Pros: Low price, 10x optical zoom, good build quality, performance, uses SD cards
Cons: Does not use SuperCCD, no wide angle (starts at 38mm), no optical image stabilization
I really like Fuji Super-CCD cameras and their recent effort, the Fuji S6000fd was an excellent camera that has pretty much everything I desired: very long optical zoom, wide angle capability, low noise in high ISO modes. But it used xD cards only and the price was not exactly low.
The new S700 fixes the two aforementioned shortcomings, but undoes some other good things that I liked about the S6000fd. It does not use the SuperCCD, does not have manual zoom ring or focusing ring around the lens and has no wide angle.
What Is Canon Fuji FinePix S700?
The Fuji FinePix S700 is a 7-Megapixel digital camera with a 10x optical zoom (38-380 mm equivalent), a 2.5-inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder, powered by 4 AA batteries (disposable batteries included, rechargeable recommended).
The camera features ISO range of up to ISO 1600, picture stabilization mode (which is not real optical image stabilization, but rather increased ISO) and stores pictures on either xD-Picture memory cards or, finally, SD cards. This is in addition to the 27MB of built-in memory.
It also features fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to PC and Mac computers. The camera stores photos in JPEG format and can store short video clips in AVI format at up to 30 fps.
Unlike the Fuji S6000fd or the S5200, the S700 seems to be more conventional. It no longer has a non-extending lens with rings around it to control zoom/focusing. I was impressed by the S700s build quality and overall ergonomics. The S700 looks less like a mini-SLR camera than its predecessors. The camera has a convenient handgrip covered in soft textured plastic with a shutter release button on top, a large mode selection dial on the top deck and other elements that make it convenient to use.
The camera uses 4 AA batteries and I used four rechargeable 2300 mAh Rayovac NiHM batteries with it. The battery compartment door is sturdy and the battery polarity is marked well. The camera stores photos and videos on xD-Picture memory cards or SD cards. I have both types of memory at my disposal, but used the 1 GB SD card. SD memory is cheaper, more widespread and more reusable. Even Fuji is moving away from xD so I suggest that if you have to get memory cards for this camera, do not waste your money on xD and get SD instead. E.g. Kingston Elite Pro 2GB SD Card or a 1GB Kingston Elite Pro SD Card.
The camera has a 2.5-inch LCD screen and the control buttons on the rear panel are well-made and have good tactile response. The memory card door is also sturdy, yet easy to open and the same applies to the rubberized door that covers the USB, A/V and DC ports.
The camera has a built-in pop-up flash that pops up automatically when needed or when you select the forced-flash mode. There is no mechanical switch to make the flash pop up.
The S700 is pleasant in use. Unlike the S6000fd, it is more compact due to its extending lens design, but takes more time to start up. The camera is turned on by a switch in front of the handgrip. The shooting mode is selected by rotating the mode selection wheel/dial to one of the positions clearly marked on it: Auto, P (program), A (Aperture Priority), S (Shutter Priority), M (Manual), movie, night scene, landscape, portrait, etc.
The camera has a 2.5-inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). You switch between them by pushing the EVF/LCD button. The LCD screen is fluid, well-visible in the dimly-lit environments (gains-up) and has good resolution. Same applies to the EVF.
The automatic focusing system works very well, even in low light. It focuses in under a second at wide angle. At telephoto, however, the focusing in low light slows down and may take up to several seconds for the camera to obtain focus in dim light.
But in good light, the S700 focuses in under a second at either wide angle or telephoto. The camera lets you select between auto focus, continuous auto focus and manual focus. I did not notice any improvement with continuous auto focus in comparison with regular auto focus, aside from the camera making slight scraping noises all the time and possibly depleting battery faster. I would avoid using the C-AF (continuous auto focus) at all times.
The camera zooms or and out completely in about 4 seconds, which is not very fast, but lets you frame the shot precisely. The zooming is almost silent.
Zoom Coverage and Optics
The camera features 10x optical zoom with a range of 38-380 mm in 35-mm equivalent. The lens has a maximum aperture range of f/3.5-3.7 (and goes to f/13.6, 7 steps in 1/3 EV increments).
