Fujifilm finepix f10 Zoom

I am a big fan of Fujifilm digital cameras. We recently reviewed Fujifilmās FinePix E510 and E550 compacts and found them to be delightful 5 and 6 megapixel cameras equally well suited for beginners and those interested in advancing their photography skills. Somehow, Fujifilm has mastered the art of making mass market consumer cameras that are simple and easy to use while still conveying a feeling of quality and sophistication. Even inexpensive Fujifilm cameras donāt talk down to their users with idiot-proof features and Tonka toy design, as if their budget-minded customers were too dumb and clumsy to handle a real camera. And almost all FujiFilm cameras I have ever reviewed back that up with technological competence and excellent picture quality.

I was therefore very excited over the announcement of the new FinePix F10 Zoom. Like the E5xx Series, the F10 is an ultra compact just small and light enough to fit into a pocket. And like those fine cameras, the F10 comes with a sensor that uses Fujiās proprietary Super CCD High Resolution technology that uses octagonal pixels placed close to each other in sort of a honeycomb arrangement. Fuji claims this technology offers images of higher perceived resolution and quality than what youād get from a regular CCD of the same resolution, and digital zoom and movies yield better quality as well. We found all of that to be true in our review of the Super CCD HR-equipped FinePix E550. However, the F10 comes with even more astounding new technology such as Fujifilmās new Real Photo Processor that offers an unprecedented ISO sensitivity range from 80 all the way up to 1600. Theoretically that means being able to take pictures in very low light conditions, and take shots without flash where other cameras need a flash. Addressing the complaint that digicam batteries donāt last long enough, the F10 was announced as being able to shoot 500 pictures on a single charge of its Lithium-Ion battery pack. And following the much appreciated trend of equipping digital cameras with larger LCDs, FujiFilm gave the F10 a 2.5-inch display, which is about as large as digital camera LCDs come these days. In fact, the only larger display I can think of is that of the Casio EX-Z57 which has a 2.7-inch LCD.

Given all of those terrific specifications, my expectations for the FinePix F10 were very high. Perhaps too high.

Right out of the box, the F10 is a handsome little camera. It measures 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 inches. Thatās a bit larger than those tiny cameras in the Canon Digital ELPH class, but not by much. The metal housing is beautifully designed and combines bright, brushed, and powder finishes for a look that exudes both quality and elegance. The 3X optical zoom lens remains inside the body, then motors out about an inch when the F10 is powered on via push of a button. Powerup is very fast, as are shutter time lag and time between shots. Most of the backside is taken up by the large LCD display. There are very few controls. Four buttons and a navigation ring in the back. Shutter and zoom are in separate locations and perfectly placed. A large mode dial around the shutter lets you select automatic, scene, manual, and movie modes. All good stuff. The Lithium-Ion battery and xD-Picture card slot are accessible through the bottom of the camera. They are covered by an unlockable plastic door. The battery is smaller than its compartment and doesnāt have a retainer clip, so it can easily fall out. The bottom also contains a plastic tripod mount (why almost all consumer cameras use plastic instead of metal to save a few pennies is beyond me).

Now it was time to actually try out the camera during a bright Spring morning outside our editorial offices in the Sierra Nevada foothills. First observation: no optical viewfinder. While editor-in-chief MacNeill applauds this development, I donāt. Not as long as even the best LCDs are only marginally viewable in direct sunlight. The F10ās LCD is large and fairly readable outdoors, but three factors work against it: 1) Only reflective LCDs offer truly acceptable readability in sunlight and this isnāt one of them. 2) The LCDās glass cover reflects like a mirror. 3) The display, large though it is, is actually quite low res. It only has 115k pixels compared to 154k pixel in the E550ās 2-inch display. This meant that often I couldnāt really see what exactly I took a picture of. Often I just pointed the F10 in the approximate direction and hoped for the best.

I love doing macro shots. The F10 didnāt work well in that department. In macro mode you can get as close as three inches which isnāt great to begin with, but then the otherwise reasonably fast autofocus slowed down considerably. Between the barely readable display and the slow focus it took me several shots to get a halfway decent picture of a bee collecting pollen (see above). You can use the zoom in macro mode, but that is a mixed blessing as almost any degree of zoom means the autofocus mechanism wonāt be able to get a sharp image.

As far as the 3X optical zoom goes, it worked well enough, but I wondered why some much smaller cameras have internal 3X zooms whereas the F10ās motors out a full inch, which means you have to turn the camera off before you stick it back into your pocket. That, and some subjects I tried to take closeups of÷a lizard in particular÷seemed quite perturbed by the constantly moving lens barrel.

Model-Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom
List price-US$499
Sensor res-6.3 megapixels
Image dimensions-2848x2136 down to 640x480
Lens focal length-8-24 mm (36-108mm equiv.)
Exposure compensation-
-8 minutes to 1/4000 seconds
Exposure compensation-+/- 5 EV in 1/3, 1/2 or full steps
Storage-xD-Picture Card (16MB incl.)
LCD screen-2.5 inch TFT (115k)
Flash modes-6 modes
Battery-Li-Ion rechargeable
Weight-5.5 ounces w/o batteries
Dimensions-3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 inches
Included-Software, cables, strap

All of this would be excusable to some degree if the F10 had rewarded my efforts with the superb image quality I got out of the FinePix E550 or even its lesser brother, the E510. But more disappointment there. Most of my shots simply werenāt as sharp and vibrant as I expected from all the cool optics and technology in this camera. And that on a fairly consistent basis and under different shooting and lighting conditions. Needless to say, I was also eager to try out the phenomenal ISO sensitivity range of the F10, and there the news was quite good. You wonāt, of course, get crisp images with an ISO setting of 1600, but you can use it to get pretty decent shots under dim lighting conditions where youād have to use a flash with almost any other camera. That can come in very handy.

Battery life is indeed exceptional, especially considering the large display. However, the F10 does not have a power jack. In order to charge the battery you need to plug a terminal adapter into the cameraās sole connection socket. You then plug power, USB, and AV cables into that terminal. Lose the adapter and you canāt charge.

One final complaint: the curious mix of abbreviated text and often hard/impossible to interpret icons makes for an unsatisfactory menu experience. If you have to consult the (very good) manual to figure out what those icons mean, someone didnāt get it right.

I really wanted to like the FinePix F10, but compared to its many terrific siblings, it just misses the boat. FujiFilm made too many odd decisions here, and the technology just doesnāt work as it should.

÷Kirk Linsky



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