The new 6.3-megapixel FujiFilm FinePix F10 ($399 MSRP) is a rather unassuming digital camera with a silvery metal finish and plain vanilla styling. Yet looks are very deceiving; this is one of the best performing cameras on the market. The camera has superb low-light shooting capability, film camera-like response, easy-to-operate controls and menus. And, of course, great photo quality. In effect, this is everything a point-and-shoot digicam should be in 2005. For slightly more than 300 bucks, this camera should be high on the list for those who want effortless picture taking. That said, the FinePix F10 is not God’s Gift to Photography; there are some annoying flaws we’re happy to point out in the hope that Fuji engineers will take the comments as constructive criticism.
Features and Design
The FinePix F10 is slightly larger than a deck of playing cards, a bit thicker (1.1 inches) and weighs about 7.2 ounces with battery and xD Picture card. It’s definitely not the sleekest, slimmest digicam on the block, but it’s easy enough to tote around. It has a 3x Fujinon optical zoom that equals 36mm-108mm in 35mm terms, the basic zoom strength found on the majority of digital cameras. It also has a 6.2x digital zoom boost, but we suggest that you never use this feature since it degrades picture quality. It’s far better to enlarge the image with your software at home. When powered off, the lens retracts into the body and a metal lens cap automatically protects it.
The top of the camera has the power button and shutter buttons as well as a simple dial to change settings to Auto, Manual, Movie mode and SP for the scene modes including the very cool Natural Light (more on this later). On the front is the AF Assist illuminator lamp (a must-have feature in our book), self-timer light and microphone. The back of the camera features a 2.5-inch LCD screen (rated 115K pixels), a wide/tele toggle switch, a four-way pad to change settings with a set key, and individual keys for Playback, Fuji Photo Mode, and Display/Back. It’s very clean and thoroughly understandable; unfortunately, there is no optical viewfinder to use when the LCD wipes out in bright sunlight (and it does). The bottom has a slot for the supplied proprietary lithium ion battery and memory card. On my unit the battery didn’t snap into position but the door kept it in place. The battery is rated 500 shots using the CIPA standard, far better than most cameras on store shelves. There’s also a tripod mount terminal.
The camera is supplied with the usual accoutrements including wrist strap, battery, a pathetic 16MB xD picture card, USB and AV cables, a nicely done 120-page owner’s manual, Quick Start guide, and the FinePix Viewer 5 software bundle on CD-ROM. It also has a somewhat awkward terminal adapter, which gets attached to the AC power cord rather than connecting it directly to the camera. This terminal adapter also has jacks for the video output and USB cable. Fuji said this was done to save space on the camera, but it seems like another piece of gear that could easily be misplaced. Without it, you can’t recharge the battery, a very big “oops” if you’re not near home. You can’t even connect it to a computer, another reason to own a card reader. A good suggestion would be an optional battery charger and an extra NP-120 battery, especially if you’re traveling.
Photo Courtesy of FujiFilm
This camera is a joy to operate. Actually, “operate” is the wrong word, since it implies something more than point-and-shoot operation. This one is just that.
Once you open the box and follow the very nicely done Quick Start instructions, you’ll be up and shooting in the four hours it takes to charge the battery via the terminal adapter setup. Setting the date and time is a snap, and then it’s time to turn the mode dial to Auto. Before you hit the streets, you’ll need a larger card, since the supplied 16MB chip holds a whopping five images at 6MP Fine mode (2848 x 2136 pixels) or a 13-second video epic at 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second. The major reason I dislike the xD card format is that it’s more expensive than SD. A 512MB xD card on the SanDisk site is $90 while a similar-sized SD card is $60, a very big difference. Come on, Fuji. You guys are making enough money supplying chemicals for flat panel TVs and supplying photo kiosks to the planet that you should give consumers a break.
