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Bridge Cameras - Highlighting the Fuji S2950

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

Historically, a bridge camera is one that "bridges" the gap between DSLRs and Compact Cameras, and often have advanced features, such as manual control, higher magnification zoom lenses, and a DSLR-like feel. They typically have Electronic Viewfinders rather than Optical Viewfinders as DSLRs have. But that is at least an improvement over the typical compact camera. Unfortunately many bridge cameras these days are nothing more than a run-of-the-mill compact camera with a large zoom. They typically have the same small sensors as the typical compacts have.

Fuji S2950 Overview

Fuji S2950

Exposure modes: PSAM
Sensor: 14 MegaPixel 1/2.3"
Lens: 28-504mm (35mm) f/3.1-5.6
Movie Mode: Yes
ISO range: 64~6400
File Format: JPG, AVI
Media: SD, SDHC
Optical Viewfinder: Electronic
Construction: Bridge
Street Price with lens: $170


Suitability for Travel: Rates a 2 out of 5 (below average). Even though this is a bridge camera, in reality is is just a compact camera with a more powerful lens and a few extra features. It is not even close in any regard to a DSLR. A close cousin to excessive MegaPixel sensors in compact cameras are excessive zoom lenses. With a super 18x zoom, the optics quality of this camera is questionable. At certain zoom lengths, the Fuji S2950 is a bit soft (a nice word for blurry).

Overview: The photographs below show the sharpness at various zoom lengths. Aperture priority was used so that the aperture could be set at f/5.6 for each photo. A tripod was also used along with a shutter timer to ensure the most possible stable platform. Surprisingly the sharpest area was at 504mm. Look at the log ends for the three vertically stacked logs and you will see more "grain" detail at 504mm than at any other focal length. The mid-range zooms were softer - with 200mm the worst. Inconsistent sharpness is fairly typical of super zooms.

While stopping down to f/8~11 might help the softness, the ability to adjust aperture is limited to f/6.4 at the wide angle end, and f/11 at the telephoto end. This limits the usefulness of this camera.

The focal lengths are 35mm equivalents, which is determined by multiplying the actual focal length of the lens by 5.6x (the crop factor of the sensor).

Full photo. Cropped area shown in the yellow box.

Zoom = 504mm.

Zoom = 420mm.

Zoom = 300mm.

Zoom = 200mm.

Zoom = 135mm.

Zoom = 100mm.

Zoom = 70mm.

Zoom = 55mm.

Zoom = 28mm.

The Fuji S2950 is powered by AA batteries, either non-Rechargeable Alkaline, Lithium Iron Disulfide, or rechargeable Ni-Mh. A good set of Sanyo Eneloop AA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries with AA Alkaline as backups would provide a reliable power source.

Perhaps the most annoying characteristic of the S2950 is it's shutter delay. This is typical of most inexpensive compact cameras, but particularly bad in this camera. Shutter delay is the time delay between depressing the shutter release until the photo is actually taken, and is a function of using inexpensive electronics, a slow image sensor, and a result of those ridiculously high MegaPixel counts.

In the photo below, I had to guess on when to release the shutter. I found that if I depressed the shutter when the pitcher released the ball, the photo would be taken about the time the ball arrived at the batter. This is a delay of nearly one second. Not too good if you are photographing action.

You might be able to improve things a little by selecting the smallest picture size and lowest photo quality, but this warrants some experimentation by trying different settings.

Alternatives: As a general rule, I just don't like bridge cameras. The combination of optically marginal high-power zoom lenses and higher than necessary MegaPixel sensors result in too many comprimises. While these cameras may not technically be bad, I just think you can do better for your camera dollar; with cameras such as the Nikon P7100 or Canon G12.

Summary: I own this camera. I cannot however say whether my results are characteristic of this camrea or mine is just a dud. Unfortunately, cameras that that have super zooms have some difficulty in maintaining sharpness throughout the zoom range. Oddly enough, this lens seems to be sharpest at 504mm. When shooting through the haze in the Caribbean with that long of a telephoto lens, the photos will be marginal. Shorter focal lengths would help in reducing haze, but this lens is worse in that area. This camera would be more appropriate for an Alaskan cruise or other environment where the temperature and humidity to not create a lot of haze.