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Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd Review
by J. Keenan -  12/6/2007

"Pro features and style in an easy to use camera" is how Fujifilm sees the Finepix S8000fd, but I've got to admit the 18x optical zoom was what got my attention. To quote Fujifilm again:  "One of the largest zooms on a fixed-lens camera in the industry, the Fujinon 18x Optical Zoom provides unprecedented flexibility in a compact SLR body style camera." In camera lenses, size does matter, and the idea of a relatively compact and light digital offering a focal range from 27 to 486mm (35mm film equivalent) is intriguing, to say the least. With the great majority of point and shoot (P&S) digitals starting in the mid 30mm range at wide angle, the S8000fd trumps that field while still retaining an excellent long telephoto capability.

fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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Here are two shots that demonstrate both extremes of the S8000fd's zoom range:

Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd sample image
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Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd sample image
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Perhaps an even better demonstration of that flexibility Fujifilm talks about can be seen in the following shots at Stanford Stadium. The first shot was made at wide angle, and the others at various focal lengths depending on picture composition. These shots were all made from my seat, and include the scoreboard and an extra point kick at the far end of the field along with images from the middle and our end of the field.

fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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The S8000fd gets high marks for the focal lengths it affords the user - let's see how the rest of the camera measures up to that wide-ranging lens.

A CLOSER LOOK

In addition to the big lens, the S8000fd features an 8MP sensor, dual image stabilization that combines mechanical stabilization with Fujifilm's ISO-boosting picture stabilization, face detection technology with automatic red eye removal, a 2.5 inch LCD monitor and a viewfinder, ISO sensitivity to 1600 at full resolution with up to 6400 ISO available at half resolution, and xD/SD/SD-HC memory media compatibility along with about 58MB of internal memory. The camera uses AA batteries as a power source.

Fujifilm includes 4 AA batteries, a shoulder strap, lens cap and cord, A/V and USB cables, software CD-ROM and an owner's manual with each camera. The owner's manual lacks an index so users are compelled to wander through the contents pages looking for specific topics.

Camera dimensions are about 4.4 x 3.5 x 3.1 inches with the lens retracted, and 4.4 x 6 x 3.1 at full telephoto. Shooting weight (batteries and SD card installed) is about 17.6 ounces.

JPEG still images may be captured in the following pixel sizes: 3264 x 2448(Fine), 3264 x 2448(Normal), 3264 x 2176(3:2 format), 2304 x 1728, 1600 x 1200 and 640 x 480.

Movies may be captured in AVI format (motion JPEG) at 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels, each at 30 frames per second (fps) with monaural sound. Movie files may be up to 2GB in size.

CAMERA FEATURES AND LAYOUT

The S8000fd's black and silver body is largely composite, with a pronounced handgrip that affords a secure single-handed hold. The front of the grip and the camera back in the grip area are covered with a rubberized material that enhances the secure feeling. The rear grip area is also sculpted to provide a thumb rest, but the Fujifilm "F" photo mode button is located nearby and can be activated unintentionally (but fairly infrequently) by the thumb. Depending on your grip and finger size, the top finger can find itself partially obscuring the AF assist/self timer lamp on the front of the camera.

fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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SHOOTING WITH THE S8000fd

Default settings for the S8000fd in auto shooting mode include auto ISO and white balance, multi-pattern metering and large files at normal quality. Unless otherwise indicated, images produced by the S8000fd to illustrate this review were shot at the Large/Fine quality setting. As with most cameras in the P&S ranks, auto produced generally good results across a range of subjects and conditions with no user involvement other than to compose, focus and shoot.

In addition to auto the S8000fd also offers three additional shooting modes: picture stabilization, which sets a fast shutter speed (at least in part by ramping up the ISO sensitivity); natural light, which also sets a fast shutter to capture the existing ambience without flash; and natural light & flash, which takes two shots, the second of which has flash.

There are thirteen "scene position" modes for specific shooting situations: portrait, landscape, sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, museum, party, flower, text and auction. Auction allows the user to record as many as four shots in a single image.

The S8000fd also provides full manual controls for exposure: Programmed auto, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual exposure. The shooting modes and manual controls are accessed via the mode dial on the top of the camera, and the dial also has "SP1" and "SP2" positions that can access the scene position modes.

