Fujifilm FinePix V10 Review
The first of Fujifilm's V-series of point-n-shoot digicams, the V10 sidesteps the resolution race in favor of thoughtful new features that improve your results in common shooting situations. The V10's 5.1 Megapixel 5th Generation Super CCD-HR is complemented with a versatile 3.4x optical zoom lens and a large 3-inch LCD. The camera's automatic and scene modes provide the ease of use demanded by beginners, and its manual mode provides the more advanced photographer with control of exposure compensation and white balance.
The V10's most noticeable feature is its 3-inch LCD viewfinder, so large that it takes up the entire back of the camera and leaves no room for an optical viewfinder. The LCD is bright and resolute, a joy to use in most conditions. In dim lighting it intensifies the live image, making shot composition a snap. The LCD is bright enough to be usable in most outdoor conditions, although the absence of an anti-reflective coating can limit visibility when the sun is over your shoulder. Fuji exploited the size of the LCD with several features. In playback mode there's a 30-image thumbnail display that allows you to more quickly navigate an xD card full of images. Post-shot Image Display can be set to show a zoomed image, allowing you to quickly determine if the shot was well-focused. The Post Shot Assist Window, activated by depressing the DISP button in shooting mode, displays thumbnails of the last 3 captured shots alongside the live viewfinder image, allowing you to compare and vary shot composition for the desired artistic effect. Finally, the "Natural Light & With Flash" shooting mode captures two images (one with flash and one without) each time you depress the shutter button, briefly displaying the two images side-by-side on the large LCD and providing you with a creative choice. While there may be times that you'll miss having an optical viewfinder, you'll enjoy using the V10's LCD.
The V10's 3.4x Fujinon lens has a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 38-130mm, more versatile than most in its class; the extra range was added to the telephoto end, allowing you to bring your distant subjects a bit closer. The lens produced sharp results throughout its zoom range. This high-quality lens exhibited a very slight amount of barrel distortion at full wide angle, and essentially no distortion at telephoto. Chromatic aberrations were well-controlled, with no purple fringing evident in any high contrast areas. The lens zoomed smoothly and quietly through its range, having 10 steps between wide angle and telephoto - adequate for most shot composition needs.
Ergonomics were good considering the size of the LCD, but you'll surely smudge it with your right thumbprint. The camera's controls were well-located with the exception of the still/movie slider hidden on the side of the body. The uncomplicated menu system was very easy to navigate and see on the large LCD. I've always been a fan of Fuji's "F" menu, providing direct access to image size/quality, ISO and color mode settings. My only complaint with the camera body is its plastic tripod mount.
The V10's shooting performance is good. From power-on till the first image was captured measured under just 2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured 1/10 second, most of that attributable to the delay in the live image on the LCD viewfinder. Autofocus shutter lag measured 6/10 second, but that dropped to 4/10 second using the V10's High Speed Shooting setting, which limits the close focusing distance to 3.3 feet. Rapid shooting in single-shot mode yielded images at 1.3 second intervals without flash, and between 3 and 5 seconds with flash. Shutter lag with red eye reduction flash mode was a surprisingly short 6/10 second, during which the LCD viewfinder goes blank.
The V10 has three continuous shooting modes. The Top 3 and Final 3 capture rates are identical at 3 images at 1/2 second intervals, with a delay of 5.5 seconds before the next burst. Final 3 takes up to 40 shots, but saves only the last 3 captured before the shutter button is released. The LCD viewfinder briefly displays the last captured image in both Top and Final 3 modes, making it difficult to follow a moving subject. Long Period Continuous Shooting captures and saves 40 images at 1 second intervals, showing both the last captured image and the live viewfinder image between shots, making it easier to follow a moving subject. The V10 drops out of continuous shooting mode when image review is activated, requiring you to re-enter the menu system to turn it back on. Our tests were done using a Fujifilm 512MB xD-picture memory card, Manual mode, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.
I was happy with the quality of the V10's 5M Fine mode. Indoors it produced pleasing portrait shots, with good flash exposure, sharp facial and hair detail as well as natural skin tones. The built in flash boasts an effective range of approx. 14 feet at wide angle and auto ISO. This is sufficient for most interior shooting in average sized rooms and portraits of small groups. Despite the absence of a focus-assist lamp, the AF system was very effective in dim lighting. The flash red eye reduction mode was only marginally effective.
The V10's outdoor results were also very good, with the lens and AF system combining to produce good sharpness and the metering and white balance systems producing good exposures with pleasing colors. The V10 uses a very aggressive noise reduction process that makes ISO settings of 800 and 1600 usable, but you'll be happier with sensitivity settings of ISO 400 and lower.
Movie mode allows you to record at resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240 with audio. The frame rate is fixed at 30fps. Because sound is recorded the zoom may be used before recording but not during. Overall it produced good results, our movie clips showed very little compression artifacts (noise) and its AF system worked well. At 640x480, the V10's movies consume more than one megabyte per second of recording, so be sure to get a large xD memory card if you intend to exploit this feature.
Power is provided by a proprietary NP-40 Li-Ion battery. I was able to capture only about 100 images before its capacity was depleted; you'd be well-advised to acquire a spare and keep it fully charged to avoid the disappointment of a unique photo op meeting a dead battery.
Bottom line - While I have not been a great fan of super-sized LCD's when they've come at the expense of optical viewfinders, the V10's 3-inch display is more than just another "size matters" marketing statement; Fuji has exploited its presence with improved features - a 30-thumbnail display, zoomed instant review, Post Shot Assist Window and "Natural Light & With Flash". The camera's 5-megapixel images are very good, and its 3.4x zoom more versatile than its competitors. Add to that usable sensitivity settings of ISO 800 and 1600, and Fuji has created a high-quality point-n-shoot that tackles a variety of shooting situations with ease. If you're in the market for an easy to use compact camera and like large LCD's, the Fuji V10 should be high on your list. Please examine our samples to see what this camera is capable of.
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