Steve's Conclusion

Steve's Conclusion

Topping the Fuji FinePix "J" series of cameras is the J250. This compact digicam features a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, Scene Recognition Auto (SR AUTO) mode, and a 5x optical zoom lens, making it very versatile and incredibly easy for anyone to use. There is also a full selection of selectable scene modes, so you can always find a mode for the current shooting situation. Fuji's Dual Image Stabilization helps to keep image blur from camera shake out of your images.

This compact model is easy to handle with two hands via the "pinch" method, but is difficult to handle with just one hand without covering part of the large LCD screen on the back. This 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot, LCD screen is clear and very easy to see thanks to 11 levels of brightness. In the small space to the right of the screen you will find the camera controls, which sits nicely under your thumb for easy access. Just be sure to watch the mode dial, it can be turned accidentally with thumb, especially when trying to operate the camera with one hand.

Performance from the J250 is nothing to get excited about. It takes 4 seconds before the camera can capture its first image after being turned on. This means that you need to have it out and ready well before you need to capture an image, not too helpful for those spur of the moment situations. The shutter lag is also a bit slow at 4/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and between 1.2 and 1.7 seconds when allowing the camera to auto-focus, depending on light and distance. In single shot mode, the camera can capture one image every 3.5 seconds (5 images in 17.2 seconds) without the flash. With the flash it goes up to almost one image every 5 seconds with 5 images in 23.3 seconds. Also featuring a burst mode, the J250 is capable of capturing 3, 10-Megapixel fine images in just 2.1 seconds. These three images fill the buffer and you have to let the camera save them before capturing any more. This feature is only available without the flash. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Professional 133x 8GB SDHC (class 6) memory card, auto shooting mode, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Outdoors, the camera captured images that show good exposures and colors. However, these images also display significant edge softness, especially at the wide end of the zoom as well as noticeable amounts of noise throughout (even at ISO 64) and some aberrations in high contrast areas. Also at the wide end of the 5x optical (35mm equivalent of 28-140mm) zoom, there is a good amount of barrel distortion, which is common for a consumer digicam with a wide lens. With 5x magnification, the lens will allow you to capture vast landscapes and group portrait shots, while the telephoto end will get you a little closer to your subjects. We found the telephoto end was best used for framing tightly on your portrait subjects.

Our indoor samples also show good color and exposures throughout the ISO range. There is a high level of noise for each of the ISO levels, which softens these images and removes a lot of the fine details. When viewing image at 100%, the presence of noise at ISO 200 is unacceptable and it only gets worse as the sensitivity increases. Helping to illuminate your indoor and low-light shots is a built-in flash with a range of up to 9.8 feet at ISO 400. This is a rather short range for a flash and due to the amount of noise present at ISO 400 you will want to be much closer in order to keep the ISO setting down. Our macro shots show that the flash is controlled very well, however, the lens gets in the way of the left side of your image, casting a shadow over the bottom left corner as seen in our two macro-with-flash sample shots.

While shooting in portrait mode, the face detection works very well finding and following faces, even those of young kids. In order to guarantee sharp images without motion blur or camera shake, the camera tends to raise the ISO and shutter speed adding additional noise to the image. Our portrait sample shows a very well exposed image with good skin tones and colors, but you don't even have to view the image at 100% to see the noise that is present here.

Movie mode on the J250 allows for basic, 640x480 or 320x240 video capture with sound. The video captured by the camera is mostly smooth with some noise present no matter what the lighting conditions are. With high speed motion or fast moving objects, the video does tend to get choppy as seen in our sample video. The camera's built-in mic is very sensitive, capturing all sounds that are near the camera, including wind. Positioning yourself to block the wind or away from anything that hums or makes any kind of noise can greatly increase the quality of the audio.

Powering the J250 is a 3.7V, 740mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Fuji claims that this will provide enough power to take 150 images (CIPA) on a single charge. During our tests we were able to capture 125 images and several videos before the battery died. The battery indicator shows 3 levels, full, half and empty. There was very little warning of the low battery. The first time we noticed the red low battery indicator, only 1 more image was taken before the camera died and would not turn on. Fuji also includes an external charger that allows you to easily keep a second battery charged and ready at all times.

Bottom Line - The Fuji FinePix J250 is a compact, entry-level digicam with a versatile zoom range, and various other appealing features (10-megapixels, SR AUTO, etc.). It is also very easy to operate, however with the poor shooting performance and image quality we noted above, we feel there are several other options you should consider at the US$200 price point. These include the Kodak M1093 and  Canon PowerShot A1100 IS as well as Nikon's CoolPix S230 andCoolPix S220, just to name a few.

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