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Today Fuji launched the Fuji Finepix S8000fd, an ultra-zoom digital camera with a 18X wide-angle optical zoom and a first for Fuji, built-in image stabilization. They did also simultaneously introduced several other models, some of which also feature CCD-shift stabilization. On one side it is great to see that this technology is becoming more common, but on the other it is sad that its inventors, Konica-Minolta, are no longer in the camera business.

Given an 8 megapixels sensor, an 18X optical zoom lens, ISO up to 6400 (at 4 megapixels), stabilization, this is a camera designed to impress from specifications alone. Unfortunately for the prosumer, this camera is based on the Fuji Finepix S700 (S5700 in Europe), rather than the advanced S9100 (S9600 in Europe) and S6000fd (S6500fd in Europe).

The S8000fd has some very serious limitations which are problematic for advanced users. First, the longest shutter-speed available is 4 seconds. Longer shutter-speeds are required for night-photography. Even though high-ISO compensates a bit, it always does so at the expense of image noise. The second major problem, frankly a very stupid limitation, is that its LCD and EVF show only 97% of the frame. Nearly every other fixed lens digital camera does better with 100% coverage. This removes one of the most significant advantages of having a live-view display. Speaking of the EVF, at 0.24″, it has got to be one of the smallest viewfinders ever made. Of less importance is the fact the S8000fd’s lens is electronic rather than mechanical like with the S9000 and S6000fd. Mechanical lenses are a pleasure to use due to their instant response and infinite precision, but very few cameras are equipped with them, and none with an 18X zoom.

Another change for Fuji is the use of a much smaller sensor-size. At 1/2.35″, the Fuji Finepix S8000fd’s sensor is about 40% smaller than that of the S6000fd. Now, we recently saw that the Fuji Finepix F40fd with its 8 megapixels 1/1.6″ sensor performed quite well but given that the S8000fd has the same resolution using a much smaller sensor, be prepared for a drop in image quality, although we would be happy if Fuji proved us wrong. Sadly, the smaller sensor is required to produce an 18X optical zoom lens in such a small form-factor, so this may be the case for marketing winning over image quality again.

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