Recently I had a surprise. Well, actually it was at Christmas but then isn't that the best time for surprises? My wife bought me a camera; a digital camera. A Fujifilm Finepix S3000. I've been looking at digital cameras for some time. Mostly I've been looking in the various magazines and reading reviews. I was almost ready to buy a camera. I wasn't considering the S3000 though mainly because I wasn't aware of its existence. I have seen no reviews of this model although there have been several of its more expensive companions the S5000 and the S7000. So, as I say, it was a surprise when I unpacked almost my last present. It turned out that my daughter, who has recent gained a 2:1 in Photographic Art from UWCN recommended the S3000 to my wife. The S3000 is a fairly chunky camera although not unduly large. It resembles a small 35mm SLR although it doesn't have an interchangeable lens. The casing is a silver plastic that appears to be reasonably durable although I wouldn't recommend dropping it to see just how durable! On the back is an 4:3 LCD panel about 1 inch in size (diagonal) and above it is an eyepiece such as you would find on an SLR in order to see the picture directly through the lens. However, in the case of the S3000, this eyepiece actually allows you to see the picture displayed on a small internal LCD. This one, being smaller, has a far lower power consumption and so is a smaller drain on the batteries. The camera uses 4 AA batteries. Alkaline are recommended although rechargeable Lithium-Ion or Nickel-MH batteries would be a preferable if expensive alternative. When taking pictures the eyepiece is activated; when viewing pictures
you have taken the LCD panel is activated. You can switch between the two with a grey button on the left side of the eyepiece. The picture through the eyepiece is quite acceptable and useful if you are trying to view pictures in bright sunlight which may overwhelm the LCD, although the brightness of the LCD display can be varied in the settings. The CCD has a capability of 3.2 megapixels (mp) although the camera can be configured to scale down to 2, 1 and 0.3 megapixels where smaller sized pictures are acceptable. The reduced sizes also consume less space on the storage medium. The camera uses the xD format picture storage cards. The camera comes with a 16 megabyte card. My wife bought me a 128 megabyte card for it. At 3mp this is enough for around 160 pictures; at 0.3mp it will hold nearly a thousand! Pictures are recorded in JPEG format. The primary reason that my daughter chose the S3000 was because of the lens. The camera is unusual in being provided with a x6 telephoto lens. An optical zoom lens is always better than a digital one so this feature is desirable. This is the equivalent of a 38mm-228mm 35mm lens. The camera also has a digital zoom although this does not take effect at the 3mp frame size. The digital zoom adds additional magnification at lower frame sizes, up to a maximum of x3.2 at 0.3mp, the equivalent of a 730mm telephoto lens on a 35mm SLR film camera! I haven't tested these extreme zooms as so far I have only taken pictures at 3mp. The x6 optical zoom at this frame size does, however, produce excellent results although in low light conditions the camera will benefit from a tripod so as to avoid camera shake. A little hand + exclamation mark symbol in the viewfinder warns when this is likely to happen. The camera has a b
uilt-in pop-up flash unit. This can be configured for straight flash, forced flash (when flash would not normally be required) and anti-redeye flash. The intensity of the flash can also be regulated. Of course, using the flash will drain the batteries faster. The shutter button is surrounded by the mode switch which selects between taking pictures, viewing the pictures that have been taken and switching the whole camera off. Next to it is a rotary switch that chooses the type of operation when taking pictures. The simplest mode is Auto. Here the camera chooses the right settings for any condition. I have used this most frequently and it always seems to produce very good results. There is also a Scene setting, indicated by a silhouette. This offers variations on the automatic settings for taking, portraits, landscape scenes, sports shots and night shots. There is also a Manual choice where various settings can be imposed, such as aperture setting for increased depth of focus or exposure compensation for scenes with bright backgrounds or highly lit subjects. Below the mode switch there is a four-way switch which controls the camera in different ways according the way in which it is being used. For instance, when taking pictures it enables Macro mode for close-up shots, switching between Flash modes and for regulating zoom between Telephoto and Wide-angle. The camera can also take video shots although only at low frame sizes and only at 10 frames per second. Its not really intended as a replacement for a true digital camcorder. A 320x240 pixels can be taken up to a maximum of 60 seconds per shot. At 160x120 the shot length can be up to 4 minutes. There are three buttons alongside the LCD panel that give access to the cameras menu system and enables control of all of the settings. You also use the
se to manage the pictures you have taken, such as erasing those you don't want. Pictures are downloadable to a computer via a supplied USB cable that plugs into the side of the camera. The camera also comes with the drivers needed to enable this. The computer sees the camera as a removable disk drive. Also provided is picture manipulation software called the FinePix Viewer. I prefer Irfanview myself. There is also a Video Editing program called ImageMixer VCD2, which I haven't yet had occasion to use. In its simplest mode the camera is very easy to use. You just point and click. I haven't yet investigated a half of its capabilities. Most of the pictures I have taken have been in simple Auto mode, with very good results. The pictures are crisp and clear with very good colour balance. I used the camera recently on holiday skiing in St Sorlin. I took over 60 pictures in a whole variety of conditions. I will be posting some of them on my website in due course although they won't be original size; the file size would be too big. I will be using Irfanview to shrink them down to around 640x480. This won't fully demonstrate the quality of the originals but it should give you a good idea. I am very happy with this camera. It has everything I need in a digital camera and it produces pictures that are every bit as good as I had hoped. Over time I will be exploring some of its more extended features to see what effect they have. Its great to be able to do that and see the results immediately and not to waste any film in doing so. Its never going to make me a David Bailey although I understand that even the best photographers only get one good shot in thirty but then, they can afford the film! And, even the best photograp
hers are using digital cameras these days. The S3000 proves you don't have to spend a fortune to get great results. UPDATE - April 2004 I have discovered one thing that needs me to issue a word of warning. It would appear that even if the camera is turned off the batteries are subject to a power drain. I don't know why. There should be nothing using up electricity if the camera isn't switched on but clearly that isn't so. I recommend that if you are not using the camera for a period of time that you remove the batteries. That way they should last a bit longer.