Despite its ambitious specification the S5800 is a relatively small camera. It measures 106.1(W) x 75.7(H) x 80.7(D) mm, and will sit comfortably in the palm of the hand. It weighs 307g (1g more than the S5700) excluding batteries and memory card, about twice the weight of a typical pocket compact, but add four AA alkaline batteries to that and it pushes the weight up to over 400g. Fortunately the position of the batteries inside the handgrip means that the camera is very well balanced, with most of the weight on the right-hand side.
The camera body is made of plastic, but its relatively compact size and curved shape give it an inherent strength and it feels quite solid and sturdy with no creaks or rattles. The design of the body is identical to the S5700, with a large and very comfortable SLR-style rubber-coated handgrip, and a large textured area on the back to serve as a thumb grip. The camera feels reassuringly snug and secure in the hand, and the controls are positioned for easy one-handed operation.
The range of features is also identical to the S5700. It has a range of manual exposure options including shutter and aperture priority and full manual exposure. Shutter speeds from four seconds to 1/1000th of a second and aperture values from f/3.5 to f/13.6 are available, in 1/3EV increments. Metering options include the usual multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot, and AF modes include selectable multi-point, centre spot and wide area. It’s not quite the level of control you’d get from even and entry-level DSLR, but for the price of a cheap pocket compact the S5800 offers real photographic creativity. It would make an ideal first camera for someone who wants to learn more about real photography.
One thing the S5800 lacks however is any sort of image stabilisation. This is a significant omission on a super-zoom camera. All of the more expensive rival cameras listed on the previous page have IS systems of one sort or another. Fuji has got around this problem in some other models by using its SuperCCD HR sensor technology, which provides better image quality at higher ISO settings, but the S5800 has a normal 1/2.5-inch CCD sensor with a maximum ISO setting of 1600, the same as you’ll find in many pocket compacts, so if you want to get the best out of the 380mm-equivalent maximum telephoto setting you’re going to need a decent tripod.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.