Fujifilm FinePix S9600 Zoom review

Price when reviewed

The S9600 is an update of Fuji’s S9500 (see issue 135, p130). The bones of the camera are largely unchanged: the 9megapixel sensor remains, producing best-quality images with resolutions of 3,488 x 2,616, and the long 28-300mm fixed lens is also a carryover.

Fujifilm FinePix S9600 Zoom review

Image quality throughout the lens’ range is the S9600’s chief strength. Colour accuracy is impressive and images were sharp throughout our testing. In keeping with the S9600’s DSLR aspirations, you can set white balance manually or choose from six presets. Image noise is low, provided you shoot at ISOs lower than 400. The S9600 also offers “anti-blur technology”, but in reality the S9600 just increases the ISO to allow quicker shutter times, with commensurately higher noise.

The 2in TFT has an improved resolution of 235,000 pixels, which makes framing detail shots easier. There’s a smaller viewfinder at the top of the camera, although the 0.44in TFT struggles to provide adequate detail, particularly when attempting manual focusing; this is available via a ring at the back of the lens.

Other aspects of the S9600 will have D-SLR owners gritting their teeth. Although focus and shutter-lag speeds are good, performance is an obvious step down from even entry-level D-SLRs. Startup time varies from virtually instant to nearly two seconds, and continuous shooting in best-quality JPEG mode is limited – just four shots before the camera runs out of buffer, and then ten seconds while the resultant images are processed. To top it off, you can forget about using the camera’s RAW mode – take a single picture and you’ll be waiting nearly eight seconds until it’s ready to take another.

The trouble for Fujifilm is that, at £257, the S9600 is only about £50 cheaper than true D-SLRs such as Nikon’s D50 (see issue 135, p132). It can’t match the 9-megapixel rating of the S9600, with a mere 6-megapixel sensor, but offers much faster performance and better image quality.

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