Fujifilm released three AA-battery-powered megazooms for 2011: the FinePix S2950, S3200, and S4000. These are full-size models with dSLR-like bodies offering 14-megapixel resolutions, 3-inch LCDs plus electronic viewfinders, and Fujinon optical zooms of 18x (28-504mm), 24x (24-576mm), and 30x (24-720mm), respectively. All three models offer dual-image stabilization, scene-recognition SR Auto, face detection, tracking autofocus, and full manual controls, and can capture HD movies at 720p with an HDMI-output connector. Additionally, the S3200 and S4000 offer face recognition and capture movies in MPEG-4 with H.264 compression for sharper movies with smaller file sizes.
Because there is so little separating the S2950 from the other two models, it's understandable why those looking for a decent zoom lens, a viewfinder, and power from AA-size batteries would gravitate to it instead of its slightly pricier linemates. Unfortunately, its photo capabilities and shooting performance require a lot of compromise. It's not a bad camera, but it's not a very good one, either.
|Key specs||Fujifilm FinePix S2950|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.3x2.9x3.2 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||15.4 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 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)||4,288x3,216pixels/ 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|
|Bundled software||MyFinePix Studio 2.1 (Windows only); FinePix Viewer 3.6 (Mac)|
Overall, the S2950's photo quality is OK for casual use outdoors in bright conditions. Photos viewed at smaller sizes are noticeably soft and smeary starting at ISO 200. Some post-shoot sharpening helps this, but if you tend to do a lot of heavy cropping or enlarging, the results might not be good enough. From there things just look worse to the point where they really aren't usable for much at ISO 800 or above. The loss of detail is one thing, but really it's color shifting starting at ISO 400 that drags it down. Keep in mind that as the lens is extended, the apertures get smaller. To compensate, the camera will raise the ISO or slow the shutter speed if needed. Either way, if you're holding the camera and using its 18x zoom and there's not a lot of light, you're going to end up with soft or blurry photos. But that goes for most megazoom cameras, not just the S2950. If you need a camera that can regularly handle low-light photography without a flash, I would not recommend this camera.
Its color quality, at least at lower ISOs, is good. The S2950HD produced photos with bright, vivid colors that were reasonably close to accurate in our lab tests. Exposure was pretty good, too, but highlights tended to blow out, which is typical of point-and-shoots.
The video quality from the S2950 is OK, good enough for YouTube clips if not much else. As with photos, low-light video is noisy, but that's somewhat typical of video from lower-end compact cameras. You can use the optical zoom while recording, and though you will hear the movement in your video, it's not bad. There are continuous autofocus and dual-image stabilization, too.
|General shooting options||Fujifilm FinePix S2950|
|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|
|Macro||0.8 inch (Wide); 5.9 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Spot, Average|
|Color effects||Standard, Chrome (vivid), Black & White|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||3 shots|
Those who are either looking to work up to using a digital SLR or need to satisfy a number of different users with one camera 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's 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 a neutral density (ND) filter: f3.1-6.4 wide and f5.6-11 telephoto. There is some depth of field to play with in macro, but don't expect the kind of control you'd get from a digital SLR.
If you like taking close-ups, the S2950 can focus as closely as 0.8 inch from a subject. If you're more into wide-angle shooting, there's a Panorama option on the mode dial. You press the shutter release with the camera aimed where you'd like to start your panorama shot and it puts a circle and a target on the screen. Put the circle in the center of the target by moving the camera to the right and it'll take the next shot when it's centered. Do that once more and it'll take your three shots and stitch them together in-camera into a single photo. This is best for scenes with little or no movement, but it works well in that case.
The S2950's shooting performance is fairly slow. From off to first shot takes 2.5 seconds, which hinders spur-of-the-moment photos. What's worse is that it actually slows down from there between shots, averaging 3.5 seconds without the flash; with the flash that time jumps to 4.3 seconds. There's noticeable shutter lag regardless of lighting conditions. In bright lighting it takes about 0.5 second from the press of the shutter release to capture; in dim light that time is 0.9 seconds. Extending the lens doesn't help things, either; the autofocus is poky at the telephoto end, so trying to shoot a moving subject with this camera is very tricky. The camera has a full-resolution continuous shooting speed of 0.8 frame per second. Fujifilm includes a couple of low-resolution burst modes that are faster, but the results are only good enough for Web use at small sizes.