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DCRP Review: Fuji
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 29, 2003
Last Updated: November 12, 2003
Folks who have been waiting for a replacement of the venerable Fuji FinePix S602 Zoom have really had their patience tested. The S602 was one of the sleeper hits of 2002, with its 6X zoom lens, high resolution SuperCCD sensor, full manual controls, and VGA movie mode.
Fuji took the S602, added a new 4th generation SuperCCD sensor, and called the result the FinePix S7000 ($799). Like its predecessor, this new 6.3 million pixel SuperCCD HR sensor can interpolate to a higher resolution -- in this case 12.3 million pixels! The S602 had a 3.1 million pixel SuperCCD sensor, capable of producing images with 6.2 million pixels.
Is this the upgrade all the S602 owners have been waiting for? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix S7000 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Fuji includes a tiny (in more ways than one) 16MB xD card with the camera, which holds a grand total of three photos taken at the highest resolution. So plan on buying a memory card instantly. The S7000 can use xD cards, or the much higher capacity CompactFlash cards, including the Microdrive. A few weird notes about CompactFlash support on this camera. First, Fuji only officially supports the use of Microdrives in the CF slot, though regular cards will work as well. Secondly, although I'm having a hard time confirming this, I've heard that the S7000 is not FAT32 compatible, meaning that it can only see 2GB of data on a memory card.
Batteries are something else that you'll need to buy right away. Fuji includes four non-rechargeable alkaline batteries along with the camera, which will quickly find their way into the trash (or should I say, recycling bin). Buy yourself two or more sets of NiMH batteries (2000 mAh or greater) and a fast charger, and you'll be set.
Fuji estimates that you can take about 340 pictures using LCD (50% flash use) with a set of 2100 mAh batteries -- not too shabby. Using the Microdrive knocks about 10% from those numbers. (I must say that I'm not a fan of Microdrives anymore; for one, they increase power consumption. Two, they seem unreliable: both of mine failed.)
Fuji includes a lens cap and retaining strap in the box with the S7000.
In terms of accessories, you have a few options. First, you can add a wide-angle or telephoto lens to the camera (both cost $180). The WL-FX9 wide-angle lens brings the wide end of the lens down to 28mm, while the TL-FX9 brings the top end to 315 mm. Both of these lenses include the required AR-FX9 lens adapter ring. If you want to add filters (55mm) to the camera, you can buy the adapter ring separately ($53).
The S7000 can also use nearly any third-party external flash. More on that later.
Other accessories for the S7000 include an AC adapter ($50), camera case ($46), and NiMH battery kit, and various card readers.
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the S7000. The version numbers are 4.1 for Windows, and 3.3 for Mac OS 9+ and 10.1+. Even with the differing version numbers, the software acts about the same on each platform. FinePixViewer is for basic image organizing and editing, and is no substitute for something like Photoshop Elements. Fuji also includes a RAW File Converter, and ImageMixer VCD2 (for making video CDs) on the CD. While ImageMixer VCD2 is (finally) Mac OS X native, it does not support direct CD-R burning on the Mac -- you'll need Roxio's Toast to do that.The camera manual is typical of those included with digital cameras. It's complete, but finding what you're looking for may be difficult. There are lots of small "notes" on each page, as well.
Look and Feel
Physically, very little has changed between the S602 and the S7000. Don't believe me? Have a look (S602 on top, S7000 on bottom):
Pretty darn similar, eh? The S7000 is a larger camera, closer in size to an SLR than it is to say the PowerShot G5. The S7000's body is a nice mix of high grade plastic and metal, and it feels very solid (with a few exceptions). While you can hold and operate the camera with one hand, you'll probably find two hands to be more comfortable.
