Nice things often come in very small packages. The Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 is no bigger than a Canon digital ELPH, and it packs a 10x zoom.
For some shooters, the JZ500's dearth of manual exposure options, lack of an optical viewfinder, and very limited user input may seem a bit disconcerting, but in reality, they are well matched to the needs of the camera's target audience.
BUILD AND DESIGN
There have been three ongoing trends in point-and-shoot digital camera design since the first commercially available digicam hit store shelves: smaller cameras, higher resolution (more megapixels) and longer zooms. Ongoing refinements in digital imaging technology over the past 15 years have resulted in cameras that have become progressively smaller, with resolution that has steadily increased, and zoom lenses that have (like Pinocchio's nose) grown longer and longer. Recently all these usability-driven design trends have come together in a whole new class of digicam: the compact ultrazoom.
The diminutive and pocketable Fujifilm Finepix JZ500 could easily act as the poster child for this new class of digital camera. It measures just 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches and weighs 5.2 ounces (without the battery, memory card, and wrist strap).
In appearance, the JZ500 is a fairly conventional camera that looks a lot like every other ultra-compact digital camera out there. While it's not as thin as some of its credit card-sized competitors, the svelte JZ500's 1/2.3-inch CCD image sensor generates 14 megapixel images; 4320 x 3240 pixels at the camera's standard 4:3 aspect ratio (3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio modes are also available). The JZ500 also features a 10x (equivalent to 28-280mm) zoom and a big enough 2.7-inch (230k) LCD screen with 96% coverage. Fuji 's newest ultra-compact digital camera relies on a fully automatic exposure system and very basic controls/menus to make capturing impressive images simple.
Ergonomics and Controls
The JZ500 is a tiny camera, but it feels solidly built and somewhat heavier than expected. The camera fits nicely in your hands and is comfortable in use, even over long periods. The attractive black body (the camera is also available in silver) is shiny/smooth with rounded corners; the camera lacks a handgrip, so the inclusion of a wrist strap definitely helps. The Fuji JZ500's user interface is uncomplicated and consistently straightforward. The control layout is fairly typical and quite similar to most other recent point-and-shoots. Buttons are logically placed and come easily for right-handed shooters, but they are all rather small. The mode dial is almost too small, but all controls are responsive and provide a confidence-inspiring tactile feel.
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, review mode button, and Display/Back button. The compass switch (four-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.
The JZ500's controls are logical in their application with the exception of the Play/Review button. Push the JZ500's play button and the camera shifts from shooting mode to review mode. With most of the currently available digicams, when you are ready to return to shooting mode, you would simply press play once again, but not with the JZ500. You must illogically shift your grip on the camera and press the shutter button with your trigger finger (rather than simply using your thumb to press the play button) to return to shooting mode.
Menus and Modes
Fuji has a reputation for simple and uncomplicated menu systems and the JZ500 continues that tradition. The JZ500 provides a simple two tab/two page menu.
The JZ500 offers a fairly standard selection of shooting modes - most users will likely opt to shoot primarily in Program mode.
Like most currently available digicams, the JZ500 doesn't provide an optical viewfinder, so the LCD must be used for all framing/composition, camera status and menu navigation chores. The JZ500's fairly large 2.7-inch screen covers most of the available space on the camera's rear deck. The screen is super fluid; movement is smooth and natural as opposed to jerky (so the refresh rate must be pretty high), reasonably bright, relatively (230,000 pixels) sharp and hue (color) correct.
In dim/low light, the LCD automatically boosts screen intensity/brightness (brightness can also be adjusted manually). The JZ500's LCD is difficult to use bright outdoor settings; there were times when I could only see glare and reflections. A better anti-glare/anti-reflective coating would have made it much more useful. This is a very important consideration, since the LCD is the JZ500's only viewfinder.
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