Pros: Relatively inexpensive, Small size and weight, Easy controls, Simple navigation
Cons: Poor focusing and optical systems lead to blurry and out-of-focus photos
If you want a small, inexpensive, 5.1 mega-pixel digital camera and you dont mind sacrificing a bit on sharpness and focus, then you probably will enjoy the Fuji FinePix A500.
At its most basic, the FinePix A500 is a small, easily carried, 5.1 megapixel digital camera that uses 2 AA batteries for power, stores images on either 12 megabytes of internal memory or on an xD memory card, has a 1.8 inch LCD monitor, offers a 3x optical zoom lens and can record video without any sound.
The problems are in the details though and my experiences with this camera have been less than perfect, but not so bad that Im ready to get rid of the camera. The major issues Ive discovered over time have been with the clarity of the photos and the focusing ability of the camera. More often than not, I find myself taking multiple photos of the same thing, hoping that at least some of them will come out as clearly and as sharply as possible, knowing that at least some of them will be blurry or out of focus.
Measuring in at roughly 3.7 inches wide, 2.4 inches high and about 1.1 inches in width, this camera is quite small, thin and around 5 ? or so ounces with the batteries in, quite light. With this small size, the A500 is easily held in the hand and is small enough that it can be slid into a front or back pocket.
The A500 is a 5.1 megapixel camera and takes full resolution photos at 2592x1944 pixels. It can also take photos at for other lower resolutions, 2592x1728 (a 3:2 full-resolution), 2048x1536, 1600x1200, and 640x480. The highest resolution setting (2592x1944) also offers the choice between a fine and a normal mode. The fine mode captures more detail and information and is for photos that you know youll want large prints from. As you would expect, as the resolution increases, the file size increases and more detail is saved and larger photo prints are possible from the files.
Resolution of 640x480 is adequate for web pages and emails, while 2048x1536 and 1600x1200 resolutions are good for smaller to medium size prints and either of the top resolutions are suitable for larger prints (up to poster size) if you can get a clear and sharp photograph from the camera.
The A500 offers a 3x zoom lens, which is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens. Focusing is completely automatic and tends to be fairly quick. However, especially at higher resolutions, minor misfocuses tend to be magnified, reducing the overall clarity of the photograph.
The images tend to prone to being out of focus, especially if the camera isnt held completely still or if the subject of the photograph is not directly in the middle of the picture. This is because the auto focus zone is in the center of the screen. An auto focus lock is available, where you lock the focus on a central object by only depressing the shutter button halfway and then holding it while recomposing the photo and then pressing the button the rest of the way.
The default setting for the A500 is an automatic ISO setting. Depending on the conditions during the photograph, the camera will automatically adjust to an equivalent of between ISO of 100 to 400. However, the ISO can be changed through the menu section should you wish to change it.
I was pleasantly surprised with the lack of shutter delay on this camera. My partners older 3 megapixel Canon has significantly greater delay, to the point where you can press the shutter button and the picture has completely changed by the time the camera takes the photo. In the A500s case, the delay seems to be very short and it is easier to capture the photograph that you want to.
The A500 has a large, 1.8 inch color LCD screen. This screen allows you to compose photographs without using the viewfinder. It also provides access to the menus and various settings that can be altered with the camera. The screen is bright and clear in darker conditions, though it suffers from glare and washout in direct sunshine, which makes it almost impossible to see.
Settings and Navigation
The majority of the cameras settings are adjusted through the on-screen menu system which is initiated by the menu button next to the LCD screen. Navigation through the menus is then completed by using the macro and flash buttons and the zoom in and out buttons, which are all located in the upper right hand corner on the back of the camera (an up/down, left-right combination). Resolution, shooting mode, the self-timer, ISO, exposure and white balance can all be adjusted through the menu.
The navigation is fairly straightforward and labeled clearly. I was able to get into the menus and adjust settings without first having read the manual. However, first time users would be wise to flip through the manual to get an idea of what they will find in the menu and how to go about adjusting the settings.
The flash mode is adjusted directly through the flash button, switching between auto, red-eye reduction, always on and off. The macro mode is also entered directly through the macro button. These two buttons are located on either side of the zoom button, which by pressing up or down zooms the camera in and out.
To review photos that you have taken when the camera is off, by pressing and holding the playback button to the left of the flash button, the review mode will come up. If the camera is already on, pressing the disp/back button near the bottom right of the LCD screen will bring up the photos you have already taken. You can view photos with photo information on them, without any text or where several images are displayed at once. Navigation through the photos is done by pressing the flash or the macro buttons and you can zoom in and out on photos by using the zoom button.
There is no erase button on the A500, to delete an image you have to press the menu button during the image playback, which brings up a menu that has a delete option, and then select that option and press the menu button again to confirm the deletion.
The A500 allows photographs to be taken in a series of modes and movies to be taken in a single movie mode. The photograph modes include:
Auto the camera automatically adjust all settings, except for the flash which can still be directly adjusted.
Portrait used for taking relatively close photographs of people.
Landscape the mode for shooting outdoor scenery in bright light
Sport for taking photographs of moving subjects
Night if youre looking to take pictures at night
Manual lets you set the exposure compensation and white balance on the photograph
Movie recording is made under the movie mode and can 10 frames per second can be captured either at 320x240 or 160x120 resolutions. There is no sound recording when capturing a movie.
Most users are likely to be using the auto mode, however at times by adjusting the mode (through the menu navigation) there are opportunities to improve your photographs. The landscape mode is especially helpful when you are taking scenery shots and the night mode is helpful for taking nighttime shots (just make sure to use a tripod or otherwise secure the camera so it doesnt shake because of the longer shutter speeds).
