An SLR-sized camera with advanced shooting capabilities.Fujifilm's FinePix S100fs (the 'fs' tag stands for film simulation) is targeted at amateur photographers who want the manual controls and functionality of a DSLR without the hassle of interchangeable lenses. However, although the 11.1-megapixel S100fs is similar in size to some entry-level DSLRs, its image sensor remains significantly smaller (see below). On the plus side, the 14.3x optical zoom range on the Fujifilm camera is vastly wider than the 3x optical zoom range on most DSLRs' kit lenses. It also offers video recording capabilities. On the minus side, it's about 160 grams heavier than the D60 with the 18-55mm VR kit lens. . . [more]
Fujifilm's FinePix S100fs (the 'fs' tag stands for film simulation) is targeted at amateur photographers who want the manual controls and functionality of a DSLR without the hassle of interchangeable lenses. However, although the 11.1-megapixel S100fs is similar in size to some entry-level DSLRs, its image sensor remains significantly smaller (see below). On the plus side, the 14.3x optical zoom range on the Fujifilm camera is vastly wider than the 3x optical zoom range on most DSLRs' kit lenses. It also offers video recording capabilities. On the minus side, it's about 160 grams heavier than the D60 with the 18-55mm VR kit lens.
Front view of the S100fs with flash up.
Physically, the S100fs looks and handles like a DSLR camera. Its large hand grip holds the rechargeable battery and provides the location for the shutter button (which is surrounded by an on/off switch). The 2.5-inch LCD screen has a resolution of 230,000 pixels, which is average, but its bezel (surround) is very thick and chunky looking. It is double-hinged and pulls out to a 45 degree angle from the camera body, allowing the screen to be tilted up through 90 degrees for waist-level shooting or back for shooting with the camera held above the head.
Rear view showing the hinged LCD screen.
The top panel carries the mode and command dials plus buttons for accessing the ISO and Info/EV compensation settings. A large pop-up flash occupies most of this panel. It has a hot-shoe on top for attaching external flash units and is manually triggered.
Top view with the lens fully extended.
The electronic viewfinder is a 0.2-inch FLCD (Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal Display) monitor with approximately 200,000 dots. As EVFs go, it's brighter and clearer than average, thanks to a field sequential drive system. It's also diopter-adjustable. The viewfinder display includes the shooting mode, metering pattern, image size and quality, number of frames remaining, ISO setting, battery status and AF pattern. Other modes like high-speed shooting and continuous shooting are shown if selected in the camera's menu.
A brightness histogram and EV compensation bar can be overlaid on the viewfinder by pressing the Info button. However, the histogram is too small to be of real value, although the EV adjustment bar is adequate. A grid overlay is also available. All viewfinder settings are replicated on the LCD and you can toggle between viewfinder and LCD with a button on the rear panel.
The Fujinon 7.1-101.5mm f/2.8-5.3 zoom lens on the S100fs has been designed to match the Super CCD HR sensor. It is optically stabilised and spans a focal length range equivalent to 28-400mm in 35mm format, which will cover subjects as diverse as portraits, landscapes, sports and family photography . Its maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 at the widest angle of view to f/5.3 at full tele zoom. The minimum aperture is fixed at f/8, which is much wider than the f/22 limit of most DSLR lenses.
Four focusing modes are provided: single AF, continuous AF, one push AF (for use in manual mode) and manual focusing. The normal macro setting supports close focusing to 10cm, although you can move in to 1 cm from a subject in Super Macro mode. A wide textured collar is provided for manual zoom control, which requires a half-circle turn to go from the wide to the tele position.
Fujifilm's Dual Image Stabilisation technology combines a mechanically stabilised 'floating' lens element with ISO-boosting. Available in all shooting modes, it is switched on and off via a button on the side of the camera body and claims to offer 'about three stops' of exposure advantage over non-stabilised lenses. Unfortunately, the only control you have over the system is the ability to choose between continuous stabilisation and shooting only settings in the set-up menu. No provision is made for stabilising panning shots.
The S100fs can record to both xD-Picture Cards and SD and SDHC cards, both of which fit into a single slot behind a lift-up door on the side panel. The battery compartment is in the base, next to a central tripod socket.
Most controls on the S100fs are the same as you'd find on a DSLR camera. The mode dial carries settings for Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus two Custom memory banks for storing groups of frequently-used settings. It also has a Video mode that supports two resolution settings: VGA and QVGA and both are recorded at 30 frames/ second with monaural sound. No provision is made for shooting 'small' video clips for emailing or posting on websites.
