Digital Cameras

The FujiFilm E-510: A Digital Compact from a Forgotten Age – By Adam Kendall

It is not often that I have the satisfaction of completing a collection. Back in the late 1990’s, I was able to collect an entire series of Space Shuttle LEGO sets. But since then, nothing. It is not that I did not have an interest in collections… I just did not find anything particularly tempting enough (although I did accumulate quite a collection of yo-yo’s…). That was until around ten years ago: I was gifted a Nikon P-90 for Christmas, and since that time, I have been hooked on photography.

I have collected an assortment of film and digital cameras that I find pleasure in using. Of these, I have developed a keen interest in FujiFilm digital cameras. While I cannot attest to the performance of the “X” series digital cameras of the past few years, I have only praise for the models the company produced between 2000-2010. Of these were the “E” series models. In total, FujiFilm produced four models: E-500, E-510, E-550 & E-900. The E-500 and E-510 were introduced in early 2004, amidst a time when the megapixel battle was heating up. FujiFilm marketed these ‘no-nonsense’ cameras to those that were still not convinced that digital photography was here to stay. The E-510 boasted 5.2 megapixels, while the E-500 only 4. Later, the E-550 (6 mp) and E-900 9(9 mp) came to market. In a way, the E-510 is the middle child of the E-Series family. It was not until 2018 when I completed my collection with the E-510.

Unassuming Uniqueness

I am of course bias, but there is something special about the FujiFilm E-510. It is not particularly flashy. Nor does it enable the user to set custom white balance. Its metering options are limited to ‘spot’ and ‘multi’. It is slow to start up, and the flash sucks. The viewfinder is dim, and only represents approximately 80% of the frame captured. Plus, the camera relies on the now extinct XD cards that Olympus and FujiFilm championed for so many years (although Samsung dabbled in XD for a brief time, and even manufactured some of the XD-cards with the Olympus logo on them). The tripod mount is plastic, and the camera does not have RAW capture. Despite all these gripes, why bother with the camera anyway?

In 2004, a majority of camera companies were still manufacturing compact point and shoots with a focal length that started at 35mm…not exactly wide by any means. But in a stroke of genius, FujiFilm offered the E-510 with a lens that started at 28mm: a dream come true for any landscape photographer. The lens alone makes the camera worth carrying along. Additionally, the camera offered the user AUTO, PROGRAM, 4 scenes, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes via a rotating dial near the shutter release button. In many ways, the camera could suit the needs of both a beginner and an enthusiast. Best of all though? The camera still looked much like a 35mm compact, and required good ol’ AA batteries.

The camera’s right side is quite spartan…not a bad thing at all!

The top panel of the camera features the power switch, shutter button and command dial.

The flash is not terribly impressive, but works well enough for family group shots. It is activated manually via a button.

The LCD screen is nothing special, but fares well enough to judge how sharp images turn out. By pressing the ‘display’ button, the exposure information is turned on and off.

This side of the camera is ugly. But hey, it works.

There should be a law against plastic tripod mounts…

In the Field

The versatility of the camera is what keeps me coming back to the E-510. The 28mm lens allows great landscape results of course. But the bonus here is that the wide side of the lens allows for what FujiFilm calls ‘super-macro’. In this mode, the camera can be placed up to 2cm away from the subject. The image below represents the capability of the lens with a single frozen drop of water on a White Cedar branch.

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*The images that follow have been edited to my personal taste in Adobe LR 4*

While not a sought after camera by any means, the FujiFilm E-510 has a great lens for MACRO photography.

A section of the Boardman River flowing along the trail at Brown Bridge Quiet Area.

The wide angle lens allows for dramatic silhouette images such as this decaying tree at Miller Creek Natural Area.

Another great example of what a 28mm lens can do with some great lighting available (Miller Creek Natural Area).

The snow is melting rapidly in Traverse City, Michigan. My boots were soaked after walking through the decaying reeds (Miller Creek Natural Area).

The camera does well with focusing in precise locations (Brown Bridge Quiet Area).

Another example of the cameras ability to capture close-up shots using ‘macro’ mode. In ‘super-macro’, the zoom is not available unfortunately (Miller Creek Natural Area).

