Fujifilm FinePix SL240 Review
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The Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is a chunky superzoom bridge-style digital camera which sports a 14 megapixel sensor, wide-angle 24x optical zoom and 3 inch LCD screen. There's also lots of shooting modes to assist in everyday photography such as Face recognition, manual shooting modes, Blink detection and Dual image stabiliser. With a menu system blatantly bereft of digital filters and Instagram style effects, can the image quality of the SL240 support it? In this expert review, we'll take a look and find out. The Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is available in black, white and red officially costing £219.99.
Ease of Use
Bridge cameras are a funny sort. Generally they're very straight forward to use - like a digital compact in the shape of a DSLR. But then out of the crowd, what appears to be a little cracker pops it's head up and makes everyone take notice. On the surface, the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is such a camera. It has many similar features of other bridge cameras such as manual controls, a large focal length and a full auto mode if at all gets too much.
The Fujifilm FinePix SL240 looks to add appeal to the more serious photographer by adding a couple of interesting features. First of all, as well as the zoom rocker around the shutter release there's a separate zoom switch located on the left of the lens barrel. This is ideal when holding the camera using the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) as that's where your thumb naturally falls. Then looking on top of the camera, there's a hot-shoe. If you're unfamiliar with this device, it's a metal slot that allows you to fit external flash or accessory trigger units onto the camera. The SL240 does have a flash, it's a pop-up type that is activated by pressing the mechanical release button on the side of the camera.
The manual controls are accessed via the command dial on the top plate. This dial is designed for fast access to different shooting modes. It has a mixture of pre-programmed and programmable modes such as Auto, SR (Scene Recognition) Auto which will analyse the frame and select the appropriate shooting mode to get the best results. There's also Panorama, Scenes, Video and in the programmable modes, you can choose from Program (P), Shutter priority (S), Aperture priority (A) and Manual (M). There's also a Custom option should be getting adventurous. Simply turn the dial to the desired mode and the camera will set itself into what you settle on.
To use the manual modes, you have to press the Exposure compensation button on the back of the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 (denoted by the +/- symbol) and you make adjustments by pressing up or down for the shutter speed then left and right to adjust the aperture. If you're in either A or S modes, you only need up or down. These functions sound complicated, but they're explained very clearly on the screen and a handy slider will let you know when the image is properly exposed. It allows you much more freedom to be creative and not have the camera decide what looks best in your photography.
The rest of the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 seems to be set-up for the more in-depth photographer. On other bridge cameras in the Fujifilm range such as the S4200, there's a face detection button sat just behind the shutter release on the edge of the grip. However, on the SL240, this has been replaced by a metering button. Much more useful to a photographer who can understand how light works. The burst mode button is still in the same place just to the right of the shutter release and the FinePix button is also on the top right shoulder.
On past cameras, this has had a plethora of features, film simulations and other fun things to do. The Fujifilm FinePix SL240 has had all this stripped out. The FinePix button now has three modes: ISO, resolution and FinePix colour. The latter option allows you to choose between Standard colour, Chrome (slide film - slightly cooler colours to emulate Fuji 35mm film) and Black & white. In the past there's been Reala, Provia and Astia simulations, so it's a shame to not see them more regularly. Still, times move on and maybe not as many people remember these films?
The exterior of the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is plastic with not much known about the interior. We can take an educated guess at a reinforced polycarbonate chassis. Despite the plastic casing, it seems solid enough but seems to lack that brick-like feeling that is associated with a metal body. Buttons are clicky and firm. Slightly larger than normal and we like it. The command dial also has a firmness to it which could make operation in cold conditions uncomfortable, but it's a sacrifice we'll make to ensure it doesn't get dislodged in the camera bag.
The screen is a 3in LCD which is bright, but does suffer from some motion blur. The extra zoom switch on the lens barrel and hot-shoe on the camera gives the impression that it's a higher classification and - ergo - higher priced. It has to be remembered that it's a £135 camera and there are certain requirements needed to keep it at that price. The HDMI door is a floppy rubber type and the tripod bush is made of plastic. It does take a lithium ion battery, though.
The menu system on the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is as easy to use as any other Fujifilm camera. Back in the early days of digital photography when 2 or 3 million pixels was considered huge, Fujifilm led the way with ultra-easy menu systems for the layman. They've kept much of the original easiness although they've gone a little off kilter in recent years. The addition of the F button is really redundant as the three options in there are duplicated in the Main menu. Also, they have a feature called Photometry. It's basically metering modes but they've given it a unnecessarily complex name. To save money on adding a wheel to change the shutter speed or aperture, they've added a routine of pressing the Exposure compensation button before making adjustments. It would be easier with a wheel.
From the off position, the SL240 can start up, focus and take a picture in just under 3 seconds. This is consistent with other Fujifilm cameras (especially bridge models) but is slightly slower than other compact cameras. Shutter lag is the time between focusing and taking a picture. There's the photographers reactions to consider, however, we use a system that allows us to pre-empt the shot, thereby all but eliminating reflex delay. We got results of around 0.08sec which is standard for a digital compact camera.
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The Fujifilm FinePix SL240 has a number of burst and continuous shooting modes which are accessed by pressing the burst mode button on the grip just behind the shutter release. The Long Period mode in the middle of the menu is what would normally be called Continuous. It starts off quite fast, then slows down. In a ten second period, we took eight shots in total. It takes three images in the first second, before slowing down to give the buffer time to download onto the card. This test also took until 22 seconds to finish downloading onto the card. There's a Top6 mode which will take six continuous, evenly spread images before stopping. You can't take more and it takes an age to download them onto the card. Final6 will constantly take pictures as long as you hold the button down but only records the last six taken after you remove your finger from the shutter release.
Images already taken can be viewed regardless of whether the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 is on or off by pressing the indented playback button. If the camera is off, the button has to be held down so that the camera recognises your requirement and that you haven't simply caught the button by mistake. Your pictures are shown full screen with some basic shooting information on-screen. Press the Display button at the bottom of the camera and you can scroll between having information on, no info or images you've tagged as favourites. In the menu, you can create a list of photographs to go in a Photobook, search for images (as long as you've tagged them) and perform some very basic editing such as red-eye removal, crop, resize and rotate. You can also protect images, create a print order and even mark them for upload to popular social networking sites.
In the box, the Fujifilm FinePix SL240 comes with a lithium ion battery, charger, cables and neck strap. There's also a lens cap. The paperwork includes a basic manual which, essentially, gets you shooting while the full manual is on the enclosed CD as is MyFinePix Studio version 3.2, a basic editing suite.