Beside the Video mode are two Scene Position settings, SP1 carrying four settings for 'Nature' photography, while SP2 has the remaining 10 scene settings (which include four Portrait settings - one of them a Baby mode - plus Night, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Sport and Fireworks modes). The final shooting mode is a Film Simulation Bracketing mode.
The Film Simulation menu.
Film Simulation in the S100fs is similar to the options provided on the FinePix S5 Pro DSLR. This setting, which may appeal to photographers making the switch from analogue to digital photography, allows photographers to select the ideal "film" mode for the subject. Four settings are provided, two of them emulating the colours and contrast of Fujifilm's analogue files.
Provia is a general-purpose setting with moderate contrast and saturation. Velvia replicates the vibrant colours and higher contrast of Velvia film. The two remaining modes and a Soft mode with low contrast and muted colours and a Portrait mode that strives to produce natural-looking skin tones.
The Portrait sub-menu.
The Film Simulation Bracketing mode allows photographers to shoot the same image continuously while varying the Film Simulation setting between Provia, Velvia and Soft. Bracketing is not supported in the Portrait setting and it cannot be used with raw file capture or when Face Detection or in-camera Red-eye Removal modes are selected. Nor can it be used with flash exposures.
Another S5 Pro function included in the S100fs is dynamic range adjustment, which uses Fujifilm's new Real Photo Processor III and aims to preserve highlight and shadow details without compromising intermediate tones. Interestingly, it's a variant of the DSLR's system, rather than a duplication. The system, which works by increasing sensitivity, operates by default. Four settings are provided: auto, 100%, 200% and 400%.
The Dynamic Range Adjustment menu.
Unfortunately, you can't switch it off - even if you want to, although you can over-ride the ISO setting manually and shoot with ISO 100 plus 400% dynamic range adjustment. The auto setting covers from 100% to 400% and relies on subject information picked up by the camera's sensor to determine the ISO setting. (In our tests we found ISO 400 was set for almost every shot when this mode was selected.) The manual settings let you tune the dynamic range expansion to the subject requirements. Dynamic range expansion is not available with the auto or Scene Position modes.
The Face Detection system in S100fs can identify up to 10 human faces in a scene and adjust focus, exposure and white balance automatically in as little as 0.05 seconds. The system covers a range of 270 degrees, allowing for up to 90 degree profiles in either direction and up to 135 degrees for leaning or lying down in either direction. It is also capable of identifying faces at angles to the camera. Allied to the face detection system is automatic red-eye removal, which corrects red eyes in flash shots immediately after they have been taken and saves both the original image and the corrected file. Photographers can compare the two shots side-by-side in playback mode and select the best image.
White balance fine tuning is supported in the camera's menu system. However, instead of providing a graph with red/green and blue/amber axes, the S100fs has two adjustable columns. On the left side is the red/cyan adjustment, while the blue/yellow adjustment is on the right. The arrow pad is used to select the column and make the necessary adjustments.
White balance tuning.
The drive sub-menu, which is accessed via a button above the stabilisation button, contains seven settings plus an Off mode. As well as Top 7 and Last 7 settings, which record the first and last shots in a burst (seven JPEG images or three raw files) at three frames/second, there is a Top 50 mode, which records up to 50 shots at 3M size at seven frames/second and a Long Period mode, which records images as long as the shutter button is held down (the actual burst rate depends on image size and buffer capacity).
Also in this sub-menu are the dynamic range bracketing, film simulation bracketing and AE bracketing settings, each of which records three frames in a bracketing sequence. The bracketing modes are restricted to the P, A and S modes, with AE bracketing also available in the M mode.
Sensor and Image Processing
The 8.8 x 6.6 mm Super CCD HR sensor is a new eighth generation Super CCD HR chip with octagonal photosites to optimise light collection efficiency. Despite its high resolution, the actual imager chip is less than one sixth of the size of the sensor in Nikon's entry-level D60 model, which is significantly lighter (although the S100fs is about $300 cheaper).
Fujifilm claims an improved digital signal amplifier makes it possible to transfer image signals with a high signal-to-noise ratio to the image processor. This is a new RP (Real Photo) Processor III chip, which uses a new dual channel output system parallel processing to provide fast data transfer speeds. Data is output from the A/D converter as 14-bit image files. Part of the processing system involves a double noise reduction process, which is applied automatically and not manually adjustable.
