|The simple mode dial lets you choose automatic shooting, video capture, scene modes, or the misleadingly named manual mode.||With the four-way controller, you can navigate the menu, zoom, change flash settings, and select macro or normal focus.|
Achieving a comfortable grip can be tricky if your hands are average-size or larger; when you hold the camera naturally, your fingers might be too long to handily reach the most frequently used buttons and dials. Luckily, few of the controls serve double duty, so learning their functions is fast and easy, especially since you'll usually be content to shoot in fully automatic mode.
|Pressing the lowest key here cycles through three screen types: plain, informational, and a full display with a grid.||When you start up the camera, the electronic viewfinder turns on. You can switch to the LCD and back with this button.|
The LCD menus are quirkily laid out. In both recording and playback mode, settings for image quality, the self-timer, and screen brightness are at the top level, while other selections hide in the second-tier setup menu. To access the full range of recording menu options, including white balance and exposure compensation, you must switch to manual mode.
The included xD-Picture Card holds only 16MB, so budget for higher-capacity media.
At wide-angle, the lens is especially good in macro mode, allowing close focusing from 3.9 inches to 2.6 feet. Unfortunately, if you need to step back from your subject, zoom in with the telephoto setting, and still focus closer than 2.6 feet, you're out of luck.
Besides fully automatic operation, you get five scene modes: Landscape, Portrait, Sport, Night, and Continuous. The S3000's manual mode isn't what advanced photographers might expect. It doesn't offer full control over focus, shutter speed, and aperture. Instead, the menu options simply expand to include white balance, exposure compensation from minus 2.1EV to plus 1.5EV, sharpness, and flash brightness. Manual mode also provides a limited form of aperture priority: you select f/2.8, f/4.8, or f/8.2 from a menu, and the camera sets the correct shutter speed, from half a second to 1/1,500 of a second.
White balance is flexible. For fluorescent illumination, the camera gives you the Warm White, Cool White, and Daylight presets. Other selections accommodate bright sunshine, incandescent bulbs, and outdoor shade. Unfortunately, there is no manual white-balance option. During normal shooting, light sensitivity is fixed at ISO 100, but the camera automatically adjusts it between ISO 100 and ISO 200 for flash photos. All the basic flash settings, plus a slow-sync mode, are available.
The S3000 captures JPEG images at resolutions of 2,048x1,536, 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, and 640x480, but you can't choose the compression level. The camera also shoots 10-frame-per-second AVI video clips with sound at either 320x240 or 160x120; the maximum recording length depends on your media card's capacity.
The S3000 snapped 705 shots, a little more than 50 percent of them with the flash, running on four optional rechargeable AA nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Unfortunately, the camera gives you very little notice before the cells are drained.
Another frustration is the S3000's insistence on turning off after two minutes of inactivity, no matter what. When you enable the power-saving feature, the camera goes into sleep mode after 30 seconds, then shuts down 90 seconds later. The intervals are not user-adjustable.
The shutter lag also produces an annoying "what you see is not what you get" effect. The 0.9-second delay isn't horrendous per se, but the camera's electronic viewfinder (EVF) freezes when you press the shutter button, and the image you end up capturing is often noticeably different from what you saw right before you lost your view. The problem was especially obvious when our human subjects changed their facial expressions during the lag. Although usually accurate, autofocus was a bit slow, and it sometimes failed in dim conditions. No focus-aid light is available.
Neither the EVF nor the LCD is particularly sharp, although they provide a reasonably good view in both dim and bright light. When it's very dark, however, the EVF is more limiting than most optical viewfinders. In our tests, the Fujifilm FinePix S3000's image quality was average for a 3.2-megapixel model, delivering adequate but unremarkable sharpness and detail. Colors, including flesh tones, were generally accurate and pleasingly saturated. Considering that the camera offers only a single JPEG compression setting and no TIFF or RAW options, our photos contained relatively few artifacts. Likewise, noise remained low at the fixed ISO 100 sensitivity.
The automatic white balance did a good job, and the flash evenly lit photos taken both in macro mode and at the coverage limit, which is roughly 12 feet. But although we enabled red-eye reduction, the problem showed up in many of our indoor flash shots.