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Fujifilm FinePix F30 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 26/07/2006
Rating: Highly Recommended / Excellent
Author: Matthew Waller
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Introduction: Released on the 1st of July 2006, the Fujifilm FinePix F30 is an ultra-compact 6 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5" screen. The camera has the ability to take photos at ISO 3200, while most ordinary digital cameras stop at ISO 400. The 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 35 - 105mm on a 35mm camera. The Fujifilm FinePix F30 is available from around £220, this makes it good value for money for a compact digital camera with excellent image quality. The camera is enclosed in a sturdy body and is available in silver. The F30 can record video in 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with sound. The body measures approx. 100.5 x 60 x 21 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs approx. 140g. excluding battery and memory card. The Fujifilm FinePix F30 is the "bigger brother" to the F10 - the F30 features better looks, a clearer screen, and has improved options for photographers..

The Fujifilm FinePix F30 is the update to the highly popular Fujifilm FinePix F10 - Rated as the DigiCamReview Best New All Round Digital Camera in 2005.


On the left, the Fujifilm FinePix F10, on the right the new Fujifilm FinePix F30.

Fujifilm have this to say about the camera:

"FinePix F30 Zoom is the world's first digital compact camera to deliver ISO 3200 sensitivity at full resolution.... the FinePix F30 Zoom boasts powerful technology that puts simple 'style' compacts to shame, with newly developed sixth generation Super CCD and Fujifilm's groundbreaking Real Photo Processor II. Users are able to produce sharp images with minimal noise, no subject blurring and atmospheric lighting in dark conditions. While traditional film is no longer top of the agenda for some photographers, it is good to see that Fujifilm is maintaining the same forward-thinking attitude to its digital photographic quality."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Powershot A700)


Front - Camera off: note new smoother styling.


Front view - camera on: flash, focus assist lamp, lens, microphone.


Back / right: On the right is the strap loop. On the back is the 2.5 inch screen, wide/tele zoom button, indicator lamp, rubberised thumb grip, playback & photo mode buttons, Menu/ok button, 4-direction controller, cancel button and exposure compensation button.


Top: Small on/off button, mode dial, shutter release.


Bottom - Plastic tripod mount, battery / memory card compartment, the battery is held in with a latch (this was not the case on the F10, where the battery would fall out everytime the cover was opened). The tripod mount has moved closer to the edge of the camera, this should mean that you are able to change the battery or memory card whilst the camera is on a tripod - this was not the case with the F10.


Lens close-up - lens set to telephoto, apeture f8.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the 6x optical zoom, 6 megapixel Canon Powershot A700. (taken with the FZ3)

Compared to the Fujifilm FinePix F10: (pictures taken with the Canon Powershot A700)


From the front: The F30 measures the same give or take a few millimeters, but the re-design of the F30 has taken what was considered a fairly bulky / chunky compact camera, and turned it into a very stylish and smooth looking compact camera - in the hand it almost feels like an ultra-compact camera. The small hand grip on the front of the F10 has been replaced by a very small metal piece that sticks out the front of the F30.


On the back: The screen appears much blacker, and the camera styling flows much better. The big (almost over-sized) mode dial control on the F10 has been replaced by a small (almost overly-small) mode dial that fits much more flushly into the top of the camera, and the shutter release is now seperate from any other controls.


Another view of the back shows the extra exposure compensation button, and the additional rubber-dotted grip below the zoom control - this replaces the small thumb indent on the F10. The 4 buttons surrounding the 4-way controller are now bigger than they were on the F10.

Specifications / Features:

  • 6 megapixel 6th Generation SuperCCD HR sensor (1/1.7 inch)
  • 3x Optical Zoom Fujifilm Zoom Lens (1:2.8-5.0 f8-24mm / 36 - 108mm equiv.)
  • 6.2x Digital Zoom
  • Store images on xD memory cards
  • 2.5 inch LCD - 230,000 pixels - Anti-glare CV film
  • Movie mode: Records 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound
  • ISO: Auto/100/200/400/800/1600/3200 at Full Resolution
  • High-Definition Real Photo Processor II
  • Intelligent Flash
  • 580 shot battery life
  • 10mb built in memory
  • 5cm macro mode

