Fuji Finepix S100FS Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The basic camera operation of the Fuji Finepix S100FS is strait forward. Although the number of buttons may seem excessive to some, advanced users appreciate having external controls for commonly used features.
The S100FS is powered on by a rotating switch which surrounds the shutter release. It feels solid and has two well-defined positions with audible clicks. Every other button feels just as solid. The camera has an aggressive auto-sleep feature which turns the camera off after a period of inactivity. Unfortunately, waking the camera up requires moving the power-switch to the Off position and back to On. This makes it slower to wake up than most cameras which are woken up by a half-press of the shutter-release.
A pleasure of few digital cameras is a mechanical zoom lens. Fuji has equipped the S100FS with a large zoom ring which is easy to grab and turns smoothly. Having a mechanical zoom ring means that zooming from 28 mm to 400 mm can be done in a quarter second and there are no zoom steps interfering with precise framing. There is also an electronic focus ring which also turns smoothly. The focus ring has a slight lag which means you turn it and then the camera adjust its focus.
The shutter release is pretty standard. Going to the halfway point requires a moderate amount of travel but triggering the shutter is a hair further. The mode dial is large with good indentations while the control dial has smaller indentations and rotates more easily. A few functions get their own buttons which must be pressed either alone or while rotating the control dial: exposure-compensation, ISO, drive-mode, AE-L, EVF/LCD switch, face-detection mode, playback, display mode, menu, stabilization and AF-On. Note that AF-On only works in manual-focus mode. The only important functions missing their own buttons are white balance and flash-compensation.
Pressing the exposure-compensation button, shows a luminance histogram which is updated in real time as exposure is changed. The Fuji Finepix S100FS is exposure-priority which means it gives an accurate representation of exposure and white-balance most of the time. When the shutter is pressed halfway, the aperture is stopped down which gives a depth-of-field preview. However, when this happens, a gain is not applied to the live-preview and the image may darken. At this point it is important to realize that the correct exposure was shown before and it is the DOF preview which shows incorrect exposure. The LCD is unfortunately not exposure-priority in Manual mode. In shutter and aperture priority modes, the preview behaves a little strangely. It is basically exposure-priority when the exposure parameters are within the camera's range but not when they are outside. This is not the only camera that does this but makes using these modes not entirely WYSIWYG.
The ISO button is also used in conjunction with the control-wheel. It shows the list of possible ISO values, plus 3 Auto settings. Each Auto setting differs in the maximum ISO value that can be chosen. Resolution and dynamic range are automatically adjusted for the chosen ISO when the current setting is incompatible.
The rear of the camera has an AE-L button, within easy reach of your thumb. Depending on a setup option, it either locks or holds the current exposure values. This button is surrounded by a 3-position metering mode dial. Evaluative, center-weighed and spot metering options are supported. Below and to the left is the EVF/LCD toggle switch. Below and to the right is the playback-mode toggle switch. Further below there is a face-detection toggle switch and the Display/Back switch. The Display/Back switch iterates through 3 display modes: normal, image-only and normal with grid. When navigating menus, the Display/Back switch dismisses the menu.
A 4-way control is also found on the camera's back. Its center button is used to activate the menu system and select menu options. Each direction is also assigned a function in shooting mode. To the right, the flash mode can be set, but only when the flash is up. The choices available are Auto, Forced and Slow-Synchro. Down activates a choice of 2 or 10s self-timers. Each time a self-timer is used, it resets itself. Left activates Macro or Super-Macro mode. Up activates digital zoom. What a waste! It would be immensely better if we had access to white-balance here rather than something as useless as digital zoom.
On the left side of the camera, we find the drive-mode, stabilization and spot-focus buttons. The spot focus button is used to engage the AF mechanism while in MF mode. The focus mode selector is located around the spot-focus switch. One can choose between instant focus, continuous focus and manual focus. All buttons are easy to reach and their placement is reasonable.
The menu system is easy to navigate and most options are quite intuitive. The main menu is divided into three pages with one option leading to a 5-page setup menu. Film-simulation, dynamic range and white-balance are changeable through the main menu. Ideally, commonly used option like these should have their own buttons, instead of stabilization, face-detection and digital zoom.
The two remaining items on the camera's back are the EVF and the LCD. The EVF has 200K pixels and is 0.2" diagonally. They do not make EVFs any smaller. Using the EVF therefore requires one to press up against the eye-cup. Motion is fluid and the view is bright though. The 2.5" LCD, composed of 230K pixels, is bright and sharp. Visibility is reasonable in bright light but rather poor in low-light. When the shutter-release is pressed halfway and the aperture is stopped down, the preview often becomes completely black. So, if you will not be able to pre-focusing and waiting for the right moment to snap the picture when light is low.
The pan and zoom feature for reviewing images is a little odd. The 4-way controller is used to for panning and zooming in a way that is just puzzling. The up and down arrows are used for zooming and all the arrows are used for panning. So, how does it known the difference between zooming in and panning up? As soon as you pan either left or right, the vertical arrows will serve panning, the DISP/BACK button will be used to make them back into zooming mode. If the DISP/BACK button is pressed while the vertical arrows are used for zooming, then pan and zoom is aborted.
Fuji S100FS Facts
Large digital camera
|11 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 100-3200|
|14.3X Mechanically Linked Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-30s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.20" Built-in EVF 200K Pixels||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|3 FPS Drive, 7 Images||Spot-Metering|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|2.5" LCD 230K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital High Capacity|
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