Fujifilm's FinePix F70EXR is (as of November 2009) the "World's smallest digital camera with a 10x optical zoom." The svelte new F70 (which replaces Fuji's F60fd model) also incorporates the nifty EXR technology introduced earlier this year on the very popular Fujifilm F200EXR. What sets both EXR cameras apart from the competition is the new Super CCD EXR imaging sensor.
The F70's Super CCD EXR imaging sensor incorporates larger pixels and a novel new layout that (according to Fuji) permits the sensor to capture more light over a shorter period of time than standard sensor arrays. The Super CCD EXR sensor works in tandem with Fuji's new Real Photo Processor EXR for faster camera operation, lower noise levels, improved dynamic range, brighter colors, and sharper images.
The icing on the cake may be the F70's new color saturation choices based on well-known Fuji 35mm slide films like Velvia, Provia, and Astia. If all that's not enough, the F70EXR offers control-conscious shutterbugs an aperture priority mode and a full manual exposure mode. Other neat features include dual image stabilization, third generation Face Detection, a Portrait Enhancer mode, and sensitivity settings up to ISO 12800. That's a lot of functionality for a shirt pocket digicam.
BUILD AND DESIGN
Digital cameras, as a class, generate surprisingly good pictures in decent light. After the sun goes down, in dull weather, and indoors, most produce noisy images with flat contrast and dull colors. Fuji offered a series of digicams that did better than the competition in dim/low lighting and indoors. The chunky and un-sexy F30fd and F40fd produced noticeably better than average higher ISO images in natural light, low light, and indoors, but they lacked the svelte profile demanded by consumers.
Like Olympus, Pentax, and Panasonic, Fuji doesn't like being in the second tier behind Canon, Nikon, and Sony so they tried again to put themselves ahead with the F200EXR. The F200EXR featured an improved Real Photo processor and new EXR technology to improve high ISO image quality. The F200EXR created quite a stir, but consumers still wanted smaller cameras, more megapixels, and longer zooms - the F70EXR is a very conventional looking digicam that looks like every other compact digital camera, but it is eminently pocketable and while it's not as compact as some of its credit-card sized competitors, it does provide 10 megapixel resolution and a 10x zoom.
While most shooters don't need the multi-megapixel images generated by the great majority of currently available P&S digicams, some consumers may be troubled by the fact that the F70EXR is not a full-time 10 megapixel camera in its namesake EXR mode. The highest resolution (10 megapixels) is only available in the Resolution Priority mode. The High ISO & Low Noise mode and the D-Range Priority mode only generate 5 megapixel images.
Ergonomics and Controls
The F70EXR is a fairly small camera, but it feels solid and somewhat heavier than expected. The camera fits nicely in the hands and is comfortable to use even over long periods. The attractive gun-metal gray and silver body is shiny/smooth and there's no handgrip - nothing but a tiny decorative chrome ridge along the right edge of the body - so continuous use of the wrist strap is probably a good idea.
The Fuji F70EXR's user interface is uncomplicated and reasonably straightforward. The control layout is fairly typical and quite similar to most other recent point and shoots. Buttons are logically placed and come easily to hand for right-handed shooters, but they are all rather small. The mode dial is almost too diminutive, but all controls are responsive and provide a confidence-inspiring tactile firmness.
All controls with the exception of the on/off button, shutter button, and zoom controller switch are located on the back of the camera. Dedicated controls include the Mode Dial, play button, and "F" function button which provides a shortcut to a selection of settings/functions directly related to the selected shooting mode - for example in EXR mode the "F" button provides direct access to ISO, image size, film simulation options. The compass switch (4-way controller) provides direct access to the exposure compensation function in shooting mode and the delete function (in playback mode), macro settings, the self-timer, and flash options. Below the compass switch are the DISP (display) button and the direct access to the F70's third generation face detection mode which can detect up to ten faces and is (according to Fuji) faster and more accurate even when subjects aren't looking directly at the camera.
Menus and Modes
Fuji has always featured an easy to use menu system and the F70EXR is no exception. Selections/Options are straightforward, logical, and clearly thought out. The Shooting menu is covered in two pages and the Set-up menu is covered in four pages.
The F70 provides the standard selection of shooting modes plus several non-standard options, but many users will probably leave the camera in EXR mode full time.
EXR modes include:
Like most recent consumer digital cameras, the Fuji F70EXR doesn't provide an additional (optical or electronic) viewfinder so the 2.7 inch LCD screen is utilized for all framing/composition, captured image review, and menu navigation chores - the LCD is viewable at 160 degrees both vertically and horizontally.
The F70's LCD is fairly sharp (230,000 pixels), bright enough, hue accurate, relatively fluid, and the info display provides all the data the camera's target audience is likely to need. The user-enabled LCD grid-line display is a nice (and useful) touch, but the LCD is very shiny so it tends to fade a bit in bright outdoor lighting. The display gains "up" (automatically increases brightness) in dim lighting.
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