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Fujifilm FinePix S review: Fujifilm FinePix S

Like the one on the FinePix S5000, the S5100's unimpressive electronic viewfinder (EVF) is fairly grainy and fuzzy. The 1.5-inch LCD, though small, is better, offering a reasonably sharp image and decent visibility in bright outdoor light. A significant drawback to the S5000 was that both the LCD and the EVF showed only about 88 to 90 percent of the actual image; on the S5100, both viewing methods now show 100 percent of the recorded image.

The camera's lens zooms smoothly, quickly, and quietly, and you can control its position with reasonable precision. The manual-focus system, on the other hand, is very slow. Judging proper focus was hard on the LCD and harder still on the EVF.

Fujifilm lists the maximum range of the built-in flash as 16.4 feet, but that is apparently at ISO 400. At ISO 100, the range should be about 8.5 feet.

The Fujifilm FinePix S5000's biggest problem was subpar image quality. To its credit, Fujifilm has addressed this with the S5100. At all ISO sensitivities, our test images were comparatively low in noise and resolved fairly good detail. We also got consistently good exposures and relatively accurate white balance under varying outdoor light, although we did see a few more blown-out highlights than we'd like. The camera's default settings produced slightly flat colors and contrast, but you can switch to Chrome mode to punch up both of those parameters noticeably. We were also pleased with skin tones in images taken both with flash and without.

The lens produces modest barrel distortion at its wide-angle setting and very little pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. It also exhibits moderate amounts of lateral chromatic aberration in telephoto shots, which shows up as green and magenta fringes on some objects at the edges of the frame. In some of our shots, we noted a modest amount of purple and red fringing around dark subjects photographed against light skies.

All in all, the FinePix S5100's images are competitive with those of other cameras in its class, which was not true of the S5000.

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