BUILD AND DESIGN
The F600EXR is a sturdy, well-designed camera, although it’s not particularly stylish. It has a largely metal and plastic construction. It’s about the same size as most compact ultrazooms, at 4.0 inches (103.5mm) wide, 2.4 inches (62.5mm) high and 1.2 inches (32.6mm) thick and weighs in at 220 grams, including memory card and battery.
The camera comes with a lithium-ion battery, battery charger, wrist strap, USB cable, A/V cable, a brief owner’s manual and a CD which contains the full version of the manual as well as My Finepix Studio for organizing and viewing photos. It’s available in four colors – black, the color of the camera I used, red, champagne gold and white. At the time of this review it can be purchased in the U.S. at a price of under $250.
Ergonomics and Controls
The F600EXR feels good in the hand. It’s easy to hold and use thanks to a rubber coated strip at the front of the camera and a protruding area at the rear that can be used as a thumb rest. The front plate of the camera is dominated by the 15x Fujinon lens, which, when fully retracted, still protrudes about 1/2 inch from the camera body. The lens zooms smoothly, with only a hint of hesitation. To the upper left of the lens are a combination auto focus assist illuminator/self-timer lamp and a stereo microphone. On one side of the camera there’s a compartment with ports for USB and HDMI cables, which is covered by a thin, plastic door.
A pop-up flash is located at the top of the camera. The flash must be raised by pressing a button – it does not come up automatically. Toward the camera’s middle there’s a bulge for the GPS, an on/off button and a shutter button with a zoom control lever. A circular mode selector is situated at about a 45 degree angle between the camera’s top and rear sections. The mode selector contains settings for some of the camera’s shooting modes – EXR, auto, advanced, scene position, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program. The bottom of the camera contains a speaker, a metal tripod socket and a battery/memory card compartment covered by a sturdy plastic latch. The camera has 33MB of internal memory and can use SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
The camera’s rear contains a 3.0-inch diagonal, 460,000 pixel LCD monitor in a 4:3 aspect ratio. To the right of the monitor there’s a playback button, a large dedicated movie button, a circular four-way control dial for accessing the camera’s menu, a display/back button and an F button. The F button is a standard feature on Fuji cameras and is a short-cut to certain shooting modes. In the F600EXR it also permits the user to access the GPS setup menu. The control dial allows selection of macro, self-timer, flash and trash/exposure compensation. The dial has a movable ring around it for navigating through the menu functions.
The controls on the F600EXR seem well-constructed, though the play, display/back and F buttons are quite small.
Menus and Modes
The menu system used by the F600EXR is divided into two basic sections – shooting and setup. There are many different selections in each section and most of the selections have submenus, which makes the system a challenge to learn. This is unavoidable to a large degree because of the many options included in the F600EXR. It will be important for users to spend time with the full version of the owner’s manual to fully understand all the camera has to offer.
Here are the camera’s shooting modes:
- EXR Mode: There are four EXR modes – auto, resolution priority, high ISO/low noise priority and D-range priority. In each mode the camera uses the EXR process, which combines adjacent pixels of the same color. When EXR Auto is selected, the camera automatically selects one of the three EXR priority modes, and will also select one of the camera’s scene position modes from among landscape, night, macro, beach, sunset, snow, sky, greenery and sky/greenery. The user may also individually select an EXR priority mode, in which case the camera will not automatically select a scene mode. Resolution priority uses all possible megapixels, for the most highly detailed images. High ISO/low noise priority reduces noise at high ISO’s. D-range priority will combine successive images to bring out detail in overly bright and overly dark areas. In the images below, the bright sky is overexposed in the first image, but the degree of overexposure is reduced in second and third images.
- Auto: The camera selects what it considers to be the best settings considering the shooting conditions. It does not use the EXR process, nor does it select a scene position mode or an EXR priority mode. This is an easy mode which gives the user very little control over options.
- Advanced: This allows access to three advanced modes.
- Motion Panorama 360: Lets the user make panorama shots by sweeping the camera up to 360 degrees. The procedure is very easy to use and implemented well here.
- Pro Focus: Enables the user take a close, sharp image with a blurred background by combining three successive shots.
- Pro Low Light: Combines four successive shots to reduce noise and blur in low light shooting situations.
- Scene Position: There are 18 scene modes that can be selected by the user: natural and flash (two successive pictures are taken, one without flash and one with), natural light, portrait, portrait enhancer (smoothes the skin), dog, cat, landscape, sport, night, night tripod, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, underwater, party, flower and text.
- Manual: The user has access to all of the camera’s settings, including independent control of shutter speed and aperture.
- Aperture Priority: All the options of manual except that the camera will control the shutter speed.
- Shutter Priority: All the options of manual except that the camera will control the aperture.
- Program: All the options of manual except that the camera will control the shutter speed and aperture.
- Film Simulation: Enables the user to choose among color schemes that simulate the effects of Fuji’s classic brands of film. Provia is the standard color scheme, Velvia is vivid and Astia is soft. There’s also black and white and sepia.
Black & White
- Movie: 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, 640 x 480, 30 fps, with stereo sound, optical zoom and auto focus, exposure and white balance during recording. Also high speed movies at 640 x 480, 80 fps, 320 x 240, 160 fps, 320 x 112, 320 fps, with no sound, no auto adjustments during recording.
The F600EXR has a nice LCD monitor with a 3.0 inch diagonal in a 4:3 aspect ratio and a 460,000 pixel resolution. The monitor provides 100% coverage. The monitor can be adjusted among 11 brightness settings, though increasing the brightness will result in a shorter battery-life.
DCR tests cameras for LCD screen quality, measuring for contrast ratio and brightness. The best LCD monitors have a contrast ratio above 500:1 and brightness of at least 500 nits. Lab tests showed the F600EXR’s contrast ratio as 1000:1, which is superb, but a peak brightness score of only 280 nits, with a black luminescence score of only 0.28 nits. However, probably due to its excellent contrast ratio, the camera’s LCD monitor looks good and worked well under most lighting conditions, though I had trouble viewing it in bright sunshine.
As is the case with almost all point-and-shoot cameras, the F600EXR does not have a viewfinder.