For a sub-$300 megazoom digital camera, the Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD offers a lot for an advanced amateur photographer. It's as easy to operate as a budget point-and-shoot, but puts forth an abundant array of settings, modes, and trickery to make experimentation just as simple. This package isn't perfect however, as image quality and performance don't match the S2000HD's feature set--just its budget price tag.
Like most megazooms, the S2000HD is slightly bigger than an average compact camera--more of a coat-pocket camera, than a pants-pocket one--at 4.4 inches wide by 3.1 inches high by 3 inches deep. It weighs 17.1 ounces equipped with its four AA batteries and an SDHC card. Then there's that 15x f3.5-5.4 27.6-414mm-equivalent lens out front. The weight is balanced, though, and the large hand grip/battery compartment, rear thumb rest, well-positioned controls, and the inclusion of optical image stabilization make one-handed operation doable. You'll still want to use a tripod when you've got that lens fully extended.
On back is a 2.7-inch LCD as well as a 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder (EVF). Both are coarse and noisy when shooting, but it's considerably more noticeable and distracting in the EVF. All the controls and menus are straightforward and I like that there are dedicated buttons on top for activating the up-to-10-people face detection (with or without red-eye removal) and the multiple continuous shooting choices.
The mode dial features 11 options, including program, manual, shutter-priority (but no aperture priority), Dual Shot (it takes two photos simultaneously, one with flash, one without), and Zoom Bracketing. That last one records three images at 1x, 1.4x, and 2x digital zoom--cropped to 10, 5 and 3 megapixels, respectively--with a single press of the shutter. Per its HD moniker, the camera also captures HD video clips up to 15 minutes long at 1,280x720 (720p) and you get full use of the optical zoom (but only electronic image stabilization). Scene Position gives you access to 13 scene modes or you can slip over to Custom to set up your own group of settings. In general, however, I found it best to stay in Program Auto because you get control over white balance, exposure, focus, sharpness, flash strength, and bracketing (in 1/3, 2/3, or full stops).
Unfortunately, much like other megazooms, the S200HD is relatively slow. The wakeup time is 1.9 seconds to first shot. The average shot-to-shot time is 2.4 seconds and adding flash takes it up to 2.8 seconds. Luckily shutter lag is an acceptable 0.5 second in bright conditions and 0.8 second in dim.
As for continuous shooting, there are four speeds to choose from: Top 3, Long Period, Top 33 High speed, and Top 33 Ultra High speed (the last two capture 5-megapixel and 3-megapixel photos, respectively). CNET Labs tested with Long Period, the closest to a traditional burst mode, resulting in a sluggish 0.5 frame per second typical burst speed. The Top 33 options do perform faster, but they do not refocus, and once you release the shutter it takes 20 to 25 seconds to store photos to memory in order to start shooting again.