The Fujifilm FinePix F60fd has been one of the lighter updates to a previous model we've seen in this pre-Photokina build-up season, but if you were foolish enough to dismiss the F60fd just because it can't claim as many "all new" features as some of its competition, you'd potentially be making an enormous mistake.
No, it doesn't bring a lot of new whiz-bang to the table, but there's still no denying the broad appeal of Fuji's pocket-sized FinePix F cameras – models that simultaneously offer enough cool new consumer tech to keep family snapshooters satisfied and enough traditional photographic tools and controls to pique interest as a small backup camera for the DSLR shooting set. Combine all of this with an attractive, sub-$300 price point, and this could be the one ultracompact of the year that's really ready to do it all.
If you think the FinePix F60fd lots like an interesting, lightly updated ultracompact, but you're nonetheless confused about the positioning of new models in Fuji's F series, you're not alone: although we and others (apparently mistakenly) billed the premium F100fd as the direct replacement to Fuji's F50fd when the former camera was announced earlier this year, it seems that the plan all along has been to keep the F50-level camera in the line as a lower cost alternative to the F100.
Hence, the F60fd comes as the immediate heir to the venerable F50fd, continuing to use Fuji's seventh-generation 12.0 megapixel Super CCD sensor from the former camera, and not the eighth-generation version employed by the F100fd. In fact, in terms of physical specs, just about everything descends directly from the F50fd: the new model uses the same 3x zoom, the same sensor, a similar body, and nearly identical control layouts. A small screen size bump is one of the few visible differentiators between the two.
There are some exciting new firmware-side upgrades to report with the F60fd, however, including the addition of Fuji's Face Detection 3.0. Fuji was a pioneer in face detection, and the latest system (which we explored in depth with the F100fd) is quite good, providing dead-on locking power for up to 10 human subjects and a nifty post-shot review feature that automatically zooms in on faces, allowing you to confirm that eyes are open and everything is in focus. More on the system's tracking and lock performance in the "Performance" section of the review.
Fujifilm is also hailing the new camera's automatic scene recognition technology, SR Auto. The new shooting mode "automatically identifies subjects, scenes and faces and adjusts exposure, focus, white balance and ISO accordingly to ensure clarity and sharpness, regardless of background."
Of course, auto scene recognition tools are not the novelty that they once were, but this increasing ubiquity gives us a good standard against which we can compare the F60fd's performance in this area. Though Fuji waited a long time to make scene recognition a reality, the wait was probably worth it from a use perspective: the F60fd stands alongside Panasonic's latest scene-detect models in my book as the only cameras with scene recognition technology that's more substance than gimmick.
The F60fd had no trouble quickly and correctly jumping from portrait to macro shooting to a landscape preset to a low light mode without any user prompting. If in doubt, the camera automatically reverts back to a basic auto exposure setting, providing a nice failsafe that almost guarantees you'll get something worth saving. An avowed auto technology skeptic, I actually spent a surprising amount of time shooting in SR Auto for this review and my only noteworthy complaint has to do with the near-constant clicking of the camera's continuous AF system, which is engaged by default in SR Auto.
In terms of basic shooting modes, this camera has a bunch of 'em, and they run the gamut in terms of the level of user input required. On the F60fd's mode dial, you'll find:
Video options are about as basic as it gets on an ultracompact anymore, and the F60fd's audio quality is really rather bad in truth. Additionally, zoom is locked during video capture. Overall, if lots of movie making is on the agenda, the F60fd will probably be a little too limited.
Basic editing tasks, including red-eye removal and cropping, can be accomplished via the F60fd's playback menu, which is accessed at any time via a dedicated playback button. There's also a slideshow option, though it's fairly primitive in comparison to what we've seen on some other competitive cameras.
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
Styling and Build Quality
The F60fd's basic shape, layout, and size returns largely unchanged from its predecessor, though Fuji's gone to a more modern look with the blacked out matted finish and combination of brushed and chrome accents seen on our test unit.
The F60fd's mostly alloy construction remains as solid as that seen from the camera that went before it, with a hefty feeling that implies a well-built device. For a plastic piece, even the metal-reinforced battery door doesn't have a bad feel – and given how much I like to gripe about cheap port covers, that's saying something.
Buttons are appropriately responsive throughout and feel as though they would easily stand up to a typical number of cycles in the normal life of a point-and-shoot.
