Let me begin by saying that I have been a professional photographer for about 45 years, and I teach digital photography/Photoshop at the college level. I have several cameras, ranging from very compact point and shoot models to larger DSLR cameras. This Fuji camera is what I call a bridge model, or sometimes a prosumer camera. It is more compact than a DSLR, and does not have a removable lens, but it has the features and controls you would expect to find on the larger (and more expensive) cameras.
I will discuss features first, and then the performance. From my point of view, it has the aperture priority, shutter priority, and program modes which comprise most of my shooting. An interesting addition is the SRAUTO mode (scene recognition). Here the camera examines the field and picks an appropriate scene mode. It even adjusts for a moving subject. The camera also has the standard AUTO setting, which I typically avoid. (The textbook for my photography classes is titled Beyond Auto Mode.)
If you choose ADV (advanced) on the mode dial, you can then choose from several interesting modes, including HDR, low light, filters, and something called zoom bracketing, where the camera will take three exposures at three different zoom levels. The mode dial also has an SP (scene position) setting, which selects one of the built in scene modes. You pick which one and assign it to this position. The PANORAMA setting on the dial lets you move the camera in a complete circle and then stitches the result into a panorama, which must be at least 120 degrees of the circle, or 1/3 of the way around. There are also Manual and Custom settings on the dial.
The other controls on the top of the camera are the on/off, +/- exposure, and a button to select high speed shooting modes. The camera is able to shoot 10 frames a second. I do a lot of nature photography, and the multiple frames per second is really a help when capturing fast moving subjects. On the back are controls for flash, macro, timer, an assignable function, menu, viewing of photos, and wifi, to talk to their camera app, which I haven’t done.
The camera is 16 MP, and with a 16Gig card it will store about 2,000 photos before the card is full. The battery charges internally only with the supplied charger, so you can’t charge one battery while using another. The charger is interchangeable with my Kindle and Galaxy S3 chargers, though, and has an interchangeable plug. I assume adapters are available to use overseas.
So far I have been impressed with the photo quality. It has a superzoom lens which goes from a 35mm equivalent of 24mm to 1200mm, or wide angle to 24 power. It will focus at 1 cm for macro work. The image stabilization gives 3 stops improvement, so hand holding it at max zoom was no problem, and I got no blur from camera shake. Keep in mind that I’m a pro, and your results may vary.
Both the screen and eye level viewfinder are about 1 megapixel in resolution, which is good, and both are clear. There is plenty of info available to display on screen, including a histogram, which I use. The photos were clear at all zoom settings, and the macros were sharp as well. At wide angle, there is some barrel distortion, which is pretty much true of all wide angle lenses, and is easily corrected in Photoshop. The HDR and low light modes worked well. Generally speaking, I was impressed with the image quality.
The body is plastic, but seems solid, and is sealed well enough that they list the camera as weather resistant against dust and moisture. The fit and finish seems good.
Overall, I really like this camera. It won’t replace my DSLR for weddings, but as a “walk around” camera it is about perfect. I think this will be my choice when I am out doing the tourist thing at the zoo or beach (it has a beach mode). Good feel. Good feature set. Easy to carry. Sometimes I don’t want to be a pro, with two bodies and four lenses. This will be the one I grab on those days.
April 21/14 addition:
1. The default color setting is FinepixCOLOR: Std (for standard). If you think a little more saturation will help your photos, open the menu, scroll down to FinepixCOLOR, click on it, then choose "Chrome" from the list. This will increase the saturation, but not to an excessive degree. It is good to have this option since tastes differ.
2. If you expect to be using this camera in wet weather, take a look at the Lowepro Nova 140AW camera bag. It is a good size for this camera, even with a lens hood on, but more important, it is well protected from the rain. Lowepro is known for making good camera cases, and generally they come with a rain cover, but what sets this camera apart is that you can open the case when the cover is on. The small pockets on front of the flap and on the sides of the case are covered, the the main compartment, where the camera is kept, can be opened and closed with ease.
The Finepix S1 is not my first camera. I am an advanced intermediate and have owned a number of them. In addition to the S1, my present cameras are a Canon 60d dslr, a Canon SX280, my travel and walk around camera, a Canon camcorder, and now the S1.
