Review: Fujifilm FinePix S1

Fujifilm describes its FinePix S1 as the world's first weather-resistant bridge, or ultra-zoom, compact camera.

The S1 has about 70 parts that are weather sealed. Though it is equipped for use in the rain, it is not meant for immersion in water.

At first glance, the S1 looks like a DSLR. That is because it needs to accommodate a whopping 50x optical zoom lens. This lens gives you the ability to shoot nice wide-angle landscapes, but also to zoom in on that gorgeous kingfisher perched on a tree. It also has a fantastic macro ability - shooting at a distance of only 1cm. A DSLR will have difficulty trying to match the S1's focal length range. Plus, it will cost a bomb to do so.

While the S1 is no sylph and will certainly take up considerable space in your bag, it weighs only 680g.

Its build is sturdy and gives you plenty of confidence. From the ergonomic grip to the lens barrel, the whole camera has a rather nice rubberised feel which makes it comfortable to handle. Its dials and controls are easily accessible with your right thumb and fingers.

You can adjust the focal length of the lens either by using the circular zoom lever around the shutter release or the lever on the left side of the lens barrel.

Powering up the camera takes 1sec. Shutdown takes 1.8sec. This is very fast. Its competitors usually take at least 2sec.

Autofocusing (AF) is fast and spot-on in bright light. In dim lighting, the camera managed to lock on to a focus in around 1sec with the help of an AF assist light. This is considered very fast for its class.

The S1 cannot capture RAW images in continuous shooting mode. Using an SD card with 45MB per second writing speed, the S1 managed nine JPEG images in 0.7sec before the buffer ran out.

As with many bridge compact cameras, the image quality was quite disappointing. I do not know if it is because of poor optics or the camera image-processing algorithms.

On the wide-angle and telephoto ranges, the images lack sharpness and details. Purple fringing is clearly visible in high-contrast areas of the images too.

Noise performance is also a letdown. You can see noise artefacts, albeit only a few, even at ISO 100. But at ISO 400, there is smudging and clear detail loss. Avoid anything faster than ISO 400.

Video quality is not bad in bright sunlight but it degrades in dim lighting. It also tends to pick up too much ambient audio, especially the sound of the zooming of the lens.

Battery life is around 350 frames on a full charge, which is average for an ultra-zoom compact camera.

If you want a weather-resistant compact camera with a 50x zoom lens to shoot mainly in the day, the Fujifilm FinePix S1 will be perfect for you.

This article was published on May 7 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.

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