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Classic Review: 
Fuji Finepix S7000 Bridge Camera


You may have seen my article on Bridge Cameras, where I mentioned that the S7000 appeared on the scene way back in 2003.  In digital camera years, that might as well be half a century.   Remarkably, the S7000 is still a desirable camera after more than a decade, even though it's not a current-production model.  We're going to see what made it such a good camera.

First, let's look at a brief rundown of some camera specs.

Some specifications:

35mm Zoom Equivalent:  35-210 mm
Batteries:  AA, preferably rechargeable NiMH
Battery Life:  supposed to be 400+ shots, in real life it seems less.  Don't use alkaline batteries in this camera... they run down fast.
Connectors:   Mini USB, A/V out (mini earphone-style jack)
Continuous Shooting:  3.3 fps, 5-frame burst
Exposure Control:   Auto, Programmed Auto (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), Manual (M), & SP modes
Flash:  Built-in, plus a hotshoe to accept an external flash.  Has a Red-Eye Reduction mode.
Focus:  Auto, Manual Focus available via lens ring
Image Formats:  JPG and CCD-RAW
Image Stabilization:  None
ISO settings:  ISO 200 through 800, with Auto ISO available
Lens:  non-interchangeable zoom lens, 7.8 to 46.8mm, f/2.8 to 3.1
Metering:  Evaluative, Center-Weighted, & Spot modes
Resolution:  6.3 MP (12.5 MP if you shoot in RAW format)
Sensor:  1/1.7 inch Super CCD HR (4th generation)
Shutter lag: 
Shutter speeds:  15" to 1/10,000th (!!)   (1/4 to 1/2000 in AUTO / SP modes)
Video:  640x480 px (VGA) @ 30 fps,  AVI format, NTSC / PAL output
Viewfinder:   Electronic (235,000 pixel EVF)
Weight (no batteries):  about 500 grams (17.6 oz.)
Zoom magnification:  6x Optical  (35mm equivalent:  35-210 mm)




Power-Up & Basic Use


The power-up routine is a bit slow, but that's to be expected from a camera this old. 

Speaking of power, make sure you get the right batteries if you're going to use this camera.  Don't even think about using alkalines in this.  They run down in minutes.   Instead, get yourself a pack of Sanyo Eneloops (grab some here).   Eneloops are (or perhaps were) the best battery around for any digicam that takes AA batteries.  Unlike most rechargeable NiMH's, Eneloops hold a charge for quite a while on the shelf (or in your camera).   I used Duracell rechargeables in the Finepix for a while, and they were semi-passable, but the Eneloops were better.

A reader named Steve tells me that NiZn batteries work even better in this camera.  You can pick up some NiZn AA's and a charger here


Video

It's hard to believe there was even a bridge camera that could record video in 2003.  (Actually there were a couple of them.  Sony was one.)   The S7000 offers 640x480 video at 30 frames per second.  By today's standards it's not much, but it works.  And it has sound, no less!

Actually, the video is not bad.  Looking at it now, it still looks way better than a lot of smartphone videos.  I wouldn't go out of my way to get this camera just for the video, but it's surprisingly good for its age.  (I might go out of my way to get this camera for still pictures, though.  Yep, it's still that good.)

640x480 video is still used quite a bit on-line.  If you're going to do video much with the Finepix, make sure you get a 2GB xD card. (I like this one.)    They're not cheap (about 30 bucks for 2 gigs), since everyone uses SD cards now, but the Finepix can only run on the xD's or Compact Flash Type II.

Actually, no.  The CF Type II cards have more capacity.  You can pick up an 8GB Compact Flash card for less than half the price of the the 2GB Olympus xD card.  After all this time, though, I've never actually used CF cards in the FinePix, so I can't vouch for how well they work in it.  No reason they shouldn't, though.  

Reader Steve, who also suggested the NiZn batteries, mentions that the Finepix S7000 may not be able to use cards larger than 2GB.  If this is true, it would probably be because of limited memory addressing capabilities written into the camera's firmware or software.   You'll have to check for yourself!


