Hidden in the secret innermost recesses of the digital camera world is a tiny group that likes very compact cameras - cameras so small that they weigh in at one ounce (or less) for each megapixel of resolution. The diminutive Fujifilm Finepix F470 could be the poster child for this club -- it weighs 5.5 ounces (with battery, memory card, and wrist strap) and produces 6 megapixel images. Fuji's newest compact digital camera relies on a usability driven design, point & shoot ease of use, and very basic controls/menus to make capturing striking photos dead simple.
The Fujifilm FinePix F470 is an elegant ultra compact Point and Shoot digital camera that's reminiscent in some ways of the iconic World War II era Minox spy camera. Like the minimalist Minox, the F470 is very compact, dependable, and tough as nails. But, unlike the world's most famous spy camera, this tiny digital camera produces consistently excellent images and is remarkably easy to use.
The F470 is a bit smaller (3.6"x 2.3" x 0.8" / 91.9mm x 58.1mm x 19.7mm) than an Altoids tin and features 6 megapixel resolution, a 3x optical zoom, a 2.5-inch (high resolution/rapid refresh rate) LCD screen, 16MB of on-board image storage, and decent battery life. This little digital camera was designed to make taking pictures as simple as pointing the camera at the subject and pushing the shutter button. For some shooters, the F470's exposure options (full auto mode, an abbreviated program mode, and 10 scene modes) may seem a bit limited, but in reality they are almost perfectly matched to the needs/expectations of the camera's target audience.
NUTS & BOLTS
The F470 doesn't provide an optical viewfinder, so the LCD screen manages all framing, composition, camera status, and menu navigation chores. The F470's large 2.5 inch LCD screen covers most of the available space on the camera's rear deck. The F470's fast refresh rate (60fps) LCD screen is super fluid (movement is smooth and natural as opposed to jerky), bright (115,000 pixels), sharp, and color correct. In dim/low light the LCD automatically boosts screen intensity/brightness (brightness can also be adjusted manually). The F470's LCD screen is bright enough to be usable in most outdoor settings, although an anti-reflective coating would have made it even more useful.
When the F470 is powered up the camera's 3X zoom lens telescopes out of the camera body. When the camera is powered down the zoom is automatically retracted into the camera body and a guillotine style lens covers the front element. The F470's f2.8-f4.9/5.8mm-17.4mm (35mm-105mm -- 35mm equivalent) zoom is fast, smooth, and quiet, but there are only 6 steps between wide angle and telephoto (which means users may occasionally need to zoom with their feet). The F470's 3X zoom is fairly typical of ultra compact digital cameras - center sharpness is very good throughout the zoom's range, but corners are consistently soft. The F470's zoom shows moderate barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom, but no visible pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center) at the telephoto end of its range. I didn't see any Vignetting (darkened corners), but Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is visible in high contrast color transition areas.
(view medium image) (view large image) Minimum focusing distance (in macro mode) is 3.5 inches/10 centimeters - close enough for general close-ups and most e-bay pictures, but certainly not tight enough for dramatic bugs and flowers shots.
Auto Focus (AF)
The F470 features Fuji's standard Contrast Detection auto focus system. The F470's target audience will probably leave the camera in the (default) Center AF mode full-time because center focus makes it very easy to lock on the most important single element in the composition, however there is also a Multi AF option available for the adventurous few. The F470's AF system delivers consistently sharp images in good lighting, but it does hunt a bit in dim/low light (there's no focus aid beam).
Manual Focus (MF)
The F470 provides no Manual Focus option
The F470's built-in multi mode flash provides settings for TTL Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Fill Flash, Slow Synch, Red-eye Reduction + Slow Synch, and Flash Off. Maximum flash range (according to Fuji) is 15 feet, however the effective (real world) maximum flash range (under optimum conditions) is about 10 feet. All compact digital cameras suffer (to a lesser or greater extent) from red-eye problems and the F470 is no exception.
The F470 saves images to xD picture cards (available in capacities up to 1GB) or to 16MB of on-board storage. Fuji doesn't include a small (16-32 MB) xD starter card and that seems a foolish economy considering the F470's target audience.
Image File Format(s)
USB 2.0 (HS) out, and A/V out
The F470 draws its power from a very small Fuji NP-40 3.6V 750mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Fuji claims a fully charged NP-40 is good for 200 exposures. Based on my experiences with the F470 and my personal shooting style (frame, shoot, heavy review, heavy delete, and re-shoot) I would guess that 120-125 exposures per charge is a more realistic number. The battery is charged out of camera and the included charger needs about two hours to top off the NP-40. A back up battery is a good idea for profligate shooters and those who plan to take the F470 on overnight/short trips.
In terms of exposure options, the F470 is a very basic "auto" only Point & Shoot style digital camera. The camera controls exposure at all times with very limited user input. Creative control is exerted via the F470's "Manual" mode, which is in fact a truncated Program mode (users can access the exposure compensation mode and adjust White Balance). Sensitivity (ISO settings) can be adjusted via AUTO mode. The F470 also provides a fairly standard selection of Scene modes (Portrait, Sport, Landscape, Night scene, Beach and Snow, Sunset, Museum, Party, Close-Up, and Text) with all exposure parameters automatically customized for the specific scene type selected.
