Fuji Finepix S9000 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The Fuji Finepix S9000 produces amazing pictures. Even though it sports a 9 megapixel sensor comparable in size to other high-end fixed lens cameras, its images exhibit very low levels of noise. Specifically, color noise is extremely low and even close that of low-end DSLR cameras such as the Nikon D70, Nikon D100, Olympus E-300 and the Pentax *ist DS. Luminance noise is very low, not as low as color noise but lower than any camera of its class. Interestingly, the Fuji Finepix F10 does exhibit less noise, probably because of its lower pixel count. Noise levels are kept quite low at all ISO sensitivities, this can be seen in the day and night 100% crops.
There is however some detail erosion which is barely visible at ISO 400. Detail erosion increases at ISO 800 and even more at ISO 1600. Still, keep in mind that this is far better than any camera in this class. Since the S9000 produces 9 megapixel images, these crops when displayed on a high-resolution computer monitor128 DPI assumed would be part of an image over 27" wide. Once scaled to standard print sizes, detail erosion and noise are nearly invisible. Check out our scaled 4x6 and 9x12 images.
The S9000 captures detailed images with exceptional sharpness at all focal lengths. In macro and super-macro mode, the lens still captures plenty of details and preserves sharpness up to the edges of the frame. Only a very slight amount of softness is detectable near the corners of the images in macro mode. Super macro mode shows just slightly more softness. Overall, this 10.7X optical zoom lens is clearly of very high-quality. The only shortcoming of this lens is its small maximum aperture at the telephoto end (F4.9) which encourages the use of high-ISO to avoid blur from camera shake. Instead it would be preferable if the camera had some form of stabilization.
The Fuji S9000 produces images with beautiful colors which appear a bit over-saturated. This is designed for consumer appeal but can be toned down (one step only), producing more natural looking images. Sharpness, saturation and contrast can also be increased or decreased by one step. The sharpness settings are unfortunately too fine to make a visible difference in printed images. The S9000's image's have excellent dynamic range and contrast, capturing details in both highlights and shadows. The contrast setting can either widen or narrow the range captured. This camera has visibly more dynamic range than other cameras with similarly sized sensors.
As for speed, this camera is about average. It focuses rapidly at wide angle but quite slowly at telephoto, probably due to its small maximum aperture. Low light focusing is also very good at wide angle with one of the most effective and powerful focus assist lamp we have seen. The S9000 does have trouble focusing at telephoto in low-light beyond the reach of the assist lamp. Under low-light or low-contrast, there were even occasional focus misses. This is where manual focus normally comes in handy but, as we said before, the LCD is too coarse for precise focusing.
Shot-to-shot speed is slower than average and so is image browsing. By far, the slowest operation is changing from photography mode to playback mode which takes roughly 4 seconds. The camera seems to clear its buffer rapidly but while it does so, it locks up and the menus cannot be used. As for battery-life, it is reasonably good but not exceptional, but this can easily be forgiven for the convenience of AA batteries.
It is clear that the Fuji Finepix S9000 delivers images of outstanding quality with extremely low noise, great sharpness, good detail and nicely saturated colors. At all ISO settings, the S9000 bested all cameras in its class. With a fantastic 10.7X mechanically linked wide-angle optical zoom lens and such image quality, the S9000 presents a viable alternative to entry-level digital SLR cameras which would be less convenient and more expensive when equipped with lenses to cover a similar range.
For its superb images, the S9000 compromises in operating speed and poor ergonomics. The shot-to-shot times, focusing speed, playback speed of the S9000 are all less than average. The main problems with the S9000 are its ergonomics which frequently get in the way of taking pictures efficiently. Mostly the menu system is clunky and requires too many clicks while other settings behave in unexpected ways.
For uncompromised image quality at a good price, the Fuji Finepix S9000 is
the camera to get. For someone who prefers better ergonomics and is ready to
accept less image quality (particularly more high-ISO noise), there are great
alternatives such as the Konica-Minolta Dimage A2
Konica-Minolta Dimage A2. For those who aren't ready to compromise either way, the digital SLR way is the way to go. Keep in mind that there are significant work flow differences between a fixed lens camera and a DSLR, see out Digital SLR Difference feature for details.
Fuji S9000 Facts
|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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