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • NP-95 Li-ion battery
  • AC Power adapter AC-5VC
  • Hand strap
  • A/V cable
  • USB cable
  • 163 Page Owner's manual
  • CD-ROM
  • FinePix Viewer + ImageMixer
  • VCD2 for FinePix

Average box contents - The camera has a small amount of internal memory (only 10mb), and isn't supplied with a memory card. Purchase of an additional case is recommended to protect the metallic finish of the camera.  The camera connects directly via a usb cable and has a separate cable which allows output to a television via A/V sockets

Battery usage: Battery life is exceptionally good and is rated as 580 shots.  This is an improvement on the F10 which was already impressive at 500 shots. I have been able to take over 400 photos between recharging, and the power adapter plugs directly into the camera which means taking it on holiday with you will be less trouble.  As the battery is user replacable, I expect the camera to have a long useful life.

Camera Operation and Options: The play button turns the camera to review mode while the shutter release button returns it to photo mode. The mode dial has auto, manual, apeture or shutter priority, anti shake, scene and movie mode.  Scene mode options cover almost every event: Natural, Natural plus flash, portrait, landscape, sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, museum, underwater, party, flower, text. In playback  photos can be shown by date or 9 thumbnails and a slideshow feature is also available.  Given the vast range of options, consultation of the extensive printed manual is recommended to familiarise yourself with these options.  In apeture or shutter priority modes, these can be set as well as exposure compensation, of up to +- 2.0 EV using the directional arrow controls.

Photo mode/menus: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Shooting menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has a high resolution of 230,000 pixels (which is an impressive improvement to the F10) and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate for reviewing photos. There is no live or review histogram available but the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read.  The screen also has a brightness enhancer for taking photos where the screen is not clear, such as in bright sunlight. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Shooting Options: The camera has many options, things like resolution, quality, color/BW and ISO settings are under the 'film' button, while exposure and apeture settings are under the exposure compensation button.  Flash options and macro are one-touch buttons while pressing the menu button lets you choose shooting mode, photometry, white balance, high speed shooting, shot mode (eg; take multiple shots in quick succession), focus mode. One of the more interesting features is the continuous focus mode which reduces the delay between pressing the button and  taking the picture by continually re-adjusting the focus while you use the camera - this uses the battery up more quickly however.

Shooting mode showing previous 3 shots Setup Menu

Scene modes: (available in scene mode) This has the usual scene modes.  One mode I found interesting was the 'flash and no flash' scene mode.  This takes two pictures in succession, one with and one without the flash, to give you the choice of whether the photo with the flash is better or not.

Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) The setup menu allows you to set date and time, beep and shuttre volumes, to format your XD card, menu system colour, and things like access to long exposure mode and digital zoom. 

Playback (Review) mode options:

Playback mode Playback Zoom Mode

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom is quick and works at up to 4.5x. Basic shot information is shown about the images. There isn't much you can do in playback mode.  There doesn't appear to be any histogram or way to highlight over exposed / under exposed parts of images.  You can erase, rotate, protect (lock), add voice memo, trim (crop) images that have been taken, and transfer from internal to xd memory.

Playback menu Playback mode - view by date

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of pictures will fit in the provided memory:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Fine
Normal
6M (2816)
6
13
3:2
N/A
13
3M (2048)
N/A
25
2M
N/A
85
03M
N/A
182

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, and you can't fit very many photos in the provided memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. There are not too many choices regarding image size and quality and a 3:2 ratio option with 'Fine' picture quality would be a useful addition, as well as possibly some setting in between fine and normal, as this represents a doubling in the resulting image size, however (see below) as memory cards are relatively inexpensive, it is likely that the highest quality setting will be used wherever possible. Note it is not possible to down-sample a fine resolution image to a lower quality or lower size one in-camera.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, as these are relatively affordable - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only XD memory cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Fujifilm Finepix F30:

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £15.44, 512mb: £17.41, 1gb (1000mb): £25.00 - (If you also use or plan to use olympus cameras, buying an olympus XD memory card (rather than fuji) will let you use olympus panormamic mode.) Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera switches on and can take its first photo in two seconds. Focusing is fast at under half a second and continuous focus mode reduces this even more. The playback mode is also quick. The camera shutter response seems almost instant when pre-focused (around 0.1 second reponse) - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of around 2 seconds between shots in continuous mode. The flash recharge time was equally quick - with a delay of around 1.5 seconds between shows. High speed continuous shooting is moderately quick, at roughly 2fps for upto 3 shots at the highest resolution. The cameras menus seemed responsive and zooming in and reviewing photos is all quick and easy to use. Moving around the different menu options is rapid.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, but does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use although the mode dial and buttons are smaller than on previous cameras and more tricky to push.  The menus are responsive and easy to read.  One of the shooting modes also shows you your last three shots, a very handy addition. The camera is very thin and lacks the hand grip on the front which can assist in holding the camera steady. The menus are simple to use and the addition of words to accompany the icons of previous fuji cameras is a big improvement. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple. I am very pleased with the additon of semi manual modes as well as the extensive collection of scene modes for all types of different situations.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use but some are a little small and difficult to press, which may be a factor for some people.  The buttons are in a good position and easy to reach while composing shots. There seems to be a good amount of buttons for straight-forward digital camera use. The buttons feel okay but are in general small and difficult to use, the zoom control is a good size but smaller than the F10.  The shutter release is good. The buttons are labelled well (with small symbols and little text). I thought the camera felt okay ergonomically, there is very little in the way of a handgrip.  The compartments and covers seem well positioned and are easy to open.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Fujifilm Finepix F30 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and flower the only image with flash
Heather and Flower (ISO100) Flash photo (ISO800)

Inside: The camera has quite good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - and red-eye in this photo and the other. The flash is quite bright yet doesn't go very far so it might not be so useful in taking group photos where some people are a long way from the camera. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting seemed quite high in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light, thanks to the focus assist lamp (which is used much less frequently than the F10). Colour is well saturated and an additional mode F-chrome is available. The camera has a built in "Intelligent Flash" mode that will take two photos in quick sequense, one without flash (using a high ISO), and the other with flash (with a lower ISO), examples of this can be seen in the gallery, and the second picture above was taken with the flash in this mode.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel Canon Powershot A700 and the Fujifilm FinePix F10.

Fujifilm FinePix F10 Fujifilm FinePix F30 Canon Powershot A700

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm Finepix F30 in the middle, F10 on the left, Canon Powershot A700 on the right. The Canon was picked as a comparison as it has a wide range of photographic options. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.

Fujifilm FinePix F10 Fujifilm FinePix F30 Canon Powershot A700
ISO80 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO80 - N/A ISO80 - Actual Pixels 1/2 f3.2
ISO100 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO100 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO100 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2
ISO200 - Actual Pixels 1/5 f3.2 ISO200 - Actual Pixels 1/4 f3.2 ISO200 - Actual Pixels 1/8 f3.2
ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/10 f3.2 ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/8 f3.2 ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/15 f3.2
ISO800 - Actual Pixels 1/20 f3.2 ISO800 - Actual Pixels 1/17 f3.2 ISO800 - Actual Pixels 1/30 f3.2
SO1600 - Actual Pixels 1/34 f3.2 ISO1600 - Actual Pixels 1/32 f3.2 ISO1600 - N/A
ISO3200 - N/A ISO3200 - Actual Pixels 1/62 f3.2 ISO3200 - N/A

The F10 was groundbreaking in regards to low noise at high ISO settings, and the F30 has great abilities in this area.  Most digital cameras have low noise at ISO100 and ISO200 and you start to see problems at ISO400.  As can be seen from these test photos, at ISO400 noise is very low (in the F30 and F10) while it looks grainy for other cameras. Compared to the Canon Powershot A700 noise is significantly lower and pictures appear smoother. The results are excellent for a 6 megapixel digital camera.  If we compare the F30 with the F10, the images do appear smoother and less noisy on the F30, and in practice this is a useful improvement.  It should be noted however that I found the ISO3200 and ISO1600 images to contain low resolution blotches of colour - and colour reproduction was not as accurate as at lower ISO. You can see how this affects pictures by looking in the gallery.

Outside:

Fruit stall wall
Fruit stall (ISO100) Wall (ISO100)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours, with good contrast. There was very good detail, but areas with huge variation in brightness do show signs of 'bleeding' and purple fringes.  In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting (3meg images).

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 6.2x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the optical zoom is capable of.

3x Optical Telephoto 100% crop of 3x Optical telephoto
Wide-angle 3x Optical Telephoto Full Optical (100% crop)

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally good. Purple fringing is noticable in the wide angle but very little is seen in the 3x optical zoom photo. Vignetting was not noticed in the wall photo (see gallery).  It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is relatively quiet in operation. The W and T give good control over how you frame your subject with 10 steps between wide and telephoto zoom (although it skips quickly across the range).