The closest cameras to the S7000 that I can think of are the HP Photosmart 945, Nikon Coolpix 5700, and the Sony DSC-F828. Here's how the S7000's dimensions compare with those cameras, as well as the old S602:
|Camera||Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions)||Volume (bulk)||Mass (empty*)|
|Fuji FinePix S7000||4.8 x 3.2 x 3.8||58.4 cu in.||600 g|
|Fuji FinePix S602 Zoom||4.8 x 3.2 x 3.8||58.4 cu in.||500 g|
|HP Photosmart 945||4.8 x 3.4 x 3.4||55.5 cu in.||389 g|
|Nikon Coolpix 5700||4.3 x 3.0 x 4.0||51.6 cu in.||480 g|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828||5.3 x 3.6 x 6.2||118.3 cu in.||955 g|
|* Sony mass includes memory card and battery|
As you can see, the S7000 is right in the middle of the pack. It's also 20% heavier than the S602Z.
Let's get right into our tour of the camera now!
One of the biggest features on the S7000 is its fast F2.8-3.1, 6X optical zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 7.8 - 46.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 210 mm. The lens is threaded, though you'll need to pick up the conversion lens to do anything with it (see previous section).
Directly above the lens is the same passive autofocus sensor that the S602 used. While not the same technology as an AF-assist lamp, the effect is the same in low light and better in good lighting (where it allows for faster focusing).
Continuing upward, we find the pop-up flash, with the flash sensor to its right. The S7000's very powerful flash has a working range of 0.3 - 8.5 m at wide-angle and 0.9 - 7.9 m at telephoto. If that's still not enough flash for you, you can also attach an external flash to the hot shoe you'll see in a moment.
It's hard to see, but to the upper-right of the lens is the camera's microphone. The self-timer lamp can be seen on the opposite side, at the top of the grip.
On the back of the camera, you'll find a high resolution, 1.8" LCD display. The LCD has a respectable 118,000 pixels, and images on it are sharp, bright, and fluid. LCD brightness can easily be adjusted by using the "shift" button you'll see in a minute.
Above the LCD is a huge electronic viewfinder (0.44"). The resolution of 235,000 is higher than the LCD, and it shows -- this is a high quality display. As with the LCD, images on the EVF are sharp and fluid. It does get a little hard to see things on the EVF in low light situations, though. There's also a diopter correction knob, which helps focus the image on the EVF.
To the right of the LCD are three buttons. EVF/LCD toggles between, well, the EVF and LCD. The display button toggles what is shown on the LCD/EVF, including a framing guide (perfect for people like me who only take crooked pictures).
Photo mode menu
The next button down, which has an "F" on it, opens the Photo mode menu. It has the following options:
One thing I like about the photo mode menu is that it tells you how many photos you can take at a given image quality setting (see above).
The lowest ISO on the camera is a rather unusual 200. If you need more sensitivity (at the expense of noise), you can bump it up to 400, or 800. Note that ISO 800 is only available at 3M or lower resolutions. The ISO Auto mode (which selects from 160-800) is only available when the mode dial is on "Auto". I'll have a comparison of the various ISO sensitivities later in the review.
The FinePix color options let you select normal color, chrome (high contrast and saturation), and black & white.
Back to our tour now. To the right of the "F" button, we find the four-way controller (with Menu/OK in the middle), the Focus Check button, and the back button. The Focus Check button enlarges the center of the frame, so you can make sure the subject is in focus. You'll probably use this exclusively in manual focus mode, which I'll touch on in a bit.
At the top-right of the photo is the S7000's zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under two seconds. Quick presses of the button allow for precise zoom adjustments.
To the right of the zoom controller is the AE Lock button. Keep it held down to lock the current exposure.
On the top of the camera, you'll find even more buttons. There are plenty more where that came from, too.
At the center of the picture is the S7000's hot shoe. The camera can sync with an external flash as fast as 1/1000 sec. You will probably need to manually set the settings on the flash. Fuji recommends using "A" and "M" mode on the camera when using one, as well.
The next item over is the mode dial, which has the following options:
In Program mode, you can do something called "program shift", by using the command dial. You can cycle through sets of shutter speed/aperture combinations, which lets you use a faster shutter speed (when you don't have a tripod) or a smaller aperture (for more depth of field).
The next thing to see is the command dial, which is located to the right of the mode dial. You'll use this to adjust manual settings.
Above that is a button for continuous shooting. The S7000 has an impressive set of continuous modes, including:
Moving toward the upper-right of the above photo, we reach the flash and exposure compensation buttons. The available flash settings are auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced flash, slow synchro, and redeye reduction + slow synchro. The exposure compensation range is the usual -2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments. The exposure compensation button is also used to adjust the aperture when in "M" mode.