Raw fiel capture can only be switched on via the set-up menu.
Still pictures can be recorded as JPEGs (the default setting) or RAF.RAW files. However, you can only access raw file capture through the set-up menu and RAW+JPEG capture is not supported. Raw files are uncompressed and, therefore, rather large. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
3840 x 2880
4032 x 2688
2816 x 2112
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
Video compression rates are relatively high. With the VGA setting (640 x 480 pixels) you can record 14.9 minutes on a 1GB memory card. This extends to 29.5 minutes when QVGA recording (320 x 240 pixels) is selected. Video quality was reasonably good - but not outstanding.
The supplied FinePix Viewer software is designed for working with JPEGs. It is fairly clunky but interfaces seamlessly with FinePix Studio, which is used for both viewing and converting raw files from the S100fs. When you load the software, you are encouraged to 'Link Up and Reach Out' by joining the FinePix Internet service. "Picture The Future". We're not a fan of these file-sharing services so we didn't bother clicking on the link.
The FinePix Viewer interface for JPEG files.
FinePix Viewer provides several settings for viewing image files, including thumbnails, a preview window and a 'Details' list with tiny thumbnails plus the file name, type and size, date and time of exposure and image pixel dimensions. A sidebar contains five sub-menus: Print Menu, Image Utilisation (with slideshow, rotate, crop and other tools), Manipulate file/folder (with rename, move, copy and delete tools), See Other Folder (which takes you back to the folder tree) and File/Folder Info. Opening the File/Folder Info sub-menu when viewing a JPEG image displays the shooting metadata, including the Film Simulation and Dynamic Range settings.
Selecting raw files for processing with FinePix Studio.
The adjustment interface in FinePix Studio.
FinePix Studio is fairly slow but provides an adequate set of image adjustment tools (although it lacks a tool for straightening off-kilter horizons). By default, raw files are converted into bitmaps (*.bmp). Interestingly, the software claims it can produce 16-bit TIFF files if you select FinePix RGB 1.8 as the colour space. However, the S100fs doesn't appear to support it.
Because of their size (typically around 65MB), raw files take a couple of seconds to upload to the screen each time you wish to look at a different image or when you change a processing parameter. The user interface supports batch processing and provides adjustments for contrast, white balance and individual colour channels. Image metadata can be displayed on-screen, along with pixel co-ordinates and RGB values for a selected pixel in the image. You can rotate the image through 90 degrees, magnify and reduce the size of the image, move the image about on the display frame and select sections with a marquee tool.
Alerts in FinePix Studio showing where shadow detail was not recorded.
You can also display highlight and shadow clipping warnings. For photographers who use recent versions of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, raw files from the S100fs can also be converted into TIFF or JPEG format with the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw. You'll find it provides a wider range of adjustments and is considerably quicker to use.
The LCD monitor on the test camera was slightly easier to use than most digicam displays and the camera's autofocusing system was relatively immune to hunting in low light levels. However, we had several instances when the AF system failed to focus on the centre of the field when shooting with the lens at full tele extension. This occurred most with subjects that were close to the AF limit and those in dark, low-contrast situations.
Photographs taken with the test camera in bright lighting were colour accurate with more restrained saturation than we're accustomed to in digicams. They also showed a significantly wider-than-average dynamic range. In our shooting tests we found increasing the dynamic range expansion settings tended to reduce overall image contrast. This wasn't a problem with brightly-lit outdoor subjects but indoor shots could look a little flat.
Imatest showed the test camera to be capable of high resolution, although it revealed some interesting variations in resolution at different aperture and focal length settings. Edge softening was evident when the lens was at its widest focal length setting and also with wide apertures at the 13.4mm (50mm equivalent) position.
This softening was confirmed in test shots, which also showed visible barrel distortion at the 7.1mm position. The discrepancy between centre and edge resolution declined as the lens was stopped down. Softening was only just visible at the 28mm setting (100mm equivalent) and at full tele extension. Rectilinear distortion was also negligible at these focal lengths. The graph below plots the results of our Imatest tests using JPEG capture.
Resolution was slightly higher and colour accuracy was better when we shot raw files, as can be seen in the Imatest graphs below.
However, for both JPEG and raw file capture, lateral chromatic aberration remained in the moderate-to-severe category. Green fringing was quite pronounced in outdoor test shots, even at relatively low magnification levels. However, backlighting was handled very well, thanks largely to the dynamic range expansion function.
