The Fujifilm S5200 is fast in a number of ways. For one thing, it starts up quickly: It was ready to shoot in about a second after we turned the power on, and shutter lag was less than half a second. That's quick enough to ensure that you wouldn't miss many shots.
The autofocus is very snappy, finding the right focus point in under a second in most situations. A couple of unconventional modes make it flexible. The AF Multi mode focuses on a high-contrast object located near the center of the screen. This works well when you take a shot of two people: Though the faces are off-center, the camera usually finds them and focuses on them. The AF Area mode lets you pick a spot anywhere on the screen as the focusing target, which is useful if you want to focus on an off-center object to create a depth-of-field effect. We found this tool is a lot easier to use than the manual focus, which required us to hold down the exposure compensation button while using the zoom buttons to focus.
The S5200's design enhances its ease of use: The handgrip is comfortable, and its textured rubber coating helps you keep holding on even if your hands get sweaty. The shutter button falls under the index finger, and the zoom controls are under the thumb. You can work the mode dial with your thumb, too, but using the other buttons (such as the menu button and the directional control) requires your other hand. The on-screen menus are pretty straightforward, though somewhat oddly worded: The camera refers to "photometry" instead of metering modes, which may confuse some users. The LCD screen is a little small (at 1.8 inches), but the viewfinder is excellent. It's one of the few I've seen that didn't require me to jam my eye right up to it to see the whole image--that's a big plus for spectacles wearers.
We were very impressed with the image quality of the S5200: In our tests with studio and natural lights, images displayed bright, vivid colors and lots of detail. Flesh tones looked great, with natural colors and plenty of shadow detail. Though the camera shoots only at a resolution of 5.1 megapixels, the results were noticeably sharper than from many higher-resolution cameras (such as the 8-megapixel Panasonic DMC-FZ30 and the 6-megapixel Konica Minolta DiMage 6Z). The sharpening that the camera applies didn't cause much color interference: We saw very little evidence of color fringing.
The exposure we took using the built-in flash was slightly off, yielding images that were a bit underexposed. In low light, however, the camera struggled: Though the ISO setting can be pushed up to 1600, images taken at high settings showed a lot of noticeable noise. You can push the shutter speed up to an impressive 15 seconds, but there's no dark field subtraction or other noise reduction mode, so noise becomes a big problem at longer exposures.
The S5200's battery life was superior: The camera reached our test maximum of 500 shots on four AA batteries. You can use rechargeable NiMH batteries if you like, but Fujifilm doesn't include them (or a charger) in its package. We encountered one annoyance involving the power management. Most cameras go into standby mode after a certain period of inactivity, and you can get out of it by pressing the shutter button. But the S5200 simply turns the power off; to start shooting again, you have to turn the power dial to off and then back to shooting mode. You can alter how long it waits before turning itself off, however.
The lens's styling gives the impression that you can zoom by twisting it, but unfortunately you can't do this. And it's sometimes a little difficult to tell whether your photos are in focus or not, since the LCD screen is rather small. But these are relatively minor issues.
Upshot: The easy-to-use S5200 takes great pictures and offers a good range of advanced features for a low price.
|Zoom Range:||Min. (mm): 38|
|Max. (mm): 380|
|Media Slots:||xD-Picture Card|
|Price When Reviewed:||US$285|