Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom Review
With features intended to overcome the limitations of prior generations of cameras, the FinePix F10 is refinement of Fuji's entry entry in the automatic point-n-shoot digicam market. It combines a 6.1-megapixel fifth generation Super CCD HR image sensor, a new Real Photo processor and 3x optical zoom lens with features that help the photographer capture images that other cameras might miss. Novice and intermediate photographers will find the F10's automatic and scene modes easy to use, but the camera lacks the manual, shutter-priority and aperture-priority exposure modes demanded by advanced users.
The F10's body is both functional and attractive. Despite the camera's small size, the extra width provided at the grip makes it comfortable to hold. Its controls are well positioned for ease of use yet they do not get in your way during normal use. I found only 2 things that I did not like about the camera body: the tripod mount is made of plastic rather than metal, and there is no retaining latch to prevent the battery from falling out when the battery/memory cover is opened.
The 2.5-inch LCD display was a pleasure to use, brilliant enough to be usable outdoors in bright sunlight and providing enough "gain-up" to be usable in dim lighting. 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 you've set. You will be relying solely on the LCD as a viewfinder; because the it occupies so much space on the rear of the body, no optical viewfinder is provided.
The F10's lens has a 3x zoom range typical for this class of cameras. At its 36mm wide angle extreme, it provides a field of view useful for 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. The lens exhibited a small amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing in highlight areas), a slight amount of barrel distortion at wide angle, but essentially no pin cushioning at the telephoto end of the zoom range. The lens produced sharp results throughout its zoom range; this very high quality piece of glass complements the F10's autofocus and exposure systems nicely.
The single image shooting performance was quite responsive, with power up to first image captured being just 1.6 seconds. Shutter lag is 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, including the delay in the LCD viewfinder. Autofocus shutter lag measured 5/10 second, but can be improved to 3/10 second by activating High Speed Shooting in the F10's menu system; close-focusing distance is limited to 1 meter in High Speed mode to improve AF performance. Rapid shooting in single shot mode captured images at 1.3 second intervals without flash. The capture rate slowed to intervals of from 1.5 to 8 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance.
The F10 provides 3 modes of continuous shooting, Top 3, Final 3 and Long-period continuous. Both Top and Final capture 3 images in 0.8 seconds, 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, and buffer clearing took a leisurely 6 seconds in both modes. Long-period continuous mode captured and saved up to 40 images at 1.3 second intervals; between shots, the LCD viewfinder is mostly blank, only briefly displaying the live image. All test were done using a 512MB xD memory card, using 6MP Fine image size/quality. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media size, etc.
I was happy with the F10's image quality. Outdoor shots were consistently well-exposed and nicely saturated, and auto white balance reproduced colors accurately. I had been critical of the image quality produced by previous versions of Fuji's Super CCD that used in-camera interpolation to increase resolution; those images contained artifacts of the interpolation process. I'm happy that the F10's fifth generation Super CCD does not rely on interpolation to achieve its 6-megapixel resolution; its image quality is very much improved over its predecessors.
The F10 relies on its high sensitivity, up to ISO 1600, to help you capture images in lighting conditions that other consumer camera's find difficult. Natural Light scene mode can push ISO to 1600 to capture candle-lit scenes, while the F10's Anti-blur feature can adjust sensitivity to obtain a good exposure while maintaining a shutter speed of 1/60 at wide angle or 1/120 second at telephoto. The F10's image noise at sensitivity settings of ISO 800 and 1600 is quite low for a camera in this class thanks to in-camera noise reduction processing, but image detail suffers as a result. At ISO settings of 80 and 100 noise is essentially absent, while noise can be detected in shadows at ISO 200 and in highlight areas at ISO 400. For best results, manually set ISO to 80 or 100 when lighting permits, and switch to Auto ISO in low ambient lighting conditions.
Indoors, the powerful flash produces good exposures in average-sized rooms and provides enough illumination for portraits of moderate-sized groups. The camera's red eye reduction flash mode was effective, but the LCD viewfinder goes blank between the preflash and exposure flash, a period of about 1/2 second. The F10's AF system worked well in low ambient light, aided by the focus-assist lamp. The F10 controls its flash well at close range and its optical zoom can be used in macro mode, making it a good choice for producing images of small objects for online auction listings.
The F10 captures high quality 640x480 or 320x240 movies at 30 fps with sound. The optical zoom lens can be used to compose before, but not during recording. The motion is fluid and there's only a little artifacting visible, as with most digicams we've reviewed, the microphone is very sensitive to any wind noise. 640x480 clips consume more than 1-megabyte per second of recording, so be sure to get a high-capacity xD memory card if you intend to exploit the F10's movie feature.
The F10's battery life was very good, capturing more than 400 images before the battery level indicator showed less than a full charge. The NP-120 lithium ion battery is a proprietary design with no "off the shelf" alternative, so I suggest that you obtain a second and keep it fully charged to avoid those disappointing missed photo ops. The NP-120 is charged in-camera, not in a stand-alone charger.
The Fuji FinePix F10 is a worthy competitor in the point-n-shoot digicam market. It combines excellent low light performance, very good image quality, 6-megapixel resolution and very good shooting performance in a stylish compact body. The F10 will produce pleasing results for users of all experience levels, and at a street price of under $400 it is a good value.
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