Fuji FinePix E500 Digital Camera
|Novice to experienced amateur|
|Family / Travel / Special Events|
|Point and Shoot, Full Manual Control|
|Good, 11×14 or 8×10 with some cropping|
Suggested Retail Price
The Fuji FinePix E500 is one of the latest digital cameras made by Fujifilm, being essentially a slightly trimmed-down version of their (excellent) E550 model. The biggest differences between the two models is that the Fuji E500 sports a 4.1 megapixel conventional CCD, while the E550 is built around a 6.3 megapixel Super CCD HR chip, and the Fuji E500 has a 3.2x zoom lens, vs the 4x lens on the E550. Other advantages of the E550 model include automatic exposure bracketing and continuous-shooting modes. That said, the Fuji E500 offers a nice assortment of features, good resolution, a sharp 3.2x optical zoom lens, and good-looking photos, all at an attractive price. Read on for all the details on the Fuji FinePix E500!
NOTE: If you’ve already read my review of the Fuji FinePix E550, you’ll be able to skip much of this review of the E500, as the two cameras have rather similar features. Here’s a brief list of ways in which the E500 is scaled down from the higher-end E550 model:
- Lower resolution (4.1 vs 6.3 megapixels)
- Shorter zoom lens (3.2x vs 4x)
- No automatic exposure bracketing
- No averaging metering mode
- No custom white balance option
- No continuous-shooting mode
- No variable autofocus
- No RAW file format support
- Reduced movie mode resolution and frame rate (320 x 240 and 160 x 120 at 10 frames/seecond, vs 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at 30 fps.)
- NiMH batteries and charger not included
More than just a basic “point & shoot” camera, the Fuji FinePix E500 offers the best of both worlds in terms of exposure control. Automatic and “Scene” modes simplify operation for point-and-shoot users, while a range of exposure options including a full manual exposure mode provide enough control to satisfy even experienced photo enthusiasts. Small, compact, and light weight, the E500 is based on a 4.1 megapixel CCD, which produces file sizes as large as 2304 x 1728 pixels.
While the handgrip makes the camera’s dimensions a little tight for most shirt pockets, this camera is still quite compact at 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (101 x 60.5 x 32.6 millimeters). The hybrid metal/plastic body is surprisingly light at 8.2 ounces (232 grams), with the batteries and memory card loaded. The 3.2x telescoping lens and built-in lens cover keep theE500’s front panel fairly smooth when not in use, allowing the camera to slip into a pocket or purse without a hang-up.
The Fuji E500 features a 3.2x Fujinon lens, equivalent to a 28-91mm lens on a 35mm camera, offering better wide angle capability than most digicams, but at the cost of slightly lesser telephoto performance. Aperture can be automatically or manually adjusted from f/2.9 to f/8, with the maximum aperture gradually reduced to f/5.5 as it zooms to the full telephoto zoom setting. Focus can also be manually or automatically adjusted, and ranges from 2.0 feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, or from 2.6 inches to 2.6 feet (6.7 to 80 centimeters) using the camera’s Macro setting. A Super Macro mode takes you as close as 1.0 to 5.9 inches (2.6 to 15 cm) The E500 employs a TTL contrast-detection autofocus mechanism, and offers a manual focus option via its Record menu. After selecting MF (Manual Focus) mode, you can adjust focus with the zoom toggle control, while holding down the +/- button to the left of the LCD display. The view on the LCD display shows you the results of your focus adjustments, but there’s no magnification available, so it can be pretty hard to tell when you’ve achieved accurate focus. There’s also no numeric distance scale, so setting focus in less than ideal lighting can be particularly challenging. The FinePix E500’s autofocus system works very well in daylight or bright indoor lighting, but does poorly after dark, just barely managing to focus at light levels equivalent to typical city street lighting.
