Fuji S1800 and S2550HD Review: A $200 Special Delivery

The Fuji S1800 and S2550HD are virtually identical cameras, with only a few minor differences in their feature set.  The duo offers a 12.2-megapixel sensor, coupled with an 18x optical zoom.  For cameras that cover an equivalent zoom range of 28-504mm, both are quite affordable (in the $200 street price range at the time of this review).

To find out what you get for that bargain-basement of a price, read on.

Fuji S1800 and S2550HD Key Features

  • 12.2MP CCD Sensor
  • 18x Optical Zoom
  • Sensor Shift Image Stabilization
  • ISO 64-1600 (ISO 3200-6400 available at low-res)
  • 720p HD Video Capture
  • 3″ LCD
  • AA Battery Powered

Fuji S1800 and S2550HD Handling, Ergonomics and Control

First, let me spell out the minor differences in these two cameras and you’ll see why I’m lumping them together in a single review.

The S2550HD has a mini HDMI port.  That’s the only thing that the S2550HD has that you won’t find on the S1800.  The S1800 has two features that you won’t find on the S2550HD – Tracking AF Mode and Auto Image Rotate.  The S2550HD looks to go for about $15 to $20 more at most retailers.  Go figure.  I’m still scratching my head as to why Fuji made two different cameras.

With those random facts out of the way, let’s get down to the business of how these cameras handle.  For the sake of saving some keystrokes, I’ll refer only to the S1800 throughout most of this review.  Unless I otherwise note, statements about the S1800 also apply to the S2550HD.

The S1800’s control scheme is intuitive and easy to access for the most part.  The shutter release is found at the front of a well-designed grip and is surrounded by a zoom rocker switch.  Directly behind the shutter release, you find the face-detect focusing and the burst mode buttons.  These two buttons toggle these features on and off.

The on/off switch is also located atop the S1800.  It’s a spring-loaded sliding switch that you have to slide to the right in order to toggle the camera on and off.  So, it seems a little odd at first when you have to slide it to the right toward the word “Off” to toggle the power on.

The S1800’s mode dial covers the bases quite well with a Full Auto mode, along with more advanced and customizable modes like Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority and Manual modes.  There is also a Custom mode, which affords the advanced user the ability to program their custom settings into this stop on the mode dial.

The SR (Scene Recognition) Auto setting on the S1800 gives the camera the power to automatically evaluate and choose the appropriate scene mode, such as landscape, portrait or sports scenes.  The SP, or Scene Position, mode allows you to choose from the same scene modes based on your evaluation of the scene.  This can come in handy when the S1800 misinterprets the appropriate scene in SR Auto, which will happen from time to time.

The Panorama mode allows you to capture 3 images and let the camera stitch them together internally.  After taking the first and second images, the S1800 gives you a bit of the overlap from the previous image allowing you to align it with the live view scene on the rear LCD.  After your third image is captured, the S1800 will stitch the three images together, creating a 5024 x 1360 image.  In practice, I found the auto-stitching in the camera to work quite well and was pretty impressed with the results.  The only word of caution that I can offer is to be careful shooting wide angles of scenes that are too close to the camera, as you can get some odd distortion in the middle of your finished panoramic.

The S1800 allows you to shoot 720p video at 30 frames per second.  This is almost becoming a standard feature on point and shoot cameras now.  The big bonus for the S1800 though, is that you can use the full zoom range while recording video – something that not every point and shoot camera (or even superzoom camera) offers.

The rear of the S1800 provides a rather clean layout with a large 3-inch LCD occupying the left side of the camera.  To the right of the LCD, you will find a number of controls common to point and shoot cameras.

There’s a toggle button for the electronic viewfinder and LCD.  While the EVF is capable of helping you out in the bright sunlight, you won’t want to spend a lot of time looking into it, as it is very small.  Still yet, it’s a testament to this camera that Fuji would offer an EVF and LCD on a $200 camera.

An F Mode (function) button brings up some of the most common functions that you’ll need, such as Finepix Color settings (Standard, Chrome and Black & White are the options).  You also get access to image size, image quality and ISO settings in the F Mode.

