DCRP Review: Kyocera Finecam S5
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 10, 2003
Last Updated: March 11, 2003

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The Kyocera Finecam S5 ($599) joins the growing field of small, 5 Megapixel cameras. This area has exploded in recent months, with cameras from Canon, HP, Minolta, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony all being introduced. Kyocera is a relative newcomer in the digital camera world, but you wouldn't know it -- my past reviews of their cameras have been positive.

Is the Finecam S5 another quality camera from Kyocera? How does it fare against the competition? Find out now...

Since they are so similar, I will reusing a lot of text from my Finecam S4 review.

What's in the Box?

The Finecam S5 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.0 effective Megapixel Finecam S5 camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • BP-1000S Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC adapter
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Wrist strap
  • CD-ROM including Pixela ImageMixer software and drivers
  • 99 page users guide plus quick start guide (both printed)

Like most ultra-small cameras, the Finecam S5 uses a proprietary Lithium-ion battery. These batteries are very expensive at $46 a pop. The one used here has 3.6 Watt/hours of power, which is an improvement over the 3.2 Wh battery included with the S4. Kyocera estimates that you can take around 180 pictures per charge, or spend 3 hours in playback mode. That's about average for cameras like this.

AC adapter and included battery

To charge the battery, or just power the camera, you just plug the included AC adapter into the camera. Charging the camera’s battery takes a lengthy 5 hours.

Kyocera includes a 16MB Secure Digital card with the camera, which is tiny for a 5 Megapixel camera. You'll want to buy a larger card as soon as possible. The Finecam supports SD or MultiMedia (MMC) cards.

Also like other tiny cameras, the S5 has a built-in lens cover.

The only accessories I could find for the Finecam S5 are a carrying case and a fast (1 hour) battery charger.

Kyocera includes an older version of Pixela's decent ImageMixer software. The version included is NOT Mac OS X native, so you have to run it in classic mode. The camera works fine with Mac OS X (iPhoto and Image Capture) and Windows XP as well.

The Finecam’s manual is complete, covering everything you need to know, but finding the information can be challenging at times. In other words, it's about average.

Look and Feel

The Finecam S5 is a well-designed, small metal camera. Controls are well-placed, and the camera is (usually) easy to operate. The build quality is comparable to other models in its class.

In terms of size, the S5 fits into any pocket with ease. It can be operated with one hand, if you desire.

The official dimension of the S5 are 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs just 165 grams (empty).

Let's begin our 360 degree tour of the Finecam S5 now!

The Finecam S5 features a Kyocera 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 7.3 – 21.9 mm -- that’s equivalent to 35 – 105 mm. The maximum aperture is F2.8 – F4.8. The lens is not threaded.

Just above the lens is the flash. The S5 has one of those annoying pop-up flashes that is always in the up position when the camera is on. It gets in the way of your left hand, in my opinion. Also, you don't want to block it or push it down a bit while using the flash. I wish that you could put it back down if you don’t want to use it, but no such luck. The working range of the flash is 0.6 – 2.5 m at wide-angle and 0.6 – 2.0 m at telephoto. An external flash is not available.

That’s about it for the front of the camera. Sadly, the S5 lacks any kind of autofocus assist lamp.

Here now is the back of the camera.

The Finecam S5 has a nice, small 1.6” LCD display, typical of these small cameras. Images on the LCD are fluid and bright. Kyocera says it only has 85,000 pixels but the resolution seems a lot better than that. LCD brightness is adjustable via the setup menu.

Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is also small, but that’s pretty normal for these tiny cameras. It shows 80% of the frame. There is no diopter correction feature, so those of you who don’t have perfect vision may not see too clearly.

Directly to the right of the LCD is the speaker. Below that is the four-way switch, used for menu navigation as well as these functions:

  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off, fill flash, flash slow sync)
  • Focus (Macro/Landscape) - there is a manual focus function as well; I'll cover it later

Below that are buttons for Display and Menu. The former will toggle the LCD and it's info on and off. The Menu button is self-explanatory.

Above the speaker, you'll find the mode switch. It moves the camera between setup, playback, record, and movie mode.