(view medium image) (view large image) The F470's superb auto mode made it possible to focus on capturing this pair of Canada Geese and their brand new Goslings without having to worry about anything other than composition and timing
The F470 can record video clips at 640x480 (VGA resolution) @ 30 fps (with monaural sound). Video clip duration is limited only by xD card capacity.
The F470's light metering system is quite simple, a single option is available - TTL (256 zone Multi-Pattern) Evaluative. The F470's light metering is accurate and dependable in outdoor lighting. Indoors and/or in low/dim light metering is a bit less dependable -- the F470 is probably not the best choice for a bar/party camera.
White Balance (WB)
The F470 provides an acceptable selection of WB options, including: TTL Auto, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, and incandescent.
Most compact auto exposure only digital cameras provide a very limited sensitivity range and the F470 (with one important exception) fits this profile. Typically auto exposure only compacts provide TTL Auto sensitivity and ISO 100, 200, & 400 settings. The F470 adds a very useful ISO 64 setting which (when coupled with the camera's "chrome" color option) allows users to shoot brighter contrastier images with vivid colors and very low noise.
In-Camera Image Adjustment
Very light or very dark subjects can trick light metering systems into underexposing or overexposing images. Typically cameras in this class (compact/ultra compact P&S digital cameras) provide very few creative photography options because the target audience for these cameras just doesn't utilize them. F470 users are limited to the ability to adjust exposure incrementally via the Exposure Compensation mode. The F470's base exposure can be modified over a 4 EV range (+ /-2 EV) in 1/3 EV increments to compensate for difficult lighting and subject/background reflectance/non-reflectance problems or to compensate for environmental exposure variables (by allowing users to easily lighten or darken exposures).
Digital camera sensors respond to subtle exposure changes much like 35mm slide film. Check out the two images below. The iris image on the left was shot "straight" (in auto mode -- with the subject centered in the viewfinder) just like most casual photographers would have done it. The image on the right is more tightly framed with --2/3 EV (minus two thirds of one exposure value) compensation - resulting in a much more dramatic image.
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CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS
The Fujifilm Finepix F470 is a compact "auto only" digital camera. The F470's Aluminum alloy body seems well constructed and should be tough enough to go just about anywhere. Ergonomics are quite good with a shallow handgrip in front and a well thought out (and corresponding) thumb indentation at the top right (rear) corner. Controls are minimal, well placed, and logical - and the "F" button (provides direct access to image size/quality, ISO and color mode settings) nicely enhances operation. Menus are straightforward, simple to navigate and the font is large enough for even oldsters to see clearly at composition range.
Fuji NP-40 3.6V 750mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery and charger, wrist strap, USB/AV cables, software CD-ROM, users manual
Fuji BC-65 High Speed charger and Fuji soft case
When it comes to image quality, the F470 delivers the goods. Color is bright, vivid, and hue accurate. Skin tones are a little ruddy. Like most consumer digital cameras red and blue are slightly punched up, but not garishly so. White balance is very accurate outdoors, but I did notice a very slight warmish cast in some interior shots. Images shot at ISO 64 and 100 had extremely low noise levels with balanced contrast and very good shadow and highlight detail. Noise levels start to pick up noticeably at ISO 200, but not objectionably so. ISO 400 images show noticeable noise and some lost detail, but they should be fine for e-mail or 3x5/4x6 prints.
The F470 is a very quick digital camera, equal to or faster than most cameras in its class. Specifically, the F470 moves its 3X zoom from the wide-angle position to the telephoto position in about 2 seconds. Shutter lag and AF lag (with pre-focus) are essentially real time. From scratch AF lag is about 1 second. Shot to shot times are between 1 and 2 seconds.
(view medium image) (view large image) The F470 had no problem freezing this Extreme Park biker in mid leap, so it will do a bang up job of preserving baby's first steps or capturing Junior's first soccer goal.
A Few Concerns
The only real gripe I have with the F470 is that the Exposure Compensation setting is not displayed on the LCD screen, but the camera remembers the setting when it is powered down. This means users (who forget to zero out the exposure compensation before they turn the camera off) may end up shooting something important with plus or minus exposure compensation settings from an earlier photographic adventure. Auto only P&S digital cameras should return to the default settings each time the camera is powered down.
Like Fuji's legendary Finepix 2600, the stylish little F470 is a very basic digital camera and an excellent choice for first time digital camera buyers who want a reasonably priced, genuinely uncomplicated, solidly built, and ultra-compact digital camera. The eminently pocketable little F470 performs like a champ in all outdoor settings, making it a natural choice for casual photographers, snap-shooters, and weight/space conscious backpackers, mountain bikers, and rucksack travelers. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) and noise are a bit higher than average, macro/close-up and dim/low light performance leave something to be desired, and battery life is just decent, but the Spartan little F470 is a super picture taker.
Pros: Compact, excellent image quality, and easy to use
Cons: Mediocre battery life
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