The Fujifilm FinePix S1 is a camera made for photographers of all levels who want the versatility of a DSLR in a slightly smaller package and without the hassle of carrying around multiple lenses. The impressive (24-1200 mm) 50x zoom, DSLR styling, 3" articulated LCD, weather sealing, and HD video quality are likely its greatest draws. Just keep in mind that performance from the S1 will not be that of a DSLR, and I find its launch price is a bit on the high side. This will likely to come down though.
I have an older bridge camera that I've enjoyed using for many years -- the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50. The FinePix S1 compares favorably to it. While I basically find them close in general performance and image quality, the S1 is usually at least as good or even much better in some cases. The S1 is also a lighter and more compact camera with more shooting and customization options. While I won't get rid of the FZ50, the S1 will likely replace it as a go-to camera for general use. The main thing I would miss from the FZ50 is the manual zoom control.
I am also the impressed owner of Fujifilm's X-S1. While the X-S1 is an older model than the S1, the X-series line is geared more towards higher end use and the X-S1 performs accordingly. In my opinion, its larger sensor, better optics, manual zoom, heartier build quality and speedier performance make it the preferred camera choice for true enthusiasts and professional photographers, ...even with the S1's longer zoom and articulated LCD. Both are versatile models with similar weather sealing, 3-stop image stabilization, lots of on-camera controls, and settings/handling on par with many DSLRs. Their panorama modes work quite well, though perhaps not quite as good as those on certain Sony models (I use the a7). Both of my Fujifilm cameras have fast 64GB SDHC cards any they perform quite well. Each camera also features high-speed video modes. Ergonomically, the X-S1 is larger and heavier than the S1. While both fit well in my hands and are easy to use, I have to give the edge to the X-S1.
While this isn't a review of the (now less expensive) X-S1, a comparison might be in order.
S1 Pros over the X-S1:
1. Smaller and lighter 2. 50x vs 26x optical zoom 3. Articulated rear LCD 4. Wi-Fi connectivity and control 5. Higher pixel count 16MP sensor (1/2.3 backlit) 6. 1cm macro mode (vs 2cm on the X-S1)
X-S1 Pros over the S1:
1. Higher quality optics 2. Larger 12MP sensor (⅔ backlit) w/ more DSLR-like DOF 3. Much better viewfinder (EVF) (with eye sensor) 4. Sturdier build quality and more ergonomic controls 5. Slightly better battery life 6. Manual zoom and focus
The S1 is an all-in-one camera that can handle just about anything you throw at it; including sports, nature, macro, scenic and portrait photography. It handles much the way a typical DSLR camera would with the obvious advantage of not having to lug around a variety of lenses for different applications. While good in most situations, image quality could be better. But given the lens/sensor combo, it really does a good job, especially in the mid-zoom range. The S1 takes great video and offers RAW format for additional flexibility. I've test the camera's movie taking aspect and while you get a bit of noise if you want to zoom in and out, the results are almost as good as any digital videocamera I've used. In many ways it has most of the features of both a DSLR AND a video camera in one compact and user-friendly package. While I've not used it long, battery life seems good for a camera in this class. If I were taking it out all day as my only camera, I'd bring a back-up battery however. You may want to purchase an external charger for conveniences sake when getting a spare battery.
Fujifilm's FinePix S1 is a very capable, feature packed "do-it-all" super-zoom camera that should satisfy a lot of people's needs. Discerning pixel-peepers might be let down by the image noise ISO speeds 400 and above, but for a bridge camera it performs admirably. While the S1 may look like a DSLR, it certainly isn't. Its bigger brother the X-S1 might not have its zoom range or the articulating rear LCD, but in most other areas it outperforms the newer S1 at what is currently a lower price point. You just have to decide which model best fits your requirements and budget. After using both, and if I could have only one, I'd likely go with the X-S1. That isn't to say that the S1 isn't very capable in its own right and there are a lot of reasons to like it for what it does offer. As a super-zoom bridge camera it excels with only a few noticeable flaws. If you are interested in the S1, my recommendation is (if possible) to have some "hands-on" time with both it and X-S1. I suspect you'd enjoy using both and the results you get from both, but one might fit your needs better than the other.
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