08-23-2005, 09:00 PM #1
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Fujifilm Finepix F10 Digital Camera Review
The Fuji FinePix F10 ($400 MSRP) is compact consumer digital camera that rivals the capabilities and image quality of expensive digital SLR (dSLR) cameras. As of this writing, the F10 is the only point-and-shoot digicam that can take photos at a sensitivity of ISO 1600 and still produce good, printable images. The upcoming Fuji FinePix S9000 can also shoot at ISO 1600 (at 9 megapixels, no less), but it's MSRP of $700 puts it more into the enthusiast category, although it's not a dSLR. The F10 sports a 6.3 Megapixel 5th-generation Super CCD-HR sensor (enough to make prints above 11" x 14"), a RealPhoto Processor chip, a 3X optical zoom Fujinon lens, and a massive 2.5"TFT LCD display. In addition, the F10 can shoot long (with a large xD memory card) movies at VGA resolution and 30fps using the M-JPEG movie mode (the higher-quality, though more memory-hungry alternative to the economical MPEG-4 mode).
The F10 is ideally suited as a compact camera for a photography enthusiast who needs a second camera that rivals their primary camera's image quality or an individual or family that requires a compact camera with the highest possible image quality and speed. For families who like to share one camera, the Auto mode should be simple enough for even little children to use.
IN THE BOX
Everything you need to get started taking photos comes with the camera, including LiIon rechargeable battery, AC adapter, terminal adapter, 16 MB xD memory card (good for only about 9 full resolution/quality shots; you should purchase at least a 128 MB card), USB cable (for downloading photos to your computer), TV cable (for displaying photos on your television), wrist strap, instruction manual, and software CD. For this review only, a 32MB memory card was shipped in the box; note that you will receive a 16 MB card if you purchase the camera.
Note that the terminal adapter acts as an intermediate connection point (or docking station) between the camera and the included cables, including the USB, TV and DC-in ones. I personally prefer the simplicity of plugging a cable straight into the camera; you should decide if you can live with this added inconvenience of having to carry around and use this adapter even for the camera's basic I/O functions.
- 6.3 megapixel Super CCD-HR sensor (1/1.7-inch size)
- 3X optical zoom, 8-24mm (equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm film camera: moderate wide-angle to moderate telephoto)
- 2.5" Color TFT LCD (115,000 pixels)
- Autofocus: Center point, Multi point, Continuous, with AF assist lamp (up to 4 meters at wide angle
- Exposure modes: SP (Natural light, Sports, Night scene, Portrait, Landscape), Auto, Manual (but no shutter/aperture control), Movie
- Video shooting modes: M-JPEG mode - 640 x 480 at 30 or 15 fps, until memory card is full
- Shutter speeds from 4-2000 seconds (15-2000 seconds also available)
- ISO range 80/100/200/400/800/1600 (!), AUTO
- Selectable metering mode: 64-point, with Multi, Average, Spot (also, exposure compensation)
- Selectable white balance: Auto, Manual (Fine, Shade, Fluorescent Daylight, Fluorescent Warm White, Fluorescent Cool White, Incandescent, Custom)
- Flash range: 1-21.3 ft (wide), 1-13.1 ft (tele)
- Battery life: approximately 500 (!) shots
- Continuous shooting: 2.2 frames/second, maximum of 3 frames
- Dimensions: 3.6" x 2.3" x 1.1", Weight 5.5 oz.
- Voice memo (up to 30 seconds)
- USB 2.0 support
- Focusing as close as 3" in macro mode (24" in regular mode)
- High Speed shooting mode
Full specifications are available from the Fujifilm website.
At maximum still resolution (2848 x 2136), the F10 can produce an 8" x 10" print at nearly 267 dpi (near photo quality). At 150 dpi, you can generate much bigger prints - up to 19" x 15". Even if you don't need such large prints, the higher resolution comes in handy when you want to crop your images. On the F10, you can also take photos at lower resolution: 3024 x 2016 (3:2 aspect ratio), 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480.
On the video side, the camera takes videos at full VGA (640 x 480), 30 fps resolution. Also selectable is also a lower 320 x 240 (still at 30 fps) resolution. There is no time limit on any video mode; you are only limited by the size of your video card. The camera uses the M-JPEG codec which is superior in quality to the MPEG-4 codec but less efficient when it comes to space used on the memory card. The videos are sharp, smooth and clear enough to produce non-widescreen home DVDs.
Absent from this camera is an optical viewfinder, a feature very useful in dim lighting when it is almost impossible to frame a picture on most digicam LCD displays. Fortunately, the 2.5" LCD "gains up" at the touch of a button so that you can see what you're framing. I consider this feature a must on any camera that has no optical viewfinder. Although the LCD is a bit lacking in resolution, it is still fairly sharp and bright. While in a shooting mode, the LCD displays such things such as shooting mode, flash status, macro indicator, and battery "gauge". When the shutter is half-depressed, information such as shutter speed, aperture, focus point and a possible slow shutter speed warning icon is also displayed. In quick review mode, the display shows up to three of the last three shots, which is a nice touch. In playback mode, particulars of the shot are also visible, such as photo resolution/quality, ISO setting, exposure compensation, file number, and date/time photo was taken. Unfortunately there is no histogram available either in record or playback mode.
