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In terms of overall handling the S5600 scores very highly, but there are a couple of minor niggles. Most of the controls are very well laid out, including separate buttons for exposure compensation and continuous shooting modes, including auto bracketing. However the zoom control, which is also used in conjunction with the EV compensation button for manual focusing, is very awkwardly positioned. If like me you are left-eye dominant, you’ll have to try to squeeze your thumb in between the camera body and your nose to use the zoom. The zoom control is also very jerky, and goes from one end of the massive zoom range to the other in just 12 steps. If only it had the superb manual zoom control of the S9500…
Despite having a 10x zoom lens, the S5600 has no image stabilization. What it does have however is the ability to shoot at high ISO settings with very little image noise. Fujifilm is so far the only company to really crack the image noise problem at higher ISO speeds, and with its relatively fast F3.2-3.5 lens the S5600 can produce good results at shutter speeds around 2-3 stops higher than other comparable cameras under the same lighting conditions. Since most IS systems only offer the same 2-3 stop advantage the S5600 does just as well without one, which helps to keep the price down.
Overall picture quality is very good, although unusually for a Fujifilm camera I found the colours in standard mode to be a bit under-saturated, and the auto white balance produced a somewhat cold appearance in bright sunlight.
Noise control is, as I have mentioned, among the best I have ever seen. At 800 ISO image quality is better than many other cameras can achieve at 200 ISO, and even at the highest setting of 1600 ISO images are still quite usable, although the noise reduction system loses a lot of fine detail.
The S5600’s newly designed lens produces excellent results at all focal lengths, with good corner sharpness and minimal distortion.
The only real problem with image quality is something that has plagued just about every Fuji camera I’ve ever seen: massive purple fringing along the left-hand edge of every bright highlight. It is annoying, and robs the S5600 of the superb image quality of which it is otherwise capable.
For under £200 the Fuji S5600 offers big-camera handling in a small and easy-to-use package. It has lightning-fast performance, a good list of features, massive zoom range and amazingly good low-light capabilities. Image quality is generally very good under most circumstances, but how I wish Fujifilm could shake of those damn purple fringes.