Fujifilm FinePix S1 review

One notable way in which dedicated digital cameras can put clear water between themselves and smartphones is to slap a whopping zoom lens on the front. Fuji’s new 16 megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor incorporating S1 is one such example. It boasts a huge image stabilised 50x optical zoom, enabling a focal range the equivalent of a wide angle 24-1200mm on an old 35mm film camera. This proves excellent for shooting landscapes and group portraits but also capturing candid close ups from afar. Basically, with this lens specification being so all encompassing in terms of suitability for possible subjects, it doesn’t matter that you can’t swap it like you would be able to do on the digital SLR camera it resembles.

In fact there are a lot of digital SLR-type features packed into this bridge camera – so called because it provides a bridge between a plain point and shoot and an actual DSLR – including an eye level viewfinder, here of the electronic variety, plus a vacant hotshoe for attaching accessories. We also get a 3-inch, 920K-dot resoluton LCD that flips out parallel to the body, which can be rotated to face your subject or used for selfies. The screen can also be turned inwards to face the body for extra protection when transporting the camera in your luggage. Indeed, despite the fact that this isn’t a pocket model, the mini DSLR-type shape with tactile rubber coating enabling the S1 to lay claim to the first weather and dust resistant chassis in its class, this Fuji would perform excellently as a travel companion. We get Full HD 1920x1080 pixels movie clips at 60fps with the benefit of stereo sound also, in order to capture those holiday hi-jinks.

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For those who like to get ‘hands on’, a ridged rubber ring encircles the lens barrel and at first appears as if it could be used for manually controlling the zoom – which would be icing on the cake for the photo enthusiast. Instead said zoom is controlled either via a switch on the side of the lens barrel, where it falls beneath the thumb of the left hand, or via a familiar toggle lever encircling the shutter release on the top plate. Naturally the full optical zoom can be deployed during video recording, and whisper quiet it is too. Fuji has further found room for a pop up flash that sits atop the viewfinder and is manually activated by a button sitting just below it on the left.

In terms of real photographic features, the usual creative quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting modes are placed at our fingertip via a familiar bottle top dial. This also offers a customizable setting, panorama mode, regular auto mode, plus scene recognition mode. An Advanced option on the same dial enables the application of creative filter effects, including the likes of toy camera, tilt ‘n’ shift lens copying miniature mode, increased colour saturation via ‘pop’ mode, low key, high key lighting effects, plus fisheye, soft focus and colour isolating options. There seems to be a degree of sharpening and contrast automatically applied in camera so shots towards the telephoto end of the zoom were crisper than we’d expected from the small sensor provided.

OUR VERDICT

Looking for one camera that does it all without breaking the bank? With its weather and dust resistant outer coating and mini DSLR styling, the 50x zoom ‘armoured’ S1 certainly has to be one of the coolest looking and most pleasurable to handle bridge cameras out there – even if we personally preferred the handling of the pricier Sony RX10. The downsides are that it is fairly weighty at a DSLR-like 640g without batteries, plus its large lens necessitates a larger than average camera. That said, the equivalent focal reach with an actual DSLR would cost you a lot more for lens alone than the S1’s £400 recommended ‘all in’ price. Ultimately though, a small 1/2.3-inch sensor – as found in your old 3x zoom point and shoots – doesn’t make the most of the big glass bolted onto the front of this model and so image quality falls short of the DSLR it resembles. But for enabling ‘everyday’ shots in a variety of conditions that wouldn’t be physically possible via a camera with a smaller zoom, the cool design of the S1 still comes recommended.

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