DigitalCameraReview.com
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd Review
by J. Keenan -  5/8/2008

Fujifilm's F series compact digitals with the SuperCCD sensor have enjoyed a reputation for better than average high-ISO noise performance dating back to at least the F30. When the F50fd got a healthy boost in resolution on the same-sized sensor, noise performance slipped a bit – at least by Fuji standards. Now the F50fd has been joined by the Fujifilm FinePix F100fd, and the question on the minds of many Fujifans is whether the new model – equipped with the latest-generation sensor and processor – will restore the FinePix line to its former prominence as the undisputed low-light leader.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
(view large image)

 

Fuji's website claims the new sensor, processor and lens combine to produce a "major leap in performance" delivering "high resolution and high sensitivity with minimal noise" as well as "images with silky smooth tonal expression at high resolution and with extended dynamic range." Let's see if the parts live up to the website copy – and no fair skipping over everything and going straight to the sensitivity and noise section.


FEATURES OVERVIEW

The F100fd features a new 12 megapixel, eighth-generation Fujifilm SuperCCD sensor and the latest RP III processor, a 5x optical zoom, face detection and red-eye reduction technologies, dual image stabilization and ISO sensitivity to 3200 at full resolution (with 6400 and 12800 sensitivities available at reduced resolution), and a 2.7-inch monitor. There are approximately 57MB of internal memory, and the camera accepts xD, SD, or SDHC memory media. Fuji includes a battery and charger, wrist strap, USB and A/V cables, and CD-ROM software with each camera.

There are four primary shooting modes:

Sadly, the F100fd has lost the aperture and shutter priority settings found on the F50fd; while the word "manual" might appear on the menu list as you scroll through, on this camera "manual" is an auto mode that permits some manual overrides (what most cameras and photographers call a program auto mode). The F100fd is not for the user seeking true manual control.

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 F100fd is the typical compact digital, with a basically rectangular body that features some subtle contouring and rounding at the edges with a slightly concave arc on the top. Not nearly as slim as some recent entries into the compact field, the F100fd is still easily transportable by small purse or shirt pocket.

Styling and Build Quality

The metal body has a matte silver finish with bright metal accents and looks and feels well built.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Ergonomics and Interface

Controls are widely spaced so an unintended activation of a control is unlikely.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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The "F" mode button provides quick access to settings like ISO, picture quality and color when applicable, and the adjacent button activates face detection and gives access to the red-eye reduction options. In addition to displaying the logo of the various shooting modes when selected, the monitor also gives a brief explanation of the mode's use. As would be expected of a camera that is basically automatic, the menu list is fairly simple and use becomes quickly intuitive – the F100fd is quite user-friendly.

Display/Viewfinder

The 2.7-inch LCD monitor features a 230,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 11 steps of brightness.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
(view large image)

The monitor can be difficult to use at times in direct sunlight. Coverage is about 100 percent, but there is no optical viewfinder.


PERFORMANCE

The F100fd provides generally good results across the range of performance parameters, with battery life being one area of minor concern.

Timing and Shutter Lag

The F100fd produced a consistent .06 to .07 second shutter lag with focus acquired, and I managed one shot without prior focus acquisition in .6 seconds – although .75 seconds was more the norm. Single shot-to-shot times (shoot, write, acquire focus and shoot) ran about 1.75 seconds with either a SanDisk Extreme III or standard card; the Top 3 continuous shooting mode (full resolution) produced three shots in about 1.8 seconds with either card, but write time for the standard card was 8.10 seconds – the Extreme III card took only 6.25 seconds. The shutter has a range of four seconds to 1/1500th of a second.

The Top 12 continuous shooting mode (3MP resolution) produced 12 shots in about 2.4 seconds with both cards – write time for the Extreme III was around nine seconds, with the standard card coming in at about 10.6 seconds. All in all, it would seem some fairly insignificant in-camera write time gains can be had by going to a faster card; download times to a computer should be better with the faster card as well.

One consideration with the F100fd in using continuous shooting modes: exposure and focus are calculated for the first shot only and applied to the balance of the shots, so the camera will not account and correct for moving subjects that may leave the focus range and/or move into different lighting conditions.

Lens and Zoom

The F100fd features an aspherical zoom lens with a somewhat fast maximum aperture range of f/3.3 to f/5.1, and a 35mm equivalent focal length of 28 to 140mm. There is an approximately 8.2x digital zoom, which is off by default but may be enabled via internal menu. Here's what that focal length covers in the real world:

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Wide-Angle (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Telephoto (view large image)

Macro focus distance at wide angle is 3.9 inches, so filling the frame with very small subjects is not a strong point. Silver dollar size objects are about the minimum for a filled macro frame.

Auto Focus

AF options include center (the default), multi, and continuous – multi "recognizes any strongly contrasting subject near the center of the LCD monitor and displays the AF frame over the subject in focus," while continuous "focuses continuously without pressing the shutter button." Fuji adds a cautionary note regarding monitoring battery levels during continuous AF because of the constant drain on the power supply.

I used center almost exclusively – it provided a quick and consistent focal point, and I could simply recompose the shot (when necessary) by continuing to hold the shutter at half press before making the capture. Focus acquisition times were similar in both the center and multi modes.

There is an AF assist illuminator which worked extremely well in even pitch-black conditions – focus acquisition times were not substantially longer than in good light.

