One of the latest additions to the Fujifilm family is the firm's new 6.3Mp (megapixel) FinePix S6500fd. With a similar layout and proportions to a full-blown digital SLR (single-lens reflex), the FinePix certainly couldn't be considered pocket-sized. But what it lacks in portability, the FinePix makes up for with a sprinkling of advanced features that are sure to have enthusiasts salivating.
The Fuji's SLR-esque design swoops and curves in familiar places, making for a comfortable and fairly robust handful. The extra purchase provided by the textured upholstering of the main battery grip is a nice touch. However, we would have liked to have seen more in the way of external controls, as the need to constantly dip into menus is a slight nuisance. We think Fujifilm missed a trick by not including an SLR-styled control dial for manual adjustment.
On the up side, the rather potent 28-300mm optical zoom is controlled by a mechanically linked zoom ring on the lens. There's also a manual focusing ring, although we found the automatic focusing generally good enough that we didn't need to intervene too often. The lens is finished off with a highly usable f/2.8-4.9 aperture spread. When combined with shutter speeds ranging from 30 seconds to 1/4,000th of a second, this means the FinePix is one versatile customer.
At the heart of the S6500fd is a 6.3Mp CCD (charge-coupled device) capable of rustling up images of up to 2,848x2,136 pixels, or movies up to a TV-friendly 640x480 at 30fps (frames per second).
Like other recent Fujifilm cameras, the S6500fd ventures into brave ISO territory, topping out at an eyebrow-raising 3,200, which is high enough to embarrass one or two digital SLRs. Couple the adventurous ISO range with a handy lamp assist beam, and the Fujifilm is happy to forego the flash when the light starts to fade.
In addition to the manual mode, there are aperture and shutter priorities and a smattering of auto, scene and movie modes. We welcome Fujifilm's decision to include RAW as an alternative image format to the obligatory Jpeg, although with file sizes coming in at around 13MB each, you'll need to make sure you have a sizable xD card handy. Sadly, you'll also need to bring your own rechargeable batteries, as there aren't any included in the box – which at this price seems a little mean.
Image quality was very good overall, with accurate colours and finer detail faithfully reproduced. General noise levels were also satisfactory, although pushing the ISO beyond 800 resulted in a sharp drop-off in quality. We did also encounter slight amounts of fringing, although it tended to remain within acceptable limits.
Perhaps the most intriguing innovation in the Fujifilm is its Face Detection system – hence the 'fd' in the model name. It may sound like a bit of a gimmick, but the chances are that Intelligent Face Detection will feature heavily in future generations of cameras. So now's a good time to go over what it actually does.
As the name implies, Intelligent Face Detection allows the camera to lock on to a person's face, using the eyes and mouth as anchor points and sophisticated algorithms to optimise the camera's focusing and exposure accordingly.
Developed to be able to cope with real-world conditions, Fujifilm's Face Detection technology is smart enough to overcome the obstacles of multiple faces – up to a maximum of 10 – and can cope with glasses.
It sounds a little James Bond, we know, but we have to say that the Fujifilm S5600fd did a pretty slick job of detecting faces, regardless of positioning in the frame, and could accurately track the movement of meandering subjects.
If there is a downside to Face Detection, it's one of cost, although as the technology develops, this is sure to change.