Bridge digital cameras are designed to offer the shooting comfort and feel of a DSLR camera, but the feature set offered is similar to that of travel zoom digital cameras. Bridge cameras are a notch better because they feature large telephoto lenses with optical zoom that stretches far beyond 20x. The FujiFilm FinePix SL300 is one such digital camera that comes across as a DSLR at first glance. Let’s find out what it packs within its hefty shell.
An affordable bridge camera with a decent feature set
Design and Features
FujiFilm has tried its best to provide utmost comfort to the user. The textured rubber grip and the ridged rubber ring around the lens lend a DSLR-like feel. The rear and top panels of the shell also have a rubberised finish. Only the front portion of the shell feels like it’s made of plastic, but again, the grainy finish gives a premium look and feel. There is absolutely no compromise on the quality of components used for the construction of the exterior. Even the buttons, dials and zoom rocker have a good finish and tactile feel.
Rubber grip around the lens and good telephoto end
Much of the heft of this 14 megapixel shooter comes from the lens and the grip that houses a li-ion battery pack within. When completely retracted, the lens resembles a standard 18-55 mm lens that comes with most entry-level DSLR cameras. Only when the lens keeps extending endlessly on holding the zoom rocker that you realise how incredibly large it is at the telephoto end. The lens has a focal length of 24 mm at the widest end and it extends up to a whopping 720 mm at the telephoto end, which translates to 30x optical zoom. To make zooming into subjects easier, the lens has an additional zoom lever on the left. Here’s the tricky bit; no matter how far you stretch the zoom lever, it absolutely doesn’t affect the speed as it zooms in or out. Due to the absence of graduated control over zoom, you don’t have a tight control over the focal length.
The top and rear panels have plenty of shortcuts, which make adjusting the shooting parameters very convenient while shooting. At the top you have hotkeys for drive mode and cropping, both accessible using the index finger. The mode dial and the F-mode menu button to its right are in comfortable reach of the thumb. Apart from PASM modes, you get Auto, Scene Presets, Panorama, Custom and Movie recording modes.
Well laid-out control panel
The rear panel is dominated by a large 3-inch LCD monitor and a control panel to the right, which comprises of a 5-way D-pad and buttons for EV, info display and playback. The D-pad has shortcuts for delete, flash, self timer and macro. There’s an eyecup above the LCD monitor that houses an electronic viewfinder. It would have been nice if Fujifilm had added a proximity sensor so that the camera automatically switches to EVF on looking through it. Here, there’s a button that allows toggling between the EVF and the LCD.
The flash is of the popup type and it can be released by pressing a tiny button to its left. Additionally, you have the option to use an external flash strobe courtesy the provision of a hot shoe just above the EVF. The HDMI port and a common port for USB interface and composite video output reside under a thick rubber flap. The package bundles a combo cable with connectors for both USB and composite video.
The large rubber grip and a dimpled grip on the rear panel inspire good confidence for single-handed shooting. Even with the camera held only with the right hand, accessing the buttons doesn’t strain the thumb and index finger. The user interface is snappy and intuitive. What we didn’t like is that navigating the menus and changing values require too many button presses, which can be frustrating especially when you want to change settings rapidly between shots.
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