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8/10

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Fujifilm FinePix S6500fd

About this time last year I reviewed the Fujifilm FinePix S9500. I was, to say the least, rather impressed by it. With its SLR-like handling and performance, a high quality 28-300mm manual zoom lens and some of the best picture quality I’ve seen on anything short of a top-end professional SLR, it earned the highest possible mark we have here – straight tens!

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Ten months later, and Fujifilm has just launched another high-spec camera in its semi-pro S series, the new FinePix S6500fd. It fits into the range between the soon-to-be-replaced S9500 and the lower spec S5600 (reviewed here in May) although it’s far closer to the higher end of the scale. It inherits many features from the S9500, most notably that excellent f2.8-f4.9, 10.7x optical zoom lens. It’s also about the same size and weight as the S9500, in fact it’s a couple of millimetres wider and taller, although it is a little lighter. In other words, the S6500 is far closer in size, shape and weight to a digital SLR than to most other fixed-lens cameras.

The S6500 is supposed to be the lower-spec camera, so it lacks a few of the S9500’s features. For starters it has a 6.3-megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor, compared to its older brother’s 9.0-megapixel sensor. Its 2.5in, 235,000 pixel LCD monitor is bigger and sharper, but lacks the S9500’s fold-out ability. It has a much simpler control layout, which unfortunately means that some useful features, such as the self-timer, are relegated to the menu. It also lacks the cable release thread on the shutter button.

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More crucially it lacks the hybrid AF system that helped give the S9500 its blistering performance. Instead it has a fairly pedestrian TTL AF system that seems slow by comparison, although in fact its speed is safely above average for a high-end zoom camera.

However the S6500 does have a few points on which it beats the S9500. It offers a wider range of shutter speeds in program mode, a higher maximum ISO setting of 3200, improved high-ISO noise reduction, and Fuji’s new hardware based face detection system, which is where the “fd” in the camera’s name comes from. The camera will automatically recognise up to 10 human faces in the frame, and adjust focus and exposure accordingly to ensure a good picture.

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