In June last year I reviewed the Fujifilm FinePix S5700, and I was pretty impressed with it, giving it 9/10 overall and a Recommended award. The S5700 has proved to be a well-deserved success for Fujifilm, so as naturally as night follows day it has now been joined in the FinePix line-up by the S5800. It is essentially identical to the S5700 apart from an increase in sensor resolution from 7.1 to 8.0 megapixels and a corresponding increase in the available digital zoom factor.
The S5800 is the latest in a series of low-cost super-zoom cameras that started with the 3.1-megapixel S5000Z, launched in 2003. Like that camera, the S5800 offers a good quality 10x zoom lens, SLR-like handling and a full range of manual exposure functions. Its other features however it shares with the S5700, including a very good 2.5-inch 230k LCD monitor, and a 230k electronic viewfinder with a 60fps refresh rate. While the S5700 had direct competition from Kodak, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony, there are only a couple of other 8-megapixel 10x zoom cameras on the market, including the new Panasonic Lumix TZ4 (£249), the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS (£230), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 (£160). The S5800 is currently available for under £120, comfortably thrashing its competitors on price. That the S5800 can offer the specification that it does for the price of a budget compact is remarkable, although a little worrying.
The digital camera market is insanely competitive, and manufacturers make very little profit from compact cameras, shaving prices to the barest minimum in order to beat their rivals. This is the main reason that companies such as Minolta, Kyocera and Hewlett-Packard have pulled out of the camera business, and at least three others are looking decidedly shaky; they simply weren't making any money at it. For the consumer this means that we can get some amazingly good cameras at ridiculously low prices at the moment, but if all but one or two manufacturers go to the wall, where will that leave us?