Flash

Flash performance was generally good in the F100fd, although I found I could reduce the number of dark shots by using an auto setting that allowed the camera to vary the ISO between 100 and 400 or 100 and 800, versus setting a fixed low ISO sensitivity. Fuji lists the maximum range as about 14 feet at wide angle with auto ISO, and shots made at ISO 100 had to be made fairly close to the subject if flash was used as primary illumination. Switching to the auto/400 or auto/800 settings improved matters dramatically.

Flash recycle times could take as little as about three seconds in good conditions, or up to seven seconds with full discharges (100 ISO, telephoto, pitch black conditions). Red-eye reduction mode (when enabled) worked well, or perhaps it was the automatic in-camera red-eye removal feature – whatever was responsible, red eyes were not a concern. Red-eye reduction is only available with face detection enabled (default is off).

Shutter lag performance is slowed with red-eye reduction as the camera fires a pre-flash before capture. The following flash shots have been cropped a bit to emphasize the subject more – something the F100fd's larger files allow while still retaining good image quality.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
(view large image)

Image Stabilization

The F100fd features a "dual stabilization" mode which employs a CCD-shift mechanical system along with ISO sensitivity adjustment to keep shutter speeds elevated. The bad news is that the system is all-or-nothing: you can't disable the ISO adjust and keep the CCD-shift, or vice-versa.

The not-so-bad news is that ISO adjustment obviously has less of an impact on image quality in cameras with better high-ISO performance, which the Fuji is reputed to have.

Battery Life

Fuji rates the F100fd battery for about 230 shots, but I found the battery fairly well done at the 150 to 175 mark.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
(view large image)

The battery "fuel gauge" features three increments and drops slowly through the first two, but once the gauge is down to the final increment the red "battery will soon run out" warning is not far behind, and Fuji isn't kidding. Carry spares, particularly if you shoot with the continuous AF mode that places a constant drain on your battery.


IMAGE QUALITY

Images from the F100fd at default values were perfectly satisfactory, but I set the image quality to "fine" from "normal" for the shots in this review.

I didn't find myself wanting additional sharpening to the images from the F100fd as a general rule, and there's no such setting in the camera anyway. For comparison here is a shot as it came out of the camera and the same shot with post-processed sharpening. About the only in-camera recourse to try and sharpen images is to select F-Chrome color which increases contrast and makes images appear sharper, at least to my eyes.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
In-Camera Sharpening (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Post-Processed Sharpening (view large image)

Exposure, Processing and Color

One of the major talking points from Fuji regarding F100fd performance is the concept of "Wide Dynamic Range," which Fuji says is the product of the camera's lens, sensor, and processor:

"Dynamic range for digital cameras means the expression domain between the brightest and darkest areas. Fujifilm now takes you beyond ultra sensitivity and extends dynamic range for photos with more detail in both shadow and highlights. FinePix Wide Dynamic Range gives you the ability to explore extreme scenes and capture all the nuances of brightness and tonality. Skies and seas are expressed with a palette of vivid blues. Previously unseen details in the shadows emerge."

The F100fd provides for automatic or user-determined dynamic range settings, but there is a fairly limited set of circumstances under which this feature comes into play: the camera must be shot in manual mode and color must be standard. Fuji's website illustrates what the results are like, but the photos there are "simulated images" (a pretty much standard practice amongst camera companies). I shot the following images with the F100fd using the automatic, 100-, 200-, and 400-percent dynamic range settings, as well as a shot in auto mode (with no dynamic range adjustment). For comparison, I've included a shot from a Casio Exilm EX-Z80.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Auto (no DR adjustment) (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Auto DR (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
100% DR (view large image)
Fuji FinePix F100fd
200% DR (view large image)
Fuji FinePix F100fd
400% DR (view large image)
Fuji FinePix F100fd
Casio Exilim EX-Z80 (comparison) (view large image)

The first thing I noticed was the shot on auto looked remarkably like the shot on manual with the auto Dynamic Range (DR) setting – and the respective histograms were virtually identical.

Next, I compared the auto DR shot with the 100-percent DR – the 100-percent shot has lost highlights and gained some shadow detail per the histograms.

Auto DR and 200-percent DR show restored highlights and similar shadow detail on the 200-percent DR shot. Auto DR and 400-percent DR showed virtually identical histograms.

Finally, the Casio shot showed lost highlights and more shadow detail than any of the Fuji shots. The Casio image seems more typical of compact digital exposure when confronted with a high contrast scene, exposing more for shadow and letting the highlights fall where they may. The Fuji seems biased toward the underexposure side of the equation. Philosophically, it's hard to argue with Fuji's approach – dark areas can often have details enhanced via post processing, but blown highlights are gone for good and the only fix is to import detail from somewhere else.

My overall impression of the F100fd is that it does exhibit a bit more range than most, if not all compacts I've tested in the past, but the impression is not from this comparison alone. Surf shots with the F100fd showed consistent retention of detail in the white water portion of the waves rather than lost highlights typical of most other cameras. I've noticed the same result with my latest generation DSLRs: I'd underexpose a third of a stop with the previous-generation cameras to prevent lost highlights, but the new ones do fine as is.

Color reproduction in the F100fd is generally accurate and pleasing. There are standard and F-Chrome color settings along with a black and white option. I preferred F-Chrome to the standard color and shot