Flash

Like most bridge cameras, the Finepix has a built-in flash.   It has a Red-Eye Reduction mode, but you're still better off using an external flash if your subjects are in a dark room.  Don't forget the Wein Safe Sync to protect from back-voltage, which will otherwise fry your camera's circuitry.

After all this time, I still like the Finepix S7000 with bounce flash for taking most of my pictures of "stuff"... anything with high 3D relief where you want it all to be in focus.   I prefer it even to a DSLR.  With a DSLR you have that annoying "flash synch speed" limitation, but with the Finepix S7000 you can run the shutter speed at 1/10,000th of a second if you want, and there won't be any black curtain obscuring your photo. 

The on-camera flash is not totally useless, though.  Sometimes you'll have a subject standing in the shade, but the background is brightly-lit.  This is where you'll want to use the on-camera flash, just to fill in the lighting.  Thanks to the daylight, their pupils should be narrow enough that you won't get nasty red-eye. 

Now, if you're going around taking flash photos in a darkened reception hall, then you'll want bounce flash... or just be good with Photoshop after the fact.


Image Quality

What really amazes me is that the S7000 can still stand up next to bridge cameras being made in 2014.   Set the image capture mode to CCD-RAW at the highest quality, and you've got 12.5 MP images that can rival those from newer cameras.  (Some sources say 12.3 MP.  I don't know which it is, don't care... 12.3 is close enough to 12.5.)

Look at these images and tell me which is which:  new camera vs. old camera?   One of these is from a bridge camera still being made this year (2014);  the other is from the Fuji Finepix S7000, introduced in 2003.

Image 1:



Image 2:



See what I mean??  The resolution and detail are almost the same.  The image quality is almost the same.  The colors are a little different.  And one photo is a little less noisy than the other.  That's about it.

If you want, look at them up close.  There isn't much difference in detail capture.

Here's a 100% crop from Image 1:



And here's a 100% crop from Image 2:



Alright.  Which is which?

Image 1 is from the S7000.   Image 2 is from a 12-megapixel bridge cam that's still being made.  

For as far apart as these cameras are chronologically, they shouldn't have image quality this close together.  Granted, the newer 12-MP camera has less noise and very slightly better detail, but still, the difference isn't that great.   The one major limitation of the S7000 is its tendency to clip one or more of the color channels very easily;  this problem has been somewhat corrected in newer bridge cameras.  If you select your scenes carefully and underexpose, you can work around this.

Actually, the Fuji does blue skies better than just about anyone.  They almost got the sky colors right for Velvia 100, which is pretty impressive for a digital camera... especially one made in '03.   On the other camera's picture, I had to adjust the curves to get the sky to look even semi-right.   I adjusted it on the 100% crop only;  see the uncropped one for what it originally looked like.  The S7000 got it right the first time.  I love this camera, even now.

Another thing:  look at the first two pictures (Image 1 and Image 2, not the cropped versions).  The Fuji did a better job rendering the detail in the rising moon.   Weird, and I can't explain it.  Might have something to do with tones.  This is a feature I call "tone detail". 

I was going to sell my Finepix S7000, but after looking at these images, I'm reluctant to part with it.  (But if you want to buy one of your own, get it through this link and you can help me out.  Much appreciated!!)  The Fuji has an almost film-grain-like noise at ISO 200, combined with a more pleasant rendition of blue sky.  If you choose the right subjects and avoid harsh lighting, you can occasionally imitate the "Velvia" look as I did in the first photo.  Probably the only giveaway is the snowy roof, which started to blow out because of the high contrast.   That could be fixed by underexposing the shot and then just bringing it up later in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or whatever you prefer. 

Even having seen the pictures side-by-side, I still can't believe the S7000 was this good.  Fuji has always had the best sensor technology.  And of course they still have the best photographic technology of all... Velvia slide film.


Low-Light Performance

This is where the old technology doesn't do so well.  However, the S7000 is just fine if you're willing to use a tripod at ISO 200.  1/4 second, 2 seconds, even 10 seconds... it's not bad.   Generally, small-sensor cameras are the last choice for low-light work, even if you're using a tripod.  That's because the close-together pixels equate to smaller, more crowded photosites.  This requires greater amplification, which impairs the signal-to-noise ratio.  I'd rather use 800 film with a fast prime lens than use a small-sensor camera for low light. 

