Fujifilm's FinePix S9500 is an all-in-one digital camera with 9Mp (megapixel) resolution, a long 10.7x optical zoom lens and a wealth of creative controls. With its styling and features, Fujifilm is targeting the S9500 at anyone considering a budget digital SLR - and the firm has priced it aggressively at £470.
At the heart of the S9500 is a 9Mp Super CCD (charge-coupled device) HR sensor that delivers images with 3,488x2,616 pixels and enough detail to make good-looking A3 inkjet prints. Unlike some previous Super CCDs, this one doesn't employ scaling on its images - it's a genuine 9Mp sensor.
Images can be recorded at six different resolutions, with the top 9Mp mode offered with a choice of two Jpeg compression settings or a RAW option; best-quality Jpegs measure around 4.5MB. The S9500 can record its images onto xD-Picture or CompactFlash memory cards (including Microdrives) and is bundled with a modest 16MB xD card to get you started.
The Fujinon lens features an impressive 10.7x range equivalent to 28-300mm, with a bright optical ratio of f2.8-4.9; a lens hood is also supplied. The zoom is operated by a tactile mechanical ring, which extends the barrel by 32mm, but as with most all-in-ones, manual focus is electrically assisted. Super Macro mode can get as close as 1cm, but it's impossible to avoid shadows at this distance - withdrawing slightly can deliver good-quality close-ups, however.
Fujifilm has styled the S9500 to look like a traditional digital SLR and it's roughly the same size as Canon's popular EOS-350D. The grip is comfortable and overall build quality impressive. The camera is powered by four AAs, and while Fujifilm supplies a set of disposable alkalines, you should invest in rechargeables as soon as possible; our set ran dry quite quickly.
As with other long-zoom all-in-ones, composition is via either an electronic viewfinder or the main LCD screen. The 1.8in screen is a little small compared with the current competition, but it can at least be flipped out for easier waist-level and overhead composition, albeit not twisted sideways. A useful grid can also be shown to aid composition.
The main dial switches between Auto, Program, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority modes, along with five scene presets and a movie mode that can shoot VGA video at 30fps.
Exposures run from 1/2,000 to 30 seconds, while a range of sensitivities are available from 100 to 1,600 ISO. Burst mode can fire off four frames at 1.5fps (frames per second).
In use the S9500 starts quickly and handles well. The images contain slightly more detail than those provided by Canon's 8Mp 350D and come close to the standard set by Sony's 10.8Mp R1. Impressively - considering the small physical size of the sensor - Fujifilm has got noise levels under control, too. The S9500 delivered very clean images up to 400 ISO and noise only became an issue at 1,600 ISO.
Most budget digital SLRs are easier to manually focus, support removeable lenses and feature both quicker burst modes and lower noise at very high ISOs. Then again, they don't have live previews on their screens, movie modes, nor a long lens as standard, with no worries of getting dust on the sensor. These are all things you have to weigh up when choosing between a budget digital SLR and an all-in-one. If you decide a long-zoom all-in-one is a better bet for your kind of photography, the S9500 is one of the most capable we've tested and represents great value, too.
All-in-one versus digital SLR
The biggest argument against all-in-one cameras compared with digital SLRs (single lens reflex) is the fact that you can't swap the lens. To counter this, models such as the S9500 boast zooms with a massive optical range that will satisfy all but the most specialist of photographers. It's also worth noting that switching lenses on a proper digital SLR provides an opportunity for dust to enter the body and settle on the sensor, where it can appear on images as out-of-focus smudges. There are clearly no such concerns if the lens cannot be removed.