To the right of that is the zoom controller. It moves the zoom quickly (perhaps too much so) from wide to telephoto in a little over a second. The lens is a little noisy.

Below the zoom controller is the release for the door covering the memory card slot.

Here's a quick glimpse of the top of the camera. The items up here are the microphone and power and shutter release buttons. You can also see the (closed) popup flash, which opens when the camera is turned on, and automatically retracts when it is shut off.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the battery compartment. Opening the plastic door was more difficult than it should be, and I was also concerned that you could break it off if you forced it.

On the other side is the SD/MMC memory card slot and the I/O ports. To remove the SD card, you just push it inward and it pops out.

The I/O ports are for USB, A/V, and DC-in (for included AC adapter).

The included 16MB SD card is also shown.

Lastly, here is the bottom of the camera, where you'll find the plastic (I think) tripod mount. The tripod mount is neither inline with the lens, nor in the center of the camera.

Using the Kyocera Finecam S5

Record Mode

The Finecam takes about 6 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start shooting, which is on the slow side. Autofocus speeds have been greatly improved on the Finecam S5 versus the S4. It will take around one second to lock focus -- sometimes less, sometimes more. As you might expect, the camera had some trouble focusing when the lighting was dim. Shutter lag is noticeable but not terrible. I recommend turning off the phony shutter sound, as it can make you move the camera prematurely, thinking that the photo was taken.

Shot-to-shot speed is good. You'll wait a little over two seconds before you can take another shot, at the fine image quality setting.

Speaking of image quality settings, here's a chart of the various image size and quality choices available on the Finecam S5:

Resolution Quality Approx. File Size # Images on 16MB card
2592 x 1944 Fine 2.5 MB 5
Normal 1.3 MB 10
1600 x 1200 Fine 1 MB 13
Normal 500 KB 25
1280 x 960 Fine 660 KB 20
Normal 360 KB 37
640 x 480 Fine 210 KB 64
Normal 140 KB 100

As you can see, that 16MB SD card is way too small. The Finecam S5 does not have a TIFF or RAW file mode.

Files are named KIF_####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even as you erase and switch memory cards.

The Finecam S5 has an overlay-style menu, as well as a "full menu" hidden behind it. The items in the overlay menu include:

  • Self-timer (2 or 10 sec)
  • Pixels (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, incandescent, cloudy, fluorescent, preset)
  • Set details - opens the full menu shown below

Before we go on, a note about white balance. The S5 has a manual ("preset") white balance mode, so you can get great white balance even with the lighting is tricky.

Here are the items in the more traditional menu:

  • Color mode (Color, B&W, sepia)
  • Chroma [contrast] (+, standard, -)
  • Sharpness (+3 to -1, in 1 step increments)
  • WB Preset - sets the manual white balance
  • AE mode (Program, F2.8, F9.6) - allows you to set the aperture or let the camera decide
  • Focusing (Wide AF, Spot AF, MF) - see below
  • Long exposure (Off, 2, 4, 8 secs) - this is the extent of the manual shutter speed controls
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • Metering mode (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot area)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - increase your focal range by up to 4X at the expense of image quality

Manual focus mode

There are three focus modes on the S5. Wide AF uses a wide area of the frame, while Spot AF uses a small area in the center. If you want to manually focus, you can do that too. A meter is shown on the LCD providing a (very) approximate idea of the focal length. I would've liked it if the camera enlarged the image so you can ensure that your subject is in focus.

There is also a setup menu on the S5, which is accessed via the mode switch. The interesting items here include:

  • LCD brightness (+2 to -2, in 1 step increments)
  • Insert date (on/off) - prints the date on your photos
  • Power save (Off, 1, 3, 6 mins)
  • Mode lock (on/off) - saves settings even when camera is powered off
  • Color select (Yellow, red, purple, blue) - choose the color of the menus (ohhh)
  • Start screen (Kyocera, custom, off) - use the standard Finecam startup screen or use your own photo.
  • Rec review (Off, 2, 4 sec) - how long a photo is shown on the LCD after it is taken
  • Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • File numbering (reset) - reset the file numbers

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of menus. Let's talk photos now.

