simple press the IS button on the left side of the camera.

Alright, let's move onto our test photos now!

The macro shot turned out pretty well, though colors (especially the reds) could be more saturated. This might be a situation where you'd use the Velvia film mode to make things more vivid. The subject is nice and sharp, with plenty of detail captured. I don't see any noise, though there seem to be some jaggies (or similar artifacts) along some of the edges.

There are two macro modes to choose from on the FinePix S100fs. In regular macro mode, the minimum focus distance is 10 cm at wide-angle and 90 cm at telephoto. To get even closer, you can use super macro mode, which lowers the focus distance to just 1 cm. You'll need to put the lens at the full wide-angle position to use super macro mode, though, and a warning on the LCD/EVF will remind you of that.

The night turned out fairly well, though I wish it were a bit sharper (the fog probably didn't help matters. Since the slowest shutter speed available in shutter priority mode is 4 seconds, I had to go into "M" mode to get at the full range. The camera took in plenty of light -- perhaps too much on that US Bank sign. Noise and noise reduction artifacting aren't visible, and purple fringing wasn't a problem.

I have two ISO tests in this review, and the first one uses the night scene above to illustrate how the camera performs in low light situations. I didn't include the lower resolution ISO 6400 and 10000 shots in this test, but if you really want to see them, here you go (6400, 10000).

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

There's not much of a difference between the ISO 100 and 200 shots. At ISO 400, we start to see some of the blotchy noise that is a trademark of SuperCCD cameras, but it's still fairly mild at this point. The noise increases a bit at ISO 800, but still, very usable for small and midsize prints (try THAT on a regular compact camera). Details start to get lost at ISO 1600 and 3200, so I'd avoid using those in low light situations.

We'll see how the S100fs performs in better lighting in a bit.

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the S100fs' lens. I didn't find vignetting (dark corners) or corner blurriness to be a problem, which was nice.

I took the redeye test shot with the camera's automatic redeye reduction turned on and, as you can see, it did a great job. If you want to keep the original, unretouched image, then be sure that "save original" is turned on in the setup menu.

Here's the second of the two ISO tests in this review. Since this one's taken in our studio, it can be compared between cameras. It may not be a bad idea to open up the Canon Rebel XSi and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 reviews now to see how the S100fs compares to a D-SLR and a compact super zoom. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise and noise reduction levels at each sensitivity, I highly recommend viewing the full size images, in order to get the full picture (no pun intended).

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 10000

There's not much to report regarding the first three images -- everything's pretty clean through ISO 400. Surprisingly, you can see some purple fringing on the letters on the wine bottle, but more on that later. Noise starts to pop up at ISO 800, but if you flip over to the Panasonic FZ18 review, you can see how much better a performer the S100fs is. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 1600, reducing your print sizes to small, unless you want to shoot RAW and use noise reduction software (more on that in a second). While not as clean as the Rebel XSi at this point, the S100fs wipes the floor with the FZ18 and other compact cameras at ISO 1600. The ISO 3200 shot is fairly noisy, and is best reserved for desperation. The ISO 6400 and 10000 shots have a much lower resolution, and look pretty lousy -- I think they're only here to sound good in the press release.

One way to maximize image quality at high ISOs is to shoot in RAW. Here's how the ISO 1600 image looks if you do that:

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW --> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW --> JPEG conversion with NeatImage noise reduction

While there's not a huge difference between the JPEG and NeatImage-processed RAW, there is a bit more detail here, and less smudging. Colors are also a lot more vivid, though the Camera Raw plug-in probably has more to do with that than anything. If you'll be making large prints of high ISO images, it may be worth taking the extra steps to shoot RAW and post-process, in order to get the most out of the FinePix S100fs.

