DigitalCameraReview.com
Fujifilm Finepix F50fd Review
by J. Keenan -  10/25/2007

Fujifilm’s website describes the Finepix F50fd as "the pinnacle of technology in a compact camera", and there are some hi-tech features appearing in a Fujifilm F-series for the first time, notably mechanical image stabilization and automatic in-camera red eye removal. The camera also features next-generation face detection technology and the ability to shoot at up to ISO 6400, albeit at reduced resolutions for 3200 (6MP) and 6400 (3MP) sensitivities. Other manufacturers have had optical and mechanical stabilization in their products for some time, and automatic red-eye removal has also been done before. Shooting at ISO 6400 is pretty much breaking new ground in the compact P&S ranks, going where no compact digital has gone before.

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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The F50fd also sports a 1/1.6 inch generation VII 12MP Super CCD HR sensor, 25MB of internal memory, a 2.7 inch LCD monitor and a 3x optical zoom lens with a 35-105mm focal length range (35mm film equivalent).

That 105mm telephoto won’t get you "close" to distant subjects, but those files from the 12MP sensor will lend themselves to more aggressive cropping to help take up some of the telephoto’s shortcomings.

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Here are cropped shots of the Goodyear blimp, with the third shot having a little extra sharpening done in the computer…

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
Original (view medium image) (view large image)
Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
Cropped (view medium image) (view large image)
Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
Sharpened (view medium image) (view large image)
 

Fujifim F-series cameras with Super CCD sensors have enjoyed a reputation for better than average high ISO noise performance, but can they continue this trend with the F50fd after packing all those pixels on a compact digital sensor?

A CLOSER LOOK 

First, here’s the zoom range of that 35-105mm lens:

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
Wide angle setting (view medium image) (view large image)
Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
Telephoto (view medium image) (view large image)

The F50fd provides a mixed bag of auto and manual exposure options. In addition to auto (which is really a "programmed auto" as we’ll discuss a bit later), the camera offers 16 specific shooting modes as well as aperture and shutter priority settings, and what Fujifilm generously describes as "manual". Fuji’s website touts "full manual controls", but when the shutter button drops it turns out that "manual" is actually "an automatic mode to specify the settings except for the shutter speed and aperture setting". Still, the existence of legitimate aperture and shutter priority controls in addition to the suite of automatic modes gives the F50fd versatility above and beyond the typical compact P&S, and should broaden its appeal to potential users.

Fujifilm provides a Li-ion battery and charger, hand strap, owner’s manual, USB and A/V cables, and CD-ROM software with each camera. The camera will accept x-D, SD or SDHC memory cards.

Camera dimensions are 3.6 x 2.3 x .9 inches with the lens retracted, and a shooting weight (battery and memory card installed) of 6.2 ounces.

JPEG still images may be captured in six pixel sizes: 4000 x 3000 (12M), 4224 x 2816 (3:2), 2848 x 2136 (6M),

2048 x 1536 (3M), 1600 x 1200 (2M) and 640 x 480 (.3M). 12MP images may be captured in "fine" or "normal" quality settings; unless stated otherwise, images produced by the F50fd for use in this review were done at the 12MP/fine quality setting.

Movies may be captured in AVI format 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 sizes at 25 frames per second. Movies can be recorded to approximately 2GB size, at which point recording will stop. The user can immediately continue recording by pressing the shutter button again. The camera cannot zoom during movie capture.

CAMERA FEATURES AND LAYOUT 

The F50fd features a metal and composite body over a metal frame, in a brushed-silver and chrome motif. The camera looks and feels well-built.

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd
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SHOOTING WITH THE F50fd 

Auto Mode 

Default settings on the F50fd are 12MP/normal quality images, auto/800 ISO, standard color, 256 segment multi-metering and both mechanical and ISO-boosting stabilization enabled. The user can make changes to image quality and color, so this mode is a bit more like a programmed auto mode.

Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Fujifilm Finepix F50fd sample image
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Shooting Modes 

In addition to auto, natural light and natural light & flash modes may be accessed via the mode dial (natural light takes a shot by boosting ISO so flash is not used – natural light & flash takes two shots: the first without flash and the second with).

Fourteen scene positions may be accessed via the SP1 and SP2 settings on the mode dial. These include portrait, portrait enhancer, landscape, sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, underwater, museum, party, flower and text. One nice feature of the SP1/SP2 arrangement is you can select scenes you shoot more frequently and assign them to the SP settings without having to scroll through the entire menu.

