Fujifilm FinePix S8100fd Digital Camera
Wednesday, June 11, 2008; 7:19 PM
TheFujifilm FinePix S8100fdoffers a host of advanced features at an affordable $400 price, but its biggest strength is the versatile 18X zoom lens. It covers a 35mm film camera's range equivalent of 27mm to 486mm, providing true wide-angle and extreme telephoto capability in a single compact unit.
On a spring trip to Lake Tahoe, I found the wide angle to be excellent for sweeping mountain backdrops, while the long telephoto let me pick out details in the distance and get up close to wildlife. The camera's dual image stabilization was effective at reducing the chance of blur in zoom shots and at capturing moving targets, such as birds in flight.   It works by shifting the sensor to compensate for unsteady hands and by raising the sensitivity to allow for shorter exposure times.
The S8100fd's automatic face detection optimized the focus and exposure in my portraits well, even when I was zooming from a distance. And its automatic red-eye removal took the guesswork out of flash photography. For users who want maximum control, the camera also provides exposure compensation, aperture- and shutter-priority settings, and full manual focus and exposure controls.
Despite the relatively low exposure range of F2.8 to F8.0, the camera tended towards large apertures for my scenic shots. I liked being able to reduce this myself, to achieve a longer depth of focus in pictures with foreground subjects against the lake and mountains.
The color fidelity of my photos sometimes disappointed me.   Images with large areas of green trees and grass often looked unnatural. However, the S8100fd performed well in our lab tests, where our judges saw good color reproduction. Exposure accuracy was exceptional in natural light, but could have been better using the built-in flash. Images weren't as sharp as you might expect from the camera's 10-megapixel sensor.
The S8100fd offers several continuous shooting modes, including two high-speed settings that record at a lower resolution. You can record up to 33 frames at either 7 frames per second for 5-megapixel images or 13.5 fps for 3 megapixels, which might be useful for stopping the action in sports and wildlife shots. The camera records only standard-definition video at up to 30 fps.
Rubber surfaces   on the front and rear of the handgrip make the lightweight S8100fd comfortable to hold and operate. The conveniently arranged controls generally work well, although it's sometimes easy to forget to select the image stabilization and face detection buttons on top of the camera. The 2.5-inch LCD is sufficiently clear and bright for composing most shots, but   its colors didn't seem very natural. Because I wore the camera by its neck strap, I tended to use the electronic viewfinder often--it's hard to shoot with arms outstretched while you have it tethered to your neck. Bumping up the refresh rate from 30   fps to the optional 60 fps improved the viewfinder's stability, but it still felt like trying to focus on a fuzzy TV.
A set of batteries lasted for a good 459 shots in our lab tests, but they drained more quickly than I expected during my everyday use. Fortunately, the camera runs off regular AA alkaline batteries, so it was easy to find replacements during my trip.
The Fujifilm FinePix S8100fd is a good all-rounder at a reasonable price. It offers plenty of automated assistance, but lets you tweak settings manually when necessary. It makes a good choice for anyone seeking a single camera for all occasions.