The Menu/Ok button will bring up the main menu, which allows you to fine tune some of the lesser used settings.  Of course, it doubles as the Ok button, which aids you in selecting menu options.

Around the Menu button is a 4-way control button that doubles as a menu navigator and a quick access button for deleting images in preview mode, changing flash settings, selecting macro modes and an instant zoom setting for in-camera crops.  More navigation control is found in the Disp/Back button below the 4-way controller, which is also used to toggle display information.

The S1800 also features an exposure compensation button in the lower right corner on the back of the camera.  Pressing the button allows you to make exposure adjustments up to +/- 2 full stops in 1/3 stop increments.  While this direct access to exposure compensation is a bit of an odd feature on a $200 basic camera, I have to give Fuji big kudos for the addition.

The S1800’s grip is great.  It gives you something to hang onto and you are sure that you aren’t going to drop it.  Like I said earlier, the controls are placed well and offer easy access to key and often-used features.

The lens cap can be a bit frustrating since the lens barrel protrudes when you turn the camera on and pushes into the lens cap.  As a result, you have to learn to take the cap off before you hit the “On” switch.

Another frustrating feature is the placement of the SD card slot.  Whoever thought it would be a good idea to put an SD slot under the same cover as the 4 AA batteries needs to go back to camera design school.  This location for the SD slot would be fine if we were dealing with the typical lithium ion battery, which usually has a secondary lock to keep it in place.  But with the S1800, you get 4 AA batteries that are only secured by the door that you also have to open to insert or remove the SD card.  As a result, you have to make sure to hold the camera upside down and not turn it beyond 90 degrees from that point while adding or removing the SD card – else you’ll loose a battery . . . or four.

Shooting with the Fuji S1800 and S2550HD

For the most part (aside from the minor design gripes above), I enjoyed using the S1800.  It’s a bit of an odd fit with the mix of basic and advanced features, especially given the low price tag.  I see the S1800 as a great family, vacation and theme park camera.  The broad focal length range is pretty amazing for the price.

Shooting and focusing speeds were better than I expected.  It’s not quite as fast as some more expensive cameras, but it should do in most situations.  Moving subjects can be a bit challenging with the S1800; however, that’s pretty much a rule with most point and shoot cameras on the market.  So, while the S1800 has some fancy autofocus modes intended to help you capture moving subjects in focus, the camera has its limits.

I really liked the Chrome color setting, which was also found in the much pricier Fuji HS10, and appears to add saturation and contrast to the images as you shoot them.  This setting really helps the image pop.

Image stabilization seems to work quite well in the S1800.  Of course, this is a necessity for a camera that has a telephoto zoom equivalent of 504mm.

The above comparison is a 100% crop (at the pixel level) that shows the differences of shooting the S1800 with and without image stabilization enabled.

While the video mode offers 720p capture (and it looks pretty good), there are a couple of quirks.  First and most notably, the zoom motor is noisy as can be.  While it’s a great feature to be able to zoom from 28-504mm while filming, it’s a real downer to have what sounds like some kind of tool from the dentist’s office next to your camera when zooming.  Second, is that autofocus can go a little wacky when you zoom.  It will catch back up to proper focus after you stop zooming, but it can be annoying when you’d like to zoom in or out on your scene and keep things in focus.

I’ve also embedded a short video filmed with the S1800 to give you an idea of what movies look like from the camera.  Not that you’ll miss it, but keep in mind to above two negative points when watching the video.

Now, those scenes were rather quiet, with very little ambient noise. As a result, the zoom motor noise is much more pronounced than it would be at, say, a loud birthday party or football game.  So, while that noise seems really loud, think about how and where you’ll be using it too.

You may have noticed some sensor bloom during the shots of the clouds, which is a side effect of shooting into bright scenes with a CCD sensor.  Again, something to keep in mind.

If you are picking up the S1800 to be your all-in-one still + video camera, you might want to re-think that idea – or, at least, understand the limitations that you’ll be facing on the video side of the coin.