The zoom range is rather good and is quite typical for mega-zoom cameras, but if you want better wide-angle coverage, you might have to look elsewhere (e.g. Fuji S6000fd).
Ease of Use
The camera is rather easy to use in its automatic mode. You just point and shoot, the camera takes care of the rest. If you use the scene modes or manual modes, the parameter selection is also easy. In Manual mode, the camera shows you the exposure scale and you can figure out what parameters to set to make the photo well-exposed.
The camera menus are a slightly different story. The are not difficult to use, but are not very intuitive in terms of icons. At least the most important menu is easy to use and easily accessible. The F button on the back of the camera gives you instant access to the most important parameters: resolution mode, ISO and color mode.
The Almighty [F] Menu
The first entry in the menu is the resolution selection. The camera shows you descriptions as you scroll through the choices and even shows you haw many pictures of the currently-selected size will fit on the memory card, based on its remaining capacity. The camera comes pre-set to 7M N quality.
The second parameter is ISO (sensitivity). You get choices between Auto, Auto (400), Auto (800), and numeric ISO of 64, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. The color mode can be set to Standard, Chrome (high saturation) and B&W.
The cameras startup or shutdown is about 2 seconds. The focusing is faster than 1 second in good light at all focal lengths. It is fast (less than a second) at wide angle in dim light, slows down in dim light at telephoto (up to 4-5 seconds). Hi-Speed shooting mode may help the camera focus faster in low light at telephoto, but not consistently and at an expense of battery life. Continuous auto-focusing (C-AF) does not improve the focusing speed noticeably.
The zooming is precise and full zooming takes about 4 seconds. I was able to take photos at about one a second in single-frame mode. The camera also has several continuous/burst modes. In the continuous mode, the camera takes pictures at 0.6 frames per second until the memory card is full (or you release the shutter release button).
Another burst mode lets you take 3 photos at 1.4 photos per second. The auto bracketing mode also operates at 1.4 frames per second and takes three photos.
I used 2300 mAh NiMH batteries and took about 120 photos with no low battery warning. You should be able to take several hundred photos on one battery charge depending on batteries you use and the camera usage modes.
I could have used the camera with a supplied USB cable to transfer photos to my computer, but used my memory card reader instead.
The S700 produces photos with pleasing colors, low noise, low chromatic aberration and good sharpness corner to corner. I have taken other photos at different focal lengths and ISO settings as well. Below are my findings.
The camera features very good sharpness. The telephoto shots had slightly softer corners, but at other focal lengths, the photos were sharp corner to corner. The photos have pleasing colors and good contrast. The exposure is generally accurate and the shadow and highlight detail is preserved well.
The chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is present (especially at full wide) but generally low. The noise levels about average and are higher than the Fuji S6000fd, which uses Super CCD imager. The noise is low up to ISO 100, but gets higher at ISO 200 and above with loss of detail. The photos are quite usable at up to ISO 200 for enlargements up to 11x14 inches. Photos at ISO 400 and higher may be used at 6x4.
The compression at 7M N is a bit on the high side, creating mild JPEG artifacts. I would not use the 7M N setting for something I want to enlarge or crop and would rather use 7M F mode. But the 7M N and 3:2 modes are well-suited for 6x4 prints.
I also want to mention that the camera does not have real image stabilization and relies instead on the use of higher ISO (up to ISO 1600). This works better in Super-CCD cameras and results in image noise when used on the S700. The resultant pictures are OK when printed at small sizes, but are not good for enlarging. This is unlike cameras that use real optical image stabilization, e.g. Canon S3 IS or Panasonic FZ8 or FZ7.
The camera has no optical image stabilization (OIS) and tries to compensate for it by using higher ISO settings, which may result in higher noise than that produced by its competitors with OIS, e.g. Panasonic FZ8, Canon S3 IS, Sony H7/H9.
I am also not a big fan of cameras that use 4 AA batteries. I prefer either 2 AA batteries or a proprietary battery pack. But I am sure many people have no problem using 4 AA batteries.
I am impressed with the Fuji S700, but wish Fuji retained its Super-CCD for lower noise at high ISO settings. Still, the camera features very low price, good build quality, ergonomics, performance and it even looks good. I highly recommend it if you need a mega-zoom camera for little money.