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Review: Kodak Easyshare P880 compared to Fuji Finepix S9000 / S9500

Side by Side digital camera review
Kodak P880
Fuji S9500
Kodak P880 review
SPECIFICATIONS
Fuji S9000 / S9500 review
SLR-type (20.4 oz)
Type
SLR-type (27.3 oz)
8Mp / 3264 x 2448
Sensor
9Mp / 3488 x 2616
24-140mm, 1:2.8-4.1
Lens
28-300mm, 1:2.8-4.9
50-400 (800-1600 at 0.8Mp)
ISO
80-1600
1.5 fps (max. 7 images)
Motor drive
1 fps (max. 9 images)
2.5 inch
LCD
1.8 inch (tilt)
Full specifications
Full specifications
7.5
CONSTRUCTION
8.5
The Kodak EasyShare P880 looks like a small SLR camera, but is a compact without interchangeable lenses. The camera is relatively small and has a square appearance. It has a small grip for the right hand and there is little room for the fingers between the grip and the lens. They also can cover the AF assist light. The P880 is no camera for people with large hands. The internal flash is not high above the lens and this position can cause 'red eyes'. The body is made of black plastic and together with the design it looks a bit cheap.
Body
At first sight the Fuji FinePix S9000 (S9500 in Europe) isn't different from a digital mirror reflex camera. Design, material and construction are about the same as an entry-level DSLR. This gives the camera a professional look and fits the hand perfectly. The LCD on the back can be tilted and this tells you you're dealing with a compact. The mechanical zoom ring covers the full focus range with one single stroke. The flash is high above the lens and this position reduces the chance of red eyes.
The front and top of the P880 are scattered with little buttons. They are positioned quite well: the main options are available and you don't press one accidentally. With a 4-way joystick you can go through the menus and with a dial exposure settings can be adjusted.
Buttons
Just like the P880 the S9000 has a lot of buttons on the body, but again they are well positioned. There is little chance you push a button by accident. It takes some time before you can find the right button automatically.
The cover for USB and A/V is made of rubber and looks solid, but the one covering the external flash connector is very tiny and can break off easily. The cover of the battery compartment is well constructed, but with the memory card it doesn't open wide enough and it is hard to get out the SD card.
Caps and covers
The connection for USB and television is covered with a plastic cap, which can break when used frequently. The battery compartment (4x AA) and the memory slot both have large covers, which open wide enough to change the batteries or memory card (CF and xD!) easily.
Digital cameras with a larger zoom range usually have an Electric View Finder. You always see what the lens sees. Disadvantage of an EVF is the low resolution and high contrast. You can only use it for framing a capture, but not for i.e. manual focusing. The P880 has a large and bright LCD-screen, which can be used as a viewfinder and gives access to the camera menus. In sunny conditions the LCD screen suffers from reflections.
Viewfinder and LCD
The EVF of the S9000 has the same resolution and contrast as its competitors, but due to the high refresh rate the images look very smooth. The LCD is very crisp despite the small diameter and again images look very smooth due to the high refresh rate. The LCD can be tilted in a vertical way and helps the user in high or low camera views and with reflecting sunlight.
8.0
 FEATURES
8.5
The Kodak P880 differs from its competitors by its 24 mm wide angle, which normally is 35 mm and sometimes 28mm. For landscape and interiors this gives beautiful results. From 24 mm the zoom range goes to 140 mm and with this 5.8 optical zoom you can capture 90% of every day subjects. The mechanical ring on the lens makes zooming very easy and accurate, although the fingers of the right hand are sometimes in the way.
Zoom
When one looks at the specifications of the S9000 one of the features the eyes falls on is the zoom range from 28 to 300 mm. With a short and smooth stroke of the mechanical zoom ring the whole range can be used. To bad, there is no image stabilization, which is a 'must' when shooting out of hand at 300 mm and low light.
Although the P880 has several Scene modes for 'point-and-shoot', the more experienced user has the usual creative modes P, S, A and M for more controlled results. On the LCD you can see a live histogram and with the Exposure compensation every shot can be exposed properly. ISO goes from 50 to 400. ISO 800 and 1600 are only available in low-res 1024 x 768, and have no real practical use.
Exposure and ISO
Just like the P880 the S9000 has all the exposure modes and programs as a DSLR. So it can be used by the 'point-and-shoot' user, but also by the serious amateur. The S9000 has a wide ISO range from 80 to 1600 at all resolutions, but again ISO 800 and 1600 are not useable for prints, not even at than 4"x 6".
Digital compacts have great features to shoot magnificent close ups and macros. The P880 has such a super macro mode. Problem however is that the camera blocks the light to the subject and that there is a severe distortion.
Macro
The S9000 can focus in the Super macro mode up to zero inches! But there is hardly a subject that is suitable for this, because all the light is taken away by the lens. At larger distances however it possible to make stunning macros, without to much distortion.
The P880 looks like a DSLR, but certainly lacks the speed of such a camera. The burst mode only captures 7 images in 5 seconds and after this series, the camera is not available for some time, because it's writing data onto the memory card.
Motor drive
Because one thinks one handles a DSLR when holding a S9000, it is at least a bit disappointing, when shooting a burst at such low speed: one frame per second for 5 frames. Just as with the P880 it gives the possibility to shoot 4 frames in a somewhat higher speed.
When you want to make a little movie, the Kodak will not disappoint you (640x480, 30 fps, with sound). You can zoom and the exposure and focusing are well controlled. The mov files grow with 1 MB/s.
Movie
The S9000 has a very able movie function. It delivers nice avi-movies at 640 x 480 with sound. You can zoom during filming while focus and exposure is controlled well. The files increase with 1.3 MB/s.