In-Camera Editing Tools

Images may be rotated, protected, copied, trimmed or have voice memos attached via internal menus.

Exposure Compensation

+/- 2 EV compensation in 1/3 EV increments is available in P, S, and A modes as well as the auction scene position. The camera has an "auto bracketing" feature that allows for 1/3, 2/3, or 1EV over and under exposures to be made of a particular shot, along with the shot the camera determines is properly exposed. Once bracketing is selected via menu, the user presses the shutter button once and the camera proceeds to take three shots about a second apart, applying different exposures to each. Holding the camera steady on the subject after pressing the shutter and waiting for the three shots takes a little getting used to. Here's an example of bracketing at 2/3 EV:

fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
Default exposure (view medium image) (view large image)

fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
+2/3 EV (view medium image) (view large image)

fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
-2/3 EV (view medium image) (view large image)

Light Metering

256 zone multi-pattern metering is the default setting for the S8000fd, but spot and average methods are available in P, S, A and M modes. Multi-pattern works well in most conditions, but the S8000fd can lose some highlights in bright, high contrast scenes on occasion. In this regard it is really no different than most digitals. In the shots that follow, the white gull on relatively dark water has some details lost in the head/neck area (but still a pretty pleasing image) while the grey gull holds the details throughout.

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fujifilm finepix s8000fd sample image
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Focus/Macro Focus

Normal focus range at wide angle is approximately 2.3 feet to infinity; 4.9 feet to infinity at telephoto.

Macro focus at wide angle is about 3.6 inches to 2.6 feet; 3.9 feet to 10.5 feet at telephoto.

Super macro is 0.4 inches to 3.3 feet - the camera automatically adjusts the focal length for this setting.

fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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fujifilm finepix s8000fd
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Monitor

The S8000fd sports a 2.5 inch LCD monitor of 230,000 pixel composition. The monitor, like many in P&Ss, can be difficult to use in bright conditions with low contrast subjects, even with 11 brightness settings available. It works well for picture composition, review and/or editing in more benign lighting.

The camera is also equipped with a viewfinder, and in a decided departure from the norm for small digitals, the S8000fd's is 97% accurate! What you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the image - good job Fujifilm! Besides being accurate, using the viewfinder has the added bonus of saving on battery consumption over the monitor, and holding the camera to the face to use the viewfinder provides a more stable hold than using the monitor with arms partially outstretched - particularly beneficial when shooting long focal lengths.

Flash

The flash on the S8000fd was fairly strong and produced good and accurate color rendition. Recycle times were good - in normal, somewhat lit conditions where the flash did not completely discharge it was back to full power in 2 or 3 seconds. With the camera set on auto and firing in a completely dark room, the flash still came up to power in 3 or 4 seconds - probably the result of the auto ISO ramping up so the flash didn't have to work as hard. In A mode with ISO set to 100 and the same dark room, the flash came back to power in about 7-8 seconds. Flash recycle times were the same with both fresh AA alkaline and 2100mAh NiMH batteries. Even though the flash may not have completely recharged, the S8000fd shutter would fire again as soon as the camera finished writing the image - about 2 to 2.5 seconds.

Fujifilm lists the flash range as 1.6 feet to 28.9 feet at wide angle, and 1.6 feet to 18.4 feet at telephoto. Macro range is 1 foot to 9.8 feet. There are auto, red-eye reduction, forced flash, suppressed flash, slow synchro red-eye reduction and slow synchro flash modes available; some require the face detection feature be enabled.

Color

"Standard" (default) color on the S8000fd was accurate to my eye. Fuji also provides an "F chrome" setting to mimic slide film as well as a black & white setting. Here are examples of standard and F chrome color:

fujifilm finepix s8000fd
Standard Color (view medium image) (view large image)

fujifilm finepix s8000fd
F-Chrome Color setting (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO

The S8000fd can range from 64 to 1600 ISO at full resolution, with 3200 and 6400 available at 4MP resolution. Fujifilm cameras with the Super CCD sensor have a well-deserved reputation for better than average low light/high ISO performance, but unfortunately the 8000 didn't get a Super CCD. ISO performance is pretty typical for the class: 64 and 100 are good, then 200 picks up a little more noise. 400 and 800 continue the increase, and there's a dramatic jump from 800 to 1600. 3200 and 6400 were getting beyond the camera's ability to handle the light at those sensitivities, but those are settings of last resort when a flash can't be used.