Taken with "Text" mode:

fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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Manual Modes 

The A/S setting on the mode dial allows the user to designate aperture (A) or shutter (S) priority by way of internal menu. Their inclusion gives the F50fd a little more creativity potential than an auto-only camera.

The M setting on the mode dial does not allow the user to determine exposure by manipulating shutter speed and aperture like the typical manual control – the camera handles those ends of the equation. M allows the user to select exposure compensation, metering method, white balance and AF mode should she so desire. M is really another programmed auto mode, with a few extra inputs over and above those available on auto. 

In-Camera Editing Tools 

The F50fd has the ability to send or receive photographed images to/from other Fujifilm cameras with IR capability, devices with high-speed infrared transmission capability, or any mobile device with an IrSimple function. The camera also features a "trimming for blog" capability that allows the user to change pictures to a smaller size to save or transmit.

There is also a "trim" (crop) function, manual red-eye removal, protect and copy image functions, and the ability to add voice memos to images. 

Exposure Compensation 

Exposure compensation of +/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV increments is available in A, S or M modes only. 

Light Metering 

256-zone through the lens (TTL) multi metering is the default setting; spot and averaging methods are also available in A, S and M modes only.

As a practical matter, the F50fd’s multi metering worked well with scenes of average brightness or those that were evenly lit. There was some tendency to lose some highlights on bright, high contrast shots such as the breaking waves in the surf, but that type of shot challenges any camera. These types of situations are tailor-made for switching to a manual mode with some exposure compensation. 

Focus/Macro Focus 

The F50fd acquires focus quickly in good lighting conditions, and there is an AF assist illuminator to help the camera acquire focus in dimly lit conditions. The illuminator does not fire in landscape, sport, fireworks, sunset, museum, party or flower modes.

Normal focal range in wide angle is 1.5 feet to infinity; at telephoto 2.0 feet to infinity.

Macro range is 2.8 inches to 2.6 feet at wide angle; telephoto is 1 foot to 2.6 feet.

Monitor 

The 2.7 inch LCD monitor is of 230,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 11 levels of brightness. Like many monitors in this camera’s class, it can be difficult to use in bright conditions with subjects of low contrast; the monitor is fine in good light for composing or editing shots. There is no viewfinder.

The default monitor display shows icons indicating image size and quality, shots remaining on the memory source, ISO sensitivity, stabilization mode, shooting mode and battery level. The information is arrayed at the top of the screen and does not compromise image composition when shooting. 

Flash 

Fujifilm reports a flash range of 2 to 14.4 feet at wide angle, and 2 feet to 7.9 feet at telephoto. Macro flash range is given as 1 foot to 2.6 feet.

Flash recycle times varied with the degree of discharge – in a brighter environment or with a close subject where the flash was not required to fire near maximum output, recycle times were often a fairly quick 2 to 4 seconds. In dark conditions where the flash was firing at/near maximum output, 7 second or longer recycle times were the norm. The F50fd requires about 2.5 seconds between single shots before the shutter will operate, so it is possible to fire the shutter without the flash being fully charged.

Fujifilm has moved the location of the flash to a more central spot on the upper camera body compared to the F40fd, with the result that vertical composition shots with the F50fd don’t end up with fingers sometimes blocking the flash as they did on the F40fd. Good move, Fuji.

Color 

I found color with the F50fd to be generally in agreement with my eyes as to accuracy and saturation.  Fujifilm offers the ability to increase contrast and saturation via the F-Chrome setting – here are examples of standard and F-Chrome color:

fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
Standard color
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
Standard color
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
F-Chrome color
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
F-Chrome color
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ISO 

The F50fd uses auto/800 as the default setting, meaning the camera will set an ISO between 100 and 800 for auto shots. Auto/400 and auto/1600 settings are also available, as are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (at 6MP resolution) and 6400 (at 3MP resolution) sensitivities. The individual sensitivities are available in A, S, and M modes only.

Fuji’s F series cameras with the Super CCD sensor have a reputation for delivering best-in-class high ISO performance, and the F40fd I tested back in August was the best P&S I’d ever shot personally. The F50fd uses a later generation sensor of the same physical size as the F40fd, but crams an additional 4MP onto the chip. Generally, more is not better when it comes to identically sized sensors, and the F50fd looks a little noisier than the F40fd to my eye in the blue sky shots. I thought the F40fd might have been as much as 2 EV better than the non-Fujifilm competition in the high ISO derby; the F50fd strikes me as being perhaps 1 EV better, based on my recent review of the 12MP Canon A650 IS. In any event, if you need 12MP and the best possible high ISO performance in a compact P&S, the F50fd looks to be the way to go. It really does pretty good through 800, although if I were shooting an F50fd on auto I’d set the sensitivity to auto/400 to keep it in its best performance range, at least until camera shake became an issue.

