How small, exactly, is Fujifilmās little FinePix F450 digital camera? A lot smaller than the picture of it on the next page. The real thing measures just 2.9 x 2.5 x 0.8 inches. Compared to that, the highly regarded Sony Cybershot T1 that is universally seen as a triumph of miniaturization seems a bit wide in the beam, and perhaps a bit on the heavy side as well. True, some of Casioās excellent little Exilims are thinner yet, but they donāt have the FinePix 450ās powerful optical zoom. In fact, those slender Casios donāt have one at all. Digital zoom doesnāt count.

Fujifilm got the overall look of this one right. The FinePix F450 is one of those little cameras that you immediately like. Itās a good looking, beautifully crafted little metal box that looks and feels right in every respect. It is cleanly designed down to the last detail. It feels very solid, heavy even, in your hand though it weighs just over five ounces. There are only a few controls÷all nicely designed and clearly labeled÷but you instinctively know that theyāll do the job. It is that kind of a camera. You canāt help having very high expectations after you take it out of the box. You want to like it, and for it to do well.

For the most part, the F450 fills those expectations. Itās a 5.2 megapixel camera, so you have plenty of resolution to work with. It has an impressive 3.4X optical zoom. Multiply that with a very workable 4.1X digital zoom and you can get a lot closer to the action. 13.8 times closer. As is shown on the picture on the next page, the zoom lens does stick out quite bit. The Sony T1 has an advantage here because it uses an ingenious internal zoom mechanism so that the lens never sticks out. So the F450 isnāt totally perfect. But the lens does recess flush into the housing when the camera is turned off. That way it wonāt get caught on anything inside your pocket.

The FinePix 450 is simple to use. However, despite its diminutive size it feels like a serious camera and I fully expected levels of detailed manual controls in LCD menus. They arenāt there. Fujifilm designed the F450 as a point & shooter and nothing more. There are a few things you can do in manual mode, but thatās pretty much limited to exposure compensation and white balance setting. The FinePix 450 is meant to be pulled out of a shirt pocket or a purse, ready to snap pictures any time and any place without any fiddling with controls.

When you start using the F450 you may go through an initial phase of slight frustration. Thatās because those cleanly laid out controls are not always quite as obvious as youād expect. The playback-movie-camera slider is obvious enough, but what does a button labeled with an ćFä do? Time to read the manual! The F450 also doesnāt have one of those standard 5-way navigation discs you find on every camera these days. Instead, you use very small left and right buttons and an even smaller small up/down switch. You donāt press on that to issue an ćenterä command either. For that you use yet another small button. Power of the F450 is turned on and off with a large chrome slider on the front. The slider looks more like a design element and it is not obvious which is ćonä and which is ćoff.ä Obviously one gets used to such things quickly, but in general we prefer the ćform follows functionä approach. Itās easier that way.

Hands used to operating a standard size camera require a bit of adapting when holding one as small as the F450. Initially, I constantly feared it might slip out of my hands and fall on the floor. Fortunately, it never happened. However, while some controls are a bit weird, they are all in the place where youād expect them, and so you get used to them quickly.

Fujifilm is a proponent of the tiny xD-Picture Card format and thatās what the F450 uses. The camera comes with a 16MB starter card÷a bit stingy for a 5.2 megapixel camera. A NP30 rechargeable Li-Ion pack supplies power and is good for about 150 pictures between recharges. The battery pack is held in place with a small plastic clip. All cameras should have one of those. Another thing that few cameras come with: a handy cradle for playback and audio-video out via a special cable thatās included in the package.

Model-Fujifilm F450
List price-US$399
Sensor res-5.2 megapixels
Image dimensions-2592x1944 down to 640x480
ISO-80 to 400 or auto
Lens-F:2.8-7.4 Fujinon
Lens focal length-6.3-21.6 mm (38-130mm equiv.)
Shutter-1/2000 to 2 seconds
Exposure compensation--2.1 to 1.5 EV in 0.3 EV steps
Storage-xD-Picture Card (16MB incl.)
Focus-TTL contrast, auto with lock
LCD screen-2.0 inch TFT (154k pixels)
Flash modes-6 modes, up to 12 feet
Viewfinder-electronic (240k pixels)
Battery-NP30 lithium-ion rechargeable
Weight-5.2 ounces w/o batteries or card
Dimensions-2.9 x 2.5 x 0.8 inches
Included-FinePix software, cables, cradle

Even though the F450 is small, it has a fairly large 2.0-inch LCD display. This follows Sonyās lead with the T1 which has an even larger 2.5-inch display. This goes to prove that small cameras do not need to have tiny displays and I hope everyone learns that lesson real soon. Unfortunately, while the F450ās LCD is large, it isnāt very legible outdoors. Not being able to see whatās going on on a digital camera LCD outdoors is very frustrating.

With a camera this small Fujifilm apparently had to make some concessions. In this case, their impressive SuperCCD technology is missing. The 450 has a standard CCD sensor, which is too bad as the CCD is one of the weaker links in this camera. Picture quality is good to very good, but the images are not always as sharp and crisp as I expected.

The FinePix F450 is a very nice camera that falls just a bit short of great. However, it has enough good qualities to make it worth having. And itās cute enough to fall in love with.



÷Conrad Blickenstorfer



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