Individual ISO sensitivities of 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (4MP) and 6400 (4MP) can be set in P, A, S and M modes, as well as auto/400, auto/800 and auto/1600 settings that cap the ISO at the indicated value. If conditions don't lend themselves to a single sensitivity setting, auto/400 would be a good choice to allow the camera some flexibility while still capping ISO before it gets into the more objectionable noisy regions. Here are the blue sky and real world shots at various ISO sensitivities:


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400
 

 


ISO 64(view large image)

ISO 100 (view large image)

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White Balance

Auto white balance was used for all the shots and worked well in daylight, darkness and with flash. Custom, fine, shade, 3 values of fluorescent (daylight, warm, cool) and incandescent settings are available in P, A, S and M modes.

Battery Performance

Fujifilm rates the S8000fd for about 350 shots with AA alkaline batteries, but I went through sets in about 200 shots using the monitor and with a fair amount of flash shots. Several sets of rechargeables would be a good idea for a day's shooting.

Shutter Performance

The S8000fd's shutter ranges from 4 seconds to 1/2000th - not particularly impressive on the long end. Shutter lag once focus is acquired is good, and focus acquisition in good light at wide angle runs about 0.8 second at the "high speed" shooting setting, and about 1.0 - 1.1 seconds with "high speed" disabled. High speed uses more battery power and the performance gain is hardly noticeable without a stopwatch.

Single shot-to-shot times (shoot, write, re-acquire focus and shoot) ran about 3 seconds with a SanDisk Extreme III SD card, and about ¼ second longer with a standard SanDisk card. The camera powers up in about 2.5 seconds, and it takes about 3.5 seconds from power on to taking a first shot.

Continuous shooting at full resolution is not a strong point - the camera can manage 3 shots in 2 seconds, but there's a brief blackout period after the first shot, and then the image displayed lags one shot behind, so panning with a moving subject involves some guesswork. The camera also offers the ability to shoot 15 fps at 2 MP resolution, or 7 fps at 4MP. There's a brief blackout after the first shot in each of these modes, but the rate of fire is so great the view essentially remains live. Image quality isn't great - if you needed to shoot a sequence it's better than nothing, but the lower resolution takes a toll on the image. Another drawback to these two modes is that focus is based on the first frame, so with a moving subject you run the risk of moving out of focus. The good news is the modes shoot so quickly the subject generally can't move too far in that 1 or 2 seconds.

Lens Performance

Performance of the lens was fairly good given the ambitious focal range it encompassed. There was some barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from center of image) at the wide end, and pincushion distortion (lines bow in toward center of image) as the lens zoomed to telephoto. The wide end also showed some softness in the corners. There was fairly strong purple fringing apparent in high-contrast boundary areas at 100% enlargement - not enough to be objectionable in small prints, but crops or big enlargements might be another story.

Images looked good out of the camera at smaller sizes, but seemed a bit soft when approaching 100% enlargement - both telephoto and wide angle images - so camera shake doesn't necessarily seem to account for all of it. The S8000fd has a "hard sharpness" setting available in P, S, A and M modes, and it might not be a bad idea to try and shoot in those modes with "hard sharpness" selected. Here's a look at "hard sharpness" compared to "standard sharpness", the default setting.


Standard sharpness (view medium image) (view large image)


Hard sharpness (view medium image) (view large image)

MISCELLANEOUS

The S8000fd is PictBridge compliant and there is a 5.1x digital zoom capability.

ADDITIONAL SAMPLE IMAGES


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CONCLUSION

The Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd offers an amazing focal range in a relatively compact and lightweight digital camera package. The standard auto and programmed scene options make this a camera that any novice can operate with a high degree of probability to produce technically good images, while at the same time providing full manual controls to allow more experienced users to set more defined shooting parameters. Image quality looks good at smaller sizes, but seems to drop off a bit as enlargements approach 100%; however, 8 x 10 inch prints looked fine, so unless you plan to consistently go much larger, the S8000fd with its long lens is worth a long look.

PROS

CONS