The 7.2-megapixel Fujifilm S5600 bridge camera features a 10x zoom, and a top ISO speed of 1600.
Improvements or Gimmicks?
At a time when manufacturers clamber to impress with the latest ‘must-have’ technology, the lines between necessity and simple competition seem somewhat blurred. Not to deviate from this, Fujifilm’s S5700 bridge camera boasts improvements and innovations in every corner of its specification. But are these indeed improvements, or just reasons for its consignment to the scrapheap of gimmick-led technology?
To Fujifilm’s credit, the company has decided against battling over pixel count, opting for a reasonable 7MP sensor. A non-protruding 10x optical zoom (38-380mm equivalent) has been coupled with a Picture Stabilisation mode to ensure clarity even at the telephoto end, while Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes offer all the control expected in a bridge camera. In addition, the mode dial accommodates two settings that can be customised to a specific scene mode.
Sensitivity and lighting control have long been characteristic of Fujifilm’s range and the S5700 follows suit. An expansive ISO range of 64-1600 is teamed with a Natural Light mode to ‘retain ambient light without flash’ and a similar mode, but with the addition of flash, takes two consecutive shots (one with flash and one without), allowing you to choose the most accurately exposed afterwards.
Fujifilm’s legendary ‘F’ button allows quick adjustment of ISO, image size and colour. Colour modes are limited to three options: colour, black & white, and a chrome mode, the latter being designed to bring the picture closer to that of its range of transparency films. While I wouldn’t place too much value on something like a ‘negative’ mode – as seems to be the vogue with many compacts – a sepia mode, for example, would be a nice touch.
Real Photo Processor
The S5700 is fitted with a Real Photo Processor, which promises to deliver ‘first-rate colour reproduction, image sharpness, low noise and excellent tonal response.’ This is all well and good, and indeed echoes what almost every manufacturer seems to promise, but for a camera priced just under £200, the claim of ‘film-like quality’ sounds dubiously optimistic.
A dual card slot has been included – as is the case in many of the company’s latest models – accepting an SD card as well as xD, while an electronic viewfinder provides an alternative to the LCD screen. Advanced features such as spot metering – something still missing from some DSLRs – are included, confirming the market at which the camera is targeted.
One cause for concern, though, is that the Raw mode featured on the S5600 has been left out. While this is hardly a feature expected in a camera of this price, its omission is one of the last things expected in an ‘upgrade’.
The camera’s body is lighter and smaller than the S5600’s, but handling has not been compromised. A metallic lens ring complements the matt-black plastic body, while an ample rubber grip contributes to comfortable handling. The grip houses the four AA cells, though frustratingly the battery door takes some persuasion to fully close.
The LCD screen and EVF have both been revamped, with the former increased in size from 1.8in to 2.5in, and both have seen an upgraded resolution, now doubled to 230,000 pixels. A well-spaced set of menu buttons sits on the rear panel to facilitate clear and speedy access to all key shooting options.
An additional shooting mode button alongside the mode dial – allowing the selection of continuous shooting, autobracketing and ‘long-period’ shooting – is a useful feature, but its position and need to be held down while scrolled through via the menu panel is somewhat awkward. Similarly, the ‘F’ button seems slightly resistant and needs to be pressed for longer than any of the other buttons do.
Despite its shortcomings, the S5700 performs remarkably well. Powering up in minimal time, the camera focuses just as swiftly and offers a feature for every situation. The Natural Light & Flash function is perfect for when exposure is difficult to judge, while the Picture Stabilisation mode, as promised, fulfils its purpose even at the telephoto end of the zoom (though depending on the lighting, it may have to adjust the ISO to ensure a sharp image).
The macro mode is sharp and accurate, and the minimum focusing distance of 1cm – in Super Macro mode – is impressive. The 30fps movie mode is fairly average but its ability to work in conjunction with its Electronic Image Stabiliser is a bonus and still rare among similarly specified cameras.
For whatever reason, the S5700 produces a somewhat erratic range of images. Even at a low ISO, purple fringing – and sometimes an alarmingly bright shade of blue – is noticeable in certain shots. Thick lines adorn the edges of contrasting areas, though bizarrely, this seems to improve as the ISO moves up the scale with ISO 800 almost eradicating any trace.
Noise is acceptable up to ISO 400, but beyond this, the texture limits you to smaller print sizes. Barrel distortion is a slight issue at its widest focal length and even at mid-range makes itself known. Yet, despite all of this, the white balance reproduces fairly accurate conditions and edge- and corner-sharpness is much better than expected. Exposures are also generally fine, displaying both good tonality and detail.
Value For Money
Considering that the price has come down by a fair amount since its launch, this camera is an absolute steal. The level of manual control, and its performance throughout the focal range, make it one of the most useful cameras around. The image quality isn’t the most reliable, however, and devalues an otherwise competent camera.
Innovative features mask flaws in the fundamental aspects of the S5700. It really is a shame, because the camera almost epitomizes the current needs of a particularly large market; that is, one that requires a good level of manual control, in a small 'bridge' body and for a reasonable price. Results can at times be quite pleasing, but are temperamental and inconsistent with Fujifilm's claims. An improved sensor? perhaps one that does indeed offer 'film-like quality' and more attention to chromatic aberration control would be preferable to the additional features present.