Fujifilm FinePix F30 Review

Fujifilm FinePix F30
“Perhaps I'm getting jaded but in the year since I reviewed the F10, Fujifilm's Natural Night alone didn't do the trick for me.”
Pros
  • 6MP; 3200 ISO; great battery life
Cons
  • 3200 ISO; uses xD Picture Cards

Summary

As denizens of DigitalTrends.com know, we liked the Fujifilm FinePix F10 reviewed a little over a year ago. That 6.3MP camera has gone to digicam Valhalla—in other words, it has sold out. In its stead, Fujifilm released the FinePix F30 with several new tweaks. Luckily the price remained the same at $399 list which translates to around $300 with some judicious searching on the Net. The new digicam added a few features from its predecessor, the highlights being a maximum ISO of 3200, an option only found on more expensive D-SLRs. It also has a new processor that ups battery life to a very nice 580 shots per charge and a much better LCD screen. Now let’s see if the F30 lives up to the legacy of the F10 we liked so much.
Features and Design
The FinePix F30 has a smoother, more refined shape than the F10 and it’s actually a shade lighter (6.8 ounces with battery and xD Picture Card versus 7.2). Measuring 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1 (WHD, in inches), the all-metal F30 is about the size of a proverbial pack of playing cards. You’d have no problem toting this one around all day, or taking it to a party to grab candids of your friends doing things they’d like to forget the next day.
The front is a fairly standard, with a clean look featuring a minimum of self-serving decals, logos and nomenclature. It’s dominated by a 3x Fujinon zoom lens with a built-in lens cover. This lens is comparable to 36-108mm in 35mm terms, the power of most point-and-shoot cameras. Although O.K., 4x or 6x would be much appreciated by even the most casual shooter. Canon’s popular PowerShot A series have 4x optical zooms and they’re top sellers. Are consumers saying something here? Be that as it may, the front of the F30 also has an AF Assist lamp, a tiny mic and flash. One of the new features of this model is i-Flash that adjusts the level of light output, depending on the subject. We’ll talk more about this in the Performance section.
The top of the camera is nicely laid out with a large shutter button, a mode dial and a power key. Like so many other power keys, it’s small and slightly recessed so make sure your nails aren’t trimmed too short. The mode dial has the usual options such as Auto, Movie, Aperture/Shutter Priority and Manual. The more unique settings include Natural Light for shooting in low light, a feature we liked so much with the original F10. This also gives access to myriad scene modes such as Portrait, Snow, Museum and others  There’s also an Anti Blur setting to deal with fast-moving kids or pets. This changes the shutter speed to capture subjects on the go. Like other anti-blur techniques, it’s a pale shadow of any digicam that uses optical image stabilization such as Panasonic Lumix models or the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS.
Fujifilm Finepix F30
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm
The rear of the camera is dominated by the 2.5-inch LCD monitor (there’s no viewfinder as is the case with most digicams in 2006). The LCD is rated 230K, double the number of pixels as compared to the F10, a very good thing. There’s also the wide/tele toggle switch which has some rubberized ridges underneath so your finger won’t slide as you’re zooming. It helps with one-handed shooting, too. The F30 has a four-way controller with center Menu/OK button. Other keys include playback, “F” for access to ISO, resolution and FinePix Color (saturation). There are also Display and +/- keys.
Fujifilm got with the program and eliminated the awkward terminal adaptor cord used with the F10. It was truly a ridiculous design and fortunately, the F30 uses a standard A/V out with mini USB connection and a DC in to charge the battery. You’ll find them on the left side covered by a somewhat flimsy plastic flap. The bottom has a tripod mount and compartment for the battery and memory card slot.
The Fujifilm FinePix F30 comes with a decent kit. You get the camera, strap, battery rated 580 shots versus 500 for the F10, USB and A/V cables as well as an AC power cord. There’s 10MB of internal memory so you can take a couple of shots but make sure you purchase a 512MB xD Picture card so you can save 170 6MP Fine shots (2848 x 2136 pixels). Not to go off on a rant but it still bugs me that Fujifilm and Olympus force their customers to use more expensive cards. A quick look at the SanDisk site shows a 512MB xD card costs $59 while an SD card is $39. Money makes the world go-round, I guess. That off my chest, the camera comes with a 164-page Owner’s Manual that’s fairly well written and a software CD ROM Ver. 5.2b with FinePix Viewer (for Windows and Mac), driver, RAW file converter LE and ImageMixer VCD LE for FinePix. It’s more than enough to transfer photos and make prints.
After loading the battery, charging it up and popping in an xD Picture Card it was time to see how the new F30 performed.
Fujifilm Finepix F30
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm
Performance
