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|Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
|Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR review by John Riley.|
Fujifilm has a long and distinguished reputation for producing well made and efficient compacts. The Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR continues that tradition and gives us a camera packed with features that would satisfy almost all photographic requirements.
The camera is aimed at both beginners and enthusiasts who want a solidly built quality compact with a large zoom range. Many cameras offer this versatility but do not always deliver the quality. It will be interesting to see if this Fujifilm compact can offer the optical quality to match its solid construction.
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Features
The Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR offers Fujifilm's latest 12MP version of its EXR sensor, which is said to change its behaviour depending upon the scene. High resolution, wide dynamic range and low noise are all balanced by the camera or the user to optimise the end result. A three inch LCD offers a clear view of the scene with 460,000 dot resolution. A selection of exposure modes includes the usual P, S A and M modes, plus advanced, Scene Position and EXR. Included in the Advanced setting is a novel 360 degree panoramic mode. These modes are accessed through an interesting slanted mode dial. We shall see whether this design improves handling or not.
Intelligent Functions include Face Detection, Face Recognition, Auto Release mode and Film Modes. The Film Modes offer a simulation of popular styles of Fujifilm films, plus Black & White and Sepia.
The focusing system now offers both phase detection and contrast AF. Single and continuous modes are available with Centre, Multi and Tracking AF frame selection.
The flash unit is a pop-up design that presumably aims to take the flash slightly away from the lens axis. In theory this should reduce the risk of red-eye. The flash unit pops up regardless of whether or not the flash is active or suppressed. There are a number of flash modes and the unit has been designed to reduce or eliminate the “white-out” effect that can occur if the flash is too powerful for nearby objects.
The Fujinon zoom lens is a 4.4–66mm f/3.5-5.3, which in 35mm film terms equates to a remarkably range of 24-360mm. The lens shows excellent rigidity even when fully extended.
Image stabilisation makes the longer focal lengths much more viable in general use and we have from Fujifilm an IS system based on CCD shift.
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Handling
The camera is not heavy at 215g with battery and card, but it is reassuringly solid courtesy of the metal construction. The sculpted body shape offers an effective and steady grip. Construction quality is excellent and the operation of all buttons and features is smooth and slick.
In terms of handling there are however a couple of glitches. The first is that the pop-up flash always pops up, regardless of whether or not it is activated, and rather gets in the way of the natural way to hand hold the camera.
The second is that the two dials can very easily be accidentally shifted. The mode selection dial gains no real benefit from being angled, in fact it would be better placed in the conventional way, and constantly ended up slipping onto another setting. The same applies to the thin ring around the four-way rocker switch on the back. This, for example, changes the aperture value in A mode, but is far too easily moved.
The start up time is quite slow at around 2.6 seconds. Clearly we are becoming used to much faster times in new cameras.
Notwithstanding these minor points though, the camera generally operates well and is a pleasure to use.
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Performance
With digital cameras the thing generally to avoid is the over-exposure that leads to objects or areas being washed out. For this reason it is very useful to have quick access to the exposure compensation feature and the Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR is excellent in this respect.
Spot metering is a useful feature for those who understand properly what it does, centre weighted often used as a general purpose setting and Multi aimed at beginners. The most accurate general setting in this case proved to be Centre Weighted as the Multi setting was quite prone to over exposure.
This may be deliberately set to ensure adequate shadow detail, but the resulting washed out highlights are best avoided. Permanently dialling in –1/3 EV compensation was found to preserve all the detail and ensure richer colours. There can be a downside to this which becomes apparent when we look at the noise performance.
Focusing was totally reliable and there seemed to be virtually no circumstances that could fool the camera. Centre spot focusing was the most efficient, always locking on to the correct point. The various tracking and multi modes were less reliable, but mainly because the camera itself is quite slow in operation and does not lend itself well to action subjects.
Macro mode only allows a rather modest closest focus of 5cm at the widest setting and 1.2m at the longest, so it is quite easy to approach too close to a subject. The camera does give a clear warning when this happens.
In good outdoor lighting at modest ISO settings the camera offers excellent low noise images. The achilles heel though does appear to be the noise level and it is clear that by ISO400 noise levels are really becoming noticeable.
ISO100 and 200 settings are fully usable, ISO400 is starting to show deterioration. By ISO800 this is affecting shadow areas badly, even more so at ISO1600. Only medium sized files are possible at ISO3200 and only small at ISO6400 and 12800.
I personally don't find anything above ISO400 usable. This severely limits the production of high quality images in lower light levels and also has quite an unpleasant effect on shadow areas in otherwise brighter subjects. This is a pity as the camera otherwise produces very pleasing results.
|Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
Accurate flesh tones have always been the norm with Fujifilm sensors and this camera is no exception. Smooth, accurate reproduction gives exemplary results.
The entire colour range is rendered accurately and with finesse. Bold colours are well recorded, pastel shades are subtly rendered. The colour charts reveal an excellent performance and this is fully realised out in the field with actual photographic subjects.
