At the heart of the Finepix 4900 is the same 2.4-million-pixel Super CCD that's used in the highly-acclaimed Fuji 4700. The beauty of this is that the CCD uses hexagon-shaped pixels, allowing it to get more detail than the oblong elements used on most other cameras. Another by-product of this specially-designed array, is that Fuji claims it can interpolate a higher-resolution image much more accurately. The specification states that you can get a picture that's equivalent to that from a 4.3-million-pixel camera. Although such boastings should generally be taken with a pinch of salt, our experiences shown there's claims are justified.
A 16Mb SmartMedia card is supplied, which is capable of storing nine images using this interpolated setting to provide the best quality JPEGs. You can also opt to store uncompressed TIFFs - in which case you can only fit one image on the supplied card. You can also record movies at ten frames-per-second in AVI format.
The camera comes supplied with a lithium ion rechargeable battery with charger - helping to make the 4900 even better value for money in the long run. The only supplied cables are for use with computers with USB sockets. The excellent Exif Viewer software is supplied for Mac and PC, as well as the DP Editor print ordering program. PC users get additional goodies, including Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE.
Although some of the internal organs are the same as on the 4700, the 4900 has an exterior design and handling that makes it much easier to use - and has the serious user in mind. In terms of handling this is as close to using a 35mm reflex that you can get.
The camera's buttons are well laid out so you soon have your fingers finding most of the controls without fumbling. There's an on-screen menu system, but this is required much less than on other cameras. Nice handling touches include a good-sized servo-assisted lens ring for manual focusing. It has a second LCD for eyelevel shooting rather than an inaccurate optical finder. When manually focusing, you can press a button to enlarge the centre section of the viewfinder to check sharpness more accurately. This makes it feel like using the central matte screen of a traditional SLR. Furthermore, during manual focusing, the AF doesn't stand idle, it gives hints as to which way to turn the dial, and when it thinks you have hit the target.
Another good touch is the on-off button. Because digital cameras drain power at a high rate of knots, cameras turn themselves off after a while to conserve juice. Of course, typically the moment power goes off is when the next photo-opportunity presents itself. A simple, accessible, press-in button on the Fuji gets the camera fired up and ready again.
The best handling feature, however, comes when using the camera in the program mode. Although it has aperture-priority or shutter-priority modes to allow you to control the subject's focusing or speed, the Fuji also gives another quicker and more foolproof way. The facility is known as Program Shift. With a thumbwheel at the back of the camera you can bias the program to your chosen aperture or speed, without deviated from the metered exposure reading.
The same thumbwheel is used in the manual exposure mode to change the shutter speed and the aperture is altered by pressing the exposure compensation button in conjunction with the thumbwheel. There are 13 stops from f/2.8 to f/11 to choose from and shutter speeds from 3 to 1/1000sec.
Other useful exposure features include a good range of ISO speeds from ISO100 to ISO800 and an autobracketing facility that will take three shots at slightly different exposures to help ensure you get one that is the right brightness. There's also a proper flash compensation control that weakens or strengthens output in 1/3-stop increments.
The camera turns in an superb set of pictures - with excellent exposure, and resolution that is definitely better than that from the majority of two or three- megapixel models. Focusing and colour balance are also pleasingly accurate.
This is an extremely well thought out camera which, in comparison to many other digital cameras on the market, is a real joy to use. For those who want a digital alternative to an SLR, but don't have a grand or two to burn, this is one of the best options available.
- Great photographic controls
- Superb picture quality
- Rechargeable batteries
- 6x zoom
- Traditional flash hotshoe
- No B setting
- No continuous autofocus
Test by Chris George