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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd Review
by SarahM -  4/28/2008

Fujifilm seems to enjoy creating hype around their Z series line of digital cameras. The FinePix Z10fd, for instance, comes in several florescent colors and has a website (offzhook.com) for owners of the Z10fd to "network and share." Pretty corny, and definitely geared towards a young audience.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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But I was pleasantly surprised that although the company took a similar approach to the Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd, both the camera and its marketing approach show a lot more maturity. The Z100fd come in four subdued colors and the promotional website is simple, promoting the camera itself and not social networking.

Want to find out if the Z100fd also improved on previous FinePix Z cameras in terms of image quality and features? Keep reading...


FEATURES OVERVIEW

The FinePix Z100fd is one of the latest releases in the Z series from Fujifilm. Stylistically similar in some ways to the Z10fd and Z20fd, the 8 megapixel Z100fd has a conventional slim, flat body, diagonally sliding lens cover, face detection, mechanical image stabilization, blog mode, and IrSimple image transfer technology.

Upgrades to the Z100fd include a 5x optical zoom, dual image stabilization, and a glass-covered 2.7-inch LCD.

The Z100fd has the following primary shooting modes:

While it has the potential to take nice images, the most hyped feature for this camera is the style. As previously mentioned, Fuji has set up an entire website to highlight four main features that all focus on the the Z100fd's looks: the sophisticated body colors, the admittedly cool diagonal sliding lens cover, the Z illumination lamp, and the high-resolution LCD with micro thumbnail view.

Also, the Z100fd can be used with either SD/SDHC or xD-Picture Card memory types. Given that SD is more widely available, it's nice to see Fuji giving customers options.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

The Z100fd is striving to be the most visually exciting camera on the market, and they are well on their way in my opinion.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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I showed everyone I know at least twice the way the lens cover slides diagonally and the Z lights up (yes, I'm sort of a nerd).

Styling and Build Quality

The Z100fd breaks away slightly from the Z series "aero" design. The camera is slim, sleek, and all 90-degree angles, unlike the Z20fd and the Z10fd more curvaceous and playful looks.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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The Z100fd looks and feels solid despite its 19.8mm "Super Flat Body." The majority of the camera is encased in stainless steel. If anything, the sliding lens cover might be the weakest part of the camera although it's in no danger of falling apart.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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The battery door seems slightly above average in terms of build quality. It has minimal give to it but it's made out of plastic. If you keep it locked, though, you shouldn't have problems.

Ergonomics and Interface

The Z100fd is 3.6 inches wide, 2.2 inches high and 0.8 inches thin. If measurements mean nothing to you, let's just say the camera fits easily in one hand.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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Speaking of which, the Z100fd can be used easily and comfortably with one hand. The shutter button is large and easy to press. Next to the shutter button is the smaller face detection button.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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The menu button in the middle of the wheel dial gives you access to all primary mode options and the wheel dial can access the dual image stabilization, flash, self timer, and macro mode.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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The zoom buttons, located above the handy wheel dial, can be used to view images in playback mode or zoom in shooting mode.

The one button that was could have been moved or made larger is the playback, located at the very bottom next to the display button – it's the smallest button on the entire camera. If you hold the camera with one hand and use your pointer finger to navigate, the playback button is a little difficult to reach. However, if you use that handy opposable thumb to navigate, all the buttons are easily within reach.

I really enjoyed using the wheel dial when moving through the Z100fd's micro thumbnail images – a tiny multi-image view unique to the new Fuji: this is one feature that I could get use to on every compact or ultracompact camera.

The interface was simple enough to navigate. When you turn on the camera, the display panel shows what mode you are in (auto, manual, preset, movie or playback) in the top right corner. Next to this small icon are several other icons, indicating features you have turned on.

Under the top-level menu in shooting mode, you select from the three primary modes (auto, manual, or movie), or you can choose from one of 16 scene presets. In a control decision that some will dislike, all shooting parameters not controlled by a dedicated button are adjusted via a second-level menu accessed from the second page of the main menu. If you need to make lots of parameter adjustments while shooting, this access system can be frustrating, but everything else about the icon-based interface is clear and intuitive.

