Fujifilm FinePix S8100fd
10.0MP | 27-486mm (18X) ZOOM | $250/£170
The S8100fd (a minor update to the S8000fd) is the latest in Fujifilm's second-tier of SLR-like cameras, sitting below the fully-featured S100FS, but above the S1000fd and S2000HD. The S8100fd has fewer direct control buttons than its more expensive sibling, but offers a more expansive (and more useful) lens range than the less expensive S2000HD (although it doesn't offer that model's HD video capability). Like all FujiFilm's recent long-zoom cameras, the S1800fd offers what the company describes as 'Dual Image Stabilization,' which is a combination of CCD-shift image stabilization and the use of high sensitivity (ISO) settings to keep the shutter speed up to further reduce image blur. It's the sensor-shift method that offers the greater benefit here, and is all-but essential with a lens this long.
- 10 effective Megapixels
- 28-486mm equiv lens with 18x optical zoom and 5.1x digital zoom
- 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 dots resolution
- Electronic Viewfinder with 97% Field of View
- Dual Image Stabilizer
- ISO sensitivity up to 6400
- 12 shooting modes, 13 Scene Modes including Automatic Scene Recognition
- Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Mode
- Face Detection and Intelligent Flash mode
- Optional accessories available
- Battery life: Alkaline 350 shots, NiMH 500 shots
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The S8100fd is identical in appearance to the S8000fd we reviewed in November 2007, which is to say that it's more of a lens barrel with grip attached than an all-out DSLR-clone. The grip is well designed, giving plenty of space for even large hands to wrap themselves around it without fouling the body or the lens. There's a rubber panel covering the front of the hand grip and another covering the rear of the camera (the S2000HD only has one on the front), ensuring a good grip and a quality feel to the camera.
The S8100fd operates very much like its predecessor and the S2000HD, in that most key options (with the exception of white balance), can be accessed using external buttons. Those features that don't have their own buttons are usually found in the 'F ' menu - White Balance is the only semi-frequently changed parameter that resides in the main shooting menu. All in all, it's not quite a DSLR-level of direct access, but it's quicker and more consistent to use (particularly in manual mode) than the majority of compact cameras.
Image quality and performance
Unsurprisingly the S8100's performance is not dissimilar to its sibling in this test, the S2000HD. The AF is not the fastest but acceptably quick and takes approximately 0.4 sec to lock on a subject at wide angle. At the long end of the lens, as expected, things take a little longer. The S8100's focus handles low light situations very well and, with the help of the AF light, almost always finds something to lock on. However, in dim conditions AF times can increase to more than one second.
Like on the S2000 the shutter lag is nothing to worry about. However, at 3.3 sec the time to take a first shot from power-on is slightly longer, mainly due to the bigger lens having to extend. At 2.6 sec (2.9 sec with flash) the shot-to shot time is identical to the S2000, but the gap between two anti-red-eye flash shots is slightly longer at 6.2 sec. However, the quality and condition of you batteries can make quite a difference in the flash performance of AA powered cameras, so make sure yours are up to the task.
Again, image browsing and magnification work more or less at identical speed as on the S2000. There is a very short but noticeable delay between images as you flick through them and the magnification could be a little quicker. All in all this is definitely not a deal-breaker though.
Thankfully, the S8100's image quality is more impressive than its baby brother's. Low contrast detail rendition is still poor, with noise reduction impacting at all sensitivities, but not to the extent that would spoil normal sized prints (it sits roughly in the middle of this closely grouped pack in terms of daylight image quality). On the plus-side, the exposure and focusing is a lot more consistent than the S2000HD, though it still suffers from the occasional habit of representing reds as magenta and it still tends to clip highlights in contrasty conditions. The S8100fd shows signs of chromatic aberration at the long end of the zoom, but this is to be expected on such a long lens and it's only visible in large, wall-hung prints if you go looking for it. High ISO and flash performance were found to be marginally below average for the group, with strong noise and unpleasant artifacts limiting the usefulness of anything over ISO 400.
The S8100fd clearly isn't the videographer's choice in this test - it's not possible to zoom the lens nor to refocus the image, severely restricting its capability. The video it does shoot is of only reasonable quality. It's 30fps VGA and is stored in the Motion JPEG format (with 11kHz mono sound), taking up around 0.9MB/sec.
At the moment the S8100fd looks like a bit of a bargain as its price has fallen to just over $250, presumably in anticipation of another refresh in time for PMA in March, but it struggles to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive sector of the market. It sits roughly in the middle of our group in terms of image quality and overall performance, though we weren't impressed with its high ISO performance (it's below average in a group that has a pretty low average to start with) or with its tendency to clip highlights.
There are three cameras in this group (this one, the Nikon P80 and the Olympus SP-565) that are essentially interchangeable, offering very similar specification, very similar performance and very similar physical design. The S8100fd is the least expensive of the three, so unless you want the P80's larger screen and raw mode you may as well opt for the Fujifilm. I don't want to damn it with faint praise, but the S8100fd is a camera that is defined more by what it doesn't do wrong than by what it does particularly well.
- We like: Useful zoom range, reliable focus/exposure systems, easy to use, decent image quality in good light, nice range of features, fast face detection
- We don't like: Image quality at anything over ISO 200, some highlight clipping