Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom
(Fujifilm Finepix S9000 Zoom in the USA)
Review Date: November 28th 2005
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom is the natural evolution of the older S7000 Zoom, but Fujifilm have styled the S9500 to look even more like a digital SLR camera. If you lined up the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom alongside cameras like the Nikon D50, Canon Digital EOS 350D and Konica Minolta 5D, you would be hard pushed to spot the odd camera out at a first glance. All is revealed only when you look at the back of the S9500 when it is turned on, and see the LCD screen showing a live preview of the scene, or if you hold the camera up to your eye and look through the electronic viewfinder. The Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom has similar dimensions and weight to a DSLR, as well as a chunky hand-grip on the right of the camera that makes it possible to hold with just one hand if you so desire. Unfortunately the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom isn't quite as well built overall as most DSLRs. Its all-plastic body has a bit of flex and creak, although it is above average for the super-zoom bracket of compact digital cameras. Fujifilm must be congratulated, however, for almost matching the build quality of a DSLR whilst also squeezing in all the other features into the budget.
The other obvious area where the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom follows the design of a DSLR is the lens. Although this is obviously an integrated, non-removable lens, just like on every other compact digicam, Fujifilm have added a mechanical zooming ring on the lens barrel. After using the various zoom button designs on countless compact digicams, being able to use a "proper" zooming mechanism that works in the same way as on a 35mm SLR lens is a breath of fresh air. I find it much more intuitive, quicker and more precise to use than zoom buttons, and for me personally this would be a big attraction of the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom if I were looking to buy a digital camera. Fujfilm haven't stopped there, though, as they have also included a manual focusing ring, which allows for very precise adjustments when you want to manually fine-tune the focus. Again, much, much better than the convoluted systems that the majority of compact digital cameras offer. One small point though - it's a shame that the zooming ring doesn't automatically over-ride the auto-focusing system. Instead, you have to turn the Focusing dial to Manual before the zooming ring becomes operational.
|Info / Auto-Focus / Macro Buttons||Flash Hotshoe|
There are quite a lot number of external controls and buttons on the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom (around 20 in total), reflecting the fact that this is a complicated camera in the mould of a DSLR. Most of them are thankfully clearly labeled and common to most cameras. There's a 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. The various Scene modes and the Movie mode are also accessed via this dial. As with most other Fujfilm digital cameras, the Fujifilm FinePix S9500 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 auto-focus mode, sharpness, white balance and so on. There is also a small silver button with an F on it, which opens what Fujifilm call the Photo Mode menu. This 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.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and easy-to-follow manual before you start is a must. Thankfully Fujifilm have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you.
The major dislike that I had with the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom is the EVF display, which works very well on its own - the EVF is one of the best that I've looked through and is a pleasure to use - but I still much prefer a traditional, good quality optical viewfinder. As this camera has been designed to replicate a DSLR, that means that you will invariably compose your images by holding the camera up to your eye. I found that the EVF, excellent though it is, doesn't keep up with the eye quite as quickly or precisely as an optical viewfinder, and it also gave me eye-strain after extended periods of use. On the plus side, there is a lot more visual feedback via the EVF than on most optical viewfinders, it offers 100% scene coverage and you can also playback your images on it!
|Mode Dial / Aperture/Shutter Speed Dial||Manual Zoom Ring / Focusing Ring|
The LCD screen is the alternative way of framing your shots. The Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom offers what is a small screen in today's market at 1.8 inches, and it only has a barely-adequate 118,00 pixels. I can't help feeling that Fujifilm realised that most people would hold this camera up to their eye when taking pictures, as that is what the overall design encourages you to do, and therefore they cut corners a little on the specification of the LCD screen. This is especially disappointing given the tilting design of the screen, which provides plenty of opportunity for holding the camera at waist level and taking more candid photos. The LCD screen is big enough to do this, and it does obviously offer a new way of shooting when compared with a DSLR, which must always be held up to eye-level. I guess in the days of 2 and 2.5 inch LCDs that a 1.8 inch screen seems a little behind the times.
The main menu system on the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu/OK button in the middle of the navigation pad. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A vertical row of two tabbed pages along the left sided of the LCD screen represents the sub-menus, with 6 options in each one. At the bottom of the first tab is the Setup option - select this to access 4 more tabbed pages (each with 6 options) which contain options that you will probably set once and then forget about. If you are interested in using the camera's RAW format, note that the CCD-RAW option is on page 2, a strange location that almost seems to discourage you from using it. I would have liked to see it alongside the other image quality options in the Photo Mode menu. Due to the small LCD screen, the various options and icons are also on the small side.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time from turning the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom on to being ready to take a photo is very quick at around 1/2 second, and obviously zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is as quick as you like thanks to the mechanical zooming ring. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by an extremely bright and powerful focus-assist lamp. Note that the camera does struggle to lock onto the subject sometimes at the tele-photo end of the lens. The visibility and refresh rate of the 1.8 inch LCD screen are perfectly acceptable, although the resolution is a little on the low side. It takes about 1 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. RAW mode is a completely different kettle of fish. The Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom takes over 10 seconds to store a RAW image, during which you can't take another shot. Not exactly on a par with a digital SLR. In the fastest Continuous mode the camera takes 1.5 frames per second for up to 4 seconds at the highest JPEG image quality, which is above average for this class of camera given the large 9 megapixel images. All in all the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom is quite fast in terms of operational speed, especially if you don't use the RAW mode.
Once you have captured a photo, the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, zoom in and out, view slideshows with lots of different settings, delete, protect, trim and rotate an image. You can also add a sound clip to an image, set the print order and the transfer order. The Info button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, there is a small histogram available and a thumbnail with flashing areas which indicate where the image is over-exposed. When taking a photo, pressing the Info button toggles between the detailed information and the histogram.
In summary the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom almost achieves what Fujifilm set out to do - combine a digital SLR with all the advantages of a compact digicam. A few notable flaws, including the very slow RAW format and the EVF, prevent it from being a complete success.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Fujifilm Finepix S9500 Zoom have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.