Though not perfect, the FinePix S100fs produced photos that were noticeably better than those from "regular" super zoom cameras. It's not quite a digital SLR, but it's closer than any of the competition. The S100fs produced photos with accurate exposure and saturated colors (most of the time). Sharpness was ideal, in this reviewer's opinion. The S100fs doesn't really have significant noise until it passes ISO 800 (and one stop earlier in low light), though you will see the trademark "SuperCCD smudging" on fine details (see the tree and rocks in this example). The S100fs' biggest problem is purple fringing: it has considerably more than other super zoom cameras. You won't notice the fringing if you're sticking to smaller-sized prints, but if you're making large prints, or viewing the photos at 100% on your computer screen, look out.

As usual, don't just take my word for all this. Check out our extra-large photo gallery, perhaps printing a few of the photos if you can (I made an 8 x 10 of one of the ISO 800 cat photos and it looks great). Then decide if the FinePix S100fs' photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The FinePix S100fs has a pretty nice movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 at 30 frames/second (with sound) until the file size hits 2GB. You'll hit that limit in just under 30 minutes. Since the onboard memory fills up quickly, you'll want to be sure to use a large, high speed memory card for recording long clips.

To increase recording time, you can drop the resolution down to 320 x 240 (30 fps). This allows for movies as long as an hour.

Since the zoom is mechanically controlled on the S100fs, you can zoom in and out to your hearts content while recording a movie. The optical image stabilizer is available, as well.

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

Here's a sample movie, taken at the highest quality setting. Apologies for the wind noise.

Click to play movie (6.1 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The S100fs has a pretty standard playback menu. 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 a factor of up to 6.3 times and then move around in the zoomed-in area.

Photos can be viewed one at a time, by date, or as thumbnails. One view shows 100 thumbnails at once, though they're so tiny that it's hard to make out anything.

You can rotate and crop (but not resize) photos right on the camera. If you didn't have auto redeye removal turned on in record mode, you can get rid of this annoyance via the playback menu, as well. The camera's face detection system works here too: you can zoom into faces in photos simply by pressing the FD button.

Not surprisingly, there's a tool to copy photos from the internal memory to a memory card and vice versa.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you much information about your photos. But press the exposure compensation button and you'll get the screen shown on the right, which includes a histogram.

The S100fs moves through photos quickly. A lower resolution version is shown instantly, with a sharper version following about a half second later.

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji FinePix S100fs is a very intriguing camera. It has an SLR-like design, a larger-than-average CCD, a heck of a zoom range, image stabilization, and an articulating LCD display. Image quality is better (in most respects) than your typical super zoom camera, though it's not quite as good as what a D-SLR can produce. The S100fs has its share of negatives, including purple fringing and poor battery life, but if you can stomach its hefty $699 price tag, it's definitely worth a look.

At first glance, the FinePix S100fs looks just like an SLR with a nice lens attached. But looks can be deceiving: that lens isn't coming off. The camera is built exceptionally well, better than some digital SLRs that I've tried. The large right hand grip and huge lens barrel makes the camera easy to hold comfortably. The S100fs does suffer from "button clutter", with buttons placed in locations that require the photographer to take their eye away from the LCD or EVF. The S100's 14.3X lens is really the star of the show here. It has an impressive 28 - 400 mm zoom range, and images are sharp from one corner to the other. While the manual zoom ring is nice, the electronically controlled manual focus ring was awkward to use. The lens doesn't just have a nice range -- it has optical image stabilization, too. This helps reduce the risk of blurry photos, and it'll smooth out your movies, as well. On the back of the camera is an articulating 2.5" LCD display with 230,000 pixels, a smooth 60 fps frame rate, and good outdoor and low light visibility. Above it is a fairly sharp electronic viewfinder that offers the same visibility and frame rate of the main LCD. The S100fs offers two ways of attaching an external flash (hot shoe or flash sync port), though neither integrates with the camera's metering system.

