If there were ever a company to change the face of bridge cameras, Fujifilm would be a top contender. As it stands, size is the underlying factor when it comes to squeezing in as many of the high-demand features that we’ve come to expect. In the company’s latest line-up, the S-series, size is something to admire. Even the credentials of this lower-end model in the series, the S1600, are close to outstanding for a bridge camera of its price.
The S1600’s optics comprise of a 15x optical zoom with a wide-angle (28-420mm) focal length. The dynamics of such a wide to telephoto lens can play to a camera’s disadvantage in terms of image quality, but Fujifilm hasn’t fallen at this hurdle. Images show a wide dynamic range for coping with high-contrast scenarios, and the wide-angle lens makes it handy for capturing the vastness of a landscape. Another appealing feature of the S1600 is the variety of options on its Mode dial, including Aperture and Shutter Priority modes and also a DSLR favourite – a custom option.
In any given Manual mode, the camera has multiple options for allowing you to take control of the exposure. For example, you can make changes to exposure metering, white balance, focusing areas and also to the sharpness of your image in three varying degrees. The Mode dial also features a dedicated Panorama Shooting mode, where you’re asked to take three separate shots, and lining up a ‘ghost’ image of the previous one, the camera then processes the three images. The least conspicuous areas are joined together to create an almost spotless result.
The S1600 is so small that without its four AA batteries, it’s featherlight. It’s built to a high standard, too. The Mode dial noticeably clicks and slots into position on each turn. The exterior buttons can’t be pressed by mistake if you glide a finger over them. The pop-up flash is controlled by hitting its dedicated ‘open’ button on the side. The On/Off button is a sliding switch that works with a flick on a finger and, lastly, the electronic viewfinder (EVF) has a rubber edge for extra comfort. This is a real bonus if you find yourself battling with bright sunlight from behind, or are looking for more support by holding the camera to your eye using the EVF.
The camera isn’t perfect, however, and if you find yourself searching for purple fringing between highlight and shadow areas, which the camera does well to minimalise, there’s the more noticeable drawback of noise. For the price the S1600 isn’t going to produce spotless results, or those of a DSLR. However, from the perspective of an affordable bridge, this is an excellent buy for anyone looking for more dynamic photography in a compact outer shell.
Movies are recorded in HD format at 30fps for smoother visuals. Recording movies with the S1600 also records audio, though this proves to be a disadvantage. If you zoom, the whirring noise from the lens is amplified by the camera as it records. On playback, this is easily noticeable. The camera can be connected to an HD-ready TV to enjoy the depth and details in both movies and its still images. However, to do this will cost you extra.
The S1600 has been made small to prove a point, being compact with lots of features on show. We can’t wait until the li-ion battery replaces four AAs.