Fujifilm FinePix F30 Zoom Review
FujiFilm's Finepix F30 is the latest offering in their "F" series of digital compacts, building on the success of last year's F10. The F30 includes many of the same features found on the F10, like a 6-megapixel Super CCD HR sensor, FUJINON 3x optical zoom lens, and 2.5-inch LCD. While this model can be used by the most inexperienced user with its full Auto mode and creative scene mode, it also offers the more experience plenty of manual control with its Program, Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority and Manual exposure modes.
Despite the camera's small size, I was pleased with its ergonomics. The slightly thicker right-hand side helps offer a more comfortable feel in your hands, and the rubber grips for your thumb make one-handed shooting a snap. The control located on the top and back of the body are well placed and easily accessed by your finger tips. I found the mode dial was very handy for quickly changing exposure modes. The menu system is logically organized, allowing you to change settings without much fuss.
The 2.5-inch LCD display features a low-glare coating, that worked great outdoors, even with the bright sun beating directly on it. When shooting in low lighting, the LCD "gains up" to help aid in framing your subject. The only issue I had with this display was it is still very prone to finger prints; you'll find yourself wiping it off often. When using exposure compensation, the LCD viewfinder previews the result, darkening or brightening the live image in response to the degree of under/over exposure which you have set.
The single image shooting performance was quite responsive, with power up to first image captured being just 1.7 seconds. Shutter lag was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. Rapid shooting in single shot mode captured images at 1.6 second intervals without the flash. The capture rate slowed to intervals from 2.4 to 3.5 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The F30 also offers a High-Speed shooting mode which is activated via the menu system. Using the shot to shot delay was only about 1/10 of a second quicker, not much of a difference in my option.
You can choose from 3 modes of continuous shooting, Top 3, Final 3 and Long-period continuous. Both Top and Final capture 3 images in 6/10 of a second, with Top 3 saving the first (and only) 3 images captured and Final 3 saving the last 3 images captured before removing your finger from the shutter button. The LCD viewfinder briefly displays the last captured image between shots, allowing you to follow moving subjects. It then takes between 5 and 6 seconds to clear a full buffer. Long-period continuous mode captured 10 images in about 13.7 seconds, refocusing between each shot. All tests were done using a 512MB xD memory card, using Auto mode, 6MP Fine image size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media size, etc.
The FUJINON 3x optical zoom offers a typical range for a consumer model. At its 36mm wide angle extreme, it provides a field of view sufficient enough for most interior and landscape shots, while it's 108mm maximum telephoto focal length is effective both for portraits and to bring your distant subjects a bit closer. Overall it helps the F30 produce nice sharp images, with small traces of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) around highlights as well as moderate barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pincushioning at the telephoto end.
Image quality was very good for a 6-megapixel model in this price range. All of our samples were sharp and showed good color balance and saturation. The exposure system did well in most lighting situations, however it did tend to overexpose the sky on very sunny days. When shooting in marginal lighting, you'll be happy the F30 features an AF-assist lamp, which will allow you to focus on subjects in complete darkness. Its flash also has a powerful range of approx. 21.3 feet using ISO Auto. This is due to the camera's ability to us ISO speeds as high as 3200! Overall, I found this flash worked very well for your typical indoor people photos as well as a fill flash for outdoor portraits.
Like its predecessor, the F30 relies on its high sensitivity to help you capture images in lighting conditions that other consumer camera's find difficult. While the F10 had a maximum ISO settings of 1600, the F30 raises the bar with a sensitivity of 3200; something only more advanced dSLRs use to offer. The "Picture stabilization" mode, which uses this ability to offer faster shutter speeds in lower lighting conditions, reducing camera shake and motion blur. I was very surprised at how low noise levels were, even at ISO 800. Both ISO 1600 and 3200 are also quite low for a camera in this class, due to the in-camera noise reduction processing. Image detail, however, does suffer a bit, making pictures look a bit "fuzzy" when being viewed at 100%. However, the usefulness of this feature greatly out weighs the negative effects. Be sure to check out our ISO examples on the samples page.
I was also pleased with our movie mode results. You can capture video at either 640x480 or 320x240 with a frame rate of 30 fps. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may be used to compose before, but not during recording. Our movie samples were great, showing very little compression noise, and the AF system does very well with moving subjects. When using its 640x480 modes, it will consume more than 1-megabyte per second, so if you plan on recording movies frequently, be sure to get at least a 512MB or larger xD memory card.
The F30's "beefy" NP-95 3.6v 1800mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery pack offers excellent battery life in comparison to many of its competitors. While most models in this class feature a tiny battery that can only power them for about 150-200 shots, Fuji claims this pack will allow the F30 to capture up to 580 pictures on a single charge. We were able to capture many of our samples (about 110 shots) and conclude all of our other tests, with plenty of juice left over.
Bottom line - The FujiFilm Finepix F30 is an awesome digital package. With its unmatched ISO capabilities, great image quality, robust performance, durable metal body, and loads of useful exposure modes, the F30 is tuff to beat in the 6-megapixel category. While its retail price of US$399 is a bit more expensive than many of the other 6-megapxiel models, we feel that its versatility and advanced features allow it to still offer a great value.
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