Final Thoughts

I just like this camera. Yes, it is digital…but I don’t care in the least. I wish I could afford to use film more often than I do. Film is expensive. In my world, it is a real privilege to load a roll of 36 exposures into one of my film cameras. I never take the experience for granted. Who can resist the sound of a frame being exposed by an old camera? Not me.

But I digress: yes, the viewfinder is dim, but at least it has one. I don’t mind using an XD card: I am in no hurry. It’s metering options are limited, but that is perfectly fine with me. I use the camera in manual mode most of the time anyway. I just like a camera that makes me happy. This one does. What more can I wish for in a camera? One thing actually: if only FujiFilm offered a lower cost version of the E-510 model with a fixed focal length 28mm lens…

If you happen across one, don’t be afraid to take it home. It may not be trendy, but by golly it works.

-Adam

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11 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick
    May 10, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Great post Adam.
    The proof is in the images… which I loved.
    AA Batteries too… a retro delight!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      AdamKendall
      May 15, 2019 at 2:16 am

      Thanks Nick! I appreciate the kind words. The camera does produce great images out of the camera, but I have been into the Sepia look. And yes, AA batteries! What more can I ask for?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Justin Smith
    May 10, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    I loved my old Canon A70: optical viewfinder, operated on 4 AA batteries, and had actual shutter and aperture settings. It was my favorite vacation camera and my first “real” digital cam. Easily operated by one hand and the optical viewfinder was servicable in bright sunlight.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      AdamKendall
      May 15, 2019 at 2:19 am

      My mother had one of those too! She really enjoyed it, and took it on many memorable vacations over the years. I remember thinking how impressive the images were, and still are when I look back through the photo albums.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    May 10, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    I’m delighted to see a write up on an older digital camera. (Digital cameras age in dog/years 1:7 – so this one is ancient) Lots of fun to be had with these old machines, and VERY cheaply. I still love film, of course, but since ‘instant’ packfilm has become so expensive, old digital cameras provide quick and quirky gratification

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Rick
    May 10, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    This was my very first digital camera, I took it with me on a several months long overseas trip in 2007, so this article bring back some fond memories. Despite having plenty of limitations compared to newer cameras, I learned so much about photography using the fully manual modes available in the Fuji, and I learned how to work around/overcome gear limitations to produce work I liked. I remember shooting with this camera directly into a gale force storm on a dock off a remote beach in New Zealand. At the end of the trip the camera -now covered in black tape- bit the dust.

    I replaced it with the E900 you mention. I really think this was a brilliant camera that never got its due. It was blazingly fast (for its time at least) with almost no shutter lag. It could shoot huge 9mp raw files with beautiful colour and depth, and the “Super CCD” really seemed bring something special. I’d love to see a similar article on the E900!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      AdamKendall
      May 15, 2019 at 2:33 am

      Hi Rick, thanks for sharing your memories! I have been quite fortunate with my cameras, and have not yet had to do any taping (knock on wood). I agree, the E-900 was a brilliant camera. It certainly did not get its due…it is such a capable camera. And as you mention, the RAW capture and the Super CCD add up to an amazing little machine that produces some impressive images. Infact, I often leave the fancy cameras at home and just bring along the E-900. I only wish the E-900 had the 28mm lens of the E-510. That would be the perfect hiking companion. And finally, I will certainly write an article on the E-900: the camera definitely is an undiscovered gem. Stay tuned!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    May 11, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Did any clever hackers develop a workaround that would save a RAW file? People with some compact Canon cameras could do this.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    fpharrell
    May 12, 2019 at 4:32 am

    Dammit. You just made me want one.
    Very nice photographs, by the way.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      AdamKendall
      May 15, 2019 at 2:23 am

      I am glad you want one now.:) I think everyone should give older digital point and shoots a try. And the best part is, they are super cheap! Thanks for the kind words as well. I am super critical of my work, and am honored when others compliment my work. I hope you find one!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dominique
    May 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    It was so fun to read about the E-510. We have the E-550. It was our first digital camera which we bought we were married in 2004. When we thought we had outgrown it, we tried some other P&S digital cameras but always came back to it. We still have it. I thought it was an exorbitant price to pay for a P&S at the time, but now I think it was one of the best small cameras we could have purchased. And while I have moved on to dSLRs (and back to film SLRs), our kids now use it when we travel.

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