By Josh Fate
The Super CCD EXR imaging sensor uses larger pixels and places them closer together and in a new arrangement, allowing the processor to have a higher image resolution without sacrificing image quality due to cramming more, smaller pixels into the same surface area. This also allows the sensor to be more sensitive and produce more lifelike colors in your images. This sensor is also capable of being set to one of three specific modes: Resolution Priority, D-Range Priority and High ISO Low Noise, which can be set by the user or selected automatically by the camera. EXR Auto allows the camera not only to select one of the sensor modes above, but then combines the chosen setting with one of the pre-programmed scene modes, via the cameras Scene Recognition system. The result is the camera will capture the highest quality images possible, without the user having to do anything but point-and-shoot. One of the benefits of their newer EXR processor is the Multi-frame technology, which captures several frames at once that will then be aligned and combined in-camera into a single image.
With a large 15x optical zoom lens and automatic pop-up flash, the body of the F300EXR is surprisingly compact. Its controls are well placed and easy to use, especially the mode dial, due to the angle in which Fuji positioned it. For instant HD video recording, the dedicated video record button is easily accessed by the thumb and the camera is always ready. Framing and viewing your images is accomplished on the 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen. With twice the pixels of conventional 3.0-inch displays and 100% frame coverage, you will be able to see more within your image than on most LCDs.
Our outdoor image samples show that the camera produces an excellent overall image, with great exposures and colors that really pop. Shooting in EXR auto, the camera was ready for every situation that we threw at it, and only struggled slightly with the early morning museum shot. The shadows were exposed well, but there is some overexposure in the bright sunlight. When you look at 100% you will notice a couple instances of chromatic aberrations and some edge softness throughout our outdoor samples. Composing you images, near or far, is very easy thanks to the generous 15x Fujinon optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 24-360mm, it has an excellent wide end that can capture incredibly vast landscapes and large group portraits, while the telephoto end will get you closer than most standard telephoto zoom lenses.
Looking at our indoor images, you can see that the edge softness is still evident making the last couple magazines just a little harder to read than the rest in our M&M photo series. The images also have a very warm tone to them, giving the entire image a yellowish color. ISO 100 through 400 are incredibly clear, showing a great deal of detail, even the threading in the flag. ISO 800 starts to show a good amount of noise, but is still acceptable. Any setting higher than that should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Assisting with your low-light images is a small, built-in flash with a range of up to 10.5ft. (W) at ISO 800. This isn't a very big range, especially with a 15x optical zoom.
Portrait photography is fairly easy with the F300EXR. The camera's face detection did struggle a little to detect our young face, but it worked very well once it did. We can see natural skin tones and colors with an exposure that is perfectly set for the subjects face. With the red-eye reduction flash active, there was no evidence of any redness in the eyes. To go along with Fuji's face detection, they have also included face recognition, which once a face is registered, the camera will always know who it is. When one of these faces is found in the frame, the camera will give it priority over any others. This also allows you to search through your images for a special person.
The camera also features several other advanced shooting modes that assist you in your creative photography. Pro Low Light mode takes several photographs and combines them into a single image with lower noise than the originals. Pro-Focus mode allows you to capture a crisp subject with a soft, out of focus background. The camera takes several images to soften the background around your suject. Finally there is the Motion Panorama 360 mentioned above. This allows you to capture an image that represents a full 360 degree turn. While very "cool" options, there is a hidden drawback to shooting with these aforementioned shooting modes. They will not capture full 10-Megapixel images, instead the highest resolution images that these cameras can handle is 6-Megapixels. That's still plenty of resolution for larger prints however, just as long as you do not apply any heavy cropping.
Our HD video samples, captured in less than perfect lighting, were a little disappointing. While they play back smoothly on the camera, they are dark and full of noise. While we expect to see a little bit of noise from a compact digicam, there is more here than we would like to see. The camera also seemed to have a lot of trouble with the autofocus while it is recording. All of the samples we captured were on the blurry side. Thanks to the HDMI port on the camera, you can watch your HD videos on any HDTV as long as you carry have an extra HDMI cable. Capturing the sound for your movies is a small microphone built into the body of the camera. This will pick up all of the sounds around the camera and not necessarily the sounds of what you are shooting. This includes any background noises, many of which you might not notice at the time. Furnaces, A/C units and the wind are you main causes of these noises.
Powering the F300EXR is a 3.6V, 1000mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. During the completion of our tests, we were able to capture approx 150 images and videos with no battery problems. This is a good indication that you should have no trouble getting the 250 images that Fuji claims the battery can provide on a single charge. They have also included a small quick charger with the camera, making it easy to keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - Fuji's FinePix F300EXR is a versatile 12-Megapixel digicam that is easy enough for anyone to pick up and capture outstanding images. It's EXR image sensor and shooting modes take care of all of the camera settings, only leaving the photographer to point and shoot. With the large list of features included, you have options that allow you to capture great close-ups with the 15x optical zoom lens, or full 360 degree panoramic photos. Thanks to its innovative phase detection pixels, it also performs as well or better than any other compact camera. With a MSRP of US $329.95, this is an excellent option for anyone looking for a fast, high quality digicam.
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