The S5000 is one of the best-looking SLR-style digital cameras we’ve seen and comes from the same lines at the S602 Zoom. The plastic casing is solidly built but feels much lighter than the 448g our scales declared. This is mostly down to the excellent ergonomics – the hand grip is perfectly designed for one-handed shooting.
Several prosumer features are missing, though, with manual white balance and exposure lock being the most obvious. But there’s a good range of shooting modes, including fully manual, four scene presets and unlimited-length 320 x 240 movies. The latter pales against the FinePix F700, but clips were fairly smooth and had accurate colours.
Continuous shooting potential is decent, as you can either capture five frames at 5fps or 40 frames at 1.6fps. Also, a cunning final-five frame mode means you can keep shooting and only keep the last five frames taken. Unlike the S602, though, the S5000 doesn’t have a great macro mode – the smallest area we could capture was 80 x 60mm. And the longest shutter speed of two seconds won’t be long enough for some.
However, a startup time of under four seconds is quick for a camera with such a big zoom. We took some handheld shots at full telephoto, and sharpness was better than we’d imagined. But, in general, we found the S5000 struggled to focus – even with good light – and photos were regularly blurred.
With a 3-megapixel sensor, which interpolates to generate 6-megapixel images, the S5000 falls behind the 4-megapixel C-750. The main problem, as we’ve found with the SuperCCD before, is the level of noise in low-light conditions. Plus, resolution can’t compete with true 5-megapixel cameras like the HP and Sony DSC-V1. Curved and diagonal lines were noticeably jagged, while chromatic aberrations were worse than most. Also, the auto white balance failed to produce neutral colours – a time where manual control was sorely missed. Decent flash coverage was the only consolation, and a small one at that.
Fortunately, outdoor shots were far better, with consistently good exposures and colours. Again, resolution was the overriding concern, and switching to 6-megapixel files provided negligible gain. Our fill-in flash shot was handled well, giving natural skin tones while exposing the sky correctly.
Fuji uses the new xD-Picture Card and includes 16MB, which is enough for ten frames at top quality. Shooting in RAW mode reduces this to two. Rechargeable batteries aren’t included, though, unlike the Olympus.
While we like the S5000’s design and appreciate the electronic viewfinder and fast 1.5in LCD, the Olympus is the better big-zoom camera.