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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd Review
by David Rasnake -  1/3/2008

The Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd enters the ultra-compact market in a unique position, offering an aggressively styled super-thin camera at a lower price than most competitive devices. A slightly stripped point-and-shoot model, the Z10 is a definite winner in terms of ease of use and convenience. And assuming you're not put off by its less-than-stellar all-plastic construction, the FinePix also has the visual style to compete in the ultra-compact arena. Style and speed are the buzz words here, but potential buyers may be put off by some unimpressive pictures from the Z10.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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IN THE BOX

Key features and specs of the Fuji FinePix Z10fd include:

The Z10 can use either the proprietary xD-Picture Card memory format, or more conventional SD/SDHC cards. Image files are saved as JPEGs, and movies as AVIs. The FinePix offers 25 MB of internal memory; a 1 GB card will hold nearly 300 highest-res, highest-quality images.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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USB 2.0 and infrared (see below) outputs are available for transferring files. In addition to the camera itself, a wrist strap, battery charger, manual, and software CD are included in the box.


IN HAND

Visually, the FinePix Z10fd is bold. Color choices including green, purple, and orange further contribute to the camera’s trendy appeal. Stylistic considerations alone may largely determine whether or not this is the camera for you.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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With all the thought that seems to have gone in to design of the basic shape and accent details, it’s sad that this attention didn't carry over to build quality. Plastic body construction feels thin with lots of flex, and button feel is sticky and cheap (and in some cases not particularly ergonomic). While the Z10 is targeted to the top of the budget market, even in this price range there are certainly more solidly built cameras.

Display/Viewfinder

The 2.5-inch, 150,000-pixel LCD on the Z10 is hue-accurate, if not very sharp. The display gains up automatically in low light, but becomes much less smooth in dark conditions. Bright light also tends to overpower the display more easily than most, making me long for an optical viewfinder on occasion. Still, in average lighting the display is smooth enough for tracking fast-moving subjects.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Holding and Shooting

All-plastic construction comes with a few unforeseen benefits: in a world where it seems that the majority of ultra-compacts are cased in metal, the Z10 feels incredibly light. In a pocket, it’s both thin and light enough to go completely unnoticed most of the time.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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In spite of a lack of grip space on the right-hand side of the camera, the Fuji’s lightness makes one-handed shooting easier than it seems like it would be. The Z10 is not a great choice for those with larger hands, however: my fingers seemed to find their way in front of the flash, and with the non-protruding lens extremely close to the opposite edge, it’s easy to cover part of the optics when shooting two-handed. The dual d-pad buttons are small and don’t sit very far above the center select button; be prepared to use your fingernails to tap the macro button, especially.

With this in mind, the Z10 is still ergonomically acceptable for its primary use – snapshots. To this end, the control layout seems well considered, with intuitive dedicated buttons and a simple single menu providing access to all functions. Even a complete novice should have no trouble finding his or her way around this camera’s feature set.


IN THE MENUS

The Z10 is a basic point-and-shoot with the standard range of user adjustments – white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, and AF settings – as well as several scene presets. The FinePix has five basic modes:

Note that the Scene mode presets are not sorted into their own submenu, but are listed individually in the master mode menu alongside Auto and Manual modes.

Auto Mode

Auto mode on the Z10 is as simple as it gets, with adjustments for drive mode and color mode only. White balance and ISO are locked in their respective automatic modes. As the Z10 wants to overexpose shots with some consistency, however, the fact that exposure compensation isn't available in Auto mode makes shooting in Manual mode preferable in many cases.

Manual Mode

As with most compacts, Manual mode is actually a program auto setup, with the full range of user adjustments unlocked. The Z10 does, however, display shutter speed and aperture selections pre-shot in both Auto and Manual modes – useful info in some situations.

Scene Mode

The Z10 has 15 scene presets. Most are the expected choices (landscape, portrait, night shot). A somewhat unique Natural Light and Flash mode takes two consecutive shots, one with the ISO boosted to use available light and one with the flash, saving users the hassle of a settings adjustment.

Conversely, the addition of an Anti-Blur mode, which enables the Z10's ISO-boosting image stabilization technology, seems redundant given that the stabilization mode can be enabled in any shooting mode via the dedicated button.

