By Matt Metzker
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. Along with these more advanced settings, the F80EXR still includes several "Auto" shooting modes (including your typical "Scene" modes) that will allow any member of your family or office to pick the F80EXR up and start snapping pleasing photos. For those who like to "play" with more advanced controls, the camera does offer a Manual exposure mode.
The Super CCD EXR imaging sensor uses larger pixels, while placing them closer together and in difference arrangement when compared to conventional CCD sensors. This allows the EXR processor to produce images with increased resolution without sacrificing image quality due to cramming more, smaller pixels into the same surface area. It also allows the camera to be more sensitive to light and produce more lifelike colors. There are three EXR modes to choose from: Resolution Priority, D-Range Priority and High ISO Low Noise, which you can choose manually or the camera will select from them automatically. Their intelligent "EXR Auto" exposure mode not only chooses from one of the three modes above, but also combines that chosen setting with one of the standard scene modes (thanks to its scene recognition system). The result is the camera will capture the highest quality images possible, not matter what the shooting situation at hand.
The body of this camera is quite small, especially when you consider that it's packing a 10x optical zoom lens inside. The right side of the frame is slightly "fatter", which is designed to help make holding the camera with your right hand more comfortable. It also allows for simple one-handed shooting. All of the camera controls are easily accessed by your finger tips. Like we saw with the F70EXR, you have to watch your fingers on your right hand to ensure they don't block the flash. One noticeable improvement on the F80EXR is the large 3.0-inch LCD screen. This is a welcomed addition over the 2.7-inch display of old, and we found it worked well in most lighting. The surface is very reflective, which can cause some issues in bright sunny conditions. The live image is nice and bright, so that will help you frame your subject in these harsh conditions.
Image quality has not improved over the F70EXR. By stuffing more pixels onto the same size sensor (12-megapixels compared to 10), we feel that the F80EXR's image quality has suffered when compared to its predecessor. That's not to say that the F80EXR doesn't capture nice photos. We just noticed when comparing them side by side, the F70EXR's photos looked better to us. The most noticeable difference in quality that we noted was imager noise. The F80EXR shows increased amounts of noise over the past model, in almost every situation. Again, we want to reiterate that the F80EXR does capture pleasing 12-megapixel photos for a camera of this size. Exposures are quite nice, as are colors. Images show good contrast and sharpness throughout the frame, with a slight softening seen when viewing at 100% due to noise.
The F80EXR's 10x optical zoom lens boasts a versatile equivalent range of 27-270mm. This will afford a nice wide view for indoor or landscape type photos, while at the same time give you good reach for tight close-ups and brining distant subjects closer. We found that the lens helps the camera produce clear images throughout the zoom range, with moderate barrel distortion at the wide end, along with slight pincushioning at full telephoto. We also saw some small traces of aberrations in some of the high-contrast areas of our photos.
When shooting our M&M man photos, we saw similar results to the F70EXR. At ISO 100 the camera captures beautiful photos that show great detail, however you can see a good amount of noise in low contrast areas and around bright colors. ISO 200 is where noise starts to become noticeable. At the same time, some of the fine details, such as the flag stitching, start to disappear. At ISO 800 is when you will have to start worrying about noise showing up in prints 8x10 and smaller. Although the camera features ISO settings up 12800, which is normally only found on high-end dSLRs, the higher ISO images look horrible. This is more of a gimmick to be honest, as I can not see one single use for the 6400 and 12800 settings as the photos look like a water-color art mode. Even ISO 3200 is unusable for even 4x6-inch photos. Luckily, the camera keeps the ISO to 800 and below when using the auto ISO setting.
The F80EXR's Super Intelligent Flash unit performed well for such a small speedlite. It offers a decent amount of power when compared to other cameras of this size, and was able to give us good illumination on subjects less than 10 feet away; depending on the zoom and ISO settings. Fuji claims a range of up to 13.8ft. (w) at ISO 800. As long as you do not expect this camera to illuminate an open room, you should be pleased with your flash mode shooting results.
Pro Low Light mode, which takes several images at once and combines them into a single image with lower noise, worked quite well. You can see some examples on our samples page where we shot our M&M man under some very low lighting in Auto, EXR Auto, and the Pro Low Light mode. While all three images show similar exposure, you can see that the Pro Low Light mode did help produce less noise than the others. While this seems like a very useful feature, we noted that it was most useful when using a tri-pod for support. Hand holding that camera at shutter speeds of 1/4 of a second would have produced some very blurry photos due to camera shake.
Our videos results were average at best. While our HD samples look great on the 3.0-inch LCD, once you enlarge them on a monitor (like my Dell 24-inch widescreen), you can see that they are not sharp at all. Playback is nice and smooth, and the camera handles exposure well. The optical zoom can also be used during video, but you'll find that it takes a second for focus to catch up. Overall, this is a nice function to have, just don't expect to create the latest blockbuster with this camera.
Battery life was Ok for a consumer mode. FujiFilm claims that you can shoot up to 230 photos on a single charge, which is about average. Many newer cameras are achieving 300+ photos on one charge, which is much more appealing in my opinion. This battery life should get you through a days worth of shooting, however we recommend you pick up a second pack if you are going on vacation. Since the battery is charged outside the camera, you can use one pack while the other is charging.
Bottom Line - FujiFilm's latest EXR FinePix model is a versatile compact camera. This unit has a lot to offer and packs a wealth of cool features inside of its body, including a powerful 10x wide angle zoom, Multi-frame technology, Dog/Cat detection, HD video mode, and much more. With good overall image quality, speedy performance, and a street price of $300 or less, we feel the FujiFilm FinePix F80EXR offers great "bang for your buck" when you consider the versatility and features you are receiving from such a compact package.
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