Fujifilm FinePix F601 Zoom Review
By Movable Type Admin
The FinePix F601 Zoom uses Fujifilm's third-generation Super CCD to capture still images at resolutions up to 2832 x 2128 (6.03 million recorded pixels) by way of its 3.1 million pixel imager. It can also record at 3 megapixel, 1 megapixel and VGA resolution when large prints aren't required. The F601 produces some of the truest colors we've ever seen from any consumer digicam. The folks at Fujifilm have been working very hard to make sure that their cameras capture a wide dynamic range with less "noise" and this camera proves that they have succeeded in that endeavor.
The F601 has broken new ground for point-n-shoot digicams with the addition of the one megapixel modes for ISO 800 and ISO 1600. These produce images only at 1280 x 960 (one MP) with relatively low "noise" in the photos. Also new is the continuous shooting modes at the 1280 x 960 - one megapixel (max. 1.8 frames/sec up to 40 images) and six megapixel resolutions (max. 5 frames/sec up to 4 images.)
Like the FinePix 4800 Zoom, the FinePix F601 Zoom is housed in an all-metal body with a built in lens protector, the overall build quality of the camera is excellent. The control buttons are well laid out and clearly marked as to their functions. The Menu/OK control button on the back is also the zoom function control. Manual dexterity is required when using it to navigate menus and accepting selections without inadvertently changing the selection. It's a good idea to read the user manual to familiarize yourself with the controls, but after using the camera for a while they do become second nature.
The FinePix F601 Zoom adds creative exposure modes like shutter-speed priority and aperture priority AE, thereby adding more depth than many other digicams that are basically just automatic cameras. The "M" Record position on the mode dial allows you to access Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes plus allows for customizing a multitude of parameters: Self timer, Flash Control, Bracketing, Macro, Quality/resolution modes, Set-up (2 sub menus), Metering, Exposure Compensation, Flash Compensation, white balance, AF, ISO, and sharpening mode. The Movie mode captures motion video with sound at 15fps, even in the larger 640 x 480 size for unlimited lengths (until you run out of storage space.) The audio recording mode lets you capture sound alone. The overall performance and features of the F601 Zoom is very impressive for a camera this compact.
The auto focus speed is average at around a second unless the light conditions get too dim and then it often fails altogether and you must resort to manual focus to get the shot in focus. Let's hope the next model comes with a focus assist lamp like many other cameras we have reviewed recently. Indoor flash shots seem a little too warm(red) on the Caucasian skin tone. One thing that I did notice was almost a total lack of any type of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) which has been common in a lot of other digicams.
The F601 Zoom's lens is a marvel of miniaturized optics, similar to the lens used on the 4700 Zoom but much improved. Fuji has eliminated the edge sharpness and barrel distortion that we noticed with earlier models. At power up the lens extends and the camera is ready to snap the first picture in under two seconds. This is half the time required by preceding models. When powered down, the lens retracts fully into the body and is protected by an automatic metal cover - no more lost or dangling lens caps.
The F601 Zoom is powered by a new and very slim proprietary lithium rechargeable battery. This battery pack performed well in our tests and if the color LCD is used sparingly I see no problem with the battery delivering enough power for an average day's use. As with any camera that uses a proprietary battery pack, it is always a good idea to purchase and carry a charged spare at all times. The included power supply / charger is an auto switch type and operates on 100-240V AC. It charges the battery in 5 hours (or less) while in the camera and also functions as an AC power supply for extended use at home.
Fuji's optional CP-FX601 PictureCradle allows you quickly and conveniently charge the camera's battery and make the USB connection to the host computer or connect it to a television for image display. The camera is automatically charged whenever it is placed in the cradle. The FinePix Viewer software automatically launches whenever the camera is placed in the cradle if the USB cable is connected. You can quickly and simply download the images and movies from the camera and view, print or share them. The F601 Zoom can also be used as a WebCam, the cradle holds the camera at a proper angle to capture an upper torso view when the camera is on the desk next to your keyboard. (Note that the optional $60 Picture Cradle is included at no extra charge along with a 2nd 16MB memory card if you use the RitzCamera "buy now" link below.)
As with all digital cameras the bottom line is image quality and the Fuji F601 Zoom delivers beautifully saturated color images that are very true to the original colors. There is a little confusion with the maximum image size because of the SuperCCD imager. The Fuji F601 Zoom uses a 3-megapixel imager but can deliver a 6-megapixel image in its highest resolution setting. These 6-megapixel size images are optimized for making large prints. The 3-megapixel images equal those from any of the other top of the line 3-megapixel cameras and better some of them. The F601 Zoom is priced right ($599 MSRP as of 05/2002) and is a very sturdy and well designed camera that will serve you well, especially if what you want is an easy to use camera that delivers excellent images.
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