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Back in the day, if a new technology was released then the camera with the technology fitted would cost an arm, a leg, a spleen and several feet of small intestine. So why is face detection available in a camera costing £175? Not that we're complaining.
- Sensor: CCD - 8.3 Mp
- Image Size: 3296 x 2472 pixels
- Lens: 36-108mm, f/2.8 to f/5.1
- Focus: TTL Auto - 8cm Macro
- Exposure: Program AE
- Metering : 256 Zone TTL
- Monitor: 2.5in. TFT LCD
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Storage: Internal/xD/SD
- Batteries: Rechargeable Lithium-ion
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 96 x 59 x 23mm - 181g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
Conveniently, the F40 is aimed at the happy snapper market so doesn't cost a lot. Other companies have cameras in the price range with similar features. Canon have the Powershot A570 IS at £179 which has Image stabiliser , 4x optical zoom but only 7Mp. Available from Nikon is the S200 again with 7.1Mp and electronic image stabiliser and also priced at £179, and both have Face detection.
Modes and features
As standard these days, the power button is set on the top of the camera and the zoom switch is located wrapped around the shutter release. The camera is not the most comfortable to hold, although it is not unpleasant and the screen is a bright and colourful 2.5in.
The features are all at your thumb or finger, making light work of any adjustments that need to be made, but when not using the dials, there is no place to put your thumb so it has to rest on the buttons raising the possibility of pressing something mid-shot.
Fuji have fitted the dial on the back and features settings of Auto, Shake reduction, Natural light, Portrait mode as SP1, Landscape mode as SP2, Movie mode, Manual and Natural & flash.
Choosing one of the modes will display a brief illustration of what can be achieved using that setting. Whilst useful, think about when you are using this camera in a year. When you have settled on an SP mode and the explanation comes up, the camera gives you the opportunity to press menu and go to more scene modes where you can scroll through Text, Flower, Party, Museum, Underwater, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Fireworks, Night and Sport. What Fuji are giving you is the opportunity to set any of these modes to the SP1 or SP2 buttons.
The Natural & Flash button takes two sequential shots, one with a flash and one without then displays them side by side allowing you to see which one you would like to discard. This is a nice feature as it is not always easy to change the mode and get the same shot.
The Finepix button is recognised by the letter F and gives access to ISO , Power save management, Quality and Effects. Power management allows adjustments to the screen or the power down time. ISO will let you adjust the ISO rating of the camera but only in Manual mode and has a range from ISO100 to ISO1600. The quality rating gives a range of 0.3Mp, 2Mp, 4Mp, 3:2, 8Mp Normal and 8Mp Fine. The 3:2 gives a panoramic effect. The final option is the effects which allow you to change the image to Black &White or Chrome which gives a slightly cooler tone like you have a Fuji slide film in.
The display button rotates three options of Information on screen, rule of thirds grid and No information. This has been a staple feature of the Finepix collection for some years now and the rule of thirds grid is a very useful thing to have.
One other useful feature the camera has is an LCD brighten up button accessed by pressing up on the navigation button.
Choosing Manual mode then pressing the Menu button allows access to Exposure compensation, Photometry which is a fancy way of categorising metering modes (think of what logistics has done for haulage), White balance has a choice of Fine, Shade, three Fluorescent light options and Incandescent which is another fancy word, this time for tungsten. Three other modes are available including continuous shooting, AF modes and access to the set-up of the camera. The set-up is the same as always, four tabs at the top allowing you to briefly scan over the options available to you and adjust things if necessary.
The face detection facility has the honour of its own button which is located bottom right and is very effective. Hardware-based face detection is built directly into the processor which reduces the lag time to 0.05 of a second. This is a vast improvement on Nikon's Software-based face detection technology. It also tracks the face in the image to ensure that it always comes out focused and can even recognise a face when side on.
The F40fd has an internal memory that can hold six images at its highest resolution. It also has the capacity of taking the xD memory card as well as SD memory which is very useful, but could be a sign of Fuji dumping the xD format.
Build and handling
The camera is made of a mixture of metal and plastic, although the plastic is very cleverly coated so it feels just like metal. The camera is weighty like a metal camera would be and is nicely balanced.
The controls are easy to use and nicely laid out as you would expect from Fuji. The only thing I disagree with on the controls is the use of unnecessary words like Photometry and Incandescent. Most people who the camera is aimed at will not understand these terms and while Fuji look cool using them, all it will do is confuse.
One niggling thing I discovered is that when entering the Menu, all options are accessed by pressing the right key on the navigation pad. When reviewing images on the camera and deleting, to confirm the erase, you have to press left. I found this frustrating as I got into a habit of pressing right to confirm options but according to Fuji technical, this is intentional to stop people erasing images by mistake.
The Automatic mode offers four flash modes which are the usual suspects of Auto, Red-eye reduction, Flash override on and Flash override off. These are labelled as Forced flash and Suppressed flash.
The Manual mode offers the same flash offers as before but with Slow sync and Slow sync with Red-eye reduction. The Slow sync gives a burst of flash and a slow shutter speed to light up darker backgrounds which is suitable for night shooting.
The camera appears to have no buffer memory as in the ten second test, three shots were fired on continuous shooting and the camera downloaded to the memory before taking another. In total, the camera took 14 seconds to shoot and download three images which is pathetic.
Images shot at 1600ISO understandably have visible noise to the point where the details of the petals have been blurred out by grain.
The flash is competent with a distance of 6.5m at wide angle, 3.5m at telephoto and 0.8m on Macro with the ISO set to Auto.
The primary colours are nicely saturated and all other colours are balanced well.
Macro focuses on a small part of the image and can close in up to 5cm.
Spot metering works on the zoom as the subject covers more of the metered area so ignores the sky.
This image appears darker on the manual mode, which could be a heavy cloud on this overcast day.
The noise is relatively low on the lock image but the image has burnt out the sky.
The F40fd gives a decent performance at 100ISO showing good detail in the petals and that detail only starts to disappear after 800ISO where the petals change colour too. 200ISO and 400ISO hold up well and give good results. Predictably, 1600ISO shows a mass of noise and the red of the petals have darkened considerably although Fuji claim this is less than other companies as the chip they use has hexagonal pixels to give a clearer , sharper image.
The F40 is a very capable camera and lives up to the family name. I would like to see more simplistic names for features, but the camera is very easy to use, the features are well set out and the camera is not uncomfortable to use. I did find that as I was holding the camera, the battery door would slide open. The battery or memory card will not fall out as they are snared in the compartment, but this is annoying all the same. As it could get caught and snapped off. There is also a sensor on the door so when it is opened, the camera automatically switches off.
The F40 is primarily designed and aimed at the amateur market and for the price, their are some good features on it. The face detection is available on the Canon A570IS and the Nikon S200 although the Nikon is Software-based which is slower. The only major advantage is that the Fuji offers higher resolution at a slightly lower price.
Face detection technology
Easy to use features
Natural & Flash setting allows to compare
No place for the thumb
Battery door opens too easily
The Fujifilm Finepix F40fd costs £175 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here .