There is no shortage of megazoom cameras--small and large--available at a variety of price points. Fujifilm's 18x zoom FinePix S2550HD falls under "budget" at less than $250; it can easily be found for less than $200, too. That's a remarkable price for a camera with a lens with its reach. The shooting features are excellent for its class including semimanual and manual controls as well as several burst shooting options. It has an electronic viewfinder, too, which manufacturers have started dropping from their lower-end megazooms.
On the other hand, though it looks like a shrunken digital SLR, the S2550HD's shooting performance is overall slow. Trying to catch a sharp photo of a moving child or pet, for example, is tricky. Also, if indoor/low-light photo quality is of the utmost importance, this camera--like most budget compacts--doesn't do well at all. It's better suited for outdoor photography in bright lighting.
If you're not turned off by those things, the S2550HD might be worth considering. Also, those not interested in connecting to an HDTV should check out the less expensive S1800, which has the same basic feature set and design, but lacks the S2550HD's Mini-HDMI output. In exchange, the S1800 comes with automatic picture rotation, so you can shoot horizontally or vertically without having to right the images later, and Tracking Auto Focus for keeping moving subjects locked in focus until you're ready to shoot.
|Key specs||Fujifilm FinePix S2550HD|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.3 x 2.9 x 3.2 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||15.4 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 230K dots/electronic viewfinder|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||18x, f3.1-5.6, 28-504mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||4, AA size (alkaline included), 300 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC cards|
|Bundled software||MyFinePix Studio (Windows only)|
Though far from pocketable, the S2550HD is tightly packed despite its main attraction: the wide-angle 28-504mm-equivalent lens. The giant right-hand grip gives you something to really hold onto; it also houses the four AA-size batteries and SDHC card slot, plus it has room for shooting controls. This includes dedicated buttons for face detection and burst shooting along with the shutter release, zoom ring, and on/off slider, which if you don't hold it long enough won't turn the camera on or off. Also on top is a large Mode dial that's well marked with its 10 main shooting options.
On back is a respectably bright 3-inch LCD and above it an electronic viewfinder. All settings are viewable on both; however, they also black out when a photo's been taken--not ideal for setting up the next shot as soon as possible, but typical of EVFs. The color quality seems to be a bit off on the LCD, too, which makes judging your shots on the spot difficult.
To the left of a textured thumb rest is a button for switching between the EVF and LCD. Below these are Playback, F-mode, Menu/OK, Exposure Compensation, and Display buttons, and a directional pad for navigation and changing screen brightness, flash, macro settings, and an Instant Zoom feature that's intended to help with framing erratically moving subjects while using the zoom lens. Pressing F-mode brings up a contextual shooting menu, and pressing Menu/OK brings up another set of shooting and setup menus. Fairly standard stuff; once you remember when to press F-mode instead of Menu, it's straightforward to use.
The camera is powered by AA-size batteries and although it's packaged with alkaline batteries, it takes lithium ion and rechargeable NiMH types as well, both of which will get you much more shooting time than alkaline. The batteries and the memory card slot are accessed through a locking door on the bottom of the camera. The door takes some force to hold down and lock when closing, which might be frustrating for some users. On the right side of the body is a small door covering Mini-HDMI and Micro-USB/AV ports for connecting to computers, a monitors, or HDTVs.
|General shooting options||Fujifilm FinePix S2550HD|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light, Custom|
|Recording modes||SR Auto, Auto, Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, Manual, Custom, Movie, Panorama, Scene (SP)|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Area (selectable) AF, Macro AF|
|Metering modes||Multi, Spot, Average|
|Color effects||Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous|
Those looking to either work up to using or supplement a digital SLR or who need to satisfy a number of different user types in one device will appreciate the large assortment of shooting options. If you want the camera to do most or all of the work, there are Program and SR Auto (automatic scene recognition) modes as well as a fairly standard variety of scene modes. Those wanting more control over results can use the Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual modes. (There a Custom mode, too, so you can define a frequently used group of settings.) For the most part, though, the real control is over shutter speed with settings from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second. Apertures are limited to two stops at each step of the zoom range courtesy of an ND filter: f3.1-6.4 wide and f5.6-11 telephoto. There is some depth of field to play with, but don't expect the kind of control you'd get from a digital SLR.
If you like taking close-ups, the S2550HD can focus as closely as 2.4 inches from a subject. If you're more into wide-angle shooting, there's a Panorama option on the mode dial. It's an assist-and-stitch type where you use a ghost image of a previous shot on the left of the screen to line up subsequent shots. Once the last of three photos is taken, the camera stitches them together. As long as you do a decent job of lining up the shots, the stitching works well and you end up with a nice panorama.
With the exception of burst shooting, the S2550HD's shooting performance is fairly slow. From off to first shot takes 3.5 seconds, which hinders spur-of-the-moment photos. It speeds up a bit from shot to shot, averaging 1.8 seconds without the flash; using the flash more than doubles that time. There's noticeable shutter lag regardless of lighting conditions. In bright lighting it takes about 0.7 second from press of the shutter release to capture; in dim light that time is 1.1 seconds. Extending the lens doesn't help things, either; the autofocus is pokey at the telephoto end, so trying to shoot a moving subject with this camera is very tricky.