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I bought this camera last year as a backup for my DSLR and because I wanted something small yet complex enough to take on holiday. It didn't disappoint, the 15X optical zoom is plenty enough and it is packed full of extras such as smart auto and loads of different scenes, one thing I would say is don't bother too much with the scenes as the EXR setting chooses the best settings for you. You also have the option to change the cameras aperture and shutter speed which is limited as would be expected with a compact but which is a great feature. The camera also looks very smart and you have a small grip at the front making it easier to point and shoot. There is a trigger for the zoom rather than buttons which makes it a lot easier and there is a wheel for changing settings rather than having to go through the camera settings to change everything. However there are some bad points about the camera, after a few months of having the camera I noticed the pop up flash started to get a bit flimsy, not a problem if you are careful with it and it is still working fine, also the text has started to wear off the buttons so you have to remember what each one does, these are both just minor issues and the positives of this camera definitely outweigh the negatives.
Where photography is concerned, I could never claim to be one of the David Baileys of this world. In fact, give a few chimps a camera each; statistically, at least one of them would produce as good a quality snapshot as mine - which does not say much for my expertise. However, that is not to say I have given up trying to add a modicum of skill to my enjoyable, photographic activities.
When digital cameras arrived, I was happy that at last I would not be forever wasting film, or having to wait days, sometimes weeks, to find whether a photograph was good or bad.
However, two digital camera features irk me. The first is the fact that in bright light, it is almost impossible to see on the screen exactly what scene the lens will capture. This is where I have to point and hope. Bring back the viewfinder - I say.
The second and for me, the most irksome aspect, is the delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter responding. Often when animals are the target, they begin moving out of view just as the shutter responds, resulting in a blurred image of a mass of fur, which could easily be mistaken for a lousy snapshot of a bedroom rug. I have missed so many good action shots because of this delay of shutter response.
Imagine my delight when I saw a digital camera, demonstrated on the shopping channel, (QVC) that would capture the scene as soon as the shutter button was depressed - Reaction - wow! Action - buy !
Enter the Fujifilm Finepix F500EXR camera
I was so enthusiastic about this camera, I forgot to compare prices on the internet, and did pay a little more than I needed - but hey, you win some, you lose some, I was however, able to pay for it in three easy instalments, at no extra cost.
The cost to me for the whole package, listed below, was £254.73, which included postage and packaging.
What did I get for my money?
Of the four choices of colour - Black, White, Red or Blue - I chose the lovely cobalt blue, 16 megapixel camera.
With the securely packaged camera was:
A lined, firm, leather case with magnetic closure tabs rather than velcro or zip
A rechargeable NP-50 battery.
A CD-ROM with FinePix studio to store/ organise photos and a more comprehensible 148 page, downloadable user manual in English or one of about 15 other languages.
One camera strap.
One BC-45W battery charger.
One A/V cable (so that videos or photos can be viewed through the TV screen).
One HDMI high speed cable - apparently not normally included as part of the package.
One USB cable, for connection to computer.
One 4GB SDHC memory card.
One small, 25 page, illustrated basic manual.
I never thought I would describe a camera as tactile, but this little beauty is lovely to handle. Its metallic, cobalt-blue colour casing, with glossy black top and sides, feels so smooth and pleasant to the touch. Rather like one of Henry Moore's ultra-smooth sculptures.
The casing is metal and the whole thing, including memory card and battery weighs 216g - about 7.6 ozs and measures 91mm x 62mm x 20mm
All the compartments, including the ports for USB connection and flash unit, have metal covers set flush with the camera casing - in fact it took me a few minutes so discover the locations of the battery and memory card compartments - only because I had not realised the tiny diagram was of the base of the camera and not the top.
The flash unit surprised me when it automatically popped up from the top of the casing when I turned on the power.
This 16-megapixel camera with an x15 optical zoom, and sporting a large 3-inch screen, captures images of distant objects that the eye does not see when taking the photo.
It also doubles up as a video camera, as most digital cameras do these days, but this will capture scenes in HD, if selected. The button for the movie mode, with a red camera icon, is separate from the other dials, and sits at the rear just above the selector button. Next to it is a green, playback button, to view the movie or photos.
A thin, plastic bezel-like disc to move the cursor surrounds the easy to operate circular selector button.
