The 6-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix S6500fd isn't the longest superzoom by any means. In fact, its 10x zoom only just qualifies it for the category. But size isn't everything, and with some excellent dSLR-like features, the S6500 is an attractive package -- especially now the the price has crept below £180 in some stores online. The question is whether this, the first camera to include face detection, has been left behind by newer models.
The S6500fd's handgrip is chunky and easy to hold, even with one hand. The camera is lightweight at 700g, but with the sturdiness of an dSLR. Too many superzooms have above-average zoom performance hobbled by terrible zoom controls, but here zoom is controlled with the lens ring, for that dSLR experience.
The control layout is surprisingly sparse. The clickpad has a menu button in the middle, while shooting modes get their own button. Another button toggles between the 64mm (2.5-inch) live view screen and the electronic viewfinder. As with most EVFs, it's not much fun to use. The image is jerky and not fine enough for checking focus, with a meagre 115,000-pixel resolution. Still, it's acceptable for composition.
The mode dial gives access to Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes, as well as video and scene modes.
The S6500fd was the first camera to feature the now ubiquitous face detection. It also boasts a f2.8-f4.9, 10x optical zoom. The 35mm film camera equivalent focal length is a pleasingly wide-angle 28mm lens. Unusually, the zoom works while filming video. It also shoots raw still images, although you do have to hunt through the menu somewhat to make the switch to raw.
We like the natural light and flash mode, which captures two images, with flash and without. Both are saved, so you can choose later which one is better.
One of the playback options keeps your last three shots displayed at the side of the screen, for quick reference. Cleverly, this works with continuous mode, so you get to monitor your sequence of shots unfolding in real-time. One thing we like about the EVF is that it shows captured images, although you wouldn't want to look at it for too long.
The S6500fd uses AA batteries, which have the advantage of being cheap and easily to obtain. xD memory cards are less so. Raw files are large enough that spare xDs will be a must.