Interestingly, after riding around in my pocket for a weekend, I did note some fine scratches starting to etch their way through our review sample's matte finish. Otherwise, though, the F60fd's styling and build quality are respectably industrial and businesslike.
In short, if you're a serious shooter seeking an ultracompact that looks more like something an adult would carry than the majority of cute, trendy choices out there in this segment, the F60fd is an excellent choice. The fact that the camera packs some advanced features for shooters interested in going beyond the basics makes it that much better.
Ergonomics and Interface
Although it doesn't sport lots of intentionally ergonomic details, I found the F60fd to be perfectly comfortable in hand. A slightly thicker than average body, good heft and balance, and a small ridge along the grip area all contribute to a stable, planted feeling when shooting one-handed.
On top and out back, the control arrangement on Fuji's latest is lifted directly from the F50fd, with power, zoom toggle, shutter, and dedicated image stabilization buttons up top, and a mode dial, d-pad controller, and four dedicated buttons on the rear panel.
The buttons are a tad small (what ultracompact buttons aren't?), but easy enough to press and always touch-responsive. Additionally, everything falls into place nicely under your fingers, further easing the burden of one-hand camera operation. I especially came to appreciate the light knurling on the F60fd's mode dial (a physical dial, unlike the menu-based systems on many ultracompacts; thanks, Fuji!), which makes it no hard task to change shooting modes quickly with a flick of the thumb.
The graphical user interface will be familiar to previous Fuji users, with sidebar/pop-up menus for most selections, large text, and advanced options (metering mode and AF drive, for instance) more readily at your fingertips – which is to say, higher up in the menu hierarchy – than on many of the F60fd's competition. In manual exposure and program modes, there continues to be some odd logic dictating what gets called up in the "F" button quick menu and what's relegated to the main settings menu instead (white balance is in one, ISO in the other, for instance), but once you spend a little with the Fuji it's usually not an issue to remember where a particular setting is housed.
Although I'm slightly grieved by the continued lack of an optical viewfinder for this camera with advanced exposure control modes, the F60fd makes up for it with one of the better large LCDs we've run across on a point-and-shoot camera. A 3.0-inch display with 230,000 dots of resolution, the F60's screen is generally superb, with fantastic contrast and a degree of color accuracy and gamut reproduction that mirrors what I'm getting on my calibrated and profiled computer monitor as closely as any small camera I've used. Kudos to Fuji for their work in this regard.
Gain-up in low light is automatic, though a side-by-side comparison with a current Canon ultracompact suggests that the Fuji's sluggish refresh and graininess in dark situations is slightly below average. Screen brightness can also be manually adjusted (five steps in either direction from the default setting); you'll have to manually boost brightness for shooting outdoors in bright light, as there's no auto gain-up in this situation. If you're shooting in a dark room with the flash, you may also have some compositional difficulties: with forced flash enabled an a low ISO locked, the screen won't automatically brighten up to allow easy composition in a dark room. You get some help from the aforementioned AF assist lamp, but otherwise it can be an exercise in guessing what's in the frame at the moment you press the shutter when shooting with the flash.
Likewise, while it's not exactly a display issue, the F60fd has a bad habit of showing high-compression, low-res thumbnail versions of captures on post-shot playback when you're shooting in the default Power Save power management mode. The impact? A quick glance at the screen after the shot and you may find yourself thinking that your last capture wasn't in good focus. Switching the camera into Clear LCD power management mode improves things all around with the display, making it brighter, sharper, and more fluid at the expense of battery longevity (though we weren't able to accurately measure the difference).
Timings and Shutter Lag
While it's hardly a speed demon, the F60fd turns in some respectable basic speed numbers that are in keeping with expectations for a high-end ultracompact. Pure shutter lag (with the camera pre-focused) times out around 0.05 seconds – not taxing our test setup with its speed, but no slouch where capture times are concerned, either.
Engaging center-point AF and the camera's Quick AF mode (which preferences speed over battery life), the F60fd was able to consistently grab shots from scratch (i.e. without pre-focus) in around 0.4 seconds. Again, we've seen faster, but compared to the point-and-shoots of a few years ago this is a phenomenal number, and even up against today's cameras it puts the F60fd in some good company. There is a slight delay with either face detection or multi-area AF selected (timings in the 0.5 second range in both cases), but either way, the F60fd's processing functions seem to be working in well-tuned concert to turn in consistent numbers.
