BUILD AND DESIGN
Many camera companies produce slim cameras with folded optics but the Z800EXR is certainly one of the most attractive. It’s small and slim, measuring 3.9×2.3×0.8 inches, with a weight of 5.6 ounces (158g), including battery and memory card. The Z800EXR comes with an NP-45A lithium ion battery, USB cable, charger, wrist strap, a CD containing FinePix Studio (Fuji’s photo organizing software), and the owner’s manual. The camera also comes with a 23 page paper manual that contains only basic information. Fuji’s suggested retail price is $229.95, though it can probably be found for less.
The camera’s body is mostly metal, with some plastic parts, and seems well-built. I did not notice anything fragile that appeared likely to break off. The front has a sliding lens cover with an attractive wave-like curve. A stand-out feature of the Z800EXR is its LCD monitor. At 3.5 inches wide with a 16×9 configuration, it takes up the entire rear of the camera. I was very pleased with the camera’s color. It looks quite different than any other gold colored camera – more of a white gold than a yellow gold. All in all, a very elegant design by Fuji.
Ergonomics and Controls
As with similarly-styled cameras, the lens, which is exposed when the front panel slides down, is situated in the upper right-hand corner. I often use my left hand to steady the camera while shooting and sometimes found that my fingers straying in front of the lens, so users of the Z800EXR should keep this in mind. Next to the lens is the flash. When the lens cover is up, neither the lens nor the flash are visible. The Z800EXR does not include an auto focus assist lamp, but the Z on the lens cover acts as a self-timer lamp and flashes after a picture has been taken.
The bottom of the camera contains a plastic tripod mount located in the center, which means the camera will be well-balanced when it’s mounted on a tripod. However, a plastic tripod mount is more prone to wear than one made of metal. Next to the tripod mount is the compartment for the battery and memory card. A plastic cover for the compartment is attached fairly securely to the body, but care must be taken not to snap it off when opening and closing it. The Z800EXR uses SD and SDHC memory cards.
The top of the camera has a large shutter button with a zoom control ring around it. It also features a button which, at first glance, looks like an on/off button. But in actuality it switches the camera from shooting display to playback display, and vice-versa.
One side of the camera is featureless, except some holes for the speaker. The other side contains eyelets for the wrist strap and also contains a USB connecter port with a tethered plastic cover.
As stated earlier, the rear of the camera consists almost exclusively of the 3.5-inch wide touch screen monitor in a 16×9 configuration, which is ideal for viewing HD movies. There is also a small indicator lamp at the top, which shows the camera status by virtue of color (green, orange or red) and blink status (solid or blinking). The absence of any borders around the monitor means that in order to get a good grip, your thumb must come in contact with the screen. While there is a section at the right side of the screen that contains no icons, I found it difficult to keep my thumb from occasionally touching one of the icons, leading to on-screen actions that I did not intend.
Menus and Modes
All the menus of the Z800EXR are controlled by the touch screen LCD monitor. The basic icons are set at the left and right sides of the screen. There are two sets of icons, one for the shooting display and one for the playback display. The menus are logically laid out, though they are a bit confusing until you get used to them.
The shooting display contains icons for the shooting mode, flash, self-timer, macro (as close as 9cm), shooting menu, face recognition, playback and display (determines what appears on the LCD monitor). Shooting menu options include exposure compensation, ISO (up to 3200), image quality, dynamic range (auto and three other selections), film simulation (standard Provia, vivid Velvia, black & white and sepia), white balance (auto and six other choices) continuous shooting (a burst of five pictures), face detection (including face recognition), auto focus mode, dual image stabilization (sensor shift and increased shutter speed) and several others.
Black & White
The self-timer mode is interesting, as it contains options for auto release (the shutter releases when the subject turns towards the camera, ideal for pictures of babies), couples (the shutter releases when two subjects are close together), groups (the shutter releases when a designated number of subjects are close together), ten second release, two second release and timer off.
Selecting the EXR shooting mode will lead to a sub-menu with various modes:
- EXR Auto: The camera will automatically select the applicable scene mode and EXR mode according to the shooting conditions. Scene modes that may be chosen are limited to portrait, landscape, night, macro, backlit portrait and night portrait. If the camera determines that none of the scene modes are appropriate, it will default to Auto mode (see below).
- Resolution Priority: All 12 megapixels are used.
- High ISO, Low Noise: Pictures are shot at high ISOs and a process called pixel binning is used to reduce noise.
- D Range Priority: Two images are captured simultaneously to produce an image with a wider dynamic range. Users can set the range to Auto or, if shooting in Manual mode, 100%, 200% or 400%, with the various percentages linked to the ISO sensitivity selected (for example 400% can be used only when 400 ISO is in effect).
Other scene mode options include:
- Auto: The camera selects all settings but does not apply individual scene modes.
- Touch and Shoot: The camera will automatically focus on and take the picture of whatever the user touches on the LCD screen.
- Scene Position: The user can select from 16 scene modes including portrait, portrait enhancer (the camera smoothes the skin), landscape, sport, night (a tripod is necessary), fireworks (also requires a tripod), sunset, snow, beach, party (low light), flower, text, and dog and cat (the camera uses face detection).
- Natural Light/Natural and Flash: When Natural Light is selected, the flash is turned off and ISO is raised to prevent blur. When Natural and Flash is selected, the camera will take two successive pictures, one using Natural Light and the other using the flash.
- Motion Panorama: The camera will take a panorama photo when the user moves the camera in one direction until the photo is completed. The user can select a panorama of 120, 240 or 360 degrees. The image will be thinner the greater number of degrees selected.
- Manual: The user has access to all camera settings, although there is no independent control of shutter speed or aperture.
- Movie: The camera can record movies in motion JPEG AVI format at 1280×720 (HD) at 24 frames per second or at 640×480 (VGA) at 30 frames per second. Zooming is not available during recording. Movies cannot exceed 10 minutes in HD mode or 15 minutes in VGA mode. Audio is recorded in monaural only.
The playback display contains icons for delete, favorites, image search, photobook assist, playback menu, multi-frame, edit, forward, back and display. If you wish to exit the playback display you must press the display selector button at the top of the camera.
Like all small cameras these days, the Z800EXR does not have a viewfinder. It does have a large, 3.5 inch high resolution (460,000 dot) LCD monitor in 16×9 configuration, with 100% coverage. The LCD monitor is reasonably fluid and clearly displays the information required to operate the camera. It can be set for five brightness levels.
I had no problem using the LCD monitor indoors but I did have trouble viewing it outdoors, especially in bright sunshine. The touch-screen is very responsive and I found it to be easy to use. Although I still prefer buttons and dials, I am coming to realize that a touch-screen can be a real asset to a camera, especially when done well, as it is here.