The AF is pretty speedy, including the face detection, which works reasonably well, as long the subjects are fairly central, place heads in the corner and the face detection doesn't detect.
Flash performance is okay, with little blow outs, and the ambience feature works well. In the ISO 8OO ‘soft flash' mode, noise reduction can spoil some pictures, while some seemed okay. A little more consistency would be nice.
The major problem with the images is the overall ‘digital look', especially in the normal JPEG setting, which suffer from poor detail maintenance due to compression. Even in fine mode, which is always recommended anyway, the over eager sharpening and gritty look of the images can destroy any subtlety.
Exposure is, on the whole, good as long as you don't rely on the EVF for judgement. The bright beach shots are sometimes over exposed a tad, but average shots with a full range of tones are usually successful. Colour too is well controlled, and the White Balance is impressive.
Noise is well controlled at the lower sensitivities but starts to rapidly deteriorate past ISO 400, with the cameras noise reduction system working overtime to produce a watercolour effect on the most extreme samples.
Whilst there's no doubt the lens length is useful, it's also stretching the boundaries of optical competence. There's quite sever barrel distortion at the wide angle end, and pincushion distortion appears as the zoom is extended. The lens works well in macro mode though and the super macro mode of 1cm can produce some decent images too.
There's not much to recommend the Finepix S8100fd. As a replacement for a DSLR, it offers a lightweight and compact alternative, without the added expense of the price of lenses to match the focal range offered. However I dislike the EVF on this camera intensely, and the handling in manual shooting modes is fiddly at best. Image quality is hit-or-miss, with horrible high ISO images and some aggressive sharpening. At lower ISOs images are better, but I find the majority of images too digital looking, lacking the finesse of some other models.