Startup time is slightly more than a second for the lens to extend itself and for the unit to boot up. It’s hard to miss a spontaneous moment with this one. Once in Auto, I took my typical assortment of shots including indoor pottery, outdoor flowers, long-haired cats, faces, and landscapes; in other words, typical photos the vast majority of purchasers of this camera will take.
For the most part, the results were excellent. The camera did have some focusing issues on close-up objects as it tried to lock in the focus, but this was rare. Shots taken outdoors were amazing, especially when I put the camera into the Fuji Chrome mode, which adds a nice bit of vividness to the color. It may be a little “other worldly” for your taste, but I really like it. It’s a simple menu adjustment to return to traditional, accurate color tones. Response time was also excellent with virtually no shutter lag. The top camera manufacturers have really addressed the issue of shutter lag, making it a nasty headache from the early days of digital imaging. Nice going, guys.
Like all digital cameras, the F10 has a number of Scene modes to handle specific situations such as Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night and Natural Light. This is a quite a bit fewer than competitive models but I didn’t find it to be a problem, mainly because I didn’t go to the beach or play in the snow (it’s 90 in New Jersey with humidity at 125%). The real winner of these modes is Natural Light (also see our review of the FinePix Z1 for an earlier take). Where the F10 beats that model is in its ISO rating of 1600 versus 800. This spec is far better than any non-digital SLR on the market. What this gives you is the ability to take a variety of shots in low light without a flash. The results are much more realistic, as opposed to an overpowering flash shot from a paparazzi. It even extends the range of the flash itself. Given this high ISO, one would expect tons of grain but that’s not the case here. There is grain, of course, but nothing that really kills the image.
Speaking of grain, the 2.5-inch LCD screen has it, especially indoors. There’s a handy gain-up button for indoor use, but grain definitely rears its ugly pixels in dim situations. If FujiFilm opted for a higher-quality LCD like those on the Sony T series cameras, the F10 would be a candidate for Camera of the Year; then again, the price would go up. Can’t have everything in this world, no matter what Paris Hilton says.
Photo Courtesy of FujiFilm
Another nice feature is the camera’s Burst mode. It takes three frames at 2.2 frames per second and 40 shots at 2.2 fps to the capacity of the memory card. This is another big reason you should budget for a 512MB or 1GB card. The fact that the camera doesn’t choke on this load of digital images is a testament to the camera’s electronic circuitry, which FujiFilm calls “Real Photo Technology.” It’s not the sexiest phrase in the world but it works, and that’s all that matters.
The FinePix F10 does have a Manual mode, but it’s limited; there’s no aperture- or shutter-priority mode, but you can adjust white balance and exposure compensation and there’s a high-speed shutter option.
The camera, like every other decent 2005 model, has a VGA movie mode of 640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps. It’s good enough for a quick clip, but don’t throw away your Mini DV camcorder just yet. Unfortunately, you can’t zoom during the clip and the sound is mono.
Fuji supplies its FinePix Viewer software, which is nothing to write home about, but it beats Sony’s Picture Package by light years. In it is a come-on for FujiFilm’s web site (for making prints for a fee, natch). But if you want to get serious about editing, pick up a copy of Adobe PhotoShop Elements 3.0 (around $90).
With a “go” price of under $350 (not counting the current $30 rebate from FujiFilm), this camera is a great buy for anyone looking for an easy-to-use digicam that delivers excellent quality and response. The Natural Light feature is terrific, letting you take very nice available light shots. It’s fast and battery life is excellent. The only major negatives are the ridiculous xD Picture card flash memory and that bizarre “terminal adapter” for recharging the battery and connecting to your computer. If you can deal with those issues and the others mentioned, give this baby a serious test drive.
- Beautiful, accurate photos
- Very accurate colors
- Ability to shoot in available light
- World-class battery life
- Fast, fast, fast
- LCD could be better
- No optical viewfinder
- Limited scene modes and manual controls
- Expensive xD Picture Cards needed
- Proprietary battery and bizarre terminal adaptor cable