The F30 is ready to go in less than 2 seconds, once the power key is pressed. Most of the time is spent waiting for the lens to extend from the body. As usual, I started off in Auto at maximum resolution (6MP Fine) then moved to the fun stuff. Initial set-up is a snap and the onscreen menus are logical and easy to read. In Auto the camera does all the work, which is how most folks take their photos. I took shots during a trip to Baltimore’s Camden Yards and around my New Jersey locale.
In Auto—taking single shots—the camera was fairly responsive, with little lag between shots. However, when you move into Continuous Shooting, the F30 is a bit pokey; a 3fps D-SLR it definitely is not. Still it’ll help you capture your kids on the run. One of my favorite Fujifilm features is accessed by pressing the “F” key. Under the FinePix Color heading there are options for Standard, Chrome and B&W (black-and-white). Basically you’re changing color saturation and I like the more vivid Chrome setting–but that’s just my taste.
Once bored with Auto, it was time to twist the mode dial and see what options Fujifilm engineers offered. In the original review of the F10, I complained about the lack of manual settings. Other than manual focus the F30 hits most of the high notes for point-and-shoot models: aperture- and shutter-priority as well as six white balance options plus custom and exposure compensation are all available. The LCD readouts turn red if you’ve chosen the wrong f/stop or shutter speed, a very helpful feature.
The LCD is quite good, offering a quick gain up off the controller and full adjustment once you enter the menu system. It worked well under practically all conditions. A quick aside: when you hit the Display key you can get grid lines to make sure you take level shots, another helpful feature.
Fujifilm Finepix F30
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm
One of the real world improvements for this camera is a setting called Natural Light & Flash. With Natural Light the camera sets the ISO and takes a shot without a flash. In most instances this works well but sometimes it doesn’t because there’s just too much noise. With Natural Light & Flash, the camera takes two simultaneous shots—one with and one without a flash. Once you get home and see them a big screen, you can decide which one to print. Also new is the i-Flash that automatically adjusts to the scene rather than blasting the same amount of light for every subject. It worked nicely, especially with some indoor close-ups. Even with playing with the intensity of the LCD, zooming and taking loads of flash shots, the battery more than held its own. I really don’t see the need for a spare, unless you’re going into the wilderness with nary a power plug to be seen (just don’t forget for AC adaptor/DC-in cord).
Once we downloaded the images it was time to make some prints.  Your first question—as was mine—how were images taken with ISO 3200? In a word—poor—as one would expect. I’ve used a full-frame Canon EOS 5D D-SLR and there was noise at those nose-bleed levels. Realistically you couldn’t ask for a quality image at that setting, no matter what a manufacturer claims. ISO 1600 was mottled and dot-filled as well but you might squeeze out a 4×6. Noise was evident at 800 but you could live with it. Still the results at 800 were better than almost all of the compact digicams I’ve tested recently. For the record, these were indoor still life subjects shot with available light in Manual. However, once you switched over to Natural Light with Flash things got a lot better. In this mode, you can’t adjust the ISO as the camera does all the adjustments for you. I found them to be quite good as the i-Flash added just enough illumination to make for a pleasing print.
Outdoors, the FinePix F30 did a spot-on job. Colors were nicely saturated (in Chrome) and there was little noise to speak of. However, when I took at shot during a night game, noise again was an issue.
As a final note: The F30 takes short video clips at 640 x 480 pixel resolution at 30 fps with mono sound; the zoom does not work when taking a clip. As mentioned many times before, digicam video capabilities are O.K. for taking a quick scene but stick to a camcorder for the real deal.
Conclusion
Perhaps I’m getting jaded but in year since I reviewed the F10, Fujifilm’s Natural Night alone didn’t do the trick for me. With NL and Flash, it’s a much better result. All in all, the FinePix F30 is a decent but not great point-and-shoot camera. If you stay away from the hyped ISO 3200 and just use it in Auto as well as Natural Light and Flash, you’ll be happy with the results. And make sure you pay under $300 for it—and have the dealer throw in an xD Picture Card to nail down the deal.
Note: Fujifilm also has the 6.3MP FinePix F20 for $299. It has a less powerful battery (300 shots) and the maximum ISO is 2000.
Pros
  • Spot on outdoor photos
  • Handles noise well at lower levels
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good shot-to-shot times
Cons
  • Fairly pokey in continuous shooting mode
  • Way too much noise at high ISOs (1600, 3200)
  • More powerful zoom would’ve been nice
  • Uses more expensive xD Picture cards

Editors' Recommendations