In stark contrast to the SLR-like S6500fd and S9100, the S8000fd shows signs of having dipped its feet in a different gene pool, and it is obviously more closely related to the S5700 (S700) and its predecessors (the basic styling is very similar). Its frankly enormous zoom range means that there is a lot of lens to build the rest of the camera around. The result is that the form owes as much to its function as it does to any traditional SLR styling cues.
In your hand
The S8000fd is a very reasonably sized camera, considering the length of its zoom. The use of AA batteries adds both weight and size but they've been incorporated in such a way as to give the camera a large, comfortable grip, which it vital because a lens this long needs to be kept as steady as possible. It has a rubberized back with a lip at the top right corner to accommodate your thumb, though that does position you directly over the 'F ' button, making it easy to inadvertently bring menus up when you're trying to shoot. Generally it's all fairly well thought out, and handling surprisingly good; well balanced and stable.
Another thing that is immediately apparent is the similarity between the lens on the S8000fd and that on the Olympus SP560UZ (it has to be said the design of cameras themselves is also quite similar). Both have focal lengths of 4.7-84.3mm and maximum apertures of f/2.8-4.5. This, combined with the very obvious visual similarities makes us suspect they share a lens. There are other noticeable similarities in the two cameras' specifications, too, with both offering slightly unusual features such as a 15fps 2MP high-speed shooting rate.
The S8000fd sticks to Fuji's tradition of using AA batteries. Although they tend to be heavier and have a shorter life than the Li-Ion batteries used by most competing cameras, they are easier to replace, should you find yourself without a charged battery. Fuji estimates a set of alkalines will be good for around 350 shots, while 2500mAh Nickel-Metal Hydrides will yield nearer 500 (CIPA standard testing).
The S8000 retains the unpopular xD format common to many Fujis but adds the ability to use the cheaper, faster and more common SD format, including high-capacity versions.
58Mb of internal memory gives you the chance to grab around 17 images at the highest quality setting, on those occasions you find your memory card is still sitting at home in your card reader.
The S8000's 2.5-inch screen has a high resolution (230,000 pixels), with a superb 60fps refresh rate and excellent contrast, meaning it remains usable in fairly bright light. In very bright light, or when the camera needs to be very steady, the view can be duplicated in the electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The S8000 features an EVF with the same resolution as the rear LCD but at 0.24 inches it is pretty small. That said, it's bright and clear and a lot better than many previous FinePix viewfinders (and certainly on a par with its competitors). A dioptre adjustment is included for spectacle wearers.
Hidden under a rubberized flap are the S8000fd's mini USB port, which doubles as a video out socket, and a DC port for the (optional) mains adaptor.
The pop-up flash has an effective range of around 8.0m (26.2ft) at wideangle, dropping to 4.6 m (15 ft) at the tele end of the zoom (using auto ISO), fairly impressive (and due in no small part to the fact that the auto ISO goes higher than most cameras). The flash is fairly far from the lens, meaning red-eye is less of a problem than it is with smaller cameras.
The most noticeable feature of the S8000fd is the enormous 18x zoom. The 4.7 to 84.2mm range is equivalent to 27 to 486mm in 35mm film terms, which is a hugely versatile range covering true wide angle to a telephoto long enough to pick out sports action at a distance.
At the long end of the zoom the lens extends and adds almost two thirds to the length of the camera (still, try carrying this much zoom power on an SLR without pulling a muscle!).
In theory 38.1mm filters can be added to the lens, but it's not exactly a common size so they may be a little difficult to track down.
The main mode dial includes the usual auto and manual modes, a choice of two special scene modes (SP1 and 2 - each containing lots of options), natural light modes, picture-stabilization and movie mode. Buttons to activate image stabilization and face detection are also provided.