Green fringes can be seen along the lower edges of the structure.
Digital zoom shots were slightly soft, but usable if printed at small sizes. Close-ups were impressive. The auto white balance failed to totally counteract the orange cast of incandescent lighting but came close enough to require only minor post-capture adjustments in editing software. Fortunately, it delivered neutral colours with fluorescent lights.
Both the pre-set and manual measurement system produced better results with incandescent lighting but we were unable to find a pre-set that delivered neutral colours with fluorescent lighting, although the manual measurement system was spot-on. It was possible to change the colour balance with the white balance Fine Tune setting but getting rid of all colour casts was difficult because only three steps of adjustment are provided for each colour and this wasn't enough to counteract the incandescent cast.
The flash proved capable of illuminating an average-sized room at ISO settings of 200 and above and light levels were evenly balanced throughout the sensitivity range. Long exposures (up to 30 seconds) at night were noise-free up to ISO 400 but noise became increasingly visible from that point, although there was only a slight decline in resolution as ISO was increased (as shown in the graph below). However, at the ISO 10,000 setting, shots were seriously noise-affected and too soft to be usable, other than as thumbnails.
The test camera took just over a second to power-up but shut down instantaneously. We measured an average capture lag of 0.44 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.05 seconds with pre-focusing. The Top 7 and Last 7 modes recorded high-resolution JPEGs at 0.33 second intervals (three frames/second), while the Top 50 mode matched the seven frames/second shooting rate claimed in the camera's specifications.
A burst of seven high-resolution JPEGs took 7.2 seconds to process. In high-speed continuous shooting mode we recorded a burst of 20, 3-megapixel images in 2.9 seconds. It took 5.7 seconds to process this burst.
The FinePix S100fs has just been named as the Best Superzoom Digital Camera for 2008 by the European Technical Image Press Association (TIPA). We are also nominating it as an Editor's Choice for the Advanced category of compact digicams - although with some reservations. Our main concerns lie with the high lateral chromatic aberration we found with the test camera's lens.
However, the sporadic failures of the autofocusing system and poor quality of images shot at the top ISO sensitivity are also of concern, as is the lack of any ability to switch noise-reduction processing off and on. If these issues are of little or no relevance, the S100fs will be an excellent and rewarding camera choice.
1. JPEG Capture:
2. Raw Capture:
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Long exposure at ISO 400.
Long exposure at ISO 10,000.
The above examples show how the dynamic range expansion function allows detail to be recorded in very bright areas of the subject without compromising shadow details.
The above examples show how dynamic range expansion allows detail to be recorded in shaodwed areas without compromising highlight detail. (In both the above examples most digicams would have produced silhouettes.)
Image sensor: 8.8 x 6.6 mm Super CCD HR sensor with 11.1 megapixels (effective)
Lens: Fujinon 7.1-101.5mm f/2.8-5.3 zoom lens (28-400mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 14.3x optical, up to 2x digital
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2), Uncompressed RAF.RAW; Movies – AVI Motion JPEG with sound
Image Sizes: Stills – 3840 x 2880, 4032 x 2688 (3:2 format), 2816 x 2112, 2048 x 1536, 1600x1200, 640 x 480; Movies - 640 x 480 at 30 fps, 320 x 240 at 30 fps
Shutter speed range: 30 sec. - 1/4000 sec.
Image Stabilisation: Lens-shift optical
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments
Focus system/range: TTL auto focus with contrast detection; range 50 cm (wide) 2.5 m (tele) to infinity; macro 10 cm to 3 m (wide); super macro to 1 cm
Exposure metering/control: TTL 256-zone metering; Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus 4 SP1, 10 SP2 scene mode settings, Film Simulation bracketing and two Custom modes
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 10,000 (reduced resolution at ISO 6400 and ISO 10,000)
White balance: Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (x3), Incandescent light, Custom
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, forced flash, slow synchro, off (red-eye removal is available); range 0.6-7.2 metres
Sequence shooting: 1.1 fps long-period, (Max. 7 fps at 3MP in high-speed mode)
Storage Media: Approx. 25 MB Internal memory plus xD-Picture Card and SD/SDHC expansion slots
Viewfinder: 0.2-inch FLCD monitor (electronic) with approx. 200,000 dots.
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch Amorphous silicon TFT LCD Screen (230,000 pixels)
Power supply: NP-140 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (approx. 260 shots/charge)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 133.4 x 93.6 x 150.4 mm
Weight: 918 grams (without battery and card)
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