Display/Viewfinder

The LCD on the Z100fd is definitely above average, at 2.7 inches and 230,000 pixels. The images are crisp and contrasty, and the color is vivid and accurate in playback. With the screen's excellent refresh rate, it's easy to track moving images and confirm focus in low light.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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There is no optical viewfinder, though in most scenarios that won't be a problem. I did notice in bright sunlight it can be difficult to see your images in detail on the LCD. In low light, the LCD gains up but can be slightly grainy. Note that the screen brightness can be adjusted on a sliding scale from -5 to +5, with a default setting of 0.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag

The Z100fd is a quick camera in most respects, but with a few crucial areas that failed to impress. First the good: Shutter lag with the Fuji is practically nonexistent, timing out at around .03 (around the lowest value our testing methodology can accurately register). This makes the camera feel snappy in actual shooting, with plenty of speed for grabbing the precise moment you're trying to catch.

Focusing speed with the Z100fd is also consistently among the fastest we've seen in a compact camera. In good light with a center-point subject, the camera is able to grab a shot from capture in as little as .3 seconds. Very impressive.

Disappointments came with the camera's start-up time (a painfully slow 3.2 seconds – an eternity for a snapshot camera) and its continuous shooting speed. In Top 3 burst mode, the camera was able to pull three shots in a respectable 1.7 seconds. The infinite continuous mode, however, seems like a joke, with the Z100fd taking nearly three seconds per shot.

Overall, the Z100fd's ability to focus and fire fast will be more important and more impressive for most people than its slow continuous shooting, but not being able to grab quick back-to-back shots is still disappointing.

Lens and Zoom

The zoom moves quickly from the wide end to the tele but it's not the fastest I've seen . The toggle is responsive and can move slowly, in small increments. There is a zoom display on the LCD that pops up when you use the toggle to give you a visual cue.

The Z100fd features 5x optical zoom with a reasonably wide 36mm short end. You can zoom farther than the len's fairly impressive 180mm telephoto limit with digital zoom, but you have to enable it in the setup menu in shooting mode. When you turn digital zoom on, the zoom display changes accordingly so you know if you've zoomed beyond 5x and you'll be losing image quality.

The Z100fd is not especially noisy when zooming – not surprising since the zoom is contained entirely inside the camera's body

Auto Focus

As noted, auto focus performance with the Z100fd was nice and quick. There's no AF assist lamp, but focus acquisition remained as quick as any ultracompact camera out there even in low light. Focus can be set to either single-shot or continuous lock; the Z100fd can be set to use either an automatic multi-point AF system, or to focus at the center point only.

The camera also features a linked focus/exposure face detection system as well: with face detection enabled, the camera will adjust both focus and exposure to capture faces.

Flash

Flash performance was on par with other tiny cameras. Given the Z100fd's somewhat weak battery, it's not surprising that flash power seems to be a compromise. It's also easy for those with large fingers to accidentally cover the flash when using the FinePix one-handed.

Full-power flash recycle took 6.3 seconds – neither great nor terrible, but like the rest of the Z100fd's flash performance, simply ok. Average recycle at moderate range with auto ISO enabled took around three seconds most of the time, meaning the Z100fd is usually able to recharge the flash as quickly as it's able to take another shot.

The Z100fd's i-Flash system (which mostly seems to be an ISO-shifting auto exposure function, in practice) did a decent job of keeping flash shots from looking blown out at the expensive of some overall image quality due to ISO boost. Still, as ultracompacts go, the Z100fd definitely has some pretty impressively consistent exposure control for flash shots.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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In real-world testing, i-Flash did a fine job even with close-up shots and varied ambient lighting conditions.

Image Stabilization

The FinePix Z100fd uses a sensor-shifting mechanical image stabilization system, providing a nice addition to the features list for an ultracompact camera in this price class. From all indications, the system worked well with little to report. Settings are relatively basic, allowing the user to toggle the system into single-shot or continuous mode only – there are no advanced panning mode settings, for instance.

Battery Life

The battery lasted about two weeks without needing a charge, but shot-numbers performance wasn't impressive. I only took about 100 shots in this time (though admittedly, many used the flash), and shot one two-minute movie.

The Z100fd comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger. If battery life didn't fare so well, charging times were better than expected: while the manual quotes 180 minutes for a full charge, actual charge times were closer to 150 minutes.


IMAGE QUALITY

All in all, images from the Z100fd are surprisingly good for a camera that focuses so much on style. While it definitely has its weak areas, the FinePix is not just a fashion accessory, but a pretty competent little picture taker as well.

Exposure, Processing, and Color

I never saw any obvious metering problems with the Z100fd's multi-area exposure system beyond the usual issues typical to most compact cameras: some highlights were clipped in high contrast scenes, and the FinePix doesn't always show much shadow detail.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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Exposure also did tend to look a little more clipped at higher ISOs, with wide-range scenes like this one pushing the system just beyond its limits.

Colors are bright and saturated with the Z100fd, looking a lot like the colors in images from other consumer-oriented cameras.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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In the default color mode, saturation is pretty high across the board – probably high enough to offend enthusiast shooters who want a more natural looking image. If you're looking for even more punch, however, the Z100fd also includes Fuji's proprietary F-Chrome high(er) saturation mode, as well as a black and white color mode.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
Standard (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
F-Chrome (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
Black and White (view large image)

While F-Chrome can be a bit much for most uses and seems to do weird things to some yellows and blues, especially, in the default color mode tones are reasonably accurate and rich with the exception of some purples and blues, which look a little shifted to me.

Thankfully, Fuji doesn't try to correct the Z100fd's sharpness concern (see the section on "Lens Faults" for more on this) by applying lots of in-camera sharpening, leaving the pictures with a smooth, clean, natural look at smaller sizes. The Z100fd isn't perfect, and persnickety photographers won't be satisfied with the lack of sharpness, especially, but for casual picture taking the Z100fd does just fine in almost every shooting situation without a lot of fuss.

White Balance

Since it's designed for photographers who don't want to worry about changing settings, I wish auto white balance performed a little better on the Z100fd. Shots under indoor (incandescent) light are strongly tinted, with a hint of red/pink in addition to the expected yellow hue.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
Auto White Balance (view large image)

The usual range of white balance options are available, but with its placement deep in the setup menu, making white balance adjustments can also be a pain.

Lens Faults

In spite of tiny glass and a compact design, the Z100fd's lens is surprisingly flaw free. Neither barrel nor pincushion distortion caused visible problems in actual shooting, and I didn't see any color fringe in high-contrast areas that would show up in prints. The biggest issue with the FinePix's lens is a problem common to small, compact lenses: there's not much sharpness, even in the center of the image, and things only get worse toward the edges or at wide aperture settings. Serious photographers making big enlargements will find the amount of resolution from the lens unacceptable, but they're not who the Z100fd was designed for. For casual shots, web images, and small prints, the FinePix makes pictures that are as sharp as they need to be.

Sensitivity and Noise

Fuji cameras with SuperCCD sensors are known for their high-ISO abilities, but the Z100fd didn't get a SuperCCD sensor.

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 64
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 64, 100% crop

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 100
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 100, 100% crop

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 200
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 200, 100% crop

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 400
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 400, 100% crop

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 800
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 800, 100% crop

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 1600
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
ISO 1600, 100% crop

The biggest loss of quality comes between ISO 800 and ISO 1600, though noise reduction starts to really take its toll on the detail in the Z100fd's already slightly soft images as early as ISO 200 – there's simply too much noise reduction at work to mask a fairly noisy sensor, and patchy artifacts are still a problem even so. Shots at ISO 64 are vibrant, but colors began looking flatter early on as well, and the images are downright dull by ISO 1600.

In truth, the Z100fd's levels of noise and detail loss are about the same as those from other ultracompacts, and even with some unpleasant muddiness, high-ISO images should work for web or normal print use.

Additional Sample Images

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
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CONCLUSIONS

The Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd is a good camera all around. Beyond its styling, it never really stands out, though it never fails terribly in any category either. Overall, the Z100fd is a solid camera that performed well if unremarkably for a compact point-and-shoot, and even if its performance isn't always stunning, the Z100fd never lets fashion get in the way of function.

I would recommend this camera to the "Average Joe" who wants a slim, relatively affordable, solid, quality camera to take snapshots of friends and family. Obviously, professionals and serious shooters looking for a "bag camera" with lots of manual control should look elsewhere. For casual shooters, though, the Z100fd a stylish camera and a good value.

Pros:

Cons:

 

Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd Specifications:

Sensor 8.0 megapixel, 1/2.5" CCD
Lens/Zoom 5x (36-180mm) Fujinon zoom lens, f/3.8-4.8
LCD/Viewfinder 2.7", 230K-pixel TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 64-1600
Shutter Speed 4-1/1000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Manual, Movie, Scene
Scene Presets Natural Light, Natural Light + Flash, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Underwater, Museum, Party, Flower, Text, Auction
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent
Metering Modes Multi-Segment
Focus Modes Multi-Area, Center-Area
Drive Modes Normal, Top 3, Infinite Continuous
Flash Modes Auto, Forced On, Slow Sync, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD/SDHC, xD-Picture Card
Internal Memory
54 MB
File Formats JPEG, AVI
Max. Image Size 3264x2448
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video No
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input, IrSimple wireless port
Additional Features Face Detection, mechanical image stabilization, Red-Eye Reduction, Blog Mode