The Finecam did a fine job with the macro test shot. Colors ar what I'd call "vibrant" and the subject is fairly sharp. The focal range in macro mode is 12 - 55 cm.

Manual shutter speed controls allow you to take night shots like the one above. I don't care for the choices of 2, 4, and 8 seconds though. For this photo, 4 seconds was too long, and 2 seconds was too little. The photo above came out well, though the color is off (too yellow). I suspect tweaking the white balance could've made things less yellow, but I wasn't about to try it in the freezing cold of Twin Peaks.

Redeye is pretty much a given with a compact camera. Even with a popup flash, the S5 still exhibits this annoying phenomenon. This can be corrected in software of course, but I'm sure most folks would prefer not to have to deal with it. There was a fair amount of noise (you can see it in this crop) in the shot as well.

Our new (and completely unscientific) distortion test illustrates the noticeable barrel distortion at wide-angle, but there's no sign of vignetting (darkened corners). One other thing that I noticed, which is hard to see here, is some blurriness in the top-left corner.

The image quality on the Finecam S5 was a mixed bag. Colors and exposure were usually fine, but images are much noisier than most other 5 Megapixel cameras I've tested. Almost any image in the gallery will illustrate this. The noise is high enough that it "muddies up" the image... so detailed subjects like trees, grass, and roofs look like one big mass, rather than individual leaves or tiles. This will make more sense when you view the images at 100%. Of course, if you're printing at 4 x 6 or downsizing images, it's not a huge deal, but for larger prints it certainly is.

One area in which the S5 didn't have problems was purple fringing. It wasn't a problem.

Please check out the gallery and judge the noise level and image quality with your own eyes!

Movie Mode

Kyocera has improved the movie mode on the S5 since I last used one of their cameras. You can record up to 30 seconds of 320 x 240 video, or 120 seconds at 160 x 120. Sound is recorded as well.

If you turn on sound recording, the zoom lens cannot be used during filming.

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

Here's a sample movie for you. It's pretty blurry for some reason -- maybe too much compression.

Click to play movie (1.2MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Finecam has a good playback mode, with the familiar features all present. Those include slide shows, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, and image protection.

The usual "zoom and scroll" feature is here too. Unfortunately, it's pretty limited, as you can only zoom in 2X.

Two other nice features include image rotation and resizing.

By pressing up on the four-way switch, you can get more information about your photo, as you can see above. THere's no histogram, though.

The S5 moves through images with incredible speed. It's instantaneous as you move from one to the next. The one area where the camera seemed really slow was erasing all photos -- it took an eternity on my 256MB SD card.

How Does it Compare?

The Kyocera Finecam S5 is a decent camera, but definitely not the best in its class. It offers a good amount of features, including a few (limited) manual controls. It has a small, easy to carry metal body. And it has good movie and playback modes. Where the S5 finds itself lagging behind the competition is in terms of photo quality. Images are very noisy -- to the point where it noticeably degrades image quality. For small prints and e-mailing downsized photos, it's fine, but for larger prints you can do better with another camera. Check out the models listed below for some starting points. Other annoyances include the always popped-up flash, and slow write speeds to the SD card.

What I liked:

  • Very small, metal body
  • Easy to use
  • Nice movie, playback mode
  • Good number of manual controls for a point-and-shoot camera

What I didn't care for:

  • Higher than average noise in images
  • Shutter speed, aperture controls too limited
  • Pop-up flash gets in the way
  • No AF illuminator
  • Redeye a problem
  • Poor bundle
  • Write speed to SD card seems unusually slow

Here are some other small 5 Megapixel cameras to check out: Canon PowerShot S50, Fuji FinePix F410 (I suppose), HP Photosmart 935, Konica KD-500Z, Minolta DiMAGE F300, Olympus C-50Z, Pentax Optio 550, and the Sony DSC-P10 and DSC-P92.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Finecam S5 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the samples in our photo gallery!

Want a few more opinions?

None yet.


Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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