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was occasionally seen particularly in areas where the sky is next to a dark object.

Macro: the macro mode allows you to be roughly 5cm away from from the subject, this is with the lens zoomed out. For best results are achieved use manual white balance and a more diffuse light source.  Note that if you get very close to the object you want to photograph, the location of the flash and the lens will create a shadow in the bottom right of the image.

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO50)

The custom white balance helps get better colours in the macro mode - the closest the camera can get to the subject is about average at around 5cm. Noise seems low in this photo and detail and colour is very good however some sections of the image are too bright and the colour bleeds.

Video mode: The camera features a high resolution VGA 640 x 480 video mode at 30 fps with sound. Video quality was good however this will use memory quickly - a 15 second video recodred at 640 x 480 took 18 meg.  Zoom is not functional while recording or while playing back the video.

Conclusion

Image Quality: As expected from the sensor, electronics and optics used by Fuji, the camera has great image quality.  Colours are very good and in a very wide range of situations the camera will take sharp, detailed pictures with good exposure.  In particular, the camera is probably great for daylight outdoor sporting events where fast photography is essential.  The challenges that this camera will face that most others will fail at will be low light situations where you don't particularly want to use the flash.  Even for these situations it has a scene mode that allows you to try and see what a photo would be like without the flash, and yet not lose the benefits of flash photography.  Having additonal manual controls will let you try new ideas out and the image quality settings are high enough for A4 prints of your images. The camera was generally competent and fast at focusing and the focus assist lamp seems to be used alot less than previously, and is much less irritating. There is a good range of image sizes but few compression options. The camera doesn't give you many options to customise images in-camera - there are no sharpness or contrast controls for example. Purple fringing is slighly higher than average. (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and stylish, however this is at the expense of ergonomics - Some of the buttons are small smooth and difficult to use for people with big fingers, otherwise, the camera is simple to use, the menu system is straightforward and the buttons and controls are logically arranged. There is a good choice of features and options.  The camera speed is generally excellent, with a fast switch on time, fast focusing time, fast shutter response, and a fast continous shooting mode. The screen size and resolution is very good at 2.5" with 230,000 pixels, and the quality appears excellent. Battery life is excellent despite the large screen. The video mode is quite decent at 640 x 480 at 30fps with sound, but zoom is fixed during filming (possibly due to noise).  (8/10)

Value for Money: The Fujifilm F30 from around £220, is good value for money, although it is probably the more fully featured 6 megapixel compact digital camera and at higher ISO probably has the best image quality in its class. Other 6 megapixel compact digital cameras are the Olympus SP 320 (at 166 pounds), the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9 (with image stabilisation) (at 189 pounds), the Fujifilm F11 (at 210 pounds), the Canon Digital Ixus 65 (at 215 pounds) and the Sony Cybershot DSC-W100. (at 222 pounds)  (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Fujifim F30 is an impressive compact 6 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5" display. The camera is one of very few to include ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 modes.  It has excellent responsiveness and is designed to be able to take great photos in almost every situation.  Although some people may find the re-styling and altered usability not necessarily to everyone's taste, overall there have been many usability improvements - Particularly welcome is the improved higher resolution screen.  The FujiFilm F30 is well worth considering - there are few digital cameras that offer so many options, so much quality, in such a small package.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 Rating: Excellent / Highly Recommended (9/10)
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What I like:

  • Large, sharp screen shows the resulting photos with excellent clarity.
  • Fast and responsive.
  • Plenty of options to suit 'artistic' photography - plenty of scene positions to help ordinary people take better photos.
  • Excellent quality images from ISO 400 and 800 modes (and below).
  • Longer battery life.
  • 'Immediate zoom' and 'show last 3 pictures' modes help check sharpness and composition.

What I don't like:

  • Buttons are a little on the small size.
  • Purple fringing is quite high
  • Highest ISO setting isn't necessarily useful.
  • In 'scene' modes, the camera tends to use higher ISO modes (including ISO3200) where a lower ISO setting would have been satisfactory.
  • No way to tell if photo is correctly exposed - histograms and peak measurement not possible.

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Fujifilm Finepix F30 Sample Photo Gallery.

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