I know that regardless of what else a camera does the most important is taking good photos. The S1 meets that test, so far I am very satisfied with the clarity and quality of the photos. The S1 is a keeper.
For the past couple of days I have been "playing" with the S1, experimenting with many of its offerings. I would like to share some of my findings and impression in this review.
Zoom: All I can say is wow! I can think of many times in the past when I would have loved to have this camera in my hands. I took the Finepix S1, the Canon 60d with a 70-300 mm lens, and the Canon SX280 point and shoot with a 20X lens to the harbor to photograph a boat at anchor quite a long way out. It was not even close. The Faststone image viewer that I use reported that the focal length of the shot with the 60d was 70mm (this is not the 35mm equivalent, which would be a higher number); the focal length of the little SX280 was 90mm; and the focal length of the S1 was 215mm. A huge difference, and it was obvious when you compared the photos.
Normally I rely only on optical zoom, but for this test I turned on the digital zoom available on the S1. It is said this almost doubles the default 50X to 100X, and I could see that in the photos. With the 50X the boat was close, with digital zoom turned on, it looked like I could step on the deck.
All the photos from the 3 cameras were clear and usable, but the S1 100X photos with the digital zoom turned on were not as sharp as the others. I can spruce them up in post processing, but out of the camera the photos at S1 50X were noticeably sharper.
To get a close up of the distant boat equal to the S1 zoomed to 50X with the much more expensive 60d with 70-300mm lens would require a lens of enormous length and cost, and so heavy it would have to always to be supported by a tripod.
It should also be mentioned that the S1 makes it easy to zoom out when you are shooting. There is a lever around the shutter button that you operate with your right hand, this is common on many cameras, but on the S1 there is also a lever on the other side that can easily be operated by your left hand. This makes it possible to keep the shutter half-way down to focus with your right hand while you zoom out or in with your left hand. This is a very nice feature. It also works very well when shooting video.
Image Stabilization: I was impressed with how clear and sharp the photos were even though I was not braced when I took the photos. The S1 compensated very well for my shakiness. That is good for the confidence when using the camera.
Vari-angle LCD: The S1 uses 920K dots, which gives you a very clear view in good color of what you are shooting, if your preference is to focus using the screen. Most companies use a lower resolution display to help keep the cost down.
It is important to know that for shooting "P", "S", "A", and "M" the menu (image size) gives you the option of 4 aspect ratios: 4:3 (default), 16:9, 3:2 and 1:1. 4:3 and 16:9 are the most commonly used. If you choose 16:9, what you see on the screen will be different than what you see if you choose 4:3. The scene if you choose 16:9 is less high in relation to width than 4:3, so what you see on the screen has a black bar at top and bottom to fill the space left by the reduction in height. The image you see if you choose 4:3 fills the screen. The black that you see with 16:9 does not appear in the image you upload/print. If the black bar bothers you, this feature will be considered by you as a negative. But I like it because I can see exactly what I will get when I upload/print the photo. (Think of it as something like what happens when you anchor the left side of a piece of stretchy material and pull on the ride side. As the material stretches, it gets narrower. Same amount of material, but it looks wider and narrower.)
(If the sun seems too bright to use the LCD monitor, you can use the viewfinder. However, the S1 does have a setting for the LCD monitor for bright, sunny days, but that should be used only on days that it is really needed because it uses a lot of battery juice.)
Viewfinder: My preference is the viewfinder; the SX280 is the only photo camera I have owned that did not have a view finder, so I have seen a lot of them. I can say with certainty that the viewfinder of the S1, which also uses 920K dots, is the best I have used both in terms of the area covered and the clarity and brightness of the scene to be photographed. One negative is that color you see in the viewfinder is somewhat washed out (this is not true of the LCD monitor), but that is not how the photos will look. For some, another negative is the the scene seen through the viewfinder does completely fill the window in the same way that it does the LCD monitor. There is a wide black line around the window like a frame. This does not bother me, but it does some.
