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Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd - Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd
Build quality is also very good, and despite its plastic body it feels very strong and solid. It's quite a heavy camera, weighing 410g minus the four AA batteries that power it. Add a set of standard alkalines and the weight goes up to over 500g, about 100g heavier than the S5700 or the FZ18. Of course that huge lens accounts for a large proportion of the camera's weight, but with the batteries inside the handgrip it feels well balanced. Despite its weight the S8000fd is fairly compact for a super-zoom camera, and is noticeably smaller than the FZ18.
The S8000fd is packed with enough features to cope with almost any situation. It has a range of manual exposure options, including program, aperture and shutter priority auto and full manual exposure. The aperture can be set in 1/3EV steps to a minimum of F8, and shutter speeds from four seconds to 1/2000th of a second can be selected, also in 1/3EV steps. As well as this it has a scene mode option with 13 scene programs. There are two scene mode positions on the main mode dial, so you can select two different scene modes and switch instantly between them. Another neat feature on the mode dial are the two natural light settings. One takes a photo using just available light, while the other takes two shots, one using natural light and the other using the pop-up flash, displaying them side-by-side so you can pick which one you prefer.
I'm not normally a fan of face detection systems, but the one in the S8000fd is particularly impressive. It is extremely fast-acting and seems to be rather better at detecting faces that are not looking straight at the camera than are most such systems. It will detect one main face and up to nine others in the frame and attempt to balance focusing and exposure to make sure they are all correctly captured. As well as this the face detection system is used to detect and automatically remove flash red-eye without removing other red objects from the shot.
The S8000fd has a two-part image stabilisation system. It has a moving-sensor (CCD-shift) mechanical image stabilisation system, and an ISO-boost system which gives a faster shutter speed, reducing both camera shake and motion blur. I'm not keen on ISO-boost anti-shake systems, because they inevitably result in an increase in image noise. Fortunately with the S8000fd it is possible to use just the mechanical system, and it is massively impressive. Using the viewfinder for a bit of extra stability, I found I was able to take sharp hand-held pictures at maximum zoom, at shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second with reasonable reliability. For a focal length of nearly 500mm this is an amazing performance, certainly one of the best I've seen. I very much hope that Fujifilm is going to incorporate this IS system into the replacement for the FinePix S9600 which is probably due early next year.