Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 review
1/2.3in 16.0-megapixel sensor, 50.0x zoom (24-1200mm equivalent), 659g
Not so long ago, the Fujifilm SL1000 would have been described as a bridge camera – a halfway house for people who want an enthusiast-oriented camera but can't stretch to the cost of an SLR. These days the options are much more varied and complex, with ultra-zoom cameras (as they're now more commonly known), premium compact cameras, compact system cameras (CSCs) and SLRs all overlapping each other in the £300-£400 price bracket.
No other type of camera comes close to matching the SL1000's 50x zoom range, though. In fact, this is the joint-biggest zoom ever to grace a digital camera, matched by the Sony HX300 and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS.
It's well specified in other respects, too. There's an unusually sharp 920,000-dot electronic viewfinder, an equally sharp 3in articulated screen and an eye-level sensor to switch between the two screens automatically. A hotshoe for an external flashgun sits on top beside a stereo microphone. Continuous mode runs at 10fps, and it can capture in raw mode and record 1080p videos at 60fps.
The controls are relatively conventional, with a couple of single-function buttons but no lens rings for zoom and focus that we admired so much on the Fujifilm Finepix HS30EXR. There are two levers for adjusting the zoom – one on the lens barrel and another encircling the shutter release button. Both work fine but they're not as quick to adjust as a mechanical lens ring.
The menu system could be better. There's a customisable function button set to ISO speed by default, but other key functions such as autofocus area and white balance are only available via the main menu. This menu takes about a quarter of a second to respond to button pushes. That may not sound like much but it mounts up when you're trying to navigate quickly through the list of functions. We also found that the wheel on the back of the camera was too low profile and not sufficiently textured to get a decent grip on it.
Ultra-zoom cameras are ideally suited to sports and wildlife photography, and fast performance is vital to capturing these moving subjects. The SL1000 was a little slow to switch on, taking 2.7 seconds to its first shot, but subsequent shots were reasonably quick at 1.1 seconds apart. Continuous shooting was at a choice of 10, 5 or 3fps, slowing to around 1.3fps after nine frames in our tests. There's no option to update autofocus between these shots, though. The screen showed captured frames rather than a live view, making it virtually impossible to track moving subjects. Raw-format photos were captured every 1.3 seconds, with occasional five-second breaks. Raw and continuous modes can't be selected at the same time.
We were looking forward to testing the SL1000's telephoto lens on the local bird population, but capturing sharp photos at the 1200mm (equivalent) longest focal length was trickier than we'd hoped. It was difficult to compose shots, as the slightest movement in the camera sent subjects careering out of the frame. We had the same problem with the Canon SX50 HS, but it includes a button for momentarily zooming out to help locate the subject again.