Conclusion - Pros

  • Phenomenal zoom range that includes real wide-angle to long telephoto capability
  • Versatile, fun and easy to use package
  • Good range of features
  • Bright, punchy 'consumer friendly' output
  • Good detail and color at lower ISO settings
  • Generally accurate and reliable focus and exposure
  • Well balanced handling
  • Effective image stabilization
  • Usable manual controls controls
  • AA battery convenience
  • AF illuminator
  • Excellent flash performance
  • Fast, effective face detection system
  • Large, clear, very responsive screen
  • Surprisingly good electronic viewfinder
  • ISO 400 and 800 marginally better than competitors
  • Excellent value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • Strong purple fringing and chromatic aberration and at long end of zoom
  • Slight corner softness at shorter focal lengths
  • JPEGs a little soft and slightly over-sharpened, can look a little 'over-processed'
  • Shortest focus distance (without using macro mode) too long
  • High contrast tone curve tends to clip shadows or highlights
  • No contrast adjustment available
  • No RAW mode
  • 3-shot limit in continuous mode
  • Limited AA battery life
  • ISO 800 and above noisy and showing heavy noise reduction.
  • Big, awkward lens cap that doesn't stay on the lens
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Unfriendly and frustrating multi-tier menu system
  • Manual focus requires a lot of guesswork
  • Focus hunting in low light, at long end of zoom and in macro mode
  • Some aspects of performance feel a little sluggish compared to best competitors

Overall conclusion

Like the other 18x zoom / 8MP cameras on the market the FinePix S8000fd is a camera that tries to be all things to all men, and in some respects it succeeds, in others it shows the limitations of current compact camera technology in a very stark manner.

This is because cramming an 18x (27-486mm equiv.) lens into a compact body involves some compromises, both optical and digital (to avoid the camera ending up the size of a suitcase, the sensor has to be very small indeed). The zoom produces significant levels of chromatic aberration at the long end and clearly visible distortion at both ends, but that is to be expected. As is the slight loss of resolution and contrast at longer focal lengths and the less than class-leading image quality in general. We were more disappointed to see that Fuji still hasn't sorted out the purple fringing and red channel clipping that has plagued previous models.

That said for many users the lack of critical sharpness and other IQ issues will be balanced by the sheer versatility offered by such a huge zoom range, and the fact it makes taking pictures so much fun. Fuji is to be applauded for including a true (27mm) wide angle at the short end of the zoom rather than taking the arguably easier route of adding even more reach to the long end, and this wide to tele capability - along with point and shoot reliability and very keen pricing - is what gives the S8000fd so much appeal.

The problem is that the S8000fd has arrived at the party with 18X proudly emblazoned on its cape, only to find offerings from Panasonic and Olympus wearing remarkable similar super-hero outfits and, compared to its two main competitors there's little to recommend the S8000fd. But then there's little to count against it either. It's fractionally smaller and a few dollars cheaper than the Panasonic FZ18 and Olympus SP560UZ, and it's high ISO JPEG output is slightly less appalling, but both those cameras offer RAW capture, and the Panasonic has a better lens and better continuous shooting capabilities.

In all, the S8000fd an interesting attempt at a do-everything camera - with a lens that is usefully wide-angle as well as incredibly long, a good flash and everything from useable manual controls to 'auction mode.' And it does everything reasonably well, even if it doesn't excel in any particular area. It is actually a very easy to use 'point and shoot' camera, and for normal print sizes the output is going to be more than adequate.

If you understand your specific photographic needs, there are cameras out there that shoot faster, others that have better and more easily accessed manual controls, others that are smaller and more convenient, and those that have shorter but higher quality lenses. But if you want to just take pictures and don't spend too much time pixel-peering it's a lot of camera for the money, and offers very user friendly snap-shooting operation and bright and punchy output. As such it earns a cautious recommendation.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.0
Image quality 7.0
Optics 7.0
Performance (speed) 7.5
Value 8.5



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