The A500 uses the very small, xD memory card. These cards come in a number of capacities and go up to 1 gigabyte of storage space. Prices on these cards are reasonable and if you were to get a large (1 gigabyte) card, it is unlikely that youll ever need to get another to hold additional photographs.
The camera also has a 12 megabyte internal memory which allows you to use the camera without a memory card. However, depending upon the resolution, that memory only holds about 4 to 90 photos. With a 1 gigabyte xD card, you can hold anywhere from 400 to 8000 photos depending on resolution.
You can directly connect your A500 to your computer through a USB 2.0 connection and transfer your photos from the camera, directly to the computer. The A500 comes with the transfer cable and the associated driver software to make this work. If you store images in the internal camera memory, this is the only way to transfer those photos.
If you use just the memory card to store photos, it can be removed and inserted into a standard card reader, where the photos can then be moved onto your computer from there, negating the need to directly connect the camera to the computer.
The camera also supports a connection directly to a TV and will display the photographs on that TV. The camera comes with the cable for this.
The A500 runs on 2 AA batteries, which can either be standard batteries or rechargeable ones. Standard alkaline batteries last for about 200 to 400 shots, depending upon the amount of time you spend with the LCD screen on. Using the LCD screen tends to more quickly reduce the battery life. Therefore, the greatest number of shots possible is when you are solely using the viewfinder to take photographs and you are not adjusting settings constantly in the menus.
When you open your A500 box, you not only get the A500 itself. It also includes 2 AA batteries, a strap for the camera to make it easier to carry, a video cable to connect the camera to a TV, a USB cable to connect the camera to your computer, a CD-Rom with the camera connection drivers and photo software and the owners manual.
The Fuji FinePixViewer software that is included on the CD-Rom runs the file transfers from the camera and also offers file management and browsing capabilities. For detailed photo editing, youll need other software.
If you are not considering the direct connection of the camera to the PC and instead using a memory card reader, Id suggest not even installing the FinePixViewer, as it doesnt do anything that other, more powerful image management and editing programs can do.
I went out looking for a small, light, and inexpensive digital camera to replace my aging (and large) Olympus digital camera and to supplement my Rebel when I didnt feel like carrying around a full-size SLR camera. At first I fell in love with the Canon digital Elph series, but the higher price tag turned me off.
Then I came across the Fuji series and was ready to go with the Fuji A400, which is the 4-megapixel version of this camera. However, it was out of stock at the store I was at, so I spent a few extra dollars and got the A500. I paid approximately $140 for the camera and spent an additional $60 on a 1-gigabyte xD memory card in order to store images on the camera.
My set up with the camera was quick and easy. I opened the box, slipped in the batteries and the memory card (both are in the same compartment, which does make taking the memory card out a bit of a pain), attached the hand strap and had the camera on and taking pictures within a few minutes. Those first few test shots were fairly decent, though I quickly discovered that the camera took the best photos in bright light and that you had to hold the camera still in order for the photograph to be as clear as possible.
I also noticed that by shooting at the highest resolution, the imperfections in the photos were magnified. Blurriness, focus and noise were much more noticeable in a full-resolution photo, even when compared to the next resolution down.
The camera has since traveled with me on several trips and has been around to friends parties, my parties and generally just been all over. What Ive found is that there are still those problems that I first discovered when I was testing it. The camera seems to have difficulty focusing (or should I say you need to be very careful when composing a shot to make sure what you want in focus is in the center or the image or you use the focus lock) and it can be quite frustrating to download your photos and find photo after photo that is slightly to completely blurry.
The camera also seems, even on the most in-focus shots, to lack the clarity that photographs from other digital cameras have. When shown at full-resolution, its clear that a vast majority of the photographs are not crystal clear and I doubt that they would be suitable for large size prints.
That said, the vast majority of the photos are perfectly fine for emails and websites and even small to mid-size prints, where the smaller sizes tend to mask the defects in the pictures.
Im guessing that there have to be trade-offs made when you make a 5-megapixel camera that retails for under $150. I doubt the optics are really quality optics and it seems that the auto-focus system is about as bare bones as possible.
What I do like about the A500 is its size and its ease of use. Theres nothing I hate more than being somewhere and wanting to take a quick picture and fighting to get my camera out of my bag (because its to big to put in my pocket) or figure out what settings to use (when things are not quite so automatic). With the A500, I pull it out of my pocket, turn it on and shoot the picture. I might shoot a couple just to make sure I get a good shot, but its that ease that I was really looking for. I wanted to be able to quickly and easily capture random shots while I was on vacation or just out and about with friends.
The A500 makes that a lot easier.
For now, that makes the camera worth it for me. Im willing to live with the not so great focusing and clarity because overall, I can work around those problems and the camera filled the niche that I needed filled in an inexpensive kind of way.
If I had to do it all over again, would I get the same camera now that I know what I know? Probably not. I would probably save up and get that digital Elph or a different, higher-end compact digital camera.
The A500 reminds me a lot of my earlier days of trying to find a decent point-and-shoot film camera. If you didnt want to spend a lot of money youd get a camera that would do a decent job, but youd probably get a lot of blurry photos and be disappointed some of the time. However, if you wanted to spend a lot, youd get a camera that consistently gave you better shots. The A500 falls into the first category you really do get what you pay for I guess.
If cost if your biggest consideration when choosing a 5-megapixel point-and-shoot digital camera, then you should seriously check out the Fuji FinePix A500. Its a decent 5-megapixel camera that offers enough versatility for most point-and-shoot users. Its small size makes it easy to carry in a pocket and it is a great camera to carry with you when you want to be able to capture candid shots and not have to lug around a heavy camera.
Its only real failing to me is the lack of a quality auto-focus system and an optical system that could stand to be improved a bit to improve the image quality.