It could be argued that there's less need for bridge cameras now that digital SLRs are so reasonably priced. But when you can pick up a 7MP, 10x zoom compact for less than the price of most standalone flashguns, it's easy to see why they're still around.

The S5700 is the latest in a long line of Fujifilm bridge cameras, its familiar design based around a right-hand grip containing four AA batteries (invest in rechargeables for the best performance), a top-mounted mode dial and left-side display.

The 2.5-inch LCD has a curious recessed construction, which may help shade sunlight. Its 60fps refresh rate is shared by the generous EVF (which also has 230,000 pixels), making for flexible, rock-solid framing.

The fast, silent zoom is controlled by a responsive rocker and the mode dial and main nav-pad are equally speedy to use. For some reason, the F button (calling up ISO, image size and colour options) requires a longer, firmer press to activate; irritating when you need to swap settings in a hurry.

More delays are caused by 'helpful' bubble explanations that pop up whenever you change modes, and persist in cluttering up the screen sometimes even after tapping the shutter release.

There are dedicated buttons for Drive mode and exposure compensation (used for adjusting aperture and shutter speed in ASM modes), but not the pop-up flash unit. Menus are a model of clarity and speed.

You may be wondering what quality of 10x optics you can get for under £150, and the Fujinon glassware does have its issues. For a start, its 38mm equivalent wide angle isn't especially wide. And a maximum aperture of f/3.5 isn't going to make the unstabilised lens any easier to use in low light, even if it can (almost) maintain that brightness through the focal range.

Despite an impressive 1cm super macro setting at wide angle, if you zoom out at all, you'll have to settle for around 1m closest focus. The lens also suffers from significant purple fringing throughout its range, although refreshingly little distortion or edge softness.

Resolution isn't too bad, with smart processing maintaining a good grip on clear edges and larger features, while leaving more complex areas like leaves and trees wisely untouched.

Manual exposure is welcome, but it can be hard to access swiftly. Manual focusing uses a bizarre combination of the /- key and the zoom rocker. Adjusting the focus slowly and without any visual feedback or magnification, it's hard to use in real world situations.

Other modes (and especially the drive options) are faster. It's worth picking out the Natural Light with Flash mode (an ambient light picture followed by a flash shot) as a useful innovation.

Fujifilm continues to lead the way in noise suppression. ISO 800 photos are smooth and colourful and ISO 1600 is still very usable. Colours generally are very good, although we did notice occasional blue-ish colour tints in high-contrast scenes. You can tweak colour and sharpness settings in-camera, which is handy because there's no RAW capture.

Movies are a strong point, with the Fujifilm able to change focus and exposure while filming colourful, smooth 30fps VGA clips. It also allows optical zooming, making the S5700 a viable alternative to a camcorder for shorter, standard definition videos.

Fujifilm is the latest manufacturer to bow to the all-conquering Secure Digital format, with the S5700 having a clever dual SD/xD card slot to supplement its basic 27MB of internal memory. Instead of offering an alternative to digital SLRs, today's bridge cameras aim to complement them.

The S5700's extra optical reach, competent video clips and improved portability should earn it a place in many enthusiasts' camera bags, even without the image stabilisation and higher quality optics that would have made it an essential buy.

Via PhotoRadar