Friday, November 19, 2010

Fujifilm S1800 (updated)

The Fujifilm S1800 seems ridiculously cheap at $150, and yet I see no indications of any major weaknesses (beyond it being a small-sensor camera of course). Does anybody have any experience with it?

Though some of my keener fans/critics (you know who you are) say that I should Just Get Used To things becoming cheaper and better every year, I'm afraid so far I'm not used to it. I wonder if I'll ever be. (I wonder if I want to be, a sense of Wonder is so entertaining.) For example it was not so many years ago that industry insiders said that even if sensors were to become free, a digital camera would never become as cheap as a comparable film camera! Well, we have reached that point a few years ago and now we are well past it. This camera is a dang complex piece of gear, at a price many people don't hesitate to pay for a night in town.

The first thing I would suspect would be image quality with such a long zoom, but at a quick look it actually seems good.  I might even be tempted, even though a super-zoom "tween" (in between compact and DSLR cameras) or "bridge" camera is one kind of digital camera I have never owned or been much interested in.

Here's a good review (Photography Blog is surprisingly good).  From the conclusion:
"All of this would be fine if not particularly noteworthy on a £300 / $350 camera - but given that the S1800 only costs just £180/ $230 full-price [notice it's even cheaper now. E], we wouldn't blame you for wondering where the catch is. There are a few more caveats - only two available aperture settings, an all-plastic though not flimsy construction, somewhat misleading burst mode settings, and a rather low-resolution EVF and LCD - but all-in-all, the Fujifilm FinePix S1800 is a complete and very capable bargain."

I got one today. It's like they say, for the price it's a brilliant camera. And like they say, at the longest zoom range, you're lucky to get a sharp picture. Use it only when you have to, and take several shots to help your luck. (And this is 18x zoom. Now they even make 30x zoom cameras, rather silly I think. I still think less than 10x is best.)
See, the third one is the only really sharp one, even though the light was good:  (Click for big pic.)

Also, at the longest zoom range, focusing is often slow, and worse, the focus is sometimes off, even though it beeped and looked all right on the screen. This is odd, never seen that before.

But that's the only fault I've found so far. Otherwise it's an astounding camera for the price.
I would still  say despite all that, a pocket-sized Canon with IS and maybe a 3X zoom is the best way to go, overall. The S95, if you can afford it. Doesn't have long zoom, but great quality and less than half the size of this camera. Maybe a third of the size, a real take-everywhere camera with pro quality pictures, that Canon.  


Philocalist said...

'Also, at the longest zoom range, focusing is often slow, and worse, the focus is sometimes off, even though it beeped and looked all right on the screen. This is odd, never seen that before.

When you say that the focus is sometimes off, despite the confirmation beep, can I suggest a perhaps more likely cause?
Quite simply, I'm guessing camera-shake, which becomes more and more evident as shutter speeds slow down, and focal length increases?
The camera may well confirm focus 'at that instant', but the slightest wobble on your behalf is going to cause apparent unsharpness.
Most 'auto' exposure calculations are a compromise at best, usually designed to give a combination of aperture and shutter speed that will / should result in correct EXPOSURE, with little consideration given to maintaining a faster shutter speed.
As a rule of thumb (assuming that the camera was using a film 'speed' of 100asa), the shutter speed at which you would be expected to hand-hold and maybe get a sharp(ish)exposure would be 1/500th of a second (assuming your lens was at its longest setting)... which in turn would need a wide aperture probably unavailable on this camera ... which means that even at the maximum aperture available to you, the camera will have calculated a much slower shutter speed to ensure correct exposure: camera shake!
Even without sticking a meter outa the window, I'm guessing that with your max available aperture of f5.6, shutter speed would be as low as 1/30th of a second with todays light, and probably slower still ... well into the realms of tripod territory, irrespective of whether or not the camera 'beeped' focus ... or invoked image stabilisation!

eolake said...

focus error gives a different type of unsharpness. It's even, whereas shaken is streaky.

Thinking about it, most of the unsharp pix I took at long zoom has the first-mentioned type, so I would guess that it has pretty serious issues with focus at long range for some reason. That can't be be true for all samples though, or they couldn't sell the camera.