Fujifilm’s FinePix S9000 shows just how close digital SLR wannabes are getting to the real thing. This is one EVF-equipped camera that can compete in both the SLR and non-SLR arenas. Just a hair smaller and priced within $50 of compact dSLRs such as the Pentax *ist DL, the FinePix S9000 looks and handles very much like its interchangeable-lens competitors and in some ways outfeatures them. It boasts a 28mm-to-300mm (35mm equivalent) 10.7X zoom lens, where most low-end dSLRs come with a skimpy normal zoom; and its 1/1.6-inch Fuji Super CCD HR sensor packs in 9 million pixels, compared to 6 megapixels for most budget digital SLRs. It has external flash connections, ISO-sensitivity settings up to 1,600, minimal shutter lag, and manual focus and zoom rings around the lens, just like the genuine dSLR article. Plus, it offers decidedly non-dSLR-like features, such as 640×480, 30fps movie capabilities.
The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 scored decent to high marks on every performance test, and you can tweak it to do even better. Shutter lag is pretty good at 0.5 second under contrasty illumination, and average at 0.9 second under more challenging low-contrast lighting. The green focus-assist lamp helps by casting a contrast-enhancing pattern on the subject when the lights are low. However, switching to the optional High Speed Shooting mode sets an all-purpose focus distance, and taking the autofocus system out of the equation cuts shutter lag to 0.4 second or less.
Waking the camera up from a deep slumber took only 1.6 seconds, and we were able to snap shots every 1.7 seconds thereafter. With flash, however, per-shot intervals stretched to more than 5 seconds. When shooting in raw format, be prepared to wait 18 seconds between shots. The S9000 squeezed out only four shots in burst mode but captured a hair over two shots per second when shooting at full resolution or in 640×480 VGA mode.