Fujifilm FinePix 6900 Zoom Review
Fujifilm has taken their very popular FinePix 4900 Zoom to the next level with the addition of their new 3.3-megapixel SuperCCD. As seems to be the trend, they have encased this camera in an all-black metal body and have designated it as an "advanced amateur" camera. It is loaded with all the exposure features that you would expect from a flagship product, Program AE, Shutter and Aperture priority as well as full Manual and AE Bracketing. It offers full control over the exposure metering with multi, center-weighted and spot options. The FinePix 6900 generates really big, six-megapixel (2832 x 2128 resolution) files in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF-RGB format for the ultimate in printing or editing quality.
Ergonomically I am quite pleased with the FinePix 6900 Zoom, it feels very solid in your hand thanks to a large and comfortable handgrip. The camera has a certain amount of "heft" to it but it's by no means heavy and the body is a durable metal alloy with a professional looking black finish. The 6x optical zoom lets you easily compose a shot the way you want it without moving anything except for one of the two zoom control switches. You can work the zoom from a rocker switch on the side of the camera or by the 4-way jog switch on the back. Flip the MF/AF switch and manually focus the big lens with the ring on the barrel. The on-screen focus aid shows you with yellow arrows which way to turn the focus ring to achieve the proper distance. And a really neat feature is the Focus Check where the center 50% of the LCD or EVF display is enlarged to make critical focusing a snap. You can also press the one-touch white balance button to momentarily start the autofocus when in manual focus mode. The lens produces excellent images with plenty of edge to edge sharpness but it does exhibit some barrel distortion in full wide angle.
The FinePix 6900 Zoom employs an EVF (electronic viewfinder) which is a fancy term for a small, magnified color LCD display. These EVFs are similar to what you'd expect to find on a high-quality video camcorder. We've seen them on the Canon Pro90 IS, Olympus C-700UZ, C-2100UZ and E-100RS, Sony MVC-FD91, FD95, FD97 and CD1000 and I'm sure we'll be seeing them on many more digicams to come. There are good points and bad points associated with EVF displays. The good points are: TTL viewing, exposure and camera data overlayed on live image, ability to access the menu system and review images outdoors in the bright sunlight and they use a LOT less power than the large 1.8 to 2-inch color LCD displays. The bad points are: Less than optimal color reproduction, often low-res and grainy looking, poor usability in low light conditions and most of them slow down or hesitate during autofocus. I'd have to rate the 6900's EVF at about average when compared to the rest of them that we have used so far, it shows only about 90% of the final captured image.
The first thing that you notice about the FinePix 6900 pictures are that they are very colorful. Fujifilm has spent a lot of time making sure that their new cameras produce the most vivid and realistic colors possible and the 6900 Zoom delivers this is spades. There are menu options for image sharpness but it lacks a setting for saturation or contrast as some may find these images almost too colorful although I think most users will be quite satisfied with them. Many cameras deliver pale or heavily magenta biased "people pictures," the 6900 Zoom definitely does not suffer from this problem. Outdoor scenic shots are dramatic and full of dynamic range as are indoor flash pictures. You can vary the metering to suit your shooting environment unless you leave the camera on AUTO all the time - which does a helluva good job getting it right 95% of the time.
The 6900 Zoom is powered by a rather small NP-80 rechargeable lithium battery which is sufficient for most people's needs but as with all proprietary batteries it is always best to have a spare. The camera cannot be powered by any "off the shelf" kind of batteries so if it goes dead -- it's dead! Included with the camera is a combination charger and AC power supply so you can save your battery power during image downloads to the computer. Speaking of downloads, the high speed USB port will move even the largest images from camera to the computer in a matter of a few seconds. If you're like me and use a card reader then be prepared to deal with removing the tiny and thin SmartMedia card. This is no easy task as the finger grip area is ridiculously small and the card slot does not have any type of ejector mechanism. I had to employ my trusty needle nose pliars to remove those SM cards. Hopefully Fujifilm will use the "push in and pop out" type of card slot on the 6900's successor.
In actual use the 6900 Zoom is quite robust, it saves even the largest images in just a few seconds and the large RAM buffer lets you shoot other shots while it is processing. It has a very fast burst mode where it will capture up to five full resolution images in about one second. As it is processing and storing the images you see a thumbnail display of the five images captured, these thumbnails shows a good bit of detail even on the tiny EVF display. The autofocus is quick and accurate under normal lighting conditions, it does not have a focus illuminator or other low-light focusing aids but you can manually focus if the AF fails. The menu system is clean and easy to navigate and there's a shortcut Shift button function to change the image size or quality without having to use the menu.
The built in flash has good coverage out to about ten feet with menu control of its output strength if required. The hot shoe flash connector lets you attach generic automatic flash units on the 6900 Zoom. The external flash must be an automatic type capable of setting a specific aperture value and ISO speed. You go into the menu and select "external flash" and away you go. I only wish that more cameras had hot shoe mounts and allowed you to easily attach and use generic (read inexpensive) flash units with bounce heads and more output power. Some of the alternatives from other camera makers cost nearly as much as the cameras themselves.
All things considered, the 6900 Zoom is a very good camera in spite of its few shortcomings, it delivers gorgeous color pictures with resolution and dynamic range the equal or better than its 3 to 4-megapixel competition. It's a fun camera to use and the 6x zoom lens will leave the average 3x zoom camera feeling quite inadequate in comparison. The fit and finish of the 6900 Zoom is excellent, it's bigger than pocket size but can be easily carried in your hand or around your neck for hours with little to no fatigue. It does fit in the palm of your hand but expect to be the center of attention when other people see you using it, it is very "cool" looking.
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