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Conclusion - Pros

  • High resolution, lots of detail
  • Sharp, bright F2.8-3.1 10x zoom lens
  • Low distortion
  • Excellent color rendition
  • Comprehensive photographic controls
  • Fast and responsive operation
  • Very reliable focus and exposure
  • Excellent handling
  • Well built, seems very rugged
  • Easy and intuitive to use
  • Perfectly usable as point-and-shoot camera
  • Focuses well in low light (though see below)
  • Bright, clear screen that works well in low light (though see below)
  • AF illuminator
  • Raw option
  • Program shift
  • 640x480 pixel, 30fps movie mode
  • Great value for money
  • Excellent battery life

Conclusion - Cons

  • Minimum focus distance too long in normal mode
  • Small screen
  • Some exposure/dynamic range problems in high contrast/very bright scenes
  • No image stabilization
  • Occasional focus errors at long end of zoom in low light
  • Some vignetting at wider focal lengths
  • Unimpressive burst modes
  • Auto modes don't use the full range of shutter speeds (1/4 - 1/1000 sec)
    - shutter priority allows 3 - 1/1000 sec
    - manual mode allows speeds from 15 to 1/2000 sec

Overall conclusion

When we reviewed the S5500/5100's predecessor a year ago, Phil commented 'Throughout my time with the S5000 I was left wondering what would have been like had Fujifilm used a standard four or five megapixel CCD'. Well now we know; a lot better. All the positive attributes of the S5000, from the good design and handling to the impressive zoom range and wealth of photographic controls are now married to a sensor capable of doing them justice. And the result is a camera that offers an compelling option for those wanting a big-zoom camera on a tight budget.

Like the models that came before it, the S5500/5100 is designed to be a true 'photographer's camera'; offering true SLR-like handling, fuss-free operation, and plenty of options and controls, whilst remaining perfectly usable as a 'point-and-shoot'. The screen could be bigger, the EVF brighter and smoother, and the vignetting is something Fujifilm needs to address in the S5100's successor, but overall this is a significant upgrade to the promising, but flawed, S5000.

Finally, of course, image stabilization would be a seriously useful addition; albeit one that would almost certainly lead to a significant cost increase. As it stands the combination of price, features and reliable focus & exposure stsyems mean the S5100/5500 is pretty easy to recommend.

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