It's good news/bad news in terms of continuous shooting with the F60fd, however. In its full-resolution Top 3 continuous shooting mode, the camera captures three 12 megapixel images in a lightning fast 1.2 seconds (for an impressive frame rate of 2.5 fps). If you're working with an xD-Picture Card, however, you're in for a nasty surprise when it comes to cache clearing times: with a 1 GB xD, our test unit then took an additional 17.5 seconds to clear the buffer, during which time the camera was in file storage lock-down and completely unresponsive. You can bring this buffer clearing number down to around 13 seconds by using a Class 6 SDHC instead, but even at the reduced time it feels like something of an eternity when you're trying to set up for that next shot.
If you really have a need for speed, the F60fd can also take 12 shots at 3 megapixels in an astounding 2 seconds and change – at a rate around 5.5 fps.
There are three basic AF modes on the F60fd: center-area AF, an automatic multi-area mode, and continuous AF. Hence, there's no option for manually selecting a focus point other than the center one, the only possible feature that a more advanced shooter might hope for in this case. As noted, lock speed is good in all three modes and surprisingly consistent even in low light thanks to the addition of a very bright LED assist lamp (more on that momentarily...). You can also gain about a tenth of a second across the board, at the expense of some battery life, by switching the F60fd into the Quick AF power management mode.
The face detection system, which can be activated in conjunction with any of the three basic auto focus modes, also provides optimized focus and metering for faces when human subjects are detected in the frame. Fuji's third-generation face detection system is a gem, with moving subject tracking that's flawless in good light and works surprisingly well at lower light levels more common to a party or club. Recognition also works equally well in profile, but more than any of this, the fact that the F60fd is able to lock onto faces basically instantaneously is what impresses most about the system.
The typical face detection trip-ups – glasses, especially – still cause occasional problems for the F60fd, but the system has enough flexibility (superior built-in red-eye reduction functions and playback zoom, for instance) that it's worth seriously considering this camera just for the power of its face detection tools if you take a lot of human shots.
The AF assist lamp is another story: a white LED unit that's significantly brighter – I'm talking "police flashlight at close range" bright – than your typical red variety, the illuminator is overwhelming enough at close range to leave your human and animal subjects seeing spots for days. Thankfully, the lamp can be easily disabled in the setup menu if desired. If you plan to take any people shots, your friends will thank you later.
Lens and Zoom
A rather prosaic 3x/35-105mm Fujinon zoom on the F60fd is taken directly from previous generations of this model. In the company of other high-spec, relatively high-dollar ultracompacts, the fact that the F60fd's lens is neither particularly wide nor particularly long is starting to look more and more like a limitation. Fuji's obviously seeking points of differentiation between this model and the F100fd, but the more expensive variant's 5x, wide-angle optic might have been a preferable choice for this application as well.
Otherwise, there's little to find fault with. The lens moves smoothly and rapidly from one end of the range to the other, sports a very acceptable nine steps from end to end, and packs a nice and fast f/2.8 aperture on the wide end (though it should be noted that its 105mm f/5.1 telephoto end is barely acceptable these days).
Measured minimum focusing distance on the lens in normal focusing mode are a little far out as well, hitting just above 18 inches at wide angle and slightly longer yet at telephoto. Engaging macro focus moves things in to right at 3 inches at the wide end of the lens – good enough for most point-and-shoot macro work, though if shooting bugs or flowers is your thing you can probably do better elsewhere.
Although the F60fd announcement made no specific mention of it, the F60fd seems to benefit from the general concept, at least, that has informed the development of Fuji's i-Flash system seen in its more style-focused compacts. Silliness of the name aside, we've found in the past that Fuji has seemed to spend a little more time on flash metering and hot-spot control than many of its competitors – a good thing considering that many people carry ultracompacts almost exclusively for shooting in situations where additional illumination is required.
While we've had some inconsistent results with i-Flash equipped cameras, I put the F60fd through its paces with flash shooting and was often pleasantly surprised at how well it both covered an area and controlled excessive blown-out reflections – as the above shot, taken in a dark room with little ambient light, suggests. Although there are no power compensation controls, even when left to its own devices the flash does a nice job of filling in without overpowering when the ambient light needs just a little extra kick.
In terms of coverage, the F60fd does a decent job of getting toward the end of its 14.4-foot wide-angle coverage range without too much high-ISO messiness, though the couple of feet of extra power as compared to many small cameras really take their toll on recycle times. A full-power flash recycle with the F60fd takes a solid 9 seconds, during which time the camera is unable to take additional shots without the flash. That said, with better than average high-sensitivity performance, I rarely found myself pushing the flash near its power limits during normal shooting.