Panorama: You turn this on from the mode dial. I have done panoramas before, but never so easily. Up to now I always had to take overlapping photos then stitch them together with software. S1, however, does the work for you. The defaults are 120 degrees swinging camera to the right, but you can change them to swing to the left and/or 160 or 180 degrees if you prefer. To make the panorama, press the shutter, then immediately lift your finger, and while holding the camera in place turn your body in the indicated direction. Both on the screen and in the viewfinder you will see a white line move across the screen. When it gets to the end, it will stop automatically. If you press the shutter while this line is moving, you will end the panorama and nothing will be recorded So press, but do not hold down the shutter button. You can experiment with speed of moving your body, just don't go too slow.
(You are better able to keep the camera level if you rotate your body than if you try to rotate the camera.)
When I checked the panoramas on the Faststone photo viewer I found they were of good quality, but they were "thinner" so to speak than what I was seeing in the view finder. For example, when making a panorama of the condominium where I live, I could see the sky in the viewfinder. However, the photo had part of the roof of the 3-story buildings cut off. Taking another, I pointed the camera a little higher and ended up with the view I wanted.
But I soon found that you don't have to wait to know if you got the panorama you wanted. When the white line has crossed the screen, the result shows briefly on the LCD monitor or in the view finder, so you can tell right away whether a retake is needed.
You also have the option of making panoramas in the traditional way: take overlapping photos and stitch them together with a software program like Canon's PhotoStitch. With my other cameras, this was my only option.
Advanced Mode: Another option on the mode dial, besides all the the usual and panorama, is what they call "advanced" but is actually good for all users. Choose it and you are offered several options include "pro low-light", which is good for shooting in low light; "natural, where 2 photos are taken of the same thing, one with flash and one without; "zoom bracketing", where 3 shots are taken, 1 regular and 2 that are cropped to different degrees, giving you 3 options to choose from; and HDR where 3 photos are taken at different exposures and put together by the camera so that you get a photo that shows the whole range of exposure.
All of these options work well and I'm sure I will use them all on occasion.
Continuous Shooting (sometimes called burst mode): You activate this by pressing a button on the top of the camera. There are 3 options, high, medium and low, which can be read as very fast, a little less fast, and the slowest of the 3. Whichever you chose, you will get about 9 shots while you press the shutter button. High will give you 9 shots at about 10 fps, medium gives 9 shots at about 5 fps, and low is 9 shots at 3 fps. It is important to know this so you can chose the setting best for you at the time. If you are shooting a sports event and certain you can anticipate the crucial moment, then use "high" to get 9 shots of that moment to choose from. If less certain, then chose medium or low because the 9 shots will be spread over more seconds.
Which ever you choose, it takes about 4 seconds for the camera to clear so you can shoot another burst.
Exposure Compensation: With other cameras, I have tended to rely on post processing to make corrections in the exposure. This worked well with the dslr cameras because I was shooting RAW. With point and shoot cameras shooting .jpeg, it was not as satisfactory. But I didn't use the exposure compensation on those cameras because it seemed like too much work and took too much time to open the menus, scroll to find exposure compensation and make the change needed to photograph a very bright, very dark, or high contrast subject. The S1 makes it easy. Press the exposure compensation button on the top of the camera, the exposure compensation indicator will appear at the bottom of the monitor or viewfinder. Then while looking at the lcd monitor or through the viewfinder, use your thumb to rotate the dial between the movie button and the mode dial. As you rotate the dial, a yellow dot will move over the indicator, either increasing or reducing exposure, and you can see the scene or subject getting lighter or darker. When it looks right, take the photo, which when uploaded to your computer or printer will look just like it did on the screen when you took the shot. To check this out, I photographed scenes and subjects with no compensation, then photographed the same scenes and subjects after dialing in some compensation. In every case, the compensated photo was better and looked just like I expected from seeing it on the monitor before taking the shot. It is so easy to do, there really is no excuse for not making a correction before pressing the shutter button if it looks like the photo will be too dark or too light. To illustrate, I have uploaded before compensation and after compensation images so you can see what a difference a little compensation makes. In this case only +0.67. Look in the gallery.
