Fuji FinePix S7000 review

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  • Price When Reviewed: 470

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The top models in Fujifilm’s FinePix digital camera series have always set new standards for resolution and features, and the new S7000 is no exception. It’s a significantly improved replacement for 2002’s S602Z, with a higher resolution CCD and a new light alloy metal body. Although announced at the same time as the 3.1mp FinePix 5000, the 7000 has a completely different body and more advanced control set.

Where most rival cameras use more or less the same CCDs (usually made by Sony), Fuji has the resources to develop its own. The S7000 uses its new Super CCD HR design, with a true optical resolution of 6.3mp, able to output 2,848-x-2,136 pixels (6.08mp). The Super-CCD’s hexagonal cell arrangement allows Fuji to boost the output resolution to 12mp (4,048-x-3,040 pixels) if you want it.

The body is attractively styled with controls in sensible places. A new function button next to the monitor gives instant access to three main variables – ISO sensitivity, quality/resolution, and saturation. However, if you switch to
Raw, only the ISO can be altered. It lets you enter the DPOF printer settings when you’re in playback mode.

The 6:1 zoom lens is a high-quality Fujinon Super EBC type, equivalent to 35-210mm. Macro focusing allows you to get as close as 10cm, which is good for such a long zoom type. There’s an accessory thread to take wide angle and telephoto lens converters. Fuji provides the normal zoom control buttons on the back panel, but unusually the knurled ring around the lens housing can act as a zoom control ring. It’s still a powered zoom, unlike the preferable manual zoom of SLR cameras (and the Minolta A1), but the ring does seem to make zooming more controllable. If you select manual focus the ring function switches to focusing the lens.

While there is a standard hotshoe for external flash, this is very basic with no provision for interfacing the flash electronics to the camera exposure controls. However it can synchronize at up to 1/1000th second. The camera’s pop-up flash is good for its type.

Compared to 5mp rivals, such as the Canon PowerShot G5, Nikon CoolPix 5700, and Minolta Dimage A1, the FinePix has higher resolution and faster response. However, the Fuji’s fixed rear monitor is a disappointment – the others all have some degree of movement. On the other hand, the very high quality of the Fuji’s 230,000-pixel eye-level viewfinder makes it more practical to use than its competitors. This even has a higher resolution than the 1.8-inch, 118,000 pixel main LCD monitor.

As with the 602Z, Fuji has worked to improve the response times of this camera compared with its rivals. It’s possible to take quick reaction shots, when something unexpected happens, though it’s not as fast to respond as even the lowest-cost digital SLR cameras such as the Canon EOS-300D or Sigma SD9.

You can choose continuous shooting at a very respectable 3.3fps. Optionally you can leave your finger on the shutter for up to 40 frames, but only the last five are kept – this is useful when anticipating action, such as a goal shot. Movie functions on still cameras are usually a mixed blessing, but this one is quite good, with 30fps and sound.

There’s a choice of two sensitivities for the CCD – 200 and 400, plus 800, which only works with the lower 3mp resolution setting. When in Auto setting, the ISO can go down to 160. There are six white balance pre-sets with the ability to create and store two manual settings.

Although the camera can store Raw format files as well as JPEGs, so far Fuji’s software doesn’t allow you to manipulate them other than converting them to TIFF. Third-party Raw editors such as Photoshop CS cannot yet handle the
Fuji Raw format. Fuji says that it plans to introduce some form of Raw editing software at some point in 2004.

Image quality is great at the 6mp setting. The 12mp setting doesn’t seem to add much – the real increase in quality is marginal, and noise seems to be slightly increased. You do get slightly better results than interpolating a 6mp file upwards in Photoshop, but hardly enough to justify the extra storage space a 12mp occupies.

There are two memory card slots, one for Compact Flash II/Microdrive and the other for the miniature xD PictureCard.
A 16MB xD card is included with the camera. The interface port is USB 2.0, the first we’ve tried in a digital camera. With seriously large downloads in prospect if you use Raw files, the extra speed of USB 2.0 is welcome. We recorded about nine seconds to download a Raw file to a Macintosh via USB 2.0, compared to 24 seconds with USB 1.1.

The camera takes four AA-sized rechargeable batteries. Their life can be a bit limited compared to competing designs, although the camera was tested using a 1GB MicroDrive to handle large Raw files. MicroDrives are miniature hard disks that need more power than a conventional solid-state card.

This is an excellent effort by Fuji, a high-resolution prosumer camera with good controls, a versatile lens and the same sort of resolution as many digital SLR cameras.

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