Fujifilm released three AA-battery-powered megazooms for 2011: the FinePix S2950, S3200, and S4000. These are full-size models with dSLR-like bodies offering 14-megapixel resolutions, 3-inch LCDs plus electronic viewfinders, and Fujinon optical zooms of 18x (28-504mm), 24x (24-576mm), and 30x (24-720mm), respectively. All three models offer dual-image stabilization, scene-recognition SR Auto, face detection, tracking autofocus, and full manual controls, and can capture HD movies at 720p with an HDMI-output connector. Additionally, the S3200 and S4000 offer face recognition and capture movies in MPEG-4 with H.264 compression for sharper movies with smaller file sizes.
Because there is so little separating the S2950 from the other two models, it's understandable why those looking for a decent zoom lens, a viewfinder, and power from AA-size batteries would gravitate to it instead of its slightly pricier linemates. Unfortunately, its photo capabilities and shooting performance require a lot of compromise. It's not a bad camera, but it's not a very good one, either.
|Key specs||Fujifilm FinePix S2950|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.3x2.9x3.2 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||15.4 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 230K dots/electronic viewfinder|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||18x, f3.1-5.6, 28-504mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,288x3,216pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||4, AA size (alkaline included), 300 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No|
|Bundled software||MyFinePix Studio 2.1 (Windows only); FinePix Viewer 3.6 (Mac)|
Overall, the S2950's photo quality is OK for casual use outdoors in bright conditions. Photos viewed at smaller sizes are noticeably soft and smeary starting at ISO 200. Some post-shoot sharpening helps this, but if you tend to do a lot of heavy cropping or enlarging, the results might not be good enough. From there things just look worse to the point where they really aren't usable for much at ISO 800 or above. The loss of detail is one thing, but really it's color shifting starting at ISO 400 that drags it down. Keep in mind that as the lens is extended, the apertures get smaller. To compensate, the camera will raise the ISO or slow the shutter speed if needed. Either way, if you're holding the camera and using its 18x zoom and there's not a lot of light, you're going to end up with soft or blurry photos. But that goes for most megazoom cameras, not just the S2950. If you need a camera that can regularly handle low-light photography without a flash, I would not recommend this camera.
Its color quality, at least at lower ISOs, is good. The S2950HD produced photos with bright, vivid colors that were reasonably close to accurate in our lab tests. Exposure was pretty good, too, but highlights tended to blow out, which is typical of point-and-shoots.
The video quality from the S2950 is OK, good enough for YouTube clips if not much else. As with photos, low-light video is noisy, but that's somewhat typical of video from lower-end compact cameras. You can use the optical zoom while recording, and though you will hear the movement in your video, it's not bad. There are continuous autofocus and dual-image stabilization, too.
|General shooting options||Fujifilm FinePix S2950|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light, Custom|
|Recording modes||SR Auto, Auto, Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, Manual, Custom, Movie, Panorama, Scene (SP)|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Area (selectable) AF, Macro AF|
|Macro||0.8 inch (Wide); 5.9 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Spot, Average|
|Color effects||Standard, Chrome (vivid), Black & White|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||3 shots|
Those who are either looking to work up to using a digital SLR or need to satisfy a number of different users with one camera will appreciate the large assortment of shooting options. If you want the camera to do most or all of the work, there are Program and SR Auto (automatic scene recognition) modes as well as a fairly standard variety of scene modes. Those wanting more control over results can use the Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual 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 courtesy of a neutral density (ND) filter: f3.1-6.4 wide and f5.6-11 telephoto. There is some depth of field to play with in macro, but don't expect the kind of control you'd get from a digital SLR.
If you like taking close-ups, the S2950 can focus as closely as 0.8 inch from a subject. If you're more into wide-angle shooting, there's a Panorama option on the mode dial. You press the shutter release with the camera aimed where you'd like to start your panorama shot and it puts a circle and a target on the screen. Put the circle in the center of the target by moving the camera to the right and it'll take the next shot when it's centered. Do that once more and it'll take your three shots and stitch them together in-camera into a single photo. This is best for scenes with little or no movement, but it works well in that case.
The S2950's shooting performance is fairly slow. From off to first shot takes 2.5 seconds, which hinders spur-of-the-moment photos. What's worse is that it actually slows down from there between shots, averaging 3.5 seconds without the flash; with the flash that time jumps to 4.3 seconds. There's noticeable shutter lag regardless of lighting conditions. In bright lighting it takes about 0.5 second from the press of the shutter release to capture; in dim light that time is 0.9 seconds. Extending the lens doesn't help things, either; the autofocus is poky at the telephoto end, so trying to shoot a moving subject with this camera is very tricky. The camera has a full-resolution continuous shooting speed of 0.8 frame per second. Fujifilm includes a couple of low-resolution burst modes that are faster, but the results are only good enough for Web use at small sizes.
Though far from pocketable, the S2950 is tightly packed despite its main attraction: the wide-angle 28-504mm-equivalent lens. The giant right-hand grip gives you something to really hold onto, and also houses the four AA-size batteries and SDHC card slot, plus it has room for shooting controls. This includes dedicated buttons for face detection and burst shooting along with the shutter release, zoom ring, and on/off slider. Also on top is a large Mode dial that's well marked with its 10 main shooting options.
On back is a respectably bright 3-inch LCD and above it an electronic viewfinder. All settings are viewable on both. The color quality seems to be off on the LCD, which makes judging your shots on the spot difficult.
To the left of a textured thumb rest is a button for switching between the EVF and LCD. Below these are Playback, F-mode, Menu/OK, Exposure Compensation, and Display buttons, and a directional pad for navigation and changing screen brightness, flash, macro settings, and an Instant Zoom feature that's intended to help with framing erratically moving subjects while using the zoom lens. Pressing F-mode brings up a contextual shooting menu, and pressing Menu/OK brings up another set of shooting and setup menus. Fairly standard stuff; once you remember when to press F-mode instead of Menu, it's straightforward to use.
The camera is powered by AA-size batteries, and although it's packaged with alkaline batteries it takes lithium ion and rechargeable NiMH types as well, both of which will get you much more shooting time than alkaline. The batteries and the memory card slot are accessed through a locking door on the bottom of the camera. The door takes some force to hold down and lock when closing, which might be frustrating for some users. On the right side of the body is a small door covering Mini-HDMI and Micro-USB/AV ports for connecting to a computer, a monitor, or an HDTV.
Worth noting is that you can tag photos and videos for uploading to Facebook or YouTube. You'll have to install the Windows-only software on your computer for it to work, but otherwise you just tag your files in camera and then connect to your PC by USB or pop the SD card in a reader and the uploader starts automatically.
For the past couple of years Fujifilm has offered a few extra models in its lineup that other camera manufacturers have dropped. This includes cameras like the FinePix S2950, a modestly priced megazoom powered by AA-size batteries with an electronic viewfinder and manual and semimanual shooting modes. However, while its features are good for the money, its photos are not. If you only need a camera for casual photos, capturing still subjects outside in bright conditions, the S2950 might be enough. But for shooting active kids and pets, sports, or wildlife as well as shooting indoors and in low-light conditions without a flash, pass on this camera.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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