Movie Mode

Movie options on the Z10 are basic at best: users can select between 640x480 and 320x240, both at 30 fps with mono sound. Zoom is locked during video recording.

Playback Mode

As with movie mode, playback mode options are bare-bones, with no post-shot effects.

The Z10 has a built-in infrared port, allowing the device to send and receive photos using the IrSimple protocol. Setting up and using the system, which can be activated while in Playback mode, is surprisingly easy, and those who groan when IR transfer technology is mentioned will be happy to learn that transfer speeds using the newer protocol aren't bad. The bigger issue (unless you have a laptop from the late 90s) is finding compatible devices. Moreover, if you have a friend with an IR-equipped Fuji camera this could be a fun feature, but for most users Bluetooth or WiFi are more desirable.


IN THE FIELD

As a basic, functional snapshot camera, the Z10 doesn’t disappoint. While the overall experience sometimes lacks refinement, the camera displayed good quickness and an ability to perform reasonably well across a range of shooting conditions without changing a single setting.

Timing and Shutter Lag

The Z10fd earns good to excellent marks in the shutter lag category. Press-to-shot time with the camera pre-focused was under .1 seconds. Without focus lock, timings averaged between .3 and .4 seconds. The Z10’s focusing system is quick and precise, contributing to a snappy feel all around.

Continuous shooting mode was not as impressive, hitting consecutive frames in 1.4 seconds at full resolution; at lower resolutions, the Z10 comes in at nearly 2 frames per second. Flash recycle time is right around 3 seconds – not class leading, but not bad at all.

Combined with quick power-up times and a simple default AF system, shutter and flash timings are easily fast enough to give the Z10 a responsive feeling, on the whole.

Lens and Zoom

The Z10’s non-protruding zoom has a 35mm-equivalent range of 38-114mm. While the zoom is a little slow to pick up when moving from full wide-angle, especially, 9 steps between one end of the range and the other make it feel less constrained than many 3x units. Even so, zooming on the Z10 is not particularly smooth.

Focus Settings and Performance

Only two AF modes, plus the global face recognition focus and exposure mode, are available on the Z10: in Auto shooting mode, focus is locked in Center AF mode (the focusing area is boxed on the display) unless face recognition focus and exposure is engaged. In Manual mode, users may select from either Center AF or 9-point Multi AF. While both settings proved acceptably fast and the Z10 rarely hunted for focus once a point was selected, Multi AF was inconsistent in selecting the correct focus point, leading to several missed shots. Likewise, without an AF assist lamp low light focusing is considerably slowed. For whatever reason, there are simply too many blurry shots among the test photos to be able to positively rate the Z10’s focusing abilities.

As with Multi AF, the face recognition system on this camera, which can be engaged in either Auto or Manual mode via its dedicated button, isn’t as refined as users have come to expect. The system was easily fooled by several round objects (dinner plates, car wheels, balloons). As the face recognition technology is a linked focus and exposure system, this difficulty tended to cause exposure problems as well. Hence, it’s probably a good idea to disable the system altogether when not shooting portraits.

At full wide-angle, the minimum focusing distance for the Z10’s user-selectable macro mode is just above 3 inches.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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This, in combination with fuzzy image quality, makes macro shooting an unfulfilling experience on the FinePix.

Flash Settings and Performance

Flash options on the Z10 include fill and slow-synchro modes, but overall performance from the flash unit is one of this camera’s disappointments. White balance on flash shots under mixed lighting was inconsistent at best: sometimes shots were fine; at other times, lighter colors showed extremely cool shifted hues. Overexposure was also a constant problem in flash shots, imparting a washed out look, and the power-limited unit depends heavily on ISO boost to reach its maximum 12.9-foot range.

Redeye also seemed to be a constant problem, even with red-eye reduction and face recognition modes enabled. The following crop highlights both the extent of the red-eye issue and the slightly shifted skin tone values from Z10 flash shots.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Battery Life

Fuji reports a 200-shot battery life with the Z10’s 740mAh lithium-ion pack. With lots of on-screen review, I was able to get about 170 shots between charges.