Below this are two more buttons, one labelled Disp/Back which when depressed cancels the current operation. The second button labelled f will display frequently used shooting and playback options.
In the centre are the icon positions for deleting pictures, taking close-ups, turning on the flash unit and an icon to select the self-timer ideal when the operator wants to photograph him/herself in a group.
At the left of these controls is the wide three-inch, LCD screen.
At the top of the camera, and set at a slight angle, rather than flat, is the "Mode dial" with eight mode options. The first four, P, S, A and M options are modes allowing user to manually control the settings, such as shutter speeds and aperture.
(1) In the (P) MODE, the camera sets the exposure automatically.
(2) In the (S) Mode the operator, selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the optimal exposure for that speed.
(3) In the (A) Mode, the operator selects the aperture and the camera adjusts to the appropriate shutter speed - teamwork.
(4) In the (M) Mode the operator selects both aperture and shutter speed.
(5) The EXR Mode allows the camera to select, automatically, the appropriate settings for different scenes; for example, Landscapes, Faces, Snow, Sky etc and, according to the manual, "improves clarity, reduces noise and increases dynamic range."
(6) The Auto Mode, depicted by the icon image of a camera, is described as the "Simple point and shoot mode - recommended for first time users."
(7) The Advanced Mode, depicted by the letters Adv is still a point and shoot system, yet allows a choice of three options which, I for one have not seen in digital cameras.
One of which is to take a panoramic view, by panning through a whole 360 degrees if required. The camera takes multiple frames and automatically joins them to form a panoramic view. Care has to be taken to keep the camera on the same plane when panning - best done using a tripod, I would think - then it won't matter if you sneeze half way through the pan.
With the Pro-focus option, up to three photos are taken each time the shutter button is pressed it softens the background and emphasises the main subject.
The third option is the Pro Low Light mode, here the camera takes four frames when the shutter button is depressed and automatically combines them into one single picture - this is usually used in situations where the subject is poorly lit or photographed at high zoom ratios. According to the user guide, it reduces noise (whatever that is) and blur.
(8) The SP Mode - depicted by the letters Sp, Is the scene position mode giving 18 choices of photographic conditions, some of the more interesting ones are as follows:
NATURAL LIGHT WITH FLASH - the camera takes two shots, one with flash and one without.
PORTRAIT- suitable for portraits.
PORTRAIT ENHANCER - Now this selection allows your camera to bend the truth - to give a nice smooth skin effect - great for those of us who faces are beginning to fold and crease here and there.
DOG - yes , there is even an option suitable for photographing dogs.
CATS - Oh yes, even one for cats too.
There are modes for fireworks, snow, sports, texts, flower close-ups, night time shots, party shots, and even underwater photography ( providing the camera is encased in a waterproof case.)
My experience and impression.
Well, I'm still not up to David Bailey's standard - never will be, but I have found at my level and for my purposes, the EXR Mode is perfectly adequate. I have certainly managed to take some very pleasing photo's with it.
The optical zoom exceeded my expectations. I tested it out when on a walk in nearby fields, about a mile as the crow flies from the Cathedral and about five miles as the crow flies from Glastonbury Tor.
I took a picture of each, firstly with no optical zoom - both subjects were barely visible to the naked eye. The Tor looked like a pimple on the horizon. I then took pictures of the same subjects with the optical zoom at its maximum (x15) I could not believe my eyes when I checked the zoomed pictures. The cathedral was in perfect focus, and looked to be about 200 yards away, and what is more, the distant background of shops and houses - impossible to see with the naked eye, were also captured. The same applied to the photo of the Tor.
When it came to importing the pictures from the camera onto my computer, all I had to do, was attach the USB to the computer and camera then click import. It could not have been simpler. When I wanted to import more pictures, it only imported the newest photos, so I did not get a screen full of duplicates.
The exciting feature for me is that as soon as I depress the shutter button the scene is captured, there is no delay whatsoever - just like non-digital cameras.
The only downside, as with most digitals, is that in bright sunlight it is impossible to see anything on the screen.
Bring back the viewfinder - please... Ahhhh, I am told that they have... but this camera is going to last for years yet, so I can't see myself buying a new one for a very long time, unless of course, in the unlikely event that I should lose or drop this one..