Fuji S1800 and S2550HD Image Quality

As with all point and shoot cameras, you can’t expect the world from this camera.  You will have no trouble printing 4×6 prints for the family album at ISO 800 and below.  And, in many cases, you can make ISO 1600 work for a 4×6 print.  Venturing into higher settings though, will only disappoint.  At ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, the S1800 captures a lower resolution file (only 3MP), which is practically unusable.

Below you will find a sample of images captured across the ISO range from the Fuji S1800, along with a number of images captured in various settings and environments during my review of the S1800.  I have noted the basic shot info below each image, including the approximate 35mm format equivalent focal lengths in some cases.  Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication).  You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”


ISO 64


ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600


ISO 3200 (3MP resolution)


ISO 6400 (3MP resolution)


28mm – ISO 64 – f/7.1 – 1/250s


504mm – ISO 64 – f/11 – 1/110s


ISO 800 – f/4.4 – 1/27s – Standard Color Style


ISO 800 – f/4.4 – 1/28s – Chrome Color Style


Auto-Stitch Panorama – ISO 64 – f/7.1 – 1/220s – (Full-res is 5024 x 1360 pixels)


Macro Mode – ISO 100 – f/3.1 – 1/60s


504mm – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/150s

Fuji S1800 and S2550HD Accessories

Rechargeable AA Batteries – The S1800 comes with 4 AA alkaline batteries, which are required to power the camera.  If you don’t have any, it would be a good idea to pick up some rechargeable batteries to help out your wallet and the environment.  Otherwise, you’ll be shelling out a lot of money on alkalines.

Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the S1800, which worked just fine. No need to go all out on fast memory cards with the S1800. Cheap cards from reputable brands will work just fine. The S1800 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.

Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the S1800. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.

Conclusions

All in all, the S1800 and S2550HD are a bargain at around $200.  While you can spend close to $500 on a camera that has a 30x zoom, the 18x zoom on the S1800 and S2550HD is all that most people will really need.

Keep in mind though – this a first and foremost a point and shoot camera.  It has a simple straightforward design.  It’s very user-friendly, while still offering a few powerful options that advanced users will appreciate.  But, don’t expect to produce DSLR-quality images from a $200 superzoom camera.  Also, keep in mind the video limitations that you face with this camera.

In most cases, you get what you pay for.  With the Fuji S1800 and S2550HD, you get that and somewhat more.  For the price, this duo is hard to beat.

I know that several people are going to ask, so I’ll give you my two cents on the differences.  If I were buying one for my personal use, I’d go with the S1800 because I’m more likely to make use of the additional focusing mode and auto-rotate feature than I would with the mini-HDMI connector on the S2550HD.  Plus, the S1800 is about $15 cheaper.

The Fuji S1800 and S2550HD are available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Fuji S1800 at B&H Photo

Fuji S2550HD at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

 

Comments

  1. louann says

    liked your review. Can you tell me how to set the image size on the camera? I cannot find this instruction anywhere, not even in the manual. Thank you.

  2. Bird says

    I just purchased the S2550HD camera. It seems like it is a really nice camera and I hope it takes pictures as good. I am going to take the kids and grandkids to the p[ark and play around with it. I did pay $209 and that included s&h on ebay.

    Your review was great too by the way. It showed me how it changes when using the auto settings. I cna’t wait to see the pictures when we are done.

    Happy shooting everyone.

    Bird

  3. Bird says

    Louann–sownload and print up your users manuel, it is about 120 pages but you will be glad you did. It tells ALL, even your question. You can also just save it to your hard drive and look up what you need to know as you need it but I prefered printing it up for myself to hold on to as well.

    Bird

  4. says

    I recently received my s1800 as a gift and have put it through the paces. I agree with your review. A couple of positive features in addition are the zoom bracketing and quick zoom features. Both work well and I especially use the quick zoom. It’s accessible to the right thumb (on the menu ring) without taking your eye off the subject and offers a handful of portrait and landscape zoom options.

    Also, negatively I find the s1800 doesn’t provide vivid color. One way to help is to use the “sunset” setting, accessed through the “SP” mode on top…