Needing to upgrade from my four year old digital camera, and being on a tight budget, the FinePix S2980 caught my eye but being the lowest priced entry level bridge camera I could find it was very hard to find any reviews on it. I hope to put this right in the future, but having planned to take some photographs for a review I was hampered by the weather which has been alternating between snow and rain, neither of which is really conducive to showing off what a camera can do.
None the less in an effort to help others, who want a good camera but find themselves restricted by price, to decide if this fits their needs I caught a break in the rain and took some photographs so I could put together this review on my experiences so far.
For those unsure of just what a bridge camera is, it’s a digital camera that bridges the gap between compact cameras and digital SLR’s by giving you more of the features you find on a high end D-SLR but at a much more affordable price.
The FujiFilm Finepix S2980 (which for the purposes of this review I’ll simply refer to by its model number) is a fourteen mega pixel digital camera with an eighteen times optical zoom Fujinon lens and can take photographs with ISO’s ranging from 100 to 6400.
It comes with four heavy duty AA batteries, a lens cap, shoulder strap and a software cd and, as well as a shorter more basic printed manual, there is a detailed manual included on the cd in pdf format (which new users are recommended to read).
The camera looks like a D-SLR, its easy to hold (not too big or bulky but not too small either) and the zoom control is located at the front right of the camera in a position that makes it very easy to use and easy to find (which comes in handy when you have your eye pressed up against the electronic viewfinder and want to zoom into a scene without being distracted from your subject).
It has a decent electronic view finder, which you can use to improve battery life, but it also has a good three inch lcd display at the back of the camera for those that prefer it. It also has a dial to easily switch between shooting modes, there are a number of choices available from the dial (including a simply brilliant panorama mode) that range from point and shoot choices to more advanced ones that let the photographer control such things as shutter speed, aperture and so on.
Back to the aforementioned Panorama mode and if you enjoy panoramic shots the Fuji makes it very easy. You point, click the shutter button and a circle appears on the left of your view with a cross cut out of it and a yellow cross appears on the right side. You simply turn the camera right until the cross fits into the circle and it snaps another picture. Do this once more and you have three photographs which the camera then stitches together flawlessly to make one large panoramic shot.
My only criticism of the panorama mode is that while being so easy to use it doesn’t offer any settings such as setting the level of zoom or how many photographs to stitch together. If you want to zoom in a little, perhaps to get a better view of a distant object, and then while zoomed in to take a panoramic shot you can’t. Nor can you stitch together more than three shots.
While this makes panoramas extremely easy it also means that once you get more used to taking them you may find yourself wishing it had additional settings. But it has to be said that the camera produces excellent panoramic shots and does so effortlessly.
(Edit: having ventured into manual panorama mode it is possible to zoom in and then stay zoomed in for all three pictures. It is a little harder but even without a tripod it manages to correct for minor positioning errors very well.)
The camera has a number of features to help ensure your pictures turn out out well. These range from selectable anti shake, auto tracking and auto focus options to showing you over exposed areas of the picture in the view finder before you take the shot. You can also perform red eye reduction or crop photographs after a photograph has been taken if you need to as well easily adjust some camera settings between shots using the menu button.
The cameras zoom is impressive. It isn’t as powerful as some slightly dearer cameras (for example some £150 bridge cameras have a 30x zoom) but it picks out details very nicely, if you find a picture a little too dark or too bright you can change the metering method (something I did not realise when taking the example zoom shots accompanying this review) and the camera has the added benefit of recording high definition (720p) video. You can use the zoom while recording, which is very useful, but be aware that while the lens is zooming in or out the video will be out of focus and that the noise of the lens changing focus will be noticeable on the video due to the location of the cameras built in microphone.
As you can see from the example pictures included here the zoom is very good, picking up detail well even in dull overcast weather. Whether it is simply that I haven’t had the opportunity to film on a clear sunny day yet I don’t know but certainly in the cloudy conditions encountered so far the pictures still retain a lot of detail and are of impressive quality but I found myself on occasion using a mild unsharpen mask to bring out some finer background details although to be fair this is personal preference and on showing the unsharpened images to others some preferred the original.
The S2980 is an impressive camera, perfect for beginners or those used to compact cameras. It is very easy to use, with a number of “point and shoot” modes, but also offers more advanced control for those who are ready for it, meaning that this is a camera that can adjust to your needs as you gain more experience.
Unlike makers of some other bridge cameras Fuji have not tried attracting new users with the promise of 3D, to me this is a good thing as the 3D on other bridge cameras is simply a case of asking you to take two separate shots which the camera combines for you. You can easily do this yourself by taking the two shots for 3D and then using computer software to align the images rather than having the camera do it and because 3D in non stereoscopic cameras is just a case of combining two manually taken shots anyway it makes sense for Fuji to omit this “feature” and concentrate as they have on making a more user friendly but useful camera without the use of gimmicks.
In closing here are some additional photographs taken with the S2980, please bear in mind that as yet there has been no clear weather for me to test performance in bright sunlight but nonetheless I have to say that for me the camera is a worthwhile purchase that certainly cannot be beaten by similarly priced cameras not least because there really isn’t a bridge camera in the Fuji’s league at the same sort of price.