In addition to the 3.2x optical zoom, the E500 offers as much as 3.6x digital zoom, depending on the image Quality setting, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it just crops out the center pixels of the CCD’s image. For framing shots, the E500 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 2.0-inch color LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder is a little “tighter” than most, showing only about 79-85% of the final frame area, depending on the lens’ zoom setting. The LCD viewfinder is much more accurate, showing 96-98% of the final image area. The optical viewfinder has a rather low eyepoint, which means that eyeglass wearers can just barely see the entire viewfinder image, even with their lenses pressed against the viewfinder bezel. There’s also no dioptric adjustment on the viewfinder eyepiece to compensate for less than perfect vision. An information overlay reports camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) on the LCD monitor, and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.
The E500 offers a full range of exposure control, with Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes available via the Mode dial, along with Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene options. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for options like zoom, macro, and some flash settings. (There is no “forced off” flash mode, but if you don’t want to use the flash, just don’t pop it open.) Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, while the user retains control over all other variables, including exposure compensation. Within Program AE mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, simply by pressing the up and down arrow keys. (This is handy for controlling depth of field or shutter speed, while allowing the camera’s automatic exposure system to do most of the thinking.) Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide user control over one exposure variable, while the camera maintains control over the other. Finally, Manual exposure mode lets you control both aperture and shutter speed independently. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to two seconds, depending on exposure mode. Metering options on the E500 include the default 64-zone Multi mode, which bases exposure on contrast and brightness values read from the entire scene, as well as a Spot option for basing exposure on just the portion of the subject lying in the very center of the frame. The camera’s Exposure Compensation setting lets you increase or decrease the automatically-determined exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings. The E500 also features an adjustable light sensitivity setting, with Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400 ISO values available. The Auto option actually ranges from 80 to 320 equivalents. The settings menu also offers adjustments for color and image sharpness.
The E500’s built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, Slow-Synchro, and Slow-Synchro with Red-Eye Reduction modes. The Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a pre-flash a fraction of a second before the exposure itself, to make the irises of your subjects’ eyes contract, avoiding the red-eye effect. Slow-Synchro combines the flash with slower shutter speeds, to allow more of the ambient lighting into your exposure. (Slow-Synchro is handy for getting more natural-looking flash photos at night, with more of the background visible.) An intensity adjustment lets you adjust the strength of the flash output, from -2/3 to +2/3 EV, in one-third-step increments. The flash doesn’t pop up and fire automatically, even in Auto mode, but the LCD screen shows an Open Flash/”shake” warning when the indicated shutter speed falls below 1/60 second, giving the user the option of opening the flash or firing away without it. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the time that the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. (The shorter delay is handy for times when you want to use a tripod or prop the camera on something when shooting under dim conditions, to avoid blurred photos caused by camera shake.) The E500 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies with sound at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120-pixel resolutions, both at 10 frames per second. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space. A Voice option in Playback mode lets you record audio clips up to 30 seconds in length to accompany captured images.
The E500 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. I have to say, I would much prefer for FujiFilm to reduce the cost of the camera by $10 and include no card at all rather than cripple the user with such a tiny card. At the E500’s maximum resolution and image quality setting, you can only fit about 8 images on the included card. So it goes without saying that before you leave the camera store or click on the checkout button, you’ll want to add at least a 64MB xD card to the mix. For power, the E500 uses a pair of alkaline or NiMH AA batteries. (A pair of alkaline cells is packed with the camera.) Battery life was on the low side of average, with a worst-case run time (capture mode with the LCD turned on) of 93 minutes with “standard” 1600 mAh batteries. (See my for battery capacity ratings.) Also included with the camera is a USB cable for direct connection to a PC or Macintosh computer, and a software CD loaded with Fuji’s FinePix software. Installation of software is not required on most Macs or PCs, however, because the camera supports PTP mode, which allows the camera to appear on the computer as a hard drive. An A/V cable connects the camera to a television set for reviewing images in Playback mode.
- 4.1-megapixel sensor chip, delivering image resolutions as high as 2304 x 1728 pixels.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- 2.0-inch color, low temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor.
- 3.2x Fujinon 28-91mm zoom lens, with f/2.8 maximum aperture.
- Auto and Manual focus options, plus an adjustable AF area.
- Digital zoom of up to 3.6x, depending on quality setting.
- Program AE, Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Movie, and four Scene Program exposure modes.
- Adjustable white balance with eight settings, including a manual option.
- Adjustable ISO setting with Auto (80 to 320), 80, 100, 200, and 400 equivalents.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to two seconds.
- Multi, and Spot metering modes.
- Built-in flash with six modes.
- xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
- Power supplied by two alkaline AA cells (included) or NiMH rechargeables (not included).
- Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
- Picture Cradle adapter included for optional cradle for connecting to a computer and for in-camera battery charging.
- Movie (with sound) and Voice recording modes.
- 10-second Self-Timer mode for delayed shutter release.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
- Video cable for image playback on a television set.
Light weight, portable, and easy to use, the Fuji’s FinePix E500 is an good point-and-shoot digicam for novices just getting their feet wet in digital photography, but one with enough manual control to give more advanced users a few more options. With exposure modes ranging from full Auto to full Manual, the E500 is easy to use, yet offers room to grow as users photography skills mature. Four preset Scene modes simplify common shooting situations, and a handful of image adjustment options provide some creativity. The camera’s simple, straightforward user interface means little or no downtime for learning, and makes the E500 good for shooting on the fly. With an attractive price for a “middle of the road” 4.1 megapixel/3.2x zoom digicam, the Fuji E500 offers good value in an “all around” digital camera.
Measuring 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (101 x 60.5 x 32.6 millimeters), the E500’s body is small enough for most coat pockets and should fit easily into most purses. The smooth camera front and rounded hand grip make pocket retrieval hassle-free, and the sleek, silver metal and plastic body is attractive, fashionable, and rugged. Though compact, the E500 fits the hand well, and the plastic handgrip on the right side provides some grip. The included wrist strap provides some extra security. The Fuji E500 weighs in at 8.2 ounces (232 grams), with the batteries and memory card loaded.
The E500’s metal front panel is nearly flat with the lens retracted, except for the rounded handgrip, which extends about half an inch. Turning the camera on extends the lens about three quarters of an inch from the camera body. A shutter-like lens cover protects the front of the lens when closed, and quickly retracts when the camera is powered on. Near the top of the front panel are the viewfinder window, the flash control sensor and a microphone. Below the lens on the left is a release button for the lens bezel. Removing it allows attachment of an adapter for filters or accessory wide or telephoto lenses. A self-timer lamp is embedded in the plastic handgrip, and the popup flash is visible near the center when opened.
The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap.
The opposite side of the camera features a speaker and three ports: an AV out socket, a USB connection, and a DC In connector. The three connectors can be protected by a single plastic cover, which is not attached to the camera. Fuji provides a second cover with the camera, apparently on the safe assumption that the small, flexible cover is bound to be lost. (As is the second cover, for that matter. Note to Fuji: Protective flaps of this sort really need to be attached to the camera body!)
On the E500’s top panel are the Shutter button, Mode dial, Power button and popup flash. The flash is released by a button that can be seen from both the top and back.
The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece with viewfinder lamp. The exposure compensation button is to the left of the LCD monitor, and the Flash open button is above it, to the right of the eyepiece. The zoom rocker is just below the mode dial on the right. Down the right side is a raised lip that provides a secure thumb rest to counter the front handgrip. The mode switch (record/playback) is below the zoom control. A Five-way arrow pad next to the lower right corner controls macro and flash modes, and provides navigation controls for the LCD menu system, with a Menu/OK button at its center. In record mode, the left arrow doubles as a Macro button, and the right arrow cycles through Flash settings. Adjacent to the Arrow pad are a Function button to access the Function menu, and a Back/Display button, for backing out of menu screens in playback mode, or displaying an alignment grid/turning off the LCD display in record mode.
The E500’s bottom panel is flat, with the threaded plastic tripod socket roughly centered, but slightly out of line with the lens. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. The distance between the battery compartment and tripod mount is too short to allow quick battery or card changes while shooting with a tripod. A supplied Cradle Adapter can be used with an optional Picture Cradle to provide instant connection to a computer, as well as in-camera battery charging. A connector terminal inside the dock connects to the camera’s USB/AV Out terminal, so the camera sits on-end in the cradle.