Compact cameras don't come much bigger than this. In fact, very few SLR (single lens reflex) digicams are larger than the Fujifilm FinePix S9600. Despite its bulk, the S9600 is quite a handsome piece of kit, with a chiselled, distinctly rugged appearance. Most users will find it comfortable to hold, although those with smaller hands may find it a stretch.
Aimed at enthusiasts, the S9600 is a veritable playpen of goodies, and includes a full range of manual and priority modes. At its heart lies a 9Mp (megapixel) CCD (charge-coupled device), which pumps out Jpeg and Raw images at 3,488x2,616 or video at a TV-friendly 640x480 with audio.
The Fuji's versatility is enhanced by a 10.7x optical zoom, which gives a 28-300mm range and a healthy f2.8-4.9 aperture spread. As on a conventional SLR model, the zoom is mechanically linked to a zoom ring on the lens. There are a few down sides, however, including a lack of optical stabilisation, a slight barrel distortion at 28mm and rather lethargic focusing.
Unlike most Fujifilm cameras, the S9600 doesn't feature face-detection technology - frankly, this isn't a huge loss - but you do get an excellent ISO sensitivity range.
The LCD is worth a mention. You can extend this from the camera body and adjust the angle, which makes it great for shooting over the heads of crowds or low down on the floor. What isn't so clever is the camera's reliance on AA batteries.
But overall, the S9600 proves itself more than capable. Images boast plenty of crisp detail, and noise suppression is impressive on ISOs below 800. Venture beyond that and cleanliness starts to suffer, while automatic white balance is a tad unreliable. But with manual guidance and a little patience, it produces great results.