Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Fuji F30 Review
I get a lot of questions around here about the cameras I use. By far, most of the shots you see on the blog here were taken with a pocket camera. I started out using a Pentax S4i and then last year I got a Fuji F10 (which was a little bigger but had much higher image quality) and just recently I got a Fuji F30. I've been meaning to do a review of that camera but I've been very busy with work lately. DPREVIEW.COM just posted an extensive review of the F30.
Here are a few statements from the review that I endorse...
... after using the F10 regularly for the last 15 months I can tell you that I was being kind when I described it as a little clunky and counter-intuitive; the user interface appears to have been designed by someone with either a very cruel sense of humor or a serious sadistic streak. The F30, thankfully, features an all-new menu system that - though still a little inelegant - is much, much easier to use and nowhere near as frustrating.
...the F30 would appear to have a good two stop advantage at ISO 200-800, compared to the best you can get from a conventional CCD (the Canon SD 700 IS) it is nothing short of astounding. For the first time you have a compact digital camera that offers perfectly usable output from ISO 100-800... It doesn't take a professional reviewer to be able to see the superiority of the Super CCD sensor at ISO 800; whereas the Canon result is suitable only for use when you've got no alternative, and for very small prints, the F30 is in an entirely different league. To put things into perspective, the F30 has a similar level of noise (and detail) at ISO 800 to the SD 700 IS at ISO 200. Very, very impressive.
OK, so the Super CCD sensor has amazing high ISO capabilities, but it isn't magic, and once you get to ISO 1600 and above, in the words of the Starship Enterprise's chief engineer 'ye cannae change the laws of physics'. That said, the ISO 1600 result is still better by a wide margin than the F10, and - for small prints - might well get you out of a tight spot when light is very low. For snaps of friends and family in low light (faces don't need that much detail) the ISO 1600 setting would be, just about, usable. I wouldn't go to ISO 3200 unless I had no other way of getting the shot; the noise reduction is so extreme that most fine detail has been lost, and there is so much bleeding of color that the result looks a little like one of those magic coloring books after a good soaking.
On the downside the F30 is not as impressive on bright sunny days as it is indoors or at night; sure, the sharpness and low noise are still there, but the tone curve often produces images that lack highlight or shadow detail, yet can look a bit flat. You'll get some amazing results if you know your way around Photoshop (or similar), but I often (though by no means always) found the 'out of camera' results slightly disappointing. Add to this the tendency to over expose and you've got a camera that really needs to be used by someone who knows what they're doing to get the most out of it.
I've been saying for a while that these new Fuji cameras (the F10 as well as the F30) are capable of amazing things, but not in full-auto mode. In this mode, the camera tends to overexpose and it also runs the ISO up higher than is necessary. You really need some expertise to coax the best out of the camera.