Even bridge cameras made in 2014 are not the first choice for low-light pictures.  Serious low-light photography starts somewhere around Four-Thirds sensors for some people (want an inexpensive 4/3 camera?  The Olympus E-PM2 with 14-42mm lens is a good deal right now).  Or, for other people, serious low-light photography begins at APS-C (which puts the most affordable starting point at the Canon T3).  It's not practical to put these big sensors on a camera that has a powerful zoom, because you'd need a gigantic (and expensive) lens.  The "big" sensors in superzoom cameras are still tiny compared to DSLR's and mirrorless compact system cameras.  But it's OK, because bridge cameras or superzooms are still useful for daylight or flash photography.
     

Miscellaneous

One extremely cool thing about the Finepix S7000 is its ability to take a lens barrel shroud.  This protects the extended zoom lens in case you knock it into something (or knock the tripod over).  My old S602 Zoom got destroyed when I accidentally knocked the tripod over onto a rock.  I had actually bought the S7000 for its ability to take a zoom barrel shroud. 

The shroud threads are 55mm diameter, so you can either get a straight 55-to-55mm shroud (for 55mm filters) or a 55-to-52mm shroud (for 52mm filters).  Since most people with film SLR's have 52mm filters kicking around, the 55-to-52 is a good idea.   Actually, now they also make adapter tubes to take 72mm filters, and all kinds of other stuff including macro fisheye lenses and 2x telephoto adapters that you can add on to the Finepix S7000.

As I recall, when zoomed all the way out, the edges of a lens barrel shroud will show in the picture.  I never did a lot of wide-angle work with the S7000, but if you do, you might have to take off the add-on shrouds temporarily.

Get your lens barrel adapters through this link and it helps me keep this website going.

The continued availability of accessories just reinforces my opinion of this camera.  It's good.

Let's don't forget the macro functionality.   The macro will focus from about 10 to 80 cm distance.   Super Macro will focus to 1 cm.  As far as overall impression, I like the S7000's macro better than a lot of newer cameras I've tried.   This camera could be worth having just on the basis of its macro capability alone. 


I like this camera.  Even now.

Interesting story:  this tree was knocked over by a tornado in 2010.  What you're seeing here is the tree still growing... sideways.


Zoom

The one rather outmoded thing about the S7000 is its 6x optical zoom, which has been far surpassed today.  The Canon SX50, for example, has a 50x optical zoom.  

Then again, I find that probably 80% of my useful shots can be made within the S7000's optical zoom range.  That is, as long as they're not low-light shots.

With 6x optical zoom at a maximum equivalent of 210mm, that's a decent amount of zoom capability to have in a self-contained camera.   There are better superzoom cameras today, such as this one or this one, but the S7000 is usable for many situations.


Fun Stuff

I don't mind cranking up the saturation a little here and there.   The Finepix S7000 also has a "Chrome" mode.  This next one was probably shot in Normal, though, because I had to turn up the color a bit.  




100% crop from the sunset image can be seen here.



Ford 800

Finepix S7000
f/4.4 @ 1/100th
ISO 200
Cropped from original.
No adjustments.  I think this was "Chrome" (color slide) mode.
Click to see image full-size.




Chasing Thunderheads

Finepix S7000
Color / curve adjustments later


Conclusion
 
A lot of early digicams belong in the recycling bin, but the Finepix S7000 is a classic camera that's still useful.  It amazes me that the image quality can still compare favorably with bridge cameras being made in 2014.  It has a small, low-res LCD screen, but the CCD-RAW capability really put the S7000 ahead of its time by a few years.

There are not many digital cameras from 2003 that I would say are worth having now, but the S7000 is definitely one of them.  I like my S7000 so much that I actually had Fujifilm USA put a new sensor in it, because the other one finally went bad.  I think the repair cost me $150, because the camera was about eight years out of warranty.

You can still pick up good, used S7000's today.   Purchase your Finepix S7000 through this link and you can really help me keep this website going.   Or, shop for any of your stuff through this Amazon link.

I hope you enjoyed this page.  Thanks again for visiting my website!






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