Fujifilm Finepix S3500
(Fujifilm Finepix S3100 in the USA)
Review Date: March 15th 2005
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm FinePix S3500 is one of those cameras that instantly feels comfortable to use. It is neither so big that you feel like you need two pairs of hands to operate it, or so small that you can never seem to press the right button. At 285g without batteries or memory cards fitted the FinePix S3000 is not the lightest of cameras, but this gives it a reassuring weight in your hand. Its SLR-like body means that it isn't the most pocketable of cameras, but the chunky hand-grip ensures that the camera that be held comfortably with either one hand or two. I found the FinePix S3500 a joy to use dues to a combination of all these features - the weight, size and SLR styling are just right.
Fuji have also made sure that the FinePix S3500 is well-built. The camera has a quality feel to it which belies its current sub-£200 price. All of the various buttons and switches are well-fitted, and even the battery compartment and memory card door, both typically weak parts of a digital camera, work well despite their plastic construction. The only controls that have a cheap feel are the plastic buttons used for popping up the built-in flash and switching between the EVF and LCD displays. Due to it's rather limited feature list (this is an entry-level camera after all) the FinePix S3000 has an easy to understand layout, both in terms of its menu system and the external controls on the body of the camera. There aren't too many options to frighten off the new digital camera owner, and a more experienced photographer will be up and running in no time at all.
|Arrow Pad (including Zoom Buttons / Macro Button / Flash Button)||Shooting Mode Dial|
The Electronic View Finder (EVF) and LCD screen haven't been upgraded since the older S3000 was first released at the start of 2004. Indeed, the 1.5 inch LCD screen on the S3500 is actually smaller than the 1.8 inch screen on the S3000. More importantly, neither the EVF or the LCD offer 100% of the scene (just 85% and 86% respectively) so that what you see is by no means what you get. You would normally expect to get 95%+ coverage on at least the LCD screen. The EVF also suffers from having a low number of pixels and therefore being rather grainy. Furthermore, it isn't particularly quick at refreshing as you move it around. This has quite a negative impact on the S3500's usability, as the SLR styling of the camera encourages you to hold it up to your eye and use the EVF, rather than hold it at arms length and use the LCD screen.
The main menu system of the FinePix S3500 is as well designed as previous Fujfilm digicams that I have reviewed, and is accessed solely by pressing the Menu button (there is no blue F Photo Mode button as found on a number of Fujifilm digicams). There is a horizontal row of icons along the bottom of the screen, which when selected reveal the options for that particular function, which you then access by scrolling up and down. Very easy to see and access. There are a couple of key features that you won't find in the main menu, which are accessed by pressing the left and right arrows on the arrow pad. These are the macro and flash functions.
|Menu/OK Button / Display/Back Button / LCD/EVF Brightness Control||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time of the Fujifilm Finepix S3500, from turning the camera on to being ready to take a photo, is about average for more recent digital cameras at 1 second. The 6x zoom lens takes less a couple of seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. The zooming mechanism is a little on the noisy side, but not too bad. Focusing, confirmed by a green LED below the electronic viewfinder, is fairly quick in good light, but the camera struggled to achieve focus indoors or in low-light situations, with the red AF warning symbol constantly appearing. Thankfully the shutter lag time of less than 0.25 second is much quicker. The LCD screen is bright and clear and the refresh rate noticeable but perfectly acceptable. It takes about 0.50 second to store an image and the S3500 has no continuous shooting or focusing modes, so it isn't suited for action photography. All in all the Fujifilm Finepix S3500 is average in terms of general operational speed, but not a good choice for taking photos of anything that moves quickly.
Once you have captured a photo, the Fujifilm Finepix S3500 has an average range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, play slideshows with various effects, and zoom in and out of the image. You can also delete an image, trim an image, lock images so that they cannot be deleted, and set various printing options. There is also a very useful histogram feature, accessed by holding down the Exposure Compensation button, which is a great help in evaluating the exposure of each image.
Overall the Fuji Finepix S3500 is a very easy-to-use, SLR-like camera which will perfectly suit the beginner photographer, but which is lacking in a few important areas, notably its autofocusing speed in low-light situations and lack of action-orientated functionality.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Fuji Finepix S3500 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.