No matter how hard manufactures try, manual focus will always be a problem with digital compacts. Reason is the low resolution of EVF or LCD. This can't match the viewfinder of a d-SLR and therefore focusing by hand is very difficult and inaccurate. You can choose three color saturation modes, but s-RGB is the only color space. You can also change contrast and sharpening of the pictures. RAW is available and can be converted with Kodak's EasyShare after an upgrade. In this converter you can change white balance, exposure and colors. Besides the Auto white balance you can choose for 6 presets a click WB or make your own. The P880 has a hot shoe and an external flash connector.
Miscellaneous
Manual focus is, as with all other compacts, hard to do in practice. Colors can be set in-camera when choosing i.e. the Chroma-color mode. Again no AdobeRGB is available, only sRGB. The RAW option is more a TIFF, because the software converts the RAW-file without interference of the user (no WB or Ev adjustments) to a TIFF with 17 million pixels (!?). You can convert RAW with Photoshop, but this doesn't deliver a quality much better than JPEG. White balance can be set on Auto or 6 presets and the user can make two of his own. Apart from a hot shoe the camera has an external flash connection at the front of the camera.
7.5
OPERATION
8.0
The main parameters such as WB, ISO, Exposure program and compensation can be set by pushing a button on the body or turning a dial. This way you quickly can change the settings to adjust to changing circumstances. The other parameters are available in the menu of the LCD.
Parameter setting
The most common options for exposure, focusing and color are within reach of your fingers. The F-button (Photo mode) contains resolution, ISO and color mode, but not i.e. white balance. Exposure compensation is set by holding a button on top next to the shutter release and turning the dial. We missed a button to delete a picture just after taking and reviewing one.
The menu of the LCD is user friendly and when you get the hang of the joystick, you can go through the menus quite easy. When you close the menu, the next time you open it, it returns at the top of the menu and not at the last set parameter. This forces the user to go through the menu every time he wants to set the same parameter.
 Menu
The menus of the S9000 are easy to use and with the 4-way controller you can find the right option very fast. After having closed the menu, the next time it opens in the last set parameter, so you can make changes in one parameter very fast.
It is possible to save a personal set of parameters for later use.
Miscelleanous
The S9000 doesn't give you the opportunity to save a personal set of parameters.
8.0
PERFORMANCE
8.0
Start up time is short and the AF is reasonably fast (sometimes needs the AF assist light). The shutter delay is noticeable, but not annoying. The writing speed of the JPEG's is good, but when you make a burst or work with RAW, data transfer to the memory card is to slow. In all this you notice that it isn't a DSLR.
Speed
The FinePix is more alert than the P880, but still cannot compete with a real DSLR. Focusing is fast, there is hardly any shutter delay, but when writing large amounts of data (burst or RAW) to the memory card it becomes very slow.
Color and exposure:
The exposure on the P880 is more conservative than with most compacts to prevent highlight blowouts. In default settings colors are natural and not too saturated, but this can be personalized with in-camera settings.
Sharpness:
The sensor captures much detail with its 8 million pixels. The JPG-images are a bit too sharpened, even in high quality mode. This can be reduced in the camera settings.
Lens distortion:
The Schneider-Kreuznach does a good job. At 24 mm there is not too much distortion or corner unsharpness. You see some chromatic aberration and vignette, but becomes less when using smaller apertures of longer focal lengths.
Noise:
The P880 is a compact with a small sensor and you notice this immediately when ISO goes above 200. The noise level at ISO 400 is acceptable to make small prints. ISO 800 and 1600 (only at 1024 x 768) are useless for print and even for internet noise levels are very high.
Image quality
Color and exposure:
The exposure of the S9000 is 95% of the images well chosen and at low ISO there are seldom blown highlights. Sometimes the images don't look that bright, but in general the camera produces pictures with nice colors and contrast.
Sharpness:
Sometime the pictures of the S9000 look a bit artificial, probably caused by high default sharpening of the JPEGs. If you wish you can lower the amount of in-camera sharpening.
Lens distortion:
The Fujinon lens does a good job despite its long zoom range. Distortion, vignette and corner unsharpness is moderate at 28 and 300 mm. Only the chromatic aberration at 28 mm and large apertures is more than average.
Noise:
A range from ISO 80 tot 1600 is unusual for a digital compact and gives the impression the practical ISO 400 barrier has been taken. But again ISO 800 and 1600 deliver a picture quality below the level of small size printing or even internet at 640 x 480. The pictures are like a water painting, lack detail and colors are washed out.
   
7.8
CONCLUSION
8.3
 
The Kodak P880 and the Fuji S9000 are in the same category compact SLR-like and have a similar price tag. But here the similarity stops. The P880 is a very capable digital camera, but it is still very much a compact in build, speed and performance. However because of the many manual features it is a fine camera for the more demanding hobby photographer. The small size, light weight and 24 mm wide angle makes the P880 a pleasant travel companion. The S9000 has more aspirations to be a DSLR, but cannot live up to those standards. Speed and image quality (at high ISO) is much less and the limited RAW capabilities and the absence of image stabilization and Adobe RGB make it no alternative for the semi-professional. The many features, large zoom range, good image quality at low ISO, however make it a very good choice for the amateur photographer, who doesn't want to go out with a bag full of accessories and heavy lenses.
 
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