Here are blue sky shots to 1600 ISO (where the bright day started to exceed the camera’s auto range). Before I got back to the 3200 and 6400 shots with a darker sky, wildfires in our area have given everything a reddish-brown tint as the sun comes through the smoke and ash clouds. There are also shots (in incandescent light) at ISO 100 through 6400 to give you an idea what "real" pictures look like.


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600
 

 


ISO 100 (view medium image)

ISO 200 (view medium image)

ISO 400(view medium image)

ISO 800 (view medium image)

ISO 1600 (view medium image)

ISO 3200 (view medium image)

ISO 6400 (view medium image)
  

White Balance 

Auto white balance is the default setting and worked well in daylight and flash conditions. The incandescent setting produced accurate colors in the ISO shots of the framed picture. Custom, daylight, shade, incandescent and 3 types of fluorescent settings are also available with A, S and M modes.

Battery Performance 

Fujifilm rates the F50fd’s battery for 230 shots. I chimped a lot and shot a fair amount of high output flash shots, and the battery "fuel gauge" display indicated I was running out at about 200 shots. The gauge seemed to stay "full" for quite a while, then drop somewhat quickly, so having a spare battery (or two) would be a good idea as the F50fd can’t use alternative sources such as AA or AAA batteries.

Shutter Performance 

The shutter has a range of 8 seconds to 1/2000th second, and performance, once focus is acquired, is near instantaneous without flash. With Face Detection technology disabled (which is the default setting), flash shots are triggered quickly, but red-eye reduction modes with Face Detection enabled fires a pre-flash before capturing the image. The camera is a bit slower than most in this class to power up – it takes about two seconds to be ready to shoot.

There is about a 2.5 second wait between single shots for the shutter button to become active again, and use of a high speed SD memory card does not seem to improve this time. I shot the F50fd with both a standard SanDisk SD card and their Extreme III card with no apparent difference in performance, both in single and continuous shooting modes.

The F50fd will shoot 3 images at about 2 frames per second (fps) at full resolution, or 12 images at 5 fps and 3MP resolution. Write time after shooting 12 images is about 6 seconds, with both the standard and high speed SD cards I used. Those 3MP images will print at about 8 x 10 inches at 200 pixels per inch (ppi), and 5 x 7 inches at 300 ppi, enough data to produce good quality prints, particularly the 5 x 7s. Here are the middle 6 shots of a series of 12 at 3 MP…

fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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Lens Performance 

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. There is some barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from center of image) at the wide angle end, but effects on normal sized images are minimal. Performance at the telephoto end is good. The lens produced some purple fringing in high contrast boundary layers, but only really noticeable at 300 – 400% enlargements. Very good lens performance overall. 

MISCELLANEOUS 

The F50fd is PictBridge compliant and features an approximately 8.3X digital zoom capability.

The camera employs the traditional Fujifilm "image stabilization" of boosting ISO to produce faster shutter speeds as a means to producing sharper images, but also adds mechanical stabilization by moving the CCD (sensor). The good news is both methods are only employed in "auto"mode; just the mechanical (Fujifilm calls it optical) method is used for all other modes. Boosting ISO as a means of producing sharper pictures is generally less desirable than shifting lens elements or the camera sensor. Stabilization can be selected continuously or only when actually shooting (by pressing the shutter button halfway).

fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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fujifilm finepix f50fd sample image
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CONCLUSION 

Fujifilm touts the F50fd as the "pinnacle of technology in a compact camera", and this latest F-series addition to the family maintains Fuji’s grip on the high ISO performance envelope, although perhaps not as firmly as earlier models. 3200 and 6400 ISO sensitivities give the camera a range not normally found in cameras of this class.

The camera offers good shutter performance and a surprisingly good continuous shooting capability at reduced resolution. Image quality and color reproduction are good, and a full suite of automatic scene modes are complemented by aperture and shutter priority manual settings. Mechanical image stabilization puts the F50fd on an equal footing with many competitors, stabilization-wise. The 2.7 inch viewfinder outdoes all those 2.5 inchers, but comes up short against the 3 inch models now starting to appear. The 12MP sensor produces image sizes that will lend themselves to more aggressive cropping to mimic the telephoto effects not obtainable with the Fuji’s 3X optical zoom.  I’m not sure a 3X zoom meets my idea of a "pinnacle of technology", but the F50fd offers a nice blend of performance that’s good enough to stand on its own.

PROS 

CONS