The Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd is not a particularly fast camera in most ways. It doesn’t take consistently great images, and sometimes struggles to capture even acceptable ones. It doesn’t offer a long zoom, or optical image stabilization, or a flawless face recognition system, and when reviewing the 7.2 megapixel, 3x zoom Z10fd on paper it’s easy be cynical about how much this package will succeed.
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And then you spend an afternoon playing with it, and in spite of its few distinguishing features, the fact that the Z10fd is an unquestionably fun, pleasantly simple camera that may be better than it first seems becomes apparent.
Available in seven mostly outlandish colors – including the very green hue of our test unit – the Z10fd can’t rival several of the more expensive ultra-thin compacts on the market in terms of build quality: beyond its sculpted appearance, the all-plastic FinePix has a blatant cheapness that is hard to ignore. It’s equally hard to be indifferent toward the almost retro look of the Z’s chrome end-caps and loud metallic paint choices: either you think highlighter orange is an appropriate and desirable color for a camera or you don’t. Moreover, the compact, colorful body, clean-lined styling, and sliding lens cover may scream “knock off” a bit too loudly, suggesting the Z10fd as some kind of poor man’s Sony T20. But while the Z10fd lacks the cachet (and also, in fairness to its rival, the solid construction and loads of features) of the Sony, in some ways it gives the T20 a run for its money at half the price.
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After testing compact after compact that all seem intent on bamboozling me with multi-layered menu systems for simple adjustments and scene presets for every conceivable shooting situation (plus 15 more), the transparent and logical two-pad arrangement of buttons and options on the Z10fd is a relief. The single menu is logical, and most common features (flash, macro, face recognition mode) can be accessed and adjusted via the d-pad quick keys. I do wish the buttons were a little bigger, and felt a little nicer under finger – the wide/tele toggle is unacceptably difficult to use with one hand – but for people who really are interested in pointing and shooting, the interface couldn’t be much better.
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The Z10fd’s heavily hyped IR image transfer technology seems, at first evaluation, to be too limited in its protocol to be truly useful, but if it’s a bit gimmicky at least it’s not intrusively so.
Initial thoughts on camera performance are surprisingly positive as well, but not without some serious concerns. Default auto mode (there are very few manual overrides and no true manual mode here) seems to handle most shooting situations without fuss, if the results aren’t always the best. When pre-focused, shutter lag is almost nonexistent with this camera: though I haven’t confirmed this yet, I’m betting timing here is among the fastest point-and-shoots we’ve tested. Flash shots show good exposure and recycle times aren’t bad, but auto white balance (there’s no flash preset) doesn’t know how to handle them, resulting in shifted hues at least as bad as those from poorly developed flash photos taken with a film camera.
A quick glance over some test shots suggests that image quality is about on par with the rest of the ultra-compact field: noisy (none of Fuji’s famous Super CCD technology filters down to the Z10fd), and a little soft all around, but more than adequate in most respects. The forthcoming full review will take a more thorough look at our standard image evaluation parameters to see how the Z10fd stacks up, but it looks like the FinePix, which weighs next to nothing and delivers excellent usability, may turn out to be a decent choice for casual shooters looking for a stylish, portable snapshot camera – especially given its attractive price.
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