I should add that you adjust all these items I just discussed by holding down the appropriate button, and turning the command dial. This may be a little different than what you're used to.
The final item on the top of the S7000 is the shutter release button, which has the power/mode switch around it. This switch moves the camera between the powered off, record, and playback modes.
Much like the S602, this side of the S7000 is covered with buttons. But before I get to those, let me tell you about the focus/zoom (FZ) ring. In normal usage (meaning autofocus), you can turn this ring to adjust the zoom setting. It's a "fly-by-wire" control, meaning that you're telling the camera to move the lens, as opposed to mechanically moving it yourself.
I don't like how this feature is implemented, though. The zoom ring is just not sensitive enough, which means that you have to turn it, move your hand back, repeat (several times).
Manual focus + Focus check
Put the camera into manual focus mode, and the zoom ring becomes a focus ring. The camera shows a hint as to your current focus distance on the LCD/EVF, and the Focus check function lets you enlarge the center of the image to make sure you're focused properly. One thing missing here is a guide showing the current focus distance. I'll have a little more on manual focus in a second.
Just to the right of the focus ring is one of my big camera pet peeves: printing zoom numbers that include digital zoom. They should have "6X" in big letters, and have the 3.2X digital zoom in small print. This is not a 19X zoom camera (kind of like how it's not a 12 Megapixel camera).
Below that label is the macro button. I'll have more on that later in this review.
Next to that is the Shift button, which I believe is exclusive to the S602 and S7000. Basically it's a quick way to get to commonly-accessed camera settings. You hold it down and press one of the other buttons to change a setting. You can see what you can change in the screen shot above.
The next buttons over are info and focus. Pressing the info button (in record and playback modes) shows the current camera settings, as well as a live histogram.
The focus dial has three choices: Continuous AF means that the camera is always trying to focus (you'll hear it trying). Single AF is the usual half-press to lock focus thing that most of us are used to. And I already described manual focus. If you press the button in the middle of the switch while in manual focus mode, the camera will autofocus, and then you can fine tune things manually.
Below that, under a plastic cover, is the DC-in port, which is where the optional AC adapter is plugged in.
For more I/O ports, just move your eyes to the right. There you'll find USB 2.0 high speed, as well as video out. Those ports are covered by a sturdy plastic door.
Above that is the S7000's speaker.
You'll find the S7000's dual memory card slots behind a big plastic door. The slots include CompactFlash Type II as well as xD. The IBM/Hitachi Microdrive is supported.
The included 16MB xD card is shown.
On the bottom of the S7000, you'll find the battery compartment and metal tripod mount. The batteries are under a sturdy plastic cover, keeping with the overall high quality construction of the camera.
The tripod mount is inline with the lens.
Using the Fuji FinePix S7000
For a camera with a big zoom lens, the S7000's 2.7 second startup time is impressive.
Live histogram in record mode
Equally impressive are the autofocus speeds. The camera locked focus in 1/2 second in most situations, taking slightly longer when the lens was near the telephoto position. The S7000 did a pretty good job focusing in low light, as well.
I did notice that both the LCD and EVF pause for a second when you halfway-press the shutter release button, which may be a problem for action shots.
Shutter lag was not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed is superb -- you can take another shot as fast as you can compose it (assuming the post-shot review is turned off). Fuji definitely has the shooting performance thing nailed on their higher end cameras.
By setting "image view" in the setup menu to "preview", the camera will let you decide whether to keep or delete a photo after it is taken.
Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.
|Resolution||Quality||Approx. File Size||# photos on 16MB card (included)|
(4048 x 3040)
(2848 x 2136)
(2016 x 1512)
(1600 x 1200)
(1280 x 960)
Interpolation is a subject that must be mentioned when reviewing a SuperCCD-based camera. As you know, the S7000 has 6.3 million pixels, but it's capable of generating images with twice that many pixels. How? Interpolation is the answer. In (very) simple terms, the camera is "guessing" at the data that makes up the 12M image. That always leads to digital artifacts like noise. You'll see plenty of discussion about noise below.
