Ease of Use: 3 / 5
Pricing: 3.5 / 5
Video Quality: 1 / 5
Photo Quality: 3 / 5
Features: 3 / 100
Everyone’s journey in photography starts somewhere. Some people’s journey never progress beyond happy snaps, and others’ journey goes on to professional work. Mine photography went the latter route. But I’ve never forgotten my first camera. At the start of my journey in 2004 I decided that I wanted to go beyond happy snaps. So I opted for a camera that had full manual functions, as well as the Auto functions and that looked like a DSLR. The best value for money back then was the Fujifilm Finepix S5500. It was an awesome camera. It took awesome photos and I could play around with all the settings and see how it all worked and sugar and spice and all things nice. That camera got me excited enough about photography to get to where I am today.
I really have fond memories of my first camera, so it was with some enthusiasm that I accepted the Fujifilm Finepix S4200 for review. Like my old S5500, this one is also a bridge camera. But Fujifilm seems to have created a niche within a niche, as this S4200 is one of a few models within the bridge camera segment. This one sits at the bottom end of that heap, so this camera should appeal to those who wants to upgrade for their compact camera, but aren’t ready for the whole DSLR thing with lenses and sensors and all the other things that go with it. This is one is the value proposition within that segment.
But oh boy, something is amiss…
The camera looks really good and does remind you of a smaller DSLR. It fits really well into your hand and ergonomically everything is where it should be. Fujifilm has been in the game for quite a while and they are known for products that are easy to use and photos with a perfect white balance for portraiture photography. Something that neither Canon nor Nikon has managed to get right.
The problem is that while holding this camera, that sits really well in your hands, with everything where it should be, it feels cheap. It feels plasticky. Fujifilm decided that this is camera is at the bottom end of the bridge cameras line-up, and they make you feel it. It doesn’t feel rugged and as though you’d be able to go bundu bashing with this camera and bring it back in one piece.
Luckily when I got into the menu system, things were easy to navigate and setting up the camera was a cinch. Even if you don’t know Fujifilm menus, they are easy to navigate. But this menu looks nowhere near as good as the new range of Sony compacts, which in my mind makes the best looking menu systems currently.
This menu not looking so very slick is in huge part due to the very low resolution LCD screen that adorns the back of the camera. I get that this is the “cheap” bridge camera in the line-up, but it doesn’t have to actually BE cheap. I remember my old Fujifilm being much more sturdy than this and I can’t remember the screen irritating me like this.
So I decided to leave my reservations for a few photo trips with the camera. Maybe it redeems itself when in the field. And to a small extent it did.
The camera handled quite well. The DSLR shape makes working with a camera just so much easier. The camera fit well into my hands and at least felt nicely balanced, if not rugged. The photos on the LCD screen looked great, with the exposure looking good in Auto settings, even tricky ones with settings suns and whatnot. The white balance was also nice and warm on most shots. The macro function worked very well, with me being able to get very close to subjects and almost fill up the frame. This camera could also actually handle the immense 24x zoom. Even fully extended, photos captured were still sharp.
And shooting video was a breeze too, although only at 720p, which seems archaic today. The cellphone in my pocket already shoots at 1080p! Nevertheless, you could mess around with settings and focus while shooting video, although you’d need a tripod for that. Auto exposure worked well and transitions between different exposures were smooth. White balance kept being spot on, and you could even shoot towards the sun during a sunset with good results.
That’s only if you have a good supply of AA batteries with you. This camera uses normal AA batteries, which could be seen as either a blessing or a curse. Firstly, you’d be able to buy batteries wherever you happen to find yourself. But this camera seems VERY temperamental when it comes to what batteries it will work with. Brand new batteries from various brands worked for less than half an hour before the LOW BATTERY light would come on. My recharchable AA batteries never lasted more than 20-30 shots on a full charge in this camera. My first trip out with the camera lasted 10minutes, as I had run out of two fully charged sets of batteries according to the camera. Back at home, I put the batteries in my flashes and those still fired with rapid recycle times, meaning that there was still a lot of juice left in them. This was probably the most irritating as three rechargeable battery brands and three standard battery brands later, there still wasn’t one that played nice with the S4200. This especially hampered any efforts at video. As soon as the camera felt the charge wasn’t full enough, it wouldn’t record video and just switch off. This was especially frustrating and irritating.
Also, don’t think for one second that this camera is fully manual. When set to MANUAL mode or APERTURE PRIORITY I get to choose between the highest and lowest f-stops. That’s it. That frustrated me the most, as I always use all those in between my choices. Why say its manual? Its only kind of manual. Shutterspeed and ISO at least went the whole spectrum.
But at least whatever I got would be good, right?
I was excited to see how far Fujifilm had come in the last few years and opened the first photo. My first reaction was that of apprehension and then shock…
The photos simply aren’t great. Exposure and focus kept being good, but the photos have very little detail, and have tons of artifacting. On the surface it looks okay, but start zooming in and it’s not good. It’s not terrible though, just not acceptable for a camera around R3000 in price.
The ISO range is only usable up to ISO800. ISO1600 has a lot of detail, but gets a nasty red tint over all the shadow areas, and ISO32-6400 is just there for show.
Oh and the video was abysmal. It was rubbish. When you can see on the LCD screen that your cellphone’s video looks better than what you got on your camera, you know things are going to get nasty on a big screen. And it did! Its got a very high bitrate, yet used the weirdest codec with a shocking result. Leave the video function alone.
Overall this camera was a huge disappointment. None of the results came out the way it should have, especially since this is a bridge camera. These are supposed to be a cut above your average compact camera. Thing is though, that I have reviewed very few cameras that gave me worse results than this camera. Photos you can still get away with, if you never print bigger than A4, but video quality is unforgivable and for this class of camera also, not on!
I honestly hope that the higher end cameras from Fujifilm performs better than this one, as I simply cannot recommend this camera.