The FinePix S100fs has features for both beginners and enthusiasts alike. For those starting out, there's an auto mode, plus a good number of scene modes. More advanced users will appreciate the full manual exposure controls, white balance fine-tuning, and custom mode dial spots. There's also support for the RAW image format, though the files are enormous (22+ MB) and the bundled editing software is incredibly slow (and not terribly full-featured, either). One of the more unique features on the S100fs is the ability to boost dynamic range. This feature does work, though the ISO sensitivity goes up along with the dynamic range, so take that into consideration. Regardless of your skill level, you'll like the S100fs' movie mode, which records at VGA (30 fps) with optical zoom and image stabilization available. There's also a good face detection system which works alongside an effective automatic redeye removal system.

Camera performance was generally good, though there's definitely room for improvement. The camera starts up in 1.7 seconds, which is a bit slow considering that the lens doesn't have to extend. The camera focused quickly, with delays rarely exceeding one second, even in low light situations. Shutter lag wasn't a major issue, and shot-to-shot delays were short, even when shooting RAW. The S100fs has numerous continuous shooting modes, and the full resolution / high speed one takes up to three RAW or seven JPEG images in a row at 2.8 frames/second. Battery life isn't this camera's forte -- it's well below average compared to both super zooms and digital SLRs.

The S100fs outshines its ultra zoom competitors in the photo quality department, except when it comes to purple fringing. That, along with the usual SuperCCD detail smudging, are really the camera's only weaknesses in this area. The S100fs takes well-exposed photos with good color saturation and pleasing sharpness. While there is some fine detail smudging at the lowest ISO settings, it doesn't really degrade image quality until ISO 400 in low light, and ISO 800 in good light -- a full stop better than other compact cameras. While digital SLRs still produce better quality photos at high ISOs, the S100fs is as close as you'll get on a fixed-lens camera. Speaking of high ISOs, the camera can boost the sensitivity all the way to 10000, though the resulting images aren't keepers. Redeye wasn't a problem here, thanks to the camera's automatic removal of this annoyance.

Two last items to mention before I wrap things up. First, I don't like how Fuji doesn't give you access to the full range of shutter speeds while in shutter priority mode. You have to use full manual (M) mode for that. Finally, the 25MB of onboard memory doesn't hold a lot of 11 Megapixel photos -- more would've been nice.

The Fuji FinePix S100fs is an impressive camera, though its price makes it a tough call. It costs twice as much as other super zoom cameras, and more than some entry-level D-SLRs (though, to be fair, adding a comparable lens pushes the price of an SLR to over $1000). The S100fs is better than other ultra zooms in most respects, save for purple fringing, RAW editing, and battery life. Is it $300 - $400 better? I'm not so sure of that. If you're willing to part with nearly $700 on a fixed-lens camera, then the FinePix S100fs is absolutely worth a look. However, I'd take a close look at both cheaper ultra zooms as well as entry-level D-SLRs before you buy it.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality; outperforms other super zooms at high ISOs by at least a full stop (though see issues below)
  • Whopping 14.3X, 28 - 400 mm zoom lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • SLR-like body has excellent build quality; easy to hold; manual zoom and focus rings
  • Articulating 2.5" LCD display with good outdoor & low light visibility
  • Effective dynamic range expansion feature (though ISO sensitivity goes up, too)
  • Redeye not a problem thanks to auto removal feature
  • Hot shoe and flash sync port for adding an external flash
  • VGA movie mode with optical zoom and image stabilization during recording
  • Optional wired remote control
  • Memory card slot supports both xD and SD/SDHC cards
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Lots of purple fringing; SuperCCD tends to smudge fine details a bit
  • Expensive for a fixed-lens camera
  • Below average battery life
  • Awkward manual focus system
  • Full shutter speed range not available in shutter priority mode
  • Very slow RAW editing software
  • Buttons are scattered all over the body, require user to search for them
  • Not much built-in memory

Some other super zooms worth considering include the Canon PowerShot S5 IS, Casio Exilim EX-F1, Fuji FinePix S8100fd, Nikon Coolpix P80, Olympus SP-570 Ultra Zoom, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix S100fs and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

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.