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Overall performance is also impressive, in fact deceptively so. Super-zoom cameras can be a bit slow to start up, and when you switch the S8000fd on it seems like it takes a long time to power up, but in fact it starts in just under three seconds, which isn't at all bad, and shuts down again in about two and a half seconds. In single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot cycle time of just under three seconds, which is also pretty good, and in long-period continuous shooting mode it takes a shot every two seconds. It has a top-three burst mode which fires three shots in just under three seconds, as well as two very high speeds burst modes that can fire 14 shots in under three seconds at 4MP or about one and a half seconds at 2MP picture size. Focusing is reasonably quick, although it does slow down a bit at telephoto zoom settings. Low light focusing is also extremely good, and the very bright AF assist lamp means that it can focus fairly reliably in darkness at a range of about four metres.
I must also make special mention of the built-in flash. It uses Fuji's Intelligent Flash system to ensure accurate flash exposure at close range, and is also one of the most powerful built-in flashes I've ever seen, with a range of eight metres at wide angle and three metres at telephoto. The video mode on the other hand is really nothing special. It shoots at VGA resolution with mono sound, and the optical zoom cannot be used while filming.
Finally we come to picture quality, and here I can answer one of the questions that I have been asked by several readers: should they buy this camera or the S9600? If you want a hugely versatile super-zoom camera with all the snapshot convenience of a compact as well as a lot of advanced features, then buy the S8000fd, but if you're looking for ultimate picture quality then the S9600 is definitely a better choice. Not that the S8000fd has bad picture quality, but it does have some serious limitations. It uses a conventional CCD sensor rather than Fujifilm's more sophisticated SuperCCD system, and it is quite a small sensor too, just 1/2.35-inches, barely larger than the sensor in most pocket compacts. As a result, it lacks the outstanding high-ISO performance and superb dynamic range of some of Fuji's other models. Nonetheless, the exposure system is very good and makes the most of what it's got to work with, and colour rendition is superb. The level of fine detail is about what I'd expect from a good 8MP camera, and at low ISO settings the picture quality is very good indeed. The lens performs well, but it does produce some rather uneven spherical distortion at wide settings, and some pincushion distortion at telephoto settings. I also noticed some chromatic aberration towards the edges of the frame, especially at wider settings.
The Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd is a very sophisticated and immensely versatile camera for all types of photography, with enough features to make up for a slight lack in total image quality. It has superb handling, very good performance and excellent build quality, and while it may not have the semi-pro credentials of the S9600 is it is still a good hobbyists camera. For a price of under £200 it is a real bargain that will not disappoint.