Spring is the best time of year to test digital cameras. Winter's cold and gray skies have been replaced by pleasant temperatures and azure blue skies. Flowers are blooming, something interesting is happening around every corner, people are enjoying the weather, and the air is filled with positive energy. Photo ops and "Kodak moments" proliferate exponentially.
Digital camera buyers want smaller cameras, higher resolution (more megapixels), and longer zooms, so it isn't too surprising that many of the recently introduced P&S (point-and-shoot) digital cameras fit that description. The Fujifilm JZ500 is a prime example of this new mini-megazoom digicam class. The JZ500 is a stylish and attractive ultra-compact 14 megapixel camera with a 10x zoom.
The JZ500 also features dual image stabilization, a 2.7-inch LCD screen, 720p HD video capability, and the almost ubiquitous list of automatic picture enhancement technology (scene modes, face recognition, etc.) that consumers have come to expect. The JZ500 is a tiny digicam that users can drop in their shirt pocket, then later use to capture near pro quality high-resolution images with the added capacity to extend more than three times as far as 3x zooms that - until very recently - used to grace digicams this size.
Most currently available P&S digicams are capable of generating colorful high-resolution images in good light, but they don't usually perform as well in dim/low-light situations, and the JZ500 is no exception. When the sun goes down or in bad weather or indoors, compact P&S digicams produce noisy images with dull contrast, poor dynamic range and flat colors. These inherent faults are aggravated by continually shrinking camera mass/size, crowding more megapixels onto tiny sensors, and adding longer zooms. Generally, smaller electro-mechanical devices are more complex than larger electro-mechanical devices of the same class. As complexity increases, the limits of the technology are magnified.
I enjoyed the opportunity to play with the JZ500 for a few days and I put this digicam through its paces; I filled the 1GB SD card Fuji sent along for the test twice. I shot picnicking amateur musicians at Waterfront Park; skateboarders, BMX bikers and rollerbladers at Louisville's extreme park; Louisville's oldest cemetery and unofficial arboretum; and at a local farmers' market. In every shooting situation, the JZ500 was easy to use (aside from a couple of irritating ergonomic issues that I'll discuss further in the full review) and capable (with a little tweaking) of consistently capturing very good to excellent images. While the JZ500 doesn't appear to be exceptional, it seems to be competent across the board. Look out for our full review of the Fuji JZ500.