As with other
recent Fuji cameras, there's a CCD-RAW mode on the S7000. If you want to
view the images in your favorite software, first you'll need to use Fuji's
RAW converter software. It will convert the image into a TIFF file, which
you can later convert to JPEG or whatever else you'd like. There's no performance
hit when shooting in RAW mode (except that your memory card fills up faster).
It would've been nice to have a RAW/6M image, but apparently that's not possible
due to the design of the sensor. The camera always records images at 12M,
and it then downsizes them to the chosen resolution.
[Paragraph updated 10/30/03, 5pm; Thanks Karl & Jake]
The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card. This is something that the S602 could not do.
The FinePix S7000 has a attractive, easy-to-use menu system. It doesn't have all the crazy manual features like some Canon and Nikon camera, but they've got the important things covered. The menu items are:
The S7000 lets you store two custom white balance settings into memory -- very nice.
The multi AF mode lets you choose exactly what the camera focuses. You do this by holding down the one-touch AF button and using the four-way controller. There are 49 points to choose from (7 x 7).
By turning the mode dial to the "set" position, you can access the setup menu. It has the following options:
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The S7000 turned in a good performance in the macro test. Color and detail both seem fine to me. The S7000 offers two macro modes: normal and super. In normal mode, the focal range is a fairly normal 10 - 80 cm. The real action i with super macro mode, where you can get as close as 1 cm to your subject. Do note that the lens is locked at the wide-angle position in super macro mode.
The S7000 is capable of taking good night shots like the one you see above, though you'll probably need to use the "M" mode. That's because the slowest shutter speed you can use in auto mode is 1/4 sec, and in "S" and Night Scene mode it's 3 seconds. "M" mode is the only way to get at the full range of shutter speeds. The results above are good, with minimal purple fringing, plenty of light, and low noise levels (though there seem to be several little "hot pixels").
Sorry that the full size images are a little crooked.
Now, let's a look at how changing the ISO sensitivity affects image noise:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you'd expect, noise levels increase along with the ISO sensitivity. Even at ISO 800, the noise isn't too horrible.
The S7000's pop-up flash means no redeye. There's a bit of what I'd call flash reflection, but no red.
The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion, and no vignetting (darkened corners).
And now we've reached my least favorite part of camera reviews: image quality discussion.
Like all of Fuji's SuperCCD-based cameras, you should consider the S7000 as a 6 Megapixel camera with a 12 Megapixel mode that should only be used for making large prints. Viewed at 100%, the 12M images are very noisy:
View Full Size Image
All that noise reduces the detail in your images! You'll get much better results by shooting in 6M mode:
View Full Size Image
But even then, the images are still very noisy for a camera shooting at its native resolution (have a look at the sky). I think this is probably due to overaggressive image processing and too much JPEG compression.
Two other ways to reduce noise in 12M mode are to shoot in RAW mode, or turn the sharpening down to low -- or both.
RAW -> TIFF -> JPEG
Download Full Size Image (warning: large ZIP file; requires RAW converter)
View Full Size Image
RAW -> TIFF -> JPEG
Download Full Size Image (warning: large ZIP file; requires RAW converter)
View Full Size Image
The problem with always shooting in RAW mode is that your memory card will quickly fill up. Also, all your images will need to be post-processed. If you're willing to live with those two things, then shoot in RAW mode. As someone who wants my pictures without a lot of hassle, I'd just shoot in 6M -- possibly at soft sharpness, depending on your tastes.
For a few more comparisons, I took the S7000 and two other cameras out for some test shots. Camera #1 was my own Canon EOS-D60, which is comparable to the Digital Rebel which costs only $899. If someone is already willing to spend $700 or more on a camera, what's a few hundred more, right? Camera #2 was the Pentax Optio 555, a compact 5 Megapixel camera with a 5X zoom (which also has a small, pixel-packed CCD).
I shot all the photos at the highest quality setting and lowest ISO (which is unfortunately 200 on the S7000), with everything else at defaults.
