Fujifilm FinePix E900 Review
As the new flagship model of its "E" series camera line, Fuji equipped the FinePix E900 with its proprietary 5th Generation Super CCD-HR (High Resolution) sensor system having a native resolution of 9-megapixels. The E900's upgraded image sensor is complemented by features retained from Fuji's previous top of the line E550, notably its high-quality 4x optical zoom lens and robust shooting performance. While the E900's more advanced features will have great appeal to the experienced photographer, it has retained the Automatic and Scene modes that accommodate the needs of the beginner.
The E900 is equipped with a FUJINON 4x optical zoom lens with a focal length range of 32mm to 128mm in 35mm equivalence. The lens' 4x range is more versatile than its 3x competitors, providing more field of view at wide angle and greater magnification at telephoto. The lens produced sharp results throughout its zoom range, although it exhibited corner softness at f/8 at full wide angle, and at all apertures at full telephoto. There was noticeable barrel distortion at full wide angle, but no pincushioning at full telephoto; only a slight amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was present throughout the zoom range in high contrast areas. The operation of the optical zoom is smooth and quiet, but not continuous; it moves through its 32-128mm range in 13 distinct steps, adequate for composing most shots. Fuji offers 0.76x wide-angle 1.94x telephoto conversion lenses that extend the zoom range to 24mm-248mm; those accessories were not tested.
The FinePix E900's shooting performance is very good. From power up to first image captured averaged about 2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between pressing the shutter release and capturing the image, measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 4/10 of a second including autofocus; the LCD viewfinder adds less than 1/10 second to those numbers due to the delayed live image, a very good performance. Shot-to-shot delay averaged 1.2 seconds without use of the flash and between 4 and 9 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. The LCD viewfinder is turned off during flash recharge and after the red-eye pre-flash.
The E900's continuous shooting modes capture 4 shots in 1.6 seconds; Final 4 mode releases the shutter up to 40 times, saving only the 4 images captured before removing your finger from the shutter button, while Top 4 mode captures and saves the first (and only) 4 images. While the images are captured rapidly, buffer clearing of the four 9-megapixel fine quality images takes a leisurely 10 seconds. The E900 also has a long-period continuous shooting mode that captures up to 40 images at intervals of just over 1 second.; this mode can be used only AUTO or one of the four scene Photography modes. In all continuous shooting modes the E900's LCD briefly displays the last captured image, providing limited help with following a moving subject; I preferred to use the small but effective optical viewfinder in continuous mode. The E900's responsiveness will help you to capture most unposed moments and sports action. Our tests were done using an Olympus 512MB xD-Picture card, 9M/Fine size/quality, preview off, flash off (unless otherwise noted), and all other settings at default. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The fifth-generation Fujifilm Super CCD HR imager captures a native resolution of 9 megapixels (3488 x 2616) without the in-camera interpolation function of its predecessors. We've never been big fans of in-camera interpolation, and we're happy that Fuji has abandoned it in the E900. I was pleased with the E900's outdoor results. The images were well-exposed and nicely saturated; greater saturation is available by using Chrome Color mode within the E900's F menu. The lens and autofocus system combined to produce good image sharpness using standard settings. The 4x optical zoom lens has plenty of field of view at wide angle for landscape shots, and the magnification at the 128mm telephoto end will bring your distant subjects closer. The LCD viewfinder has no anti-reflective coating; it was somewhat difficult to use for menu navigation and image review in bright sunlight despite its brightness adjustment.
The E900's image noise characteristics are very good. Noise is essentially absent at ISO 80 and 100. Shadow noise becomes detectable at ISO 200, and noticeable at ISO 400. At ISO 800, noise is noticeable throughout the image, but not to the extent that it is unusable. The E900's noise reduction process does reduce fine details at ISO 800, but users will appreciate having ISO 800 available more than they will regret the loss of detail.
Indoor shooting benefitted from the relatively powerful flash (12.1 foot range at wide angle) and better than average field of view at the wide angle end of the zoom range. The combination is good for portraits of individuals and moderate sized groups, but don't expect to illuminate a banquet room. The E900's red eye reduction flash mode was effective, and you'll be able to include yourself in group portraits thanks to the E900's tripod socket and self-timer. Although it has no focus-assist lamp, the E900's autofocus system performed quite well in conditions of low ambient light, easily achieving focus lock in average incandescent room lighting. The LCD briefly "gains-up" the live image during autofocus in conditions of low ambient light. This helps you compose the shot in such conditions, but I preferred the optical viewfinder in dim room lighting. The E900 did a good job of squelching its flash during macro-photography, and would make an acceptable camera for online auction product shots. When using the Macro focus mode, the optical zoom is locked at wide angle.
The E900's body is small and light, easily fitting into your pocket or purse. Despite its small size, it is comfortable to hold; the controls are well organized and not subject to accidental activation. My only criticism of the body is that the battery/memory door access is blocked when the camera is mounted on most tripod heads. The E900's battery life is good. Using a single pair of AA NiMH 2500mAh rechargeable batteries, I was able to capture about 220 shots before a low battery warning occurred. We always recommend using NiMH batteries when possible, they last longer, save you money, and you should always have an extra freshly-charged set on hand to avoid the disappointment of a unique photo op meeting a dead battery.
The Fuji FinePix E900 has features that will please photographers of every experience level, but it greatest appeal will be found among advanced users. Its outdoor results are pleasing, and its shooting performance is impressive. Its 9-megapixel images are capable of producing high-quality 11x14-inch and greater prints and, because of its great resolution, even aggressive cropping can produce high-quality 8x10's. The E900's indoor results benefit from its wide angle zoom, good autofocus performance, effective red eye reduction and adequate flash range. If you're looking for a stylish, pocketable family digicam with impressive performance and very high resolution, the Fuji FinePix E900 is quite worthy of consideration. And with a street price of around $400 at the time of this review (December 2005), it's a good value.
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