Fuji Finepix S9000 Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
While the basic camera operation of the S9000 is strait forward, in use its ergonomics can be a pain to use and even frustrating at times. Note that we saved the best for last and this is not the last part of the review!
The S9000 is turned on by a rotating switch surrounding the shutter release. Like all switches on this camera, it feels solid and has nice well-defined positions with audible clicks. The power switch has 3 positions: off, playback and photography. Since there is no other way to pan, zoom and delete images without entering playback mode, the camera must be switched mode quite often. Switching to playback mode takes about 4 secondsExcept when there are no images, which is way too slow. This seriously affects one of the joys of having a digital camera, which is to review pictures on the spot.
One of the pleasures of a few digital cameras is a mechanical optical zoom lens. Fuji has equipped the S9000 with a large zoom ring which is easy to grab and turns very smoothly. Having a mechanical zoom ring means that zooming from 28 mm to 300 mm can be done in a quarter second and there are no zoom steps to interfere with precise framing. There is also an electronic focus ring which also turns very smoothly. Since it is not linked mechanically, it feels kind of loose. It also does not seem sensitive enough (although this is subjective).
The shutter release is pretty standard with a slight halfway point. The photography mode and control dial both feel quite good with indentations to facilitate gripping. There are a few functions which get their own buttons which must be pressed either alone or while rotating the control dial. These buttons are: exposure compensation, flash mode, drive mode, auto-exposure lock, EVF/LCD switch, focus check, display, info, macro mode, spot focus, custom white balance and flash release. It is great to see so many important features get their own buttons. The only important functions missing their own buttons are white balance and ISO sensitivity. The auto-exposure lock button is a bit too far to be comfortable. The INFO button toggles the amount of information displayed, while the display button changes what is displayed. Having these two features separate spares the user some button presses which would be otherwise necessary. The spot focus is also a welcome button not often seen on digital cameras. In manual focus mode, the spot focus button lets the camera establish focus at the center of the image, basically setting a starting point from which to adjust focus manually. There are also 2 rotating switches, one for the metering and one for the focus mode. While good to have, the metering switch is a bit small and hard to grip because its very close to the EVF. The flash release switch is a hardware switch which releases the built-in flash. Flash modes settings are only applied when the built-in flash is up.
The Finepix S9000 has essentially 2 menu buttons, one labeled FKnown from other Fuji cameras as the Finepix menu and one labeled MENU/OK. The F button summons the quick access menu which allows changing 3 options: image resolution, ISO sensitivity and color mode. Fuji needs to learn that, of these 3 options, only ISO is frequently changed. This would be a good place for actually important settings which don't have external buttons like white-balance. Well, at least there is a button for custom white balance! At least this menu is fairly simple to use. We unfortunately don't have the same opinion of the other menu system. The menu which appears when you press the MENU button is very similar to the highly criticized menu on the Fuji Finepix F10. Consequently, it has the same shortcomings. That menu is full of small icons and text only appears when an option is highlighted. This implies that if you don't know which icon corresponds to what, you have to search through items one by one. This menu must be used to change white-balance and focus modes which requires too many clicks.
The self timer options (either 2 second or 10 second) must also be selected using the full menu. Not only does this require too many clicks, but it resets each time. Common practice, based on work flow, would be to reset the 10 second timer each time but not the 2 second timerPentax and Konica-Minolta cameras have been doing this for years. A nice feature of the timer is that it displays a countdown. Another missing feature that only Konica-Minolta seems to offer is the auto-switching between the LCD and the EVF based on a proximity sensor. Its not essential, but one gets used to it very fast. Speaking of the LCD and EVF, they are both easily visible in low-light and in bright sunlight. The active display can be brightened by pressing the DISP button simultaneously with the exposure compensation button, thus improving visibility in extreme lighting conditions.
Hang on, we are almost over with our ergonomic complaints
about this camera! Many
of these problems are not unique to this camera, but Fuji is behind other
manufacturers in this respect and it would make the camera much more enjoyable
if these problems were solved. The pan and zoom feature for reviewing images
is quite weird. The 4-way controller is used to for both 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 the S9000 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 (and horizontal arrows are
used for panning), then pan and zoom is aborted.
There are plenty of other minor things to complain about. For one, there are many settings which are not available at certain times. The Auto ISO and the long-period continuous drive mode options are not available in Program (P), Shutter-Priority (S), Aperture Priority (A) and Manual (M) mode. The full range of shutter speeds and apertures are only available in manual mode. We know that Olympus has also limited shutter-speeds in semiautomatic modes, but this is the first time we saw apertures being limitedF9 to F11 are only available in Manual mode. Another minor annoyance was the camera strap eyelet being too close to the memory card door which caused the strap to get in the way of closing the compartment door. Finally, the Finepix S9000's manual, which luckily comes in printed format, has way too much fine print.
Fuji S9000 Facts
Large digital camera
|9 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 80-1600|
|10.7X Mechanically Linked Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-30s|
|0.44" Built-in EVF 235K Pixels||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|1.5 FPS Drive, 4 Images||Custom white-balance|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|1.8" LCD 118K Pixels||Hot-Shoe|
|Standard AA Battery|
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