Fuji's Dual Image Stabilization technology in the F60fd claims to combine sensor-shift stabilization with ISO boost in order to maximize the number of usable slow-shutter shots. The system is activated or deactivated via a button dedicated solely to that purpose to the right of the zoom toggle/shutter release.
The "dual" portion of "Dual Image Stabilization" is not entirely clear when shooting in most modes, however: while it claims to use ISO boost in conjunction with CCD shift, the user can still set a fixed ISO manually which effectively overrides half of the dualistic approach. Nonetheless, even with sensor-shifting stabilization alone, the difference in shots at 1/20 is subtle at screen resolutions but obvious at 100 percent view.
Fuji claims a CIPA standard of 230 shots per charge for their latest FinePix. Having put down well over 150 images with the F60fd on its last charge, the battery still shows no signs of fading, suggesting that the number is probably close to reasonable for real-world performance in this case.
A completely drained battery took just over 2 hours to fully recharge using the supplied external charger.
In terms of overall image quality, we've been very happy with what we've seen from the last several offerings in this series, and given the level of technological carry-over from the F50fd, I had little reason to expect much of a curve ball anywhere in this section. Indeed, with a familiar sensor and lens combination, the F60fd proves to be more of a performance and features focused upgrade than a step forward in the image quality department. Nonetheless, even detail-oriented shooters should be satisfied with what the F60fd is capable of in the image quality department.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
As resolution has increased in this series of cameras over the years, we've witnessed some obvious trade-offs in certain areas to get these larger, poster ready image files from a camera with a small sensor. On the whole, shots from the F50fd ended up looking a little more compressed in terms of dynamic range than what we'd seen from the excellent F40fd. While the current F60fd has a rather large sensor for a compact, measuring 1/1.6 inches, a 50 percent increase in pixel density from the F40fd constrained the seventh-generation Super CCD in the dynamic range department compared to its predecessor.
That said, the F60fd still does surprisingly well for a point-and-shoot camera at holding it together in high-contrast shots, presenting nice, smooth highlight roll-off, especially, that rivals that from any small camera currently on the market. In fact, one of the few 12 megapixel cameras that's appreciably better is another FinePix – Fuji's F100fd, with its FinePix Wide Dynamic Range capture/processing options.
Some of this performance can also be credited to the F60fd's dead on multi-area metering, which rarely gets tripped up by backlit scenes or large areas of sky – especially, it seems, when shooting in SR Auto mode. As in the past, this FinePix seems to be built around an "expose for the highlights" metering philosophy that epitomizes, in our view, the way compact cameras with more limited DR should always calculate exposure.
If you're the kind of shooter looking to take things off auto, the kind of shooter who finds the F60fd's manual exposure controls attractive rather than intimidating, the F60fd also provides a nice combination of additional metering modes: a small-area spot mode that's tied to the focus point, as well as a scene average option.
Color reproduction remains accurate and pleasing, with a nice, neutral flavor that works well for a variety of subjects.
When it comes to color processing, Fuji's done a good job of knowing its market and understanding that a more neutral approach all around with a slight bump in green-channel saturation for vivid outdoor shots is a look that will appeal to general consumers looking for print-ready images without going overboard and scaring off more advanced potential customers.
If you're looking for more kick, Fuji brings it in the form of their F-Chrome film simulation mode, which hits appreciably stronger in the reds and blues and boosts contrast considerably compared to the default rendering as well.
As seen above, the only other in-camera processing option in this case is a monochrome shooting mode.
White balance performance under artificial indoor light tends toward the weak side of average, with particularly unattractive automatic balancing of pure incandescent light causing the bulk of the camera's white balance issues.
The F60fd's long list of presets generally help sort everything out, but against all logic, scenes with mixed lighting often end up looking most neutral and true to life with the auto setting engaged. Interestingly, the F60fd's automatic setting is also somewhat more forgiving than most point-and-shoots (most digital cameras generally, truth be told) when it comes to working late in the day or in full-cover shade. A mixed bag, then, on the whole, and one that will require some situation-specific experimentation in nonstandard lighting situations to achieve best results.