AE Bkt (Exposure Bracketing): Another way to manage exposure compensation that some may prefer is AE Bkt, one of the options that becomes available when you press the button for continuous shooting. Press the button and you get 5 options: Continuous shooting high, medium, low, best frame capture, and AE Bkt. Using the "selector button" on the back of the camera scroll to AE Bkt and press "Ok". When you take your shot, the camera will take 3 images: 0 exposure compensation, +0.33 and -0.33. At your leisure, you can pick the one you think is best. If you think more compensation might be needed, press the exposure compensation button and follow the instruction above to chose 0.67 or 1.0, either plus or minus. Then when you take your shot the camera will follow your instructions when taking the 3 photos, for example 0 compensation, +0.67 and -0>67. +0.33/-0.33 is the default setting, however, if you expect to be mostly using 0.67 or 1.00 exposure compensation, you can change the default setting.
Camera Body: According to Fujifilm, it is safe to use this camera in the rain or dusty conditions because 70 areas of the body have been sealed. This sets the S1 apart from the other bridge cameras and is especially important to me because my son and I are booked on a cruise to Alaska the first week in June and they say there is a lot of wet weather there. I will update this review when I get back and report if I got all the shots and video that I wanted even though it meant shooting in the rain,
But the weather resistance is not the only thing that impresses me about the S1 body. It looks like a serious mid-range dslr yet is aesthetically pleasing with molded curves and rubberized matt black finish. In your hand it feels sold, like it would withstand a few knocks, but fits comfortably with a nice molded indentation for your middle finger and a rubberized patch on the back for your thumb. Also, the dials and buttons are well placed and easy to use. Once you get acquainted with them, which takes some practice as well as trial and error, you will be able make many adjustments with little difficulty as the need arises.
All in all, this is a very nice camera. It takes good photos and video; looks professional; has a lot of shooting options for photos and video, such as filters, panorama, HDR, red-eye removal, up to 10 face-detection, and interval shooting; built in WiFi; a very long zoom; and sealing that enables shooting on bad-weather days.
In the box is an abbreviated manual that gives setup instructions, but there is a full user manual on the CD. I highly recommend that you download it. The user manual is good, but you will still need to play around with camera to make full use of many of the options. More than a little of what I have told you above was not in the manual, but discovered through use of the camera.
on October 19, 2015
This camera is amazing. I really, really love it. Comes with a manual that doesn't tell you much more then how to insert the battery and turn it on.
BUT, you can download a 131 page manual that explains just about every detail. I printed out the manual so I could read it and try the different features in a comfortable chair, instead of sitting in front of my computer. I was a little concerned that the camera uses a special (probably can only get on line) battery. And the only way to charge the battery is to plug in the camera and wait several hours for the charge to take place. So I ordered WITH the camera, the [ BM Premium 2-Pack Of NP-85 Batteries And Charger Kit For FujiFilm FinePix S1 ] which is also great. You can check out my review of the charger & batteries on Amazon.com. To increase the number of pictures the camera could take at one time I also purchased the [ Transcend 32GB SDXC Class10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card Up to 90 MB/s (TS32GSDHC10U1E) ] with the camera and battery charger. I did photography as a hobby 40 years ago, using a 35mm SLR Canon camera, and developed my own B&W pictures. So I'm experienced some what, to do this review. The things this camera can do is really amazing. I took a picture of a deer at 200 yards at dusk in very low light (my 35mm SLR couldn't do that) and it came out really well. Takes great pictures in low light without flash. You can actually crop pictures while they are in the camera and save them as a new picture, keeping the original in tack. It does panorama photos, simple as turn the selector, point, depress the shutter, turn and done. Has many selections for picture and resolution sizes.
Transfers pictures via Wi-Fi or cable to your computer, by default it will only transfer those pictures which haven't been transferred before to your computer. It has a "flash shoe" for an extra flash if you need it for some reason, a selectable view finder for those people that desire it. And the large color screen used to take/view pictures folds in towards the camera to protect it, as well as allows positioning it for over head shots. (Similar to some video cameras) Want video, GOT IT ! I looked at several other like priced cameras, even more expensive (slightly newer) Fujifilm cameras, and chose this one, mainly for the "tuck away" screen, built in view finder, normal to telephoto lens. And now that I got it, the special battery (for extended use and rechargeable to save $$$) if anything happens to my camera other then total defect failure, I will buy another one in a heart beat.
