Fuji launches S9900W and S9800 with 50x zooms

The new S9900W and S9800 are pretty impressive bridge cameras, even though the principal specs are almost identical to last year's S9400W and S9200 models.

The lens is the same, for a start, a whopping 50x 24-1200mm equivalent f/2.9-6.5 zoom. It might not be the longest in its class – the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS holds that record with its mammoth 65x zoom – but a 50x zoom is still at the extreme end of telephoto photography.

Steady now

It's pretty hard to keep your subject steady in the frame at this kind of magnification, but Fuji's new bridge cameras have 5-axis image stabilization – just like the new Sony A7 II. The difference here is that only two axes (pitch and yaw) have optical stabilization. The Fujis do correct roll, vertical shift and horizontal shift, but they do it using digital stabilization, which isn't quite the same thing.

The stabilization works for movies as well as stills, but although the new cameras can shoot full HD at up to 60fps, it's interlaced rather than progressive, so these cameras are half a step behind rivals that shoot 1080p footage. There are built in Movie Trimming and Movie Join options, though, so you don't have to wait until you get home before you start assembling your movies.

Both cameras have a pretty fast burst mode too, shooting at 10 frames per second at full resolution – though only up to 10 frames at a time. They also offer multi-frame processing for creating composite HDR images and they can shoot time-lapse sequences too.

These Fuji S9900W and S9800 don't just shoot faraway subjects – they also offer a 1cm Super Macro mode for close-ups.

Both cameras have a 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. It's a BSI (back side illuminated) design which improves light efficiency, and contributes to the impressive maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800. It's a small sensor, though, and while that's been par for the course for bridge cameras until now, the Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 show you can have your cake and eat it, combining big sensors with long zoom ranges (though neither can match Fuji's monster 50x lens).

Spot the difference

The trouble is that last year's cameras, the S9400W and S9200, had all of this too, and the improvements the S9900W and S9800 aren't so easy to spot.

One of the more important ones, though, is the EVF. The older models had pretty low-resolution 201,000-dot screens, but the new ones have what should be much smoother and sharper 920,000-dot screens. The 3-inch, 460,000-dot display on the back of the camera is unchanged.

Fuji has introduced a new advanced filter (Sketch) on top of the 10 filters in the older models, but the only other major change is to the Wi-Fi enabled S9900W. The older S9400W could transfer photos to a smart device using W-Fi, but Fuji's Camera Remote app can now control the S9900W wirelessly.

Both cameras run on a set of four AA batteries with a quoted battery life of 300 shots. They will be available from March 2015 – the S9800 will cost £270/US$330 (about AU$400) and the S9900W will cost £300/US$350 (about AU$425).

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.