Sample consumer technology review

Review of digital camera for a nationally distributed technology magazine.

HED: Kyocera Finecam S5R

by Dave Gerardi

The stereotype of the fashion photographer mashing the shutter release to snap a quick succession of photos has persisted, be it in Antonioni's landmark film Blow or Mike Meyer's Austin Powers. This method (used most frequently in fashion and sports photography) has been available to digital photographers thanks to pro cameras like Nikon's D1X. Kyocera's Finecam S5R unwraps this feature for the consumer market with its RTUNE rapid tuning technology, which permits up to three frames per second at five megapixel resolution. The included 16MB SD memory card isn't ideal for this feature; a 256MB card is recommended. The built-in flash does not work in continuous mode, so decent lighting conditions are necessary for a good image. Its most obvious use is for outdoor sports. To save space on the memory card, it's a simple matter to browse through the pictures in playback mode and save only the good ones?recommended considering how easy it is to run off a long succession of photos in this mode. This should put an end to ever missing another shot.

The S5R is extremely easy to use. A scene button brings up six presets, including landscape and sports action. This is a welcome alternative to sifting through a myriad menu options. A dial on back quickly switches between regular, continuous, video and playback modes. Like all digital cameras, a half-press of the shutter release focuses the image before taking the picture. Unlike others however, the half-press on the S5R has a good stop to prevent accidental pictures.

The S5R is dually equipped as a movie recorder. The video shoots AVI files with 320 x 240 pixel resolution and 30 frames per second (fps). Leeway to bump the resolution up (640 x 480) or down (160 x 120) is available. The default settings (320 x 240 at 30 fps) are recommended. While the image at 640 x 480 is much improved, a 256MB card will only hold just under two minutes of footage. In 320 x 240, the count is a healthier seven minutes and change. Easy access to a computer to quickly download content is a factor when choosing between resolutions. At 30 fps, the standard in higher-end and professional video cameras, the action on screen is fluid without any jumpiness experienced at the optional 15 fps setting. It's easy to forget that video footage generally requires more light than still images?the flash, so helpful in filling dark settings and raccoon eyes in photos, can't be used for motion pictures. Dark locations equal muddy and grainy images. The S5R performed best near a moderate to strong source of outdoor light. The built in microphone records sound, too, and about as well as one can expect from a pocket-friendly video camera.

One of the best features of the Finecam S5R is the macro mode for both still and motion pictures. With a minimum distance between camera and subject of approximately 4.5 or 5 inches, the user can capture some wonderful up-close images. In movie mode, the camera picks up a lot of detail from this intimate perspective of the world.

The 1.6-inch LCD monitor is a nice size for this highly portable camera (approximately 3.5 x 2.25 x 1.25 inches). The monitor displays a clear image in both low lighting conditions and in direct sunlight. It draws a lot of battery power, however, so except for short photo sessions it should be used sparingly. If an outlet is handy, the camera can operate while plugged in. Mobility is limited only by the length of one's extension cord.

The Lithium ion battery pack charges while inside the camera to prevent ever picking up the camera but forgetting the battery. An included video cable attaches to the television for quick viewing. For the PC-centric, Kyocera includes a USB cable and Adobe Photoshop Album. This basic editing program quickly auto-adjusts color and contrast and eliminates red-eye (an easily selected no-red-eye flash mode is a button press away on the camera itself).

Kyocera packs a lot into the compact Finecam S5R. It's pricier than many digital cameras on the market, but all the added features on this five megapixel camera are worth it.

Rating: 4.5

Pros: super fast continuous capture; very clear macro mode for motion pictures
Cons: power button too close to shutter release (not the only camera with this flaw); included 16MB card is too small to take full advantage of the major features

Dave Gerardi, writer/filmmaker for hire