ISO comparison

Overall, the S4500's photo quality is good as long as you're willing to work within its limitations and you're not expecting dSLR quality just because it kind of looks like one. But, if you're the type to never leave auto or use a tripod, you might not be 100 percent happy with its photos.

Basically, like most lower-end to midrange compacts, the S4500 can take some nice photos below ISO 200 that can be used at reasonably large sizes. The more you have to go above ISO 200, however -- whether for shooting indoors, using the zoom lens, or both -- the less satisfied you might be with the results.

Without enough light, the camera will boost the ISO to keep shutter speeds fast enough to freeze movement (and this camera's lens needs a lot of light). However, increasing the ISO also increases noise and noise reduction that in turn softens details. Once the S4500 hits ISO 800, though, it will start to use slower shutter speeds to get the correct exposure. Depending on how slow it gets, if you're not on a tripod and your subject isn't still, you'll end up with soft, blurry photos. (You can see examples of this toward the end of this slideshow.)

This is common with this class of camera, not just the S4500. What is specific to the S4500 is the photo quality at ISO 800, which is OK for Web use at small sizes if you don't mind softness.

Something goes horribly wrong at ISO 1600 with color and subjects really are just too soft, so I would avoid using this or the higher ISO settings available at reduced resolutions. On the upside, Fujifilm doesn't use this setting when shooting in Auto; it will drop the shutter speed instead.

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Macro

The camera has macro and super macro settings. In the former, which was used for this photo, it can focus as close as 2.7 inches from a subject and you can use the flash. In super macro, you can focus down to 0.8 inch, but the flash is suppressed to avoid shadows. This is a 100 percent crop from the inset image.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Color

The S4500 produces photos with bright, vivid colors that were close to accurate. It does not handle highlights very well, however, so in very bright light you will get clipping.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

PASM modes

If you like to control exposure, the S4500 does have manual and semimanual shooting modes. (There's a Custom mode, too, so you can define a frequently used group of settings.) For the most part, though, the real control is over shutter speed with settings from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second. Apertures are limited to two stops at each step of the zoom range through to the 200mm focal length. After that you get three at each step. In both cases the smaller aperture is achieved with a neutral density (ND) filter.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Zoom range

The S4500 is one of the least expensive ways to get a 30x zoom range. It goes from an ultrawide 24mm (top) to a long 720mm telephoto (bottom).
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Fringing

Fringing around high-contrast subjects is visible at larger sizes, but average for this class of camera, and I've seen much worse from other megazoom cameras -- Fujifilm's and other manufacturers.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Lens distortion

There is some mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top) and a touch of pincushioning when the lens is extended (bottom). The lens is pretty sharp at the center, but the sides and the corners do show some softening.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f8, 1/125th, ISO 100)

This photo and the remaining slides are all photos taken using the 720mm end of the lens at various ISO settings. There is a link for each to view them at full size. However, these are large files, so please allow some time for them to load. View full size.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f5.9, 1/420th, ISO 400)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f5.9, 1/350th, ISO 800)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f5.9, 1/240th, ISO 400)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f5.9, 1/125th, ISO 800)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Photos at 720mm (f5.9, 1/680th, ISO 200)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:
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