Can't make up your mind, buy it, you won't be disappointed. NO I DIDN'T GET THIS CAMERA FREE for reviewing it. Wish I had.
on May 5, 2015
From my personal blog on rybird.com
Review Fuji S1 Backyard Birding Camera
I'll explain the title in a minute, but first will start with an older and less expensive model the Fuji 4200S. It was the first camera I purchased for birding. I bought it in 2013 for $175 at walmart, and it was enough to be enthusiastic about, and get involved, but had some limitations. The main issue was excessive noise at the full zoom of 30x and low light like in the mornings and evenings when birds are most active. This review is based on experience in backyard birding, and zoom, fast focus, fast pics, long battery life, and low noise is important.
It wasn't long before I wanted to upgrade, which was the Fuji 8200S. This was a great birding camera, it was almost there, still a little noise, and the 40x zoom was about where the camera stayed, I loved that it would take eight shot bursts which would capture several frames, which birds don't just sit there while getting their picture taken very often. And take pictures I did, took about 50,000 pics on one year, which is about 400 per day.
But the weather was hot and humid in the summer, and the house cold, so taking the camera outside brought in plenty of condensation. I began to see artifacts, or blurs that weren't always obvious, til I did a macro shot and the focus was such, I could see the water drops on the lens directly on the picture.
I purchased a Fuji 9500W which is real similar to the S1, “I am getting to the S1” but the flash didn't work so I returned it. But the weekend with it was great, the 50 zoom and 10 picture bursts were great.
At this time I had my eye on the S1, but they were 500 dollars in 2014, so I had to wait.
The weatherproof, “resistant” feature of the Fuji S1 was the calling card. Being it was almost a third more for that feature, which I knew very little about the camera before buying it, I was hesitant, but in 2015, Amazon had one for $339, so I got it. Now for the run down.
I got a lot more than just weatherproof, in addition to what I had with the 8200S and 9500W. In many ways it was similar to the 9500W, but the big differences were the sensor, and the RAW images. The sensor, a 16M BSI-CMOS, was great in low light, and very little noise. I rarely have to use median, which was my go to noise reduction on the earlier cameras. Nor do I need the unsharp mask. The colors are great, which I put it on Chrome, which basically turns the colors up, but with more green. The tone is great and for nature is preferable to me over the standard setting. The camera also has image stabilization and it must be working great, for that is one of those things, that if it works, you don't notice it, simple because the pictures turn out great.
But the feature that I like most about it is the RAW file feature. It can be set for RAW, or FINE, which FINE is high quality Jpeg, or for both. The advantage of RAW is readily evident when rendering large images for art, for it is 300dpi instead of 72, and makes a big difference in prints. For this reason alone, it is worth the upgrade.
But there is a downside, two issues come to mind. One is if it is set on RAW, or RAW and FINE, then the digital zoom past 50 by 2x is disabled. This is not a big deal, for image quality is reduced when using that feature, but the burst mode is disabled. This is probably due to the ability to store the files as they are many times larger than Jpegs. I imagine this will be solved in the near future and may be already on more expensive cameras. The other issue is Windows 7 does not show thumbnails for the RAF files, which is the file extension. for the Fuji Raw files. I was not able to find a free Fuji supported or third party codec which is needed for the thumbnails to show. I did see one for sale, but I did not buy it. I am simply shooting both, and they appear side by side in window explorer.
I did discover for free something interesting for RAW files that many people should like.
That is the Silkypix Raw File Converter EX. It was on the Fuji Website, installed easily enough, and is great for basic editing such as color temp, contrast, sharpness, with some preset color styles. It then can save the file in a number of formats, including JPEG and is a very functional program. It is at least as good as the RAW camera filter in Adobe Photoshop, but it is slight different, and might compliment it or replace that function depending on personal preference.
The battery life is good, the focus is fast, although a high flying jet or bird, it might not immediately be able to focus and the shot is lost., The grip is good, but the camera is a bit heavy at 24 ounces but not bad. Why did I say birding camera? It is the camera for birding, for me, as the whole package works in concert, the zoom, the RAW files, the fast recovery to take a second picture, as in less than a second. And the weatherproof is great. It also takes fantastic pictures of the moon, by setting it on manual and adjusting the ISO for the moon at night, and auto is great for day pics. For the novice photographer, or photographer that wants the end result without having to “work” the camera, the Fuji S1 is the ideal backyard birding camera.