Fujifilm FinePix S9400W review

If you’re taking the decision to buy a dedicated digital camera rather than just rely on the performance from your iPhone, then conceivably you’ll be seeking a camera that puts some distance between it and your handset to really get your money’s worth. Enter Fujifilm’s 16 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor incorporating FinePix S9400W, which features a maximum f/2.9 aperture from a huge 50x optical zoom lens. This provides a 35mm equivalent focal range of an ultra wide 24-1200mm, and for what initially seems a very reasonable £269.99 manufacturer’s asking price.

This model sits just below the slightly better built S1 in Fuji’s super zoom range, whilst slotting in above the even cheaper S9200. The latter is identical except for the fact that, unlike the S9400W, there’s no built-in Wi-Fi.

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Whilst this rugged, chunky camera neither looks nor feels like there have been compromises to reach its price point, and the distance markings on the lens barrel are a nice touch that the pricier S1 actually omits, it does supply power via a handful of AA batteries rather than the usual rechargeable lithium ion cell. That said, managing around 300 shots before its AA’s actually have to be replaced isn’t a bad performance by any means.

Of course one of the perils of a bog standard 1/2.3-inch sensor and a sensitivity range that stretches to ISO12800 is the inevitable appearance of image noise the higher we creep toward that maximum setting. Plus there is the fact that with a physically small chip we’re simply not getting the detail that we would enjoy from the larger APS-C format found in any DSLR – such as Canon’s entry-level 1200D – that the S9400W resembles.

In truth, as far as pictures go, this is basically a snapshot camera on steroids. It allows us to achieve a breadth of shots via its comprehensive focal range that would otherwise be either impractical or extremely expensive if we were to aim for something similar via a DSLR. It’s also no surprise that we just get the choice of JPEG rather than uncompressed Raw files, given the entry-level pricing. Aside from stills, there is the ability to capture Full HD 1920x1080 pixels clips at a smooth 60 frames per second, and naturally with the use of the zoom, or alternatively at a whopping 480fps capture speed which when replayed provides a slow motion effect.

With the regular smattering of manual shooting modes mixing with the fully automatic via a twist of a bottle top style dial on the top plate, everything about this camera feels intuitive. It’s unusual that we get an electronic eye level viewfinder provided in this price bracket, but as the resolution is a lowly 200,000 dots, we found ourselves mostly sticking with the larger 3-inch, 460K dot LCD screen below for lining up our shots. A further compositional aid would have been provided had said screen been able to be swiveled or tilted, but for the price the lack of such ‘extras’ is hardly a deal breaker.

In fact, with the likely audience being the family user who wants a decent looking camera capable of shooting just about anything without the photographer needing to step forward or back to re-frame the shot, the S9400W seemingly has it covered.

OUR VERDICT

Overall we found the 16MP S9400W’s performance a little hit and miss. Inevitably with any camera with this long a zoom range and this small a sensor, at its extremities we struggled to always get a sharp still image when shooting with the Fuji, particularly when used handheld. Low light shots can also be problematic if not wanting to use the flash to lift the gloom, as image noise settles into an image from ISO800 upwards. Again this is partly down to the small-ish chip at the S9400W’s heart. Yes if you want more pro-like results you can pay considerably more and go for Sony’s RX10. But that could be considered an almost semi pro option, whereas this Fuji offering is cheap and cheerful, without outwardly showing it. Incidentally if you’re not fussed about having Wi-Fi pay £20 less for the S9200 version, or for higher resolution screens, rechargeable battery plus hotshoe for accessory attachment the Fuji S1 at £130 more is also well worth a look. Whilst the S9400W may not excel, it still remains one of the very best options out there in terms of zoom range, build and handling within its lower-priced section of the market, which is why we’re still happy to give it an above average score.

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