capsule review

Fujifilm FinePix S5200

The Fujifilm FinePix S5200 is fast in a number of ways: It starts up quickly; it was ready to shoot about a second after I turned the power on; and shutter lag was less than half a second. The auto-focus is also very snappy—it almost always found the correct focus point in less than a second. With this camera, you won’t miss many shots.

A couple of unconventional auto-focus modes make this camera flexible. The AF Multi mode, for example, focuses on a high-contrast object located near the center of the screen. This works well when you take shots of two people because even if the faces are off-center, the lens usually finds and focuses on them. The AF Area mode lets you pick a spot anywhere on the LCD screen as the focusing target, which is useful if you want to focus on an off-center object to create a depth-of-field effect. I found this mode a lot easier to use than the manual focus, which required me to hold down the Exposure Compensation button while using the Zoom buttons to focus.

Convenient design

The S5200’s design enhances its ease of use—the handgrip is comfortable, and its textured rubber coating helps you hold on even if your hands get sweaty. The Shutter button falls under your index finger, and the Zoom controls are under your thumb. You can work the Mode dial with your thumb, too, but using the other buttons (such as the Menu button and the directional control) requires your other hand. The on-screen menus are pretty straightforward, though somewhat oddly worded: The camera refers to “photometry” instead of metering modes, which may confuse some users. The LCD screen is a bit small (1.8 inches), but the viewfinder is excellent. It’s one of the few viewfinders I’ve seen that didn’t require me to jam my eye right up to it to see the whole image—that’s a big plus if you wear glasses.

The lens’ styling gives the impression that you can zoom by twisting it, but unfortunately you can’t do this. And it’s sometimes a little difficult to tell whether your photos are in focus or not, since the LCD screen is rather small. But these are relatively minor issues.

Good image quality

I was very impressed with the quality of images from the S5200. In my tests with studio and natural light, images displayed bright, vivid colors and lots of detail. Flesh tones looked great, with natural colors and plenty of shadow detail. Though the camera shoots at a resolution of only 5.1 megapixels, the results were noticeably sharper than from many higher-resolution cameras (such as the 8-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 and the 6-megapixel Konica Minolta Dimage 6Z). The sharpening that the camera applies didn’t cause much color interference and I saw very little evidence of color fringing.

The exposure I took using the built-in flash was slightly off, yielding images that were a bit underexposed. In low light, however, the camera struggled: Though the ISO setting can be pushed up to 1600, images taken at high settings showed a lot of noticeable noise. You can push the shutter speed up to an impressive 15 seconds, but there’s no dark field subtraction or other noise reduction mode, so noise becomes a big problem at longer exposures.

Strong battery life

The S5200’s battery life was superior to others I’ve seen: The camera reached the test maximum of 500 shots on four AA batteries. You can use rechargeable NiMH batteries if you like, but Fujifilm doesn’t include them (or a charger) in its package. I encountered one annoyance involving the power management. Most cameras go into Standby mode after a certain period of inactivity (you can get out of it by pressing the Shutter button). But the S5200 simply turns the power off—so to start shooting again, you have to turn the power dial to off and then back to Shooting mode. You can alter how long the camera waits before turning itself off, however.

jury tests

Color Quality—Accuracy Excellent
Clarity—Detail Good
Clarity—Artifacts, Noise Excellent

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

To gauge picture quality, we take a series of shots, with and without flash, at the camera’s highest resolution. We photograph a complex still life and a mannequin using automatic settings in Program/Full-Auto Mode to see how well each camera captures subtle color and exposure under its default settings. We then photograph the same still life and a resolution moiré chart with semiautomatic settings using aperture priority, custom white balance, and exposure bracketing. We pick the best shots of each of those two subjects for judging. We also test the camera’s capability for minimizing noise using a range of ISO settings. We review the on-screen and printed photos and assign image-quality scores.The image-quality rating of the camera is based on five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

Specifications

Resolution 5.1 megapixel
Zoom/Focal Length 10x Optical (64mm)
Maximum Aperture f3.2
Size (wxhxd) 3.3 inches x 4.4 inches x 4.4 inches
Weight 13.1 oz

Macworld’s buying advice

The easy-to-use Fujifilm FinePix S5200 offers a slew of advanced features for a low price. It takes great pictures, and its snappy start-up and shooting times ensure that you’ll almost always get the shot you want. While I can’t complain about the image quality for the most part, its low-light pictures do leave room for improvement.

[ Richard Baguley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in PC World, Wired, and JIWire.com. He also maintains a Camcorder blog.]

Fujifilm FinePix S5200
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