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Fuji Finepix S9000 Review

9 Megapixels9 MegapixelsUltra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Ultra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Electronic View FinderElectronic View FinderVGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.VGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringRuns on standard AA batteriesRuns on standard AA batteriesAccepts Compact Flash memory.Accepts Compact Flash memory.Accepts xD memory.Accepts xD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

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.

Fuji Finepix S9000 controls

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.

Fuji Finepix S9000 controls

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 Finepix S9000
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By on 2005/05/05
3

Fuji S9000 Facts

Large digital camera
9 Megapixels Ultra ZoomISO 80-1600
10.7X Mechanically Linked Wide Optical ZoomShutter 1/4000-30s
0.44" Built-in EVF 235K PixelsFull manual controls, including Manual Focus
1.5 FPS Drive, 4 ImagesCustom white-balance
640x480 @ 30 FPS Video RecordingSpot-Metering
1.8" LCD 118K PixelsHot-Shoe
Standard AA Battery
Compact Flash
xD
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