Old St. Mary's Church
View S7000 Image (6M)
View S7000 Image (6M/soft)
View D60 Image
View Optio 555 Image
Chinatown Grant St. Gate
View S7000 Image (6M)
View D60 Image
View Optio 555 Image
As you'd expect, the D60 and it's larger sensor came out ahead of the pack. But I also think that the Optio performed better than the S7000. The two examples above are some of the best pictures I took with the S7000 (see the gallery for some bad ones).
The bottom line is that Fuji needs to get their act together in the noise department - and turning the JPEG down a notch would be a nice bonus. They certainly have the color and exposure parts down. The S7000 also has higher than average purple fringing, which is fairly typical of big zoom cameras.
As always, you may not agree with my conclusions -- and you're welcome to. But do have a look at the full photo gallery to see how the images look to your eyes.
Much like on the S602, the movie mode on the S7000 is as good as it gets. You can shoot VGA quality video (640 x 480) at 30 frames/second, until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as well. A 320 x 240, 30 frame/second mode is also available.
You can store a grand total of 13 seconds of VGA video on the included 16MB xD card (or 26 seconds at 320 x 240). Stuff in a 1GB CompactFlash card and you can record over 15 and 30 minutes, respectively.
As you'd expect, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's a fairly short movie -- but be warned, it's a big download since it's 640 x 480. The quality is quite impressive for a digicam.
Click to play movie (12.2MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the S7000 is pretty standard-issue. Basic features here include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge your image anywhere from 8-25X, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. When you enlarge an image, you have the option to trim (crop) it down. The zoom and scroll feature is a little on the slow side.
The S7000 allows you to add 30 second voice clips to each image.
The S7000 doesn't normally show you any exposure info while in playback mode. That can quickly be resolved by pressing the Info button on the side of the camera. You'll then see the info and histogram above-right.
The camera moves though photos quickly in playback mode, with about a 1/2 delay between high res images.
How Does it Compare?
The Fuji FinePix S7000 is a camera with a lot of potential that was ultimately a let down in the image quality department. In what seems to be a trend lately on their cameras, Fuji is processing and compressing their images to death, causing higher than average noise and other digital junk. I can live with a little "grain" in images, but when it starts eating away at details, it's too much.
The best way to get good images out of the S7000 is to shoot in CCD-RAW mode with the sharpening set to "soft". But then you'll have to post-process all your images, which is something that I (personally) don't want to do. Also, as each RAW image takes up 13MB, you'll quickly burn through the average memory card. Shooting at the 6M setting is advisable in most situations, as the 12M modes are just too noisy to be useful, except for when you know you're making large prints. If Fuji could just get the noise under control (firmware upgrade?) they'd have a much more compelling product, as color and exposure were both very good.
Other highlights of the S7000 include its 6X optical zoom lens, full manual controls, hot shoe, manual zoom/focus ring, and support for add-on lenses. The performance of the camera is as good as it gets in all areas. The VGA movie, macro, and burst modes are top-notch, as well. Those of you with a large collection of CompactFlash cards will be pleased to see that the camera has a slot for them, but it appears to be limited to those with capacities under 2GB. The build quality of this large camera is very good.
There were also some other things unrelated to image quality that bugged me about the S7000. For one, the zoom ring is too unresponsive -- I didn't want to use it. The manual focus feature would be far more useful if there was some kind of guide on the LCD showing the current focus distance. I'm also not a fan of Fuji saving the full range of shutter speeds for "M" mode only.
I've been disappointed by the images produced by cameras using the SuperCCD HR sensor (on the S5000 and now the S7000), and I've seen plenty of "regular folks" who feel the same way. A camera can have the fanciest movie mode in the world, but it doesn't matter if the pictures don't look good. The S7000 was a camera that I wanted to love, but there are many other cameras out there that take far better pictures.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
There are a whole bunch of other cameras worth looking at, including the Canon Digital Rebel and PowerShot G5, HP Photosmart 945, Minolta DiMAGE A1, Nikon Coolpix 5400 and 5700, Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom and C-750 Ultra Zoom, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 and DSC-F828.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix S7000 before you buy!
See how the photo quality stacks up in our photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Get a different opinion at Steve's Digicams.
Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.
Keep in mind that this review is just one person's opinion. Your conclusion may be different than the one above.
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