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Fujifilm FinePix A500 review: Fujifilm FinePix A500

The appeal of the basic Fujifilm FinePix A500's tiny price tag is offset by its slim feature set and mediocre performance.

David Busch

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3 min read

Casual photographers on a tight budget will appreciate Fujifilm's no-nonsense FinePix A500, a compact 5-megapixel snapshooter. Unfortunately, the camera's low price comes at a cost: A limited 3x zoom range, no manual controls, just four scene modes, and a tiny 1.8-inch LCD. It has no burst capabilities at all beyond a 320 x 240-pixel, 10-frame-per-second Silent Movie mode. Image quality is only average, and perks such as batteries and a decent memory card will cost you extra, but you can tuck this little camera in your pocket for just AU$229. If you're really strapped for cash, the almost identically featured 4-megapixel FinePix A400 goes for about AU$50 less.

fujifilm-finepix-a500_1.jpg
5.6

Fujifilm FinePix A500

The Good

Low price. Simple operation. Optical viewfinder.

The Bad

Cheap build quality. Tiny LCD screen. Unimpressive image quality. No manual controls. No burst mode. Sluggish performance.

The Bottom Line

The appeal of the basic Fujifilm FinePix A500's tiny price tag is offset by its slim feature set and mediocre performance.

Design
This solidly built, 184 gram, 28mm-thick camera's attractive finish looks good, though the company cut some corners. Some may be disappointed with design weaknesses such as the lack of a rubber cover for the A/V, USB, and DC ports. The A500 sports both an LCD and an optical viewfinder, the latter proving invaluable when the tiny, 77,000-pixel display becomes unreadable in direct sunlight. The optical viewfinder has a handy pair of notches near the top of the frame to mark the "safe" area when shooting at parallax-inducing closer distances.

The A500's sparse controls are simple and easy to learn. The top panel has only the shutter-release button and a tiny, recessed power switch. The back panel contains just three stand-alone buttons: Picture review, menu/OK, and display/back. A pair of left/right buttons flanking an up/down zoom lever sit at the top-right edge of the back panel. Besides menu navigation, the left/right buttons can activate macro mode and adjust flash options, respectively.

Features
The lack of choice makes this camera simple to operate. Besides auto, there are only four scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, Sport, and Night. The camera has no options for exposure or focus other than EV adjustments (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV steps) and normal/macro autofocus. A manual mode provides access to white balance (six presets and automatic), EV adjustments, and two flash options: Red-eye correction and slow sync for balancing the flash with ambient illumination. Flash on/off, red-eye, and auto options are available in all shooting modes. Sensitivity settings include ISO 100, 200, or 400.

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 uses a 64-zone matrix to determine exposure, with shutter speeds from 2 seconds to 1/1,500 second and apertures of either F3.3 or F8.5. The 38mm-to-114mm zoom lens (35mm-camera equivalent) is narrow at the short end of the scale and produces nearly unusable photos at the far telephoto end. The macro mode lets you get as close as 10cm, however.

Performance
This minimalist shooter suffers from very sluggish performance. The FinePix A500 took just less than 3 seconds to power up and fire its first shot, after which it could shoot no more than once every 3 seconds. The flash was on the puny side, good out to only 3m at the lens's widest angle. When shooting telephoto, the flash effectively reaches to only 2.1m. The red-eye-reduction system seemed worthless, having no effect on red pupils. The Fujifilm's shutter lag fared better, scoring a merely adequate 0.8 second under high-contrast lighting and 0.9 second in low-contrast scenes. This camera has no autofocus-assist lamp.

Image Quality
Image quality at wide-angle and medium-range focal lengths was acceptable, especially if you take the time to adjust the EV settings. Without tweaking, we found exposures to be quite erratic and frequently overbright with blown-out highlights. Using exposure compensation to dial it back a bit produced better images. Pics shot at the lens's telephoto end were quite soft but displayed good detail at less extreme settings. Colours were accurate but unsaturated, and JPEG compression artifacts reduced image sharpness. Noise wasn't bad: almost unnoticeable at ISO 100 and pronounced but acceptable at ISO 400, though at ISO 400, the FinePix A500's noise levels were better than those of some cameras at lower sensitivity settings.

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 is a very basic camera with sluggish performance and washed-out, mediocre photos that match its low price tag. That said, it's easy to use and inexpensive, so it might satisfy those with thin wallets, poor eyes, and patience. You're better off setting down your two bills to buy the far better Canon PowerShot A530.

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