What would you say to an 11x f2.8 zoom lens that has few optical issues? How about one with a quality camera body attached? All for $20…
Enter the Fujifilm S6500fd camera, found at my favourite camera store, complete with power supply (not even supplied with the original camera!), original USB and video cables, unopened instructions, original software CD, strap, cap and lenshood. Oh, and a couple of 2 gb 😄 cards… And also 4 re-chargeable Sanyo Eneloop NiMh AA cells, that are worth $25 where I live… They’ve gone into my flash unit already.
This late 2006 camera introduced face detection that was built into the hardware to the world. It is a so-called bridge camera, looking like a regular but small SLR, but with a few differences:
- a small 1 1/7 inch CCD sensor;
- no optical viewfinder, but in its place a reflex eye-level electronic viewfinder, as well as a conventional LCD on the back of the camera;
- uses 4 x AA batteries instead of an expensive proprietary unit;
- no possibility for interchangeable lenses – instead it has a monster 28-300mm (35mm equivalent) f2.8 zoom, that offers a manual zoom ring – absolutely wonderful – and manual focussing, both via conventional rubber rings on the lens barrel; and
- no sensor dust.
It’s relatively petite, and very lightweight, especially compared with my regular Canon 5D and lens combo.
So far, I have found that it shoots RAW images that can be opened in ACR (Photoshop’s Camera Raw software), and that it offers simple +/- 1 stop exposure bracketing.
I have tried using a polariser (58mm just like Canon, thanks!) and I can’t see if it makes any difference to the sky through the EVF, but the conditions today were poor for this.
You may wonder why I picked up a 6 megapixel, 4 year old bridge camera when I already have some nice kit? The reason is that I want to leave a cheap camera capable of reasonable image making in my car at all times as I never seem to have one with me when I want one. It all fits into a tiny case that will protect it, and only needs a light (read cheap) tripod for low light work as it is so lightweight and balanced. And yes, I have also got one of those from my favourite camera outfitter, complete with a bag and even its original removable top plate too, which is a rare find for junkshop tripods.
Downsides? In theory plenty, but not enough to really warrant a moan for $20. Here are my thoughts for the record:
- uses 😄 cards (at least I have a few gb I got with it, so no purchase needed);
- 1 1/7 inch sensor (but all P&S cameras have these);
- 6 megapixels (but this is 50% more than on my venerable Lumix DMC-LC5 that can make big prints);
- limited to only a max. of +/- 1 stop exposure bracketing (but manual control is there);
- no threaded cable release (but it does have a self timer)
- no hot shoe or PC socket, (but it does have a popup flash – not even my 5D has this)
- plastic (ugh)
All in all, actually nothing to complain about.
On to the image quality.
Bridge cameras are named thus as they bridge the gap in the market (size, cost and utility) between P&S cameras and SLRs. This camera started out in life priced at $629 in October 2006 when it was introduced. One would expect that this sort of money would buy pretty reasonable image quality just 4 years ago, and It did. Like just about every other Fujifilm camera I have used, this one is capable of brilliant IQ, even considering its sensor size. Fujifilm just seems to do something special with sensors – I am guessing this is because of the pedigree and experience it has from being a maker of fantastic film emulsions for the past 70-odd years.
A concentration camp in Canberra? No, the Yarralumla Brickworks
The lens is a Fujinon 6.2-66.7mm f2.8 ~ f4.9 beauty, and from the look of the coating colours, it has Fuji’s famed EBC coating on it. It shows almost no barrel distortion, and very little chromatic aberration, and is flare free when shot against the light.
The Govenor-General’s driveway, Yarralumla, Canberra. HDR 3 shot, handheld, sepia via Topaz
As long as you don’t mind limited bokeh as a direct result of the physics arising from small sensor sizes (and a judicious choice of a long focal length when shooting faces will provide quite a bit of this), it is brilliant. Of course it’s not up to 5D capabilities, but for 20 bucks, dollar for dollar, it is just about the best quality camera I have ever used. It is slower to use that my DSLR, the controls are not as intuitive, and the viewfinder is, well, crap compared to an optical reflex finder, but as a camera for those moments when you need to have one available, it can’t be beaten.
If you can find a better camera for $20, let me know.