The F60fd's 3x zoom is a known quantity at this point, and what we said about its overall sharpness in our F50fd review was proven true yet again this time around: "The F50fd lens shows some softness at the edges in both wide angle and telephoto, but not so much as to be readily apparent at normal image sizes." Likewise, the optic is overwhelmingly free from aberrations, showing only a slight bit of fringe wide open and at the wide end of the range.
The F60fd shows a bit of barrel distortion, though nothing particularly serious, at wide angle, and no visible pincushioning at telephoto.
There is some color shift from one end of the lens to the other, with shots getting warmer at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
Sensitivity and Noise
When we reviewed the F50fd late last year, we were favorably impressed by its high-sensitivity chops: "Shooting at ISO 6400 is pretty much breaking new ground in the compact P&S ranks, going where no compact digital has gone before." Of course, while reduced-res ISO 6400 is still not commonplace among point-and-shoot cameras, it's certainly not the rarity it was a year ago.
As of last year, we felt that the F50fd continued to hold about a one stop noise performance lead over its competition, and the F100fd turned in a similar performance. While the competition keeps getting better and better, in light of the F60fd's pure resolving power, this still appears to be largely the case.
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
ISO 6400, 100% crop
Some fine grain begins to inch in at ISO 200, but things stay pretty consistently clean as high as ISO 800, even, with plenty of color retention and very little edge softness. In short, I'd have no hesitation about using the camera's default Auto/800 setting, which automatically selects sensitivities up to ISO 800. ISO 1600 gets noticeably grainer, but where the F60fd continues to best its peers is in the fact that its noise at higher sensitivities is more grain that blotchiness, making for a more visually pleasing, more printable image.
Even the reduced resolution ISO 3200 shot isn't terribly noisy for the amount of detail it offers; it would make acceptable small prints for sure. ISO 6400 won't be of much use except for taking web shots in situations of dire need, but this it's not until this impressively high point, in truth, that the F60fd really falls apart.
Additional Sample Images
On the one hand, Fuji hasn't changed much in the basic FinePix F-camera formula for this latest model. If you've moved through the entire review waiting for that exciting curveball, we're regret to report that you're not going to find it here. Upgrades to the camera's automatic, consumer friendly functions form the basis for what's new about the new F60fd, with the salient performance numbers and image quality evaluations all looking pretty familiar.
Still, change isn't always a necessary ingredient in cooking up a high-performance pocket camera. Sometimes it's better to stick with what you know, and the F60fd's image quality, while not changed in any meaningful way when compared to shots from the F50fd, remains quite good just the same. If we might have liked to see a bold step backward on resolution in the name of reducing noise and improving dynamic range, the extra latitude for cropping or downsampling afforded by 12 million pixels means that there's a lot for advanced shooters to work with in the F60fd's files. And although it doesn't provide lots of on-board processing controls, having good metering options and manual exposure control alone will probably be enough to entice more than few DSLR users seeking a pocket cam with solid all-around performance.
At the end of the day, that's what the F60fd proves to be: a solid all-around performer that easily justifies its prices with great looks, great speed, great images, and low light performance that's still holding on, however tenuously, to a leading position in the point-and-shoot world. If you're in the market for a pocket camera that goes beyond the basics – with plenty of manual options, but also a boatload of new automatic tools and tricks – the FinePix F60fd deserves a place on your short list.
|Sensor||12.0 megapixel, 1/1.6" Fujifilm Super CCD|
|Zoom||3x (35-105mm) Fujinon zoom, f/2.8-5.1|
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 230K-pixel TFT LCD|
|Sensitivity||ISO 100-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at lower resolution)
|Shutter Speed||8-1/2000 seconds
|Shooting Modes||Auto, Natural Light, Natural Light with Flash, SR Auto, A/S Priority, Manual, Movie|
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Portrait Enhancer, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Underwater, Museum, Party, Flower, Text
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, Custom
|Metering Modes||Not Specified
|Focus Modes||Center AF, Multi AF, Area AF, Continuous AF, Macro
|Drive Modes||Normal, Top 3, Top 12, Final 3, Final 12, Long Period
|Flash Modes||Auto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Syncrho with Red-Eye Reduction|
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||xD-Picture Card, SD, SDHC
|File Formats||JPEG, AVI, WAV
|Max. Image Size||4000x3000
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||No
|Connections||USB 2.0, AV output, DC input, IrSimple
|Additional Features||Face Detection 3.0, Dual Image Stabilization, Continuous Shooting, Portrait Enhancer Mode|
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