When using the various scene settings such as Sunset the camera faithfully recorded the colour of the ambient light.
The greyscale performance reveals something of the nature of the Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR. In daylight the darker areas are not differentiated well and become lost in the noise. This only really becomes a problem when the light levels fall but it is clearly an area where improvements could be made.
The same behaviour is revealed when the Black & White and Sepia settings are used – the images are quite dull and will need perking up in an editing program such as Photoshop. Looking at these options, Black and White is commendably neutral. The sepia tone offered is of course a matter of taste and is pleasant enough, but maybe a little pink in hue for my personal taste.
I was impressed by the white balance performance, which was reliable and accurate. Obviously, as the test images show, tungsten lighting is a little outside the range of AWB, but this is to be expected. In most circumstances AWB produces accurate and pleasing results. Where we move beyond this there is the usual range of options, including a useful underwater setting that will please those who dive. I suspect that many people never move from AWB and they will I think be more than happy with the results that it generally produces.
Integral Flash/Flash Modes
My only disappointment here is that even with the flash suppressed the built in flash still pops up and gets in the way of holding the camera. Maybe in a future model the option could be allowed that would enable the flash to remain parked until needed.
The flash is well balanced for fill-in in daylight and general use, but subjects do need to be fairly close to the camera. The output is quite easily fooled by bright areas in the image and as a consequence it is not uncommon for the images to be under-exposed.
Noise can become evident in flash images where a bright subject is in front of a dark background.
This is not a fast camera and start up time was quite slow at almost 3 seconds. There was generally no problem in normal everyday shooting, but when shooting in continuous mode there was a delay of some 12 seconds when writing 5 images to the SD card.
The specification suggests 250 shots on one battery charge and even with constant reviewing of images and some fairly intense shooting I have nowhere near exhausted the charge after some 200 shots. Battery life looks well up to expectation and should exceed the 250 images comfortably.
This is a good lens. Not perfect, but a good performer that offers a very wide range and is fully usable at all focal lengths. It is solidly built and has excellent stability even when fully extended. I was pleased that the maximum aperture held well over the entire range, giving a usefully wide maximum aperture at the longest end.
The downside seems to be limited macro capability, but performance is at least well maintained.
Centre and edge quality are well held over the frame, but the lens does peak at the middle aperture quite noticeably. Generally at any focal length only three apertures can be selected, wide open, a mid point and closed down. The mid point aperture offers clearly crisper images, but the extremes are perfectly acceptable and only the most critical users are likely to notice.
There is commendably little chromatic aberration – this really has been sorted out by Fujifilm. Even the most challenging subjects showed virtually no colour fringing. Distortion is also commendable low, a little pincushion perhaps but nothing that shows up in normal photography. These are real achievements in such an ambitious zoom lens.
Flare is more of a problem and sometimes this shows as a thin veil over the entire image. With anything backlit flare soon appears and it was easy to induce, but to be fair it was quite difficult to make the lens flare badly.
Overall I enjoyed the quality of this lens and it produced some really impressive images. It would be useful if it focused closer and if the flare levels were lower, but it provides a high quality objective that covers almost all possible requirements in general photography.
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Verdict
The Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR is a great camera to take anywhere, any time and know that it is capable of recording almost anything. A wide zoom range, excellent construction quality, enormous versatility in the settings and options available. Even though there are a few operational glitches, such as the easily moved dials, susceptibility to flare and noise levels somewhat on the high side, it still has a lot to offer. A thoroughly enjoyable camera to use that is capable of very respectable results.
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Pros
Excellent solid construction
Accurate and consistent AF
Good colour reproduction
Comprehensive range of features
Wide zoom range
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Cons
Dials easily moved by accident
High noise levels beyond ISO400
Susceptible to flare
Built in flash still pops up when suppressed
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR: Specification
|What comes in the box||Li-ion battery NP-50, Battery charger BC-45W, Hand strap, A/V cable, USB cable.|
|Lens||15x optical zoom 4.4 - 66mm, equivalent to 24-360mm on a 35mm camera.|
|Max. Image size||4000 x 3000|
|LCD monitor size||3in|
|Focusing system||Mode Single AF / Continuous AF Type TTL contrast AF / Phase detection AF AF frame selection Center, Multi, Tracking|
|File types||JPEG, AVI, WAVE|
|ISO sensitivity||ISO100 - 12800|
|Metering modes||Programmed AE, Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Manual|
|White-balance||Auto, Custom, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light 1(Daylight), Fluorescent light 2(Warm White), Fluorescent light 3(Cool White), Incandescent light, Underwater.|
|Shutter speed range||1/2000 - 8 sec
|Anti-shake mode||Image stabilisation|
|Movie mode||1280 (1280X720:HD), 24 frames/sec. 640 (640 x 480:VGA), 30 frames/sec. with monaural sound.|
|Interface||USB 2.0 High-Speed
|Power||NP-50 rechargeable battery
|Size (wxdxl)||103.5 x 59.2 x 32.6mm|
|Weight (with battery)||195g|
The Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR costs £259.00 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR