Fujifilm FinePix S1 review: Weather-resistant camera with 50x zoom
By Gavin Stoker
At a Glance
Lovely tactile rubber coating to the body aids grip and adds protection
50x optical zoom that can also be used while shooting video
Swivel and tilt LCD screen
Both Raw and JPEG capture
Small-ish sensor at the heart of the S1 affects image quality
Fujifilm’s FinePix S1 boasts a whopping image-stabilized 50x optical zoom, thanks to a huge zoom lens. This enables a focal range that’s the 35mm equivalent of a wide angle 24mm to 1200mm—excellent for shooting landscapes and group portraits, but also for capturing candid close-ups from afar. Since the lens specification is all encompassing, it doesn’t matter that you can’t swap it like you would on the DSLR camera.
There are a lot of DSLR-type features packed into this “bridge” camera—so called because it provides a bridge between a point and shoot camera and a DSLR. The FinePix S1 includes an eye-level viewfinder (of the electronic variety), plus a hot shoe for attaching accessories. Fujifilm also found room atop the viewfinder for a pop up flash that is manually activated by a button sitting just below it on the left.
The FinePix S1 also has a 3-inch, 920K-dot resolution LCD that flips out parallel to the body, which can be rotated to face your subject. The screen can also be turned inwards to face the body for extra protection when transporting the camera.
The FinePix S1 has a mini-DSLR shape with tactile rubber coating. Fujifilm says that the FinePix S1 is the first weather- and dust-resistant chassis in its class, and the camera would perform excellently as a travel companion. The downsides are that the FinePix S1is fairly weighty at a DSLR-like 1.4 pounds without batteries, and the lens make the FinePix S1 a larger-than-average camera.
A ridged rubber ring encircles the lens barrel, and at first appears as if it could be used for manually controlling the zoom—icing on the cake for the photo enthusiast. Instead, the 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. The whisper-quiet optical zoom can be deployed during video recording.
In terms of real photographic features, the usual creative quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual shooting modes are placed at your fingertip though a top dial. The dial also provides access to panorama mode, regular auto mode, a customizable setting, and scene recognition mode. An Advanced option on the same dial enables the application of creative filter effects, including the likes of toy camera, tilt-and-shift lens copying miniature mode, increased color saturation, low- and high-key lighting effects, fisheye, soft focus, and color isolating.
Inside the FinePix S1 is a 16 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor that’s on the small size—you’d find similar-sized sensors in 3x zoom point-and shoots. 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. Ultimately though, the FinePix S1 doesn’t make the most of the big glass bolted onto the front of the camera, so image quality falls short of DSLR quality. The camera can also shoot 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution movie clips at 60 fps with the benefit of stereo sound.
With its weather- and dust-resistant outer coating and mini DSLR styling, the 50x zoom FinePix S1 certainly has to be one of the coolest looking and most pleasurable to handle bridge cameras out there. The equivalent focal reach with an actual DSLR would cost you a lot more for the lens alone than the FinePix S1’s $500 price, though you’ll make a small compromise with image quality.
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