Fujifilm’s FinePix F30 is a master at low-light photography. The sensitivity of most cameras this size (which are small and thus have small lenses with small apertures and less light sensitivity) usually tops out at ISO 400 or 800, but you can crank Fujifilm’s proprietary sensor all the way up to ISO 3200. This gives you more options when shooting in dim light. You can avoid using flash more often, giving your shots more depth and more natural colors. And, although your photos may still suffer from some graininess, you’re able to take acceptable shots in situations that other cameras just can’t handle. At lower settings, the F30, with its 6.3-megapixel image sensor, produces images with comparatively less noise.
In our testing, the F30 scored well in the areas that are most important to its low-light specialty. We saw accurate exposures in a variety of lighting situations, especially when tested without flash. Our jury awarded the F30 high scores for sharpness and low distortion.
Several of the camera’s many scene modes take advantage of its heightened sensitivity. The Natural Light mode attempts to preserve the ambience of low-light scenes, while in the Natural Light and Flash mode the camera takes two shots in quick succession, one with flash and one without. The Museum mode suppresses the flash and also turns off the camera’s button beeps and shutter noise. The Anti-blur mode reduces the effects of camera shake and the blurring of moving subjects by selecting a faster shutter speed.
Experienced photographers will appreciate the F30’s aperture- and shutter-priority modes, which you can combine with an exposure compensation setting to achieve more control. Oddly, while the Manual mode lets you set many shooting parameters, it won’t let you adjust the aperture size or shutter speed.
Priced at $399, the F30 seems expensive for a 6.3-megapixel camera with a 3X zoom and no viewfinder. It also lacks a panorama mode. However, at 230,000 pixels, the 2.5-inch LCD has a higher resolution than many of its competitors and is especially easy to view in bright light. The included software, the FinePix Viewer, helps you download, organize, rotate, and archive your images.
The F30 does not include a memory card, but it does have 10MB of built-in memory to get you started. You’ll need an xD-Picture Card—a rather unpopular format supported by few manufacturers—to store your images. It’s too bad that the F30 doesn’t accept the more widely used Secure Digital (SD) Card, which works with many more devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players.
The camera’s sleek metal body feels very sturdy, but the plastic cover over the A/V and power ports looks like it may not survive the life of the camera. You need to open and close this cover each time you charge the battery, because that’s where you connect the included adapter. An optional charger is available for $60 that lets you recharge the battery outside of the camera. A single charge of the F30’s lithium ion battery reached the maximum 500 shots in our battery test.
Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor
|Zoom/Focal Length (35mm equivalent)||3X/36-108mm|
|Battery Type||Rechargeable lithium ion|
|Media Slots||(1) xD-Picture Card|
|Size (wxhxd)||3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1|
Macworld’s buying advice
If your photographic needs gravitate toward low-light situations, the Fujifilm FinePix F30 is worth a look. It delivers very good picture quality with low levels of noise and has very good battery life. However, those advantages are somewhat offset by some inflexibility in the camera’s Manual mode as well as its use of an unpopular memory card format. And, it’s a bit expensive for a 6-megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom.
[ Paul Jasper is a technology consultant and freelance writer in San Francisco. ]Fujifilm FinePix F30