2003: Bang for the buck, the Fujifilm FinePix S602 has been one of the better choices for a serious photographer going digital for under US$1,000. The 35-210 equivalent zoom doesn’t go quite as wide as the recently discontinued Minolta Dimage 7i (28-200) or as long as the Nikon Coolpix 5700 (35-280), but the S602 sells for hundreds of dollars less – and you can buy wide-angle and telephoto conversion lenses when you need wider coverage or greater magnification.
Part of the reason the S602 is more affordable is that it only has a 3 megapixel (MP) sensor, while the Nikon and Minolta models have 5 MP imaging systems. However, using Fujifilm’s clever SuperCCD technology and some intelligent interpolation, the S602 creates 6 MP files with sharpness comparable to a 4.5 MP sensor.
For a street price of about US$700, the FinePix S602 has a very usable zoom range, a decently fast lens (f/2.8-3.1), very good image quality, and some exceptional features that set it apart from the crowd. The first of these is 30 frame per second VGA quality (640 x 480) video with sound, and it can record up to 30 minutes of video on a 1 GB microdrive. The second is enhanced low-light sensitivity equivalent to ISO 1600 film – but the tradeoff is using 1280 x 960 (1.2 MP) resolution to do it.
The S602 is being replaced by the FinePix S7000 in October. Core features are pretty much the same, but there are a few changes. On the plus side, the SuperCCD HR image sensor has 6 MP and can create 12 MP images – probably overkill for most users.
The 30 fps VGA quality video is apparently improved as well. The S602 could store 30 minutes on 1 GB, but the S7000 specs out at 7.5 minutes on a 512 MB xD Picture Card. (Using xD Picture instead of SmartMedia is yet another improvement over the S602.)
Other improvements include USB 2.0, more pixels in the viewfinder, support for both NTSC and PAL, and the ability to save raw image files.
The S7000 only lags the S602 in a couple areas. The ISO 1600 sensitivity has been abandoned, but the ISO 800 setting supports 1, 2, and 3 MP images. Continuous shooting mode is 3.3 fps for the first five frames, down from 5 fps on the S602. (For a full run down of specs, see FinePix S7000 Zoom: The Beauty Is in the Detail on Digital Photography Review.)
With a suggested retail price of US$799, the FinePix S7000 looks like a worthy successor to the S602 – but it has some serious competition.
The FinePix S5000, which should be shipping this month, combines the SuperCCD HR technology used in the S7000 with a 10x (37-370mm equivalent) zoom lens for US$499.
Digital Photography Review has an excellent spec-by-spec comparison of the S5000 and S602. Here’s the executive summary:
- 3.1 MP sensor creates 6 MP images on both models
- S5000 can save raw files, replacing TIFF on S602
- 10x zoom on S5000 vs. 6x on S602
- 55mm filter adapter included with camera (was optional on S602)
- normal focus range is 3′ to infinity vs. 20″ on S602
- macro focus to 4″ on both, but S602’s 0.4″ super-macro mode is not duplicated
- ISO 200, 400, and 800 (the latter at 1280 x 960) vs. 160, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 (last two at 1280 x 960) on S602
- 5 fps continuous shooting for 5 shots
- 320 x 240 (QVGA) 30 fps video with sound – S602 supports full 640 x 480 VGA resolution
- no hot shoe (S602 has one)
- only uses xD Picture Card vs. SmartMedia and Compact Flash in S602
- lower resolution viewfinder
- smaller and lighter
In price and features, the S5000 will sit between the US$400 FinePix 3800 (6x zoom, ISO 100 only) and the new S7000. With a 10x zoom and 3 MP imager capable of creating 6 MP images, I suspect the S5000 will steal a fair number of sales from the S7000.
The S7000 is a more capable camera, but I have to wonder how many photographers need 12 MP images, super-macro to work closer than 4″ from the subject, VGA video, or a hot shoe for an accessory flash. For a lot of people who might have chosen the S602 today or S7000 later this year, the S5000 may be all the digicam they need – and at US$300 less than the S7000.
All Things Considered
I’m looking hard at digicams, since I hope to replace my 1999 Canon PowerShot A50 by the end of the year. 1.3 MP isn’t much, the shutter release lag is horrendous, and the camera doesn’t even have USB. It does have a 28-70 equivalent zoom, which is nice on the wide side but not so good on the long end.
Nice as the S602 and Nikon Coolpix 5400 (I especially like the 28-116 zoom) are, they’re way beyond my budget. I’m looking for a nice 3 MP camera that I can use instead of my big old 35mm camera most of the time.
A 28-300 zoom would be perfect, but they don’t seem to exist yet on digicams. I really do like having a 28mm wide angle, but only the Dimage 7Hi and Coolpix 5400 go there, and they’re both out of my price range.
All things considered, the FinePix S5000 may be the best camera for me. The 37-370 zoom range is longer than I need, but I’m sure there would be times when all that extra reach would be nice. And Fujifilm makes a wide-angle conversion lens (US$122-159) that would give me 28mm coverage, although that’s probably something I’d have to add later.
With a 3 MP floor and US$500 ceiling, I don’t know of a digicam that offers as much. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing these in the camera shop where I work part-time. Bang for the buck, they look unbeatable.