Fujifilm FinePix S9600 review

Price when reviewed

At £219, the FinePix S9600 is barely more expensive than many of the compact cameras on test here, yet it offers handling and control more akin to a DSLR. Check the feature table on p98, though, and you’ll realise that, although its zoom is physically huge, the 10.7x ratio is little better than the Panasonic TZ2’s, which offers 10x.

Fujifilm FinePix S9600 review

It has an advantage in the megapixel race with a maximum resolution of 3,488 x 2,616, plus full manual control and aperture- and shutter-priority modes. There’s a cold shoe on top for adding a flash, and a useful dedicated dial for switching between the multisegment, average and spot-metering modes.

However, the S9600’s body is made from lightweight plastic and power comes from AA batteries, so you’ll have to budget for rechargeable cells. There’s a choice between xD-Picture card and CompactFlash slots; we found little difference between them for transfer speed – roughly 1.8MB/sec for writing and 4MB/sec when reading. Both figures are disappointing.

Similar to the Panasonic FZ50, the S9600 has a foldout LCD at the rear. It doesn’t rotate, but has a double hinge that gives approximately 140 degrees of tilt. It’s a shame the screen sports only a 2in diagonal, but its high resolution is welcome. The electronic viewfinder isn’t as sharp or as usable as the FZ50’s, though.

At least the S9600 is capable of a respectable 1.6fps continuous mode until the memory card is full. And if you want a camera that’s capable of capturing decent-quality video clips, the S9600 betters the other two super-zooms thanks to smooth frame rates, great sound and lots of detail.

Still images were sharp, clean and well exposed. Colours were well saturated too, and the macro ability was respectable. As with the other super-zooms, we saw some fringing in the corners of wide-angle shots and heavy blurring in handheld shots in very low light.

But, while image quality might be on a par with the Olympus SP-550UZ, the S9600 has some annoying traits. One is that it won’t wake up from sleep mode. You have to switch it off and back on, which means you’re more likely to miss the shot. You’ll be reaching for a new set of batteries more often than with the Olympus: each quartet of AAs lasts for only 200 shots. And when you remember that the considerably smaller SP-550UZ’s has a much longer zoom, the S9600 doesn’t have many advantages in this group test.

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