Basic operation of the camera involves pushing the Power button at the top of the camera and selecting the camera mode by rotating the selector switch on the back (SP, Auto, Manual, Movie). The Auto mode works nicely in most situations (and varies the ISO automatically from 80 to 800), but if you want a tad more flexibility and creativity you can enable one of the SP modes (Natural light, Sports, Night scene, Portrait, Landscape). Reviewing your photos is done by pressing the green Play button on the back of the camera and using the circular "joystick" to navigate the comprehensive, and initially confusing, menu system.
FORM AND DESIGN
The F10 is a compact, but not subcompact camera. At 3.6" x 2.3" x 1.1" it will fit in a shirt pocket but may be too tight for a pants pocket. There is built-in lens cap. The camera is comfortable to hold in the hand, thanks to the grip below the shutter release button. The camera casing appears to be made almost entirely of metal, and feels very robust.
The top of the camera has (from left to right): the Power button, the shooting mode selector and inside that concentrically is the shutter release button.
On the front of the camera (shown with camera powered on) is the prominent Fujinon 3X zoom lens (F2.8-5.0, f=36-108 mm equivalent). To the left of the lens is the comfortable hand grip. To the top right of the lens is the flash, below are the self-timer light (left) and the Autofocus-assist lamp (right). Below the lens are some small holes for the microphone.
The back of the camera shows (clockwise, from top left): the large 2.5" LCD, the zoom lever, the indicator lamp (for focus, memory card writing, flash charging status), the Play button, the Photo Mode button (marked by the Fuji "F"), the four-way joystick controller with concentric Menu/OK button, and the Display/Back button for switching display modes and backing out of menu screens. Overall, the buttons and levers are convenient and easy to use.
The right side of the camera (photo on left above) has a sliding door that covers the battery and SD card compartment; the left side (photo on right) has the interface port, which you need to use the aforementioned terminal adapter in order to connect cables.
The bottom of the camera has (from left to right in photo above): the battery/xD card compartment, the tripod socket (almost perfectly aligned with the lens), and the grille holes for the speaker.
Image quality is determined by two things on a digital camera: the lens and the sensor/processing electronics. The lens on the F10 appears to be of good quality, with good sharpness edge-to-edge and only minor distortions at the extremes of the zoom range - I observed just the slightest barreling in wide angle, and no discernable pincushioning at telephoto. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is about average for this class of camera -- it's below average at wide angle and above average at telephoto.
The sensor and electronics determine how well the individual pixels make up the final picture - a digital photo should have minimal jaggies (the "staircase" appearance of lines that should be straight), minimal noise (the randomly-colored specks that appear when a CCD's light sensitivity is boosted to compensate for low light) and maximum detail (minimal "over-processing" or sharpening). The F10 has no "jaggies" to speak of at all, and the photos are very smooth, with little evidence of compression (look at the sky in the photos below). Noise is way below average for a 6 Megapixel point-and-shoot camera, and truly rivals dSLRs that are much more expensive. Overall photo quality from the F10 is excellent, and an amazing performance from such a small, relatively inexpensive camera. If I wasn't fortunate enough to own a dSLR, the F10 would make a fine substitute for someone as picky as I am about picture quality.
Here are some sample images, taken outdoors and indoors at various focal lengths across the zoom range:
Here are 100% crops from the photo above (an enlargement of the keypad on vending machine), taken with ISO settings varying from 80 to 1600:
EASE OF USE
Using the camera in Auto mode is very simple, and covers most shooting situations. The Natural Light shooting mode precludes the use of the flash and results in some very nice natural-looking photos (thanks to the high-ISO capability). The joystick is easy to use and feels comfortable, with positive "click feedback". The camera is also very responsive; you will miss very few shots due to shutter lag. In addition, the Macro mode is also superb, with the ability to focus a couple of centimeters from the front of the lens. Here are some shots of the LCD in both capture and review mode:
Fuji claims 500 shots on a charge on average. Due to time constraints, I took approximately 100 shots with the camera within the span of a few hours, with the LCD on at maximum brightness the whole time and lots of playback review time afterwards. Since the battery gauge read full even when it was time to ship back the camera, I can only speculate that Fuji's claim is not unreasonable. Reviews of the F10 on other digicam websites corroborate this. Such a figure is outstanding for this class of camera.
The F10 is a breakthrough camera in the consumer-oriented, point-and-shoot category. The image quality, battery life and speed are exceptional. The high-ISO capability currently puts this product head and shoulders above anything in its class. It should be a top choice for an individual or family as a general-purpose camera, one that can generate big (up to 8" x 10" in near photo-quality) prints.
- Sharp, colorful, noise-free photos approaching dSLR quality
- Very snappy performance shot-to-shot; you'll not miss many photo opportunities
- Bright LCD that gains up in low light
- Very good movie mode (with a large memory card)
- Excellent macro capability (a couple of cm away from front of lens)
- Good burst mode (2.2 fps/3 frames)
- The best quality images you can get this price point
- No manual control of shutter speed or aperture
- Menus were a bit confusing to me at first, although I eventually mastered them.
- The terminal adapter is inconvenient to carry around, and a pain to have to connect.
- I had to return the camera after the review!
Anyone who wants the best image quality from a point-and-shoot compact camera.
A high-quality camera for an individual or family who wants to make big prints
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