Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom
Review Date: 12th April 2004
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom is definitely not in the pocketable category of digital cameras - you will need to carry it in a camera bag. What can only be described as the chunky hand-grip on the right of the camera makes it very comfortable to hold with just one hand, although you may want to use your left hand to steady things. The zoom buttons are very well positioned in a recessed area just where your right thumb naturally sits, with the exposure mode and aperture/shutter speed dials handily positioned above. The Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom is one of the heavier digital cameras on the market, weighing 500g without batteries and storage cards fitted, but this I think this actually counts in its favour, as it has a reassuring balance to it without being too heavy. Although it's not the smallest or lightest camera around, the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom instantly feels intuitive to hold and use.
There are quite a lot number of external controls and buttons on the camera (around 20), but most of them are clearly labeled and common to most mid-range digital cameras. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the manual before you start is a good idea. For more experienced users, a quick look through the manual for the few functions that are not so self-explanatory is all that's needed. There's a fairly traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the different exposure modes; Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes. Fujifilm have wisely integrated all of the scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene) into one option on the dial, called SP. Choosing this brings up an on-screen menu, from which you can select a particular scene mode. The other two options are Movie and Set, which allows you to change various functional settings of the camera, such as date/time and whether RAW mode is on or off.
Unfortunately, the same comments that I made in previous reviews about the Fujifilm M603's and FinePix F700's zoom control also apply to the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom, so at the risk of being boring I'll repeat myself again. One thing that initially confused me is that the optical zoom and digital zoom are integrated together. When you zoom in and out, a horizontal bar appears at the top of the LCD screen with a vertical mark at the middle. A small square indicates what zoom setting the camera is currently set to, with optical zoom shown on the left side of the scale and digital zoom at the right. I didn't realise this and thought that the vertical mark at the middle just indicated the middle setting on the 35-210mm optical zoom. As digital zoom negatively affects image quality, I think Fujifilm should have separated the two types of zoom, not combined them in the way that they have. It may give the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom a greater zoom range, but it does so at the expense of image quality at the longer zoom settings. Worse still, there is no way to turn the digital zoom off.
As with the F700 Zoom digital camera, the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom has a Menu button on the rear of the camera which, as you would expect, gives you access to the software menu system. This lets you set various parameters including focusing, sharpness and white balance. There is also a small silver button with an F on it, which you will know, if you have read my review of the F700 Zoom, opens the Photo Mode menu and allows you to control the file quality setting, ISO speed and colour settings (B&W, Chrome or Standard). I'm not really sure why these 3 settings alone should fall under the heading of Photo Mode, and things like white balance and sharpening are just part of the standard menu. And I'm undecided about whether it is a good idea or not. The F button does give quick access to certain features, but you do have to memorise what another button does.
The digital zoom and F button are really things that you need to learn about, rather than major handling problems, and once you have accessed them a few times they will become second-nature. Unfortunately for the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom there are a couple of things that are a lot more annoying.
The major problem that I found with using the camera is the EVF and LCD displays, or more precisely switching between them. They work very well on their own - the EVF is one of the best that I've looked through and is a pleasure to use, whilst the LCD is bright and sharp enough to frame your subject and review your photos when you've taken them. However, when you want to switch from Camera mode to Play mode, or vice versa, you have to press the EVF/LCD button on the back of the camera to switch between the EVF and LCD displays. This problem doesn't arise if you exclusively use the LCD, but if like me you use the EVF and hold the camera up to your eye to take a photo, and then switch to the LCD to review what you have just taken, you will have to press the EVF/LCD button EVERY time to switch between the two displays. This gets very irritating very quickly if you want to take a photo, review it, take another photo, review it and so on. It's even more irritating because another camera series, the Minolta DiMAGE family of cameras, has already devised a solution. I used to own the 3 megapixel DiMAGE 5 (nearly 3 years old now) and it had a dual EVF/LCD display, but it could automatically recognise when you took your eye away from the EVF and looked at the LCD, and switched between them accordingly. If Minolta had this technology 3 years ago, then surely Fujifilm could come up with something better than a buttons to toggle between the EVF and LCD?
The other issue that I had with the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom is also linked to the EVF and LCD displays. The camera makes a distinct mechanical noise when you move it around, as it tries to focus on whatever you are pointing it at, until it has locked on the subject. This noise is loud enough to catch someone's attention and spoil a candid moment at close quarters, although in most situations it will probably annoy you more than the subject! It's definitely one of the noisier auto-focusing systems that I've used and is especially annoying if you leave the camera turned on all the time.
On the whole the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom is a very well-built, easy to use digital camera that successfully mimics the feel of a 35mm film or digital SLR. Unfortunately it also has a couple of flaws that may detract from the camera's performance, depending on whether you use the EVF or not. The menu system is well-designed and very clear, perfect for both the beginners and more experienced photographers alike that will be interested in the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom. If it wasn't for the display screen issues that I have outlined above, I would have no hesitation in highly recommending this camera from an ease-of-use point of view. As it stands, however, you may want to try the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom before you buy to find out if it suits your way of working.