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Fujifilm FinePix S1 review: A 50x zoom for whatever weather you're in

The 50x zoom S1 has a weather- and dust-resistant seal and is a fast performer. Pixel peepers might not be happy with its photos, though.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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6 min read

Fujifilm has spent the past couple years filling its FinePix lineup with rugged compacts and megazoom bridge cameras because those are what still sells. With the Fujifilm FinePix S1, it combines those camera types into the world's first weather-resistant megazoom.

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7.8

Fujifilm FinePix S1

The Good

The Fujifilm FinePix S1 is a quick-shooting bridge camera with a nice 50x zoom lens, built-in Wi-Fi, and excellent build quality that's weather resistant. It has lots of shooting options and extras like a hot shoe, vari-angle LCD and EVF, raw capture, and manual controls.

The Bad

Noisy, soft photos in low-light conditions/indoors, which might be hard to reconcile given its price. Mobile app could use some love.

The Bottom Line

The only weather-resistant 50x megazoom camera around, the Fujifilm FinePix S1 is a fast, flexible camera that comes up a little short in low-light photo quality.

Like 2013's FinePix SL1000, the S1 features a 50x zoom lens going from 24mm to 1200mm (35mm equivalent), but with an improved f2.8-5.6 aperture range instead of f2.9-6.5. There's a 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS sensor behind the lens and a vari-angle 3-inch LCD and 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder for framing your shots (both with resolutions of 920K dots). And it's weather-sealed.

Fujifilm says it has seals on approximately 70 areas on the body. Don't expect to go diving with it, but it will handle standing in the rain and snow, as well as dusty environments, without a problem. I wouldn't go jamming this into a sand dune or anything, but considering there is no other 50x camera out there that can handle that, some protection is better than nothing.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

To go with all those seals, the body has a pleasing slightly rubberized feel and a large right-hand grip, so even if your hands are a little wet or cold it doesn't feel slippery. It also gives it a higher-end look and feel compared with plasticky megazooms like Nikon's P600.

As you might imagine given the camera's telephoto reach and weather-resistant build, the S1 isn't particularly small or light. It's about the size of an entry-level dSLR with a kit lens attached. It's not overflowing with direct controls like a dSLR might be, though it does have just enough to do away with some menu diving every time you want to change a setting.

Next to the high-res flip-out LCD and electronic viewfinder is a typical digital camera control pad with a programmable Function button. Just above the thumb rest is a command dial that can be used for changing shutter speed and aperture as well as manually focusing the lens, among other things. On top is the shooting mode dial, with exposure compensation and burst shot buttons.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The left side of the lens has a secondary zoom control that can be set to high or low speed. There is also a zoom-out button so you can quickly find your subject if it travels out of frame. There's a button to release the pop-up flash, too. A hot shoe is on top should you want to add one of Fujifilm's three external flash units available for the S1. You can also purchase a lens adapter for attaching 72mm lens filters.

The camera overall handles really well thanks in part to its responsive zoom lens and fast autofocus system. Actually, the S1 on the whole has fast performance. From off to first shot takes only 1.3 seconds and the lag between shots is 0.6 second. Turning on the flash bumps that time up to 1.3 seconds.

Shutter lag -- the time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is 0.12 second in bright lighting conditions and just 0.3 second in low light. That's with the lens at the 24mm position, though. Depending on your lighting, you may experience a little more autofocus lag when zoomed in.

The S1 can burst shoot up to nine photos at 10 frames per second at full resolution. Focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so depending on what you're shooting all of your pictures might not be in focus.

Key specs Fujifilm FinePix S1
Price (MSRP) $499.99 | £399.99
Dimensions (WHD) 5.2x3.6x4.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 1.5 pounds
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/Electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 50x, f2.8-5.6, 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG, raw (.RAF), raw+JPEG/MPEG-4 H.264/AVC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 350 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Wi-Fi/GPS Yes/No (geotagging available via Wi-Fi)

Now, for its quick performance and dSLR-like body, not to mention its $499.99 price (£399.99 in the UK), you might be expecting great photos, and that's perfectly fair. However, this is still a small-sensor compact camera and while the pictures are certainly very good, they might very well disappoint some users.

As is the case with most cameras in its class, viewing the S1's shots at 100 percent onscreen will show quite a bit of noise and artifacts, and fine details even at its lowest ISOs aren't exactly clean and sharp.

Shooting out in the daylight, though, you can get very good results from the FinePix S1. If, however, your goal is to make poster-size prints after enlarging and heavily cropping in, you won't like the results. Likewise, if you're a birder or stalker of some other wildlife who wants to view fine details of distant subjects, this might not be good enough for your needs.

Fujifilm FinePix S1 sample pictures

See all photos

It's also not particularly good at ISOs above 400, as noise reduction gets stronger and smears details making subjects look soft at small sizes. There can also be a significant amount of purple fringing in high-contrast areas.

Shooting in raw format you can control the noise some and the fringing can be edited out. But again, it really comes down to what you want to do with your photos. For Web use or prints up to 8x10 or slightly larger, the results are pleasing.

Video is similarly nice in daylight, but less so in dim conditions. The zoom lens works while recording, though in quiet scenes you'll hear the lens movement in your movie clips. The camera can record in full HD at 60fps as well as high-speed movies in VGA resolution at 120fps; 320p at 240fps; and 240p at 480fps.

General shooting options Fujifilm FinePix S1
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Direct Sunlight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Custom
Recording modes SR Auto, Auto, Advanced, Scene Position, Panorama, Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Custom, Movie (Normal, High Speed)
Focus modes Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, Macro, Super Macro; Center, Multi, Area, Tracking
Macro 2 inches (Wide); 4.3 feet (Tele); Super Macro 0.4 inch to 3.3 feet
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Standard, Chrome, Sepia, B&W
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 9 shots

Though the FinePix S1 can be used as a straightforward point-and-shoot -- there are two Auto modes (with or without scene recognition) -- it also has semimanual and manual shooting modes. In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 30 seconds and go down to 1/2,000 second; selectable apertures go from f2.8 to f11 at wide end, and f5.6 to f11 at the telephoto end.

There is a Scene Position mode with the usual suspects like Portrait and Landscape and Sport and Fireworks. You'll also find an Advanced mode, which gives you a Pro Low-light setting that snaps off several photos and then combines them into one lower-noise photo; HDR; Zoom bracketing; and 10 advanced filters (Toy, Screen, Fish-eye, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key, and Soft Focus).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Lastly, the S1 has built-in Wi-Fi (and a button to activate it) that can be used to backup photos to a PC and connect to your smartphone or tablet to view or transfer images from the camera to your mobile device via the Fujifilm Camera Remote app. (There are currently multiple Fujifilm apps available, so be sure to get the right one.)

As the name implies, the app, which is available for Android and iOS, can remotely control the camera. You can't change settings, but you can control the lens, snap photos or start and stop video recording, set a self-timer, and turn on the flash (though you'll have to pop it up first). It also gives you a live view from the camera so you can see what you're shooting.

The app can also geotag photos when connected to the camera, which isn't as good as having built-in GPS, but it's better than nothing.

One minor annoyance: Everything in the app is done in portrait. That includes viewing photos, and you have to view your photos by opening and closing each one.

Conclusion

The Fujifilm FinePix S1 is basically your only choice right now if you want a 50x zoom lens on a camera that's protected from the elements. Maybe it doesn't have the absolute best image quality, but the rest of the camera is excellent.

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7.8

Fujifilm FinePix S1

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 7
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