IN THE SHOTS

Against an objective standard, image quality from the Z10 is not very good. Even among ultra-compacts, shots from this camera are underwhelming. The FinePix Z10fd is certainly not the pocket-sized camera for capturing razor-sharp images, and even without Fuji’s low-light leading Super CCD technology, smoother high-ISO images were expected.

General Image Quality

Our studio shot shows decent exposure and range, but hints at the Z10’s tendency to drop out shadow areas (notice the lack of contrast and detail in the lower bottle label) that shows up strongly in outdoor shots. Crops reveal that there’s not as much detail capture here as we’re used to, even at ISO 64.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd

At ISO 1600, the lack of edge definition gives even small prints a fuzzy look.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd

Exposure, Processing, and Color

Default metering (there are no user options on this camera) tends heavily toward overexposure, especially in outdoor scenes. Even with the sun at my back, the wide dynamic range of the following shot simply overwhelms the Z10’s metering system.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Part of the difficulty undoubtedly lies with the Z10’s processing choices, which favor heavy contrast and tend to push the ends of the spectrum too much. Exposure compensation is helpful here, but the results are inconsistent, as shadow areas often come out much too dark when scenes are compensated correctly for highlights.

For a camera marketed to casual users rather than photo enthusiasts, saturation values are in line with expectations. Reds, greens, and blues all tend to punch extremely high, even in normal color mode (if the default color rendering isn't oversaturated enough, users can select a slide-film emulation color mode with even higher contrast and saturation). Note the saturation of reds, and to a lesser extent yellows, in the studio shot.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd

In outdoor shooting, the saturation push is even more pronounced.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd

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If high-saturation photos appeal to you, the Z10 certainly delivers, though like many compacts its color rendering is over-the-top and unnatural to my eye. Given that the camera provides color mode options, a more natural default setting would have perhaps been a better choice.

Other than the aforementioned flash issue, and the lack of a white balance setting for flash shots, white balance performance on the Fujifilm was acceptable in most situations. Incandescent studio shots show some brown tint, but whites are reasonably close to true.

While sharpening artifacts are well-controlled, there is more jaggedness in the Fuji’s default image rendering method than would be preferable, as well.

Lens Faults

Both barrel and pincushion distortion are negligible with the Z10fd in real-world shooting – rare among internal-lens compacts. Purple fringing (chromatic aberration) is severe at times, and the Z10's overexposure habit doesn't help here.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd

Given the quality of the optics package in this device, though, this kind of performance is in line with expectations. Subtle but persistent vignetting (where the corners of the image are slightly darkened) was also observed in wide-angle, wide-aperture shots.

General image softness is also apparent in all of our test photos. In wide-angle shots, especially, the Z10 displays a wider visibly soft edge than most cameras, even most ultra-compacts.

Sensitivity and Noise

In the 100% noise progression crops below, the Z10's noise gain at higher-ISOs appears to run somewhere in the middle of the compact camera pack.

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 64
Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 100
Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 200
Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 400

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 800

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
ISO 1600

Grain and noise are more visible at ISO 64/100 than might be expected, though there's little gain across the lowest three settings. ISO 400 shots have a much flatter look, with ISO 800 and 1600 losing most edge detail. Noise reduction at ISO 400 and beyond gives real-world shots a smeared appearance. In practice, while the camera is able to auto-adapt for low light shooting, results are marginal, barely reaching minimum quality standards for even small prints at ISO 1600.

Additional Sample Images

Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
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CONCLUSIONS

From a use standpoint, the FinePix Z10fd exemplifies point-and-shoot simplicity. Build quality is far from great, but as a pocket camera for a casual user the Z10 may be worth considering. The single biggest issue with the Z10 is that its image quality fails in so many respects that photo enthusiasts looking for an ultra-compact will write this camera off without a second look. For snapshots intended to be shared with friends and family, the Z10 is probably strong enough, and compared to other high-style ultra-compacts the price alone may be appealing. For those wanting a camera with more flexibility, however, the Z10 simply isn't the best choice: with today's FinePix Z100fd announcement, users interested in a new high-end ultra-compact from Fuji would be wise to wait.

Pros

Cons