Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Fujifilm FinePix A500
- Price, Good sharpness score
- High image noise, Controls
As a budget compact camera, the FinePix A500 is a fairly competant model. It doesn't offer the best image quality in the world, and has some noise issues, but for this price tag it is hard to complain.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
The Finepix A500 is a budget digital camera from Fujifilm. Costing less than the majority of other units on the market, the A500 is a case of getting what you pay for. It exhibited some noticeable flaws in our image quality tests, and offers build quality below that of more expensive models, but for a unit in this price range it offers reasonable value for money, and should satisfy consumers who merely want a camera for occasional use, or perhaps a backup for their more expensive model.
One area it did excel in was our image sharpness test, where Imatest awarded it a massive score of 1361. For any 5 megapixel model this is an excellent result, but for a budget unit such as this it is even more impressive. Usually cameras that score so highly create prints suitable for A4 print outs with no trouble.
However, sadly there were some other issues that meant this wasn't the case with the A500, the largest of these being image noise. As impressive as its sharpness score was, the image noise was too big of a problem to ignore. It scored a very disappointing 1.13%; the highest we've seen from a compact at low ISO settings. No camera has scored over 1% in these tests before, which indicates noise is a very significant problem for this camera.
Our test shots instantly corroborated our Imatest results. Everything was extremely grainy, to the point where definition was lost in many places. The high levels of noise really ruined the otherwise sharp pictures, although at small sizes such as 4x6 inches it was less of a problem.
Imatest also picked up another issue, this time with the camera's sharpening algorithm. It gave the A500 a 22.1% oversharpening rating, which is quite a bit higher than average. This refers to sharpening performed on the picture within the camera. If the algorithm used is off, the end result will look visibly oversharpened. We could see it quite strongly in the A500's photographs. It gave them an unrealistic, almost cell shaded look and really detracted from their overall quality.
Thankfully the A500 didn't exhibit particularly high levels of chromatic aberration, which would have further marred its pictures. It scored .107% in this test, which is a slightly above average result. We could see some signs blurring in our shots, but it wasn't significant, and for a camera at this price point this is a great result.
Its colour performance was similarly impressive, with the A500 being awarded a score of 9.74 in this test. While not quite up to the standards of some more expensive models, it is only a point or two behind the average and our shots looked vibrant and were quite well balanced. The camera struggled most with warm colours; reds and yellows in particular were the least accurately represented. Blues, greens and the greyscale spectrum however we well rendered and looked great.
Overall, we were quite pleased with the quality of the A500's images. The noise is a significant factor, but for an occasional use happy snaps camera, it isn't as big of an issue as normal, and factoring in the price tag its performance was quite impressive.
The cost was again reflected in our speed tests. While the A500's .05 second shutter lag was impressive, its three second power-up time and two second shot-to-shot time were significantly slower. We also experienced a lag between taking shots and being able to open the menu. Sometimes lasting as long as a few seconds, this lag really slowed down our ability to take and alter shots on the fly.
Not surprisingly, this camera offered just a basic set of features. There is a single scene mode ('portrait'), a variety of white balance presets and ISO sensitivities up to 400. No focus or continuous shot options are present, although there is a basic macro mode as well as exposure compensation settings.
If FujiFilm could have paid a little more attention to one area of this model, it should have been the controls. While we understand this is designed to be a budget, entry-level model, that doesn't mean it has to be awkward to use. There is no function wheel or directional pad on the A500, instead you use an up and down scroll-button and two left and right keys to navigate the menu. It isn't quite as intuitive as a set of arrow keys, as you have to use the menu button to select items (it doubles as the 'ok' button). The buttons themselves are also poorly designed: they require an unnecessary amount of pressure to activate and this further slows down an already sluggish user experience.
The rest of the camera is slightly better constructed. While it is largely plastic there are metal rims around the edges, and the overall design feels quite sturdy. It won't amaze you in the looks department, but it certainly isn't unattractive.
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