DPInterface Fujifilm FinePix A500 Review
Brad Soo - April 21st, 2006

Fujifilm's new A500 is an entry-level camera with 5 megapixels, 3x optical zoom and a 1.8 inch LCD. Now, that isn't very exciting but wait till you hear this: behind that 3x zoom lens is Fujifilm's SuperCCD. The SuperCCD is well known for its low noise characteristics. The Fujifilm FinePix F10 was probably the best known camera of 2005 for low noise. But will the entry-level A500 follow the footsteps of its higher end relatives?

Fujifilm A-series comparison

This year, Fujifilm has launched 3 entry-level cameras for you to choose from, and these are the differences:

 

Fujifilm FinePix A400

Fujifilm FinePix A500

Fujifilm FinePix A600

Retail/current price*

$149/$130

$179/$146

$249/$239

Resolution (M.Pixels)

4.0 megapixels

5.0 megapixels

6.0 megapixels

CCD sensor size

1/2.5 inch SuperCCD

1/2.5 inch SuperCCD

1/1.7 inch SuperCCD

Lens focal length

3X (38-114 mm)

3X (38-114 mm)

3X (36-108 mm)

Lens aperture range

f3.3 - f5.5

f3.3 - f5.5

f2.8 - f5.2

LCD size

1.8 inch (77k pixels)

1.8 inch (77k pixels)

2.4 inch (112k pixels)

LCD frame coverage

94%

94%

91%

Optical viewfinder

Yes

Yes

No

Battery life

350 shots

350 shots

400 shots

Shutter speed range

2 - 1/1500 sec

2 - 1/1500 sec

2 - 1/1600 sec

Sound recording

No

No

Yes

*As of April 22nd, 2006

Size and Weight

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 surely looks quite small. So exactly how compact is it?:

(195.0)  103.0 x 51.8 x 40.2 mm (160 g) - Canon PowerShot A430
(197.6)  90.4 x 64.0 x 43.2 mm (180 g) - Canon PowerShot A530/A540
(177.2)  90.0 x 60.0 x 27.2 mm (137 g) - Casio Exilim Z110/Z120
(180.5)  93.0 x 60.0 x 27.5 mm (126 g) - Fujifilm FinePix A400/A500
(183.1)  93.0 x 60.0 x 30.1 mm (145 g) - Fujifilm FinePix A600
(188.3)  95.0 x 62.0 x 31.3 mm (140 g) - HP Photosmart M425/M525
(192.0)  91.0 x 66.0 x 35.0 mm (150 g) - Kodak EasyShare C533
(177.5)  91.0 x 60.5 x 26.0 mm (120 g) - Nikon Coolpix L2/L3
(185.0)  96.0 x 63.0 x 26.0 mm (130 g) - Olympus FE130/FE140
(194.9)  110.5 x 53.5 x 30.9 mm (138 g) - Panasonic Lumix LS2
(179.0)  87.0 x 60.0 x 32.0 mm (130 g) - Pentax Optio E10
(169.0)  89.0 x 57.0 x 23.0 mm (127 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W30/W50
(188.7)  99.9 x 52.0 x 36.8 mm (133 g) - Sony Cyber-shot S600

Apparently manufacturers like releasing their entry-level cameras in pairs. The FinePix A500 is one of the smaller entry-level cameras which means that it can follow you everywhere. The Fujifilm A500 is quite light so it won't be a pain to bring it around.

Open up the Box

Together with the A700, you'll also find these:

  • 2 AA batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 has 12 MB of internal memory; useful for an album or if you forgot your memory card. With images at the highest resolution, it can only hold 4 photos. The Fujifilm FinePix A500 uses xD-Picture cards and you'd wanna get at least a 256 MB card immediately. Thankfully, xD-Picture cards are getting lower in price and not as expensive as in the old days.

360 shots - Canon PowerShot A430
360 shots - Canon PowerShot A530/A540
180 shots - Casio Exilim Z110/Z120
350 shots - Fujifilm FinePix A400/A500
400 shots - Fujifilm FinePix A600
N/A - HP Photosmart M425/M525
300 shots - Kodak EasyShare C533
325 shots - Nikon Coolpix L2/L3
N/A - Olympus FE130/FE140
390 shots - Panasonic Lumix LS2
300 shots - Pentax Optio E10
400 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W30/W50
460 shots - Sony Cyber-shot S600

Battery life is on par with other cameras; the Fujifilm A500 is capable of taking 350 shots (CIPA Standard) on a single charge. The A500 uses just two AA batteries but rechargeable ones are not bundled with the camera. So, get a set of 4 NiMH rechargeables and a fast 15 minute charger. I got about 100 shots out of the bundled batteries which is not bad.

Extras

It's not a big surprising to see just two accessories for a $150 camera; namely an AC adapter and various camera cases.

 

Camera Tour

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 has a very conventional look. We'll start off with the lens which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm but is rather slow in terms of aperture. The aperture range is f3.3 - f5.5. As I mentioned earlier on, the A500 has 5 megapixels and uses Fujifilm's SuperCCD (which we'll put the test later on).

To the top right of the camera is a viewfinder window. And just to the left of "5.1 megapixels" is the flash. With a range of 60 cm - 3.1 m at wide-angle and up to 2 m at telephoto (both at auto ISO), this flash is below average.

The Fujifilm A500 doesn't have an AF-assist beam, which can help in low-light autofocus. The little circle below the flash is just a self-timer lamp. There are no protrusions on the front, neither is there a real "grip". Fujifilm provides a chrome bump for a grip.

While it looks quite big, the LCD on the FinePix A500 is just 1.8 inches and has 77,000 pixels. It's not that sharp but at least it is visible in low-light. Now, I have several ramblings about this LCD; it's not that sharp, you can almost forget about it when shooting outdoors and it only covers 94% of the frame (And I thought only viewfinders do that!). To make up for things a bit, there's an optical viewfinder about the LCD with a status light beside it.

Next there's a playback button which brings you straight into playback. The weird set of buttons on the top right is actually the FinePix A500's four way plus zoom controller:

  • Up - Zoom in
  • Down - Zoom out
  • Left - Macro
  • Right - Flash (Auto, red-eye reduction, on, off, slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction)

The MENU/OK button brings up the menu to change settings and doubles as a confirm button. The DISP/BACK button toggles the info displayed on the LCD and also returns to the main menu from any submenu.

On the left of the LCD is a blank area. On the side of that, you'll see 3 I/O ports: A/V Out, USB and DC-IN.

The A500's top is quite blank with a power button and shutter button.

At the bottom of the A500, there's a tripod mount and battery/xD card slot. The battery/card slot cover is just okay in terms of quality. The batteries don't have a locking mechanism so they might fall out when changing memory cards.

Shooting

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 has very few scene modes for an entry-level camera - just 4 and they include portrait, landscape, sport and night scene. Other settings you can change include (but where is the continuous shooting mode?!):

  • ISO (100, 200, 400)
  • White balance (6 presets: fine, shade, daylight, fluorescent warm, fluorescent cool, incandescent)
  • Self-timer (10 seconds, 2 seconds)

There are 6 image sizes to choose from: 5 MP Fine, 5 MP Normal, 5 MP 3:2 format, 3 MP, 2 MP and VGA. Compression can only be selected for the highest resolution.

Overall, I found the operation of the FinePix A500 pretty simple and easy to use. Given that this is the first time I ever handled a Fujifilm camera, this one's very user friendly. The only thing I disliked was the four-way controller.

Recording

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 definitely won't win any grammies for its movie mode. It can record QVGA (320 x 240) movies at 10 FPS without sound till the card fills up. You can't zoom or focus when recording. A 256 MB xD-Picture card holds about 20 minutes of movies.

If that's not enough, you can lower resolution to 160 x 120 (no sound as well) at 10 FPS - A card of the same capacity will hold 1 hour and 15 minutes!

The video quality here was sharp. As far as audio is concerned, there isn't any.

Performance

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 starts up within 3 seconds and takes an average time of 2 seconds to focusing. Sometimes in low-light, the camera cannot even focus. The FinePix A500's competitors (namely the Canon A430 and Sony S600) focus much faster and better.

Shot-to-shot interval is about 3 seconds and shutter lag is fairly noticeable at telephoto. As for the flash, it charges up within 10 seconds. The lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in about 3 seconds. The minute you hit the power button again, the A500 shuts down in 4 seconds.

Image Quality

Now, lets check out image quality of the Fujifilm FinePix A500:


ISO 100 (f3.3, 1/7 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.3, 1/10 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.3, 1/34 sec)

I think image quality here is fairly good, even at ISO 400. The noise is under control and the image is not very soft. There's very little color fringing here as well. The Fujifilm A500 showed little barrel and pincushion distortion. Red-eye was visible in people photos. I think the Fujifilm FinePix A500 has good photo quality - too bad it can't go above ISO 800!

Photo gallery

View full-sized photos in the Fujifilm FinePix A500 gallery.

Playback

The Fujifilm FinePix A500 has a simplistic playback mode. You can magnify photos up to 4x, crop photos and view photos in sets of 9 thumbnails. There's a simple auto play AKA slideshow feature which just goes from one photo to another in intervals.

 

Conclusion

I've not much to say about the Fujifilm FinePix A500. It's just your average entry-level camera with 5 megapixels and 3x optical zoom. The FinePix A500 has good battery life, is user friendly and good image quality. However, the FinePix A500 has a terrible LCD (With 3 bad points), no continuous shooting, slow performance and is certainly not for low-light shooting.

Sadly, I can't recommend this camera to you - it's certainly not worth the money. The only time you'd be shooting is outdoors and even then, you'd be using the viewfinder. Some good alternatives include the Canon A430, Panasonic LS2 and Sony's S600.

What's hot:

  • Good battery life
  • Simple; user friendly
  • Good image quality and low noise at high ISOs

What's not:

  • LCD is not great; low resolution, small coverage and bad outdoor viewing
  • Not for low-light: slow lens, weak flash, no AF-assist beam
  • No continuous shooting
  • Slow performance

Recommended accessories:

  • A set of 4 NiMH rechargeable AA batteries
  • 256 MB xD-Picture card

Content ©2005 - 2006 Digital Photography Interface. All rights reserved.
All trademarks and images are property of their respective owners.
No part of this website may be copied, posted or used anywhere
without the written permission of the website owner.

.