Fujifilm FinePix S6500fd £350

3rd Jan 2007 | 00:00

Fujifilm FinePix S6500fd

Face recognition functionality could be the next big thing

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

From looks to features to performance, this is a camera to appreciate

Like:

<p>Lots of new features</p><p>Reliable everyday camera</p>

Dislike:

<p>You may have to rush out and buy one today</p>

The human eye is excellent at picking out a good-looking face from a crowd. But ask a camera to automatically do this for you and you might as well ask it to chat them up and arrange a dinner date... or so you would think.

However, the backroom boys at Fujifilm have built something called Face Detection technology into the new S6500 camera. They say it can recognise faces and optimise settings to get the best photograph in just 0.04 seconds.

When you consider that the vast majority of snaps are taken of family and friends this could be the Holy Grail of camera functions. And if it really works, then those fleeting but precious family portraits can be captured every time.

This is not the first time this technology has been seen on a camera but it could be the first time it will work well. The S6500 scans a scene for eyes and mouths so that it can adjust, focus and expose a perfect shot. Fujifilm even claims that the S6500 can't be fooled by wearers of spectacles, although dark sunglasses might prove a bit of a challenge.

We were given precious little time with the new S6500, and only a pre-production model at that, but our initial impression is that there seemed to be something in Fujifilm's claims.

Beyond the gimmick

The autofocus does seem to quickly lock on to any face. Cloaking this technical wizardry is a good looking and well-made body. It's a curvaceous number that could almost pass for an SLR. The ergonomics are superb and your hand wraps around it like a glove, with the rubber grip providing plenty of traction.

The general operation of the camera is good too, with buttons doing what they are supposed to do. The adjustment for manual, auto or continuous focusing is on the side of the lens where it needs to be. Skipping through the menu is pretty straightforward too.

This camera is aimed at all those people who want to dabble with manual controls but who like to easily fall back to full program mode when needed. This makes it a little difficult to understand why Fuji didn't include a control wheel in order to change apertures more easily. Instead, this is done with a fourway navipad, which works acceptably but without being that great.

Although we can't be sure about all the operations when testing a pre-production camera, what we can be sure about is the xD card. With a camera that is meant to provide a step up from most compact models it would make been more convenient to have included an second slot for SD cards. However, as a joint-founder of the xD format, Fujifilm is never likely to do that.

On the other hand, the lens is something of a star performer with an impressive 28-300mm zoom range. And unlike many lenses with such a range it is relatively compact - even when cranked out to 300mm it doesn't look oversized. Unfortunately, what it gains in performance it loses in not having some sort of image stabilisation system.

Superb results

While we are usually reluctant to comment on image quality from a pre-production model we'll make a bit of an exception here. From our test shots the S6500 looks very good indeed. The 6Mp Super CCD performs well. At ISO100 we were treated to some very sharp and punchy images. You can wind up the ISO sensitivity to 3200, although you can expect some significant noise at this setting.

With a retail price of £379 the S6500 will face some stiff competition; for an extra £70 or so you are in Nikon D50 territory, although you'll only get a standard zoom range for that money rather than the massive 10.7x on offer with the S6500. Of course, the suggested price will inevitably tumble and only when it does will the S6500 look good value.

The killer function could be the face recognition technology, but the model we had was a little too fresh off the production line to comment on how good it is. It looks promising and could be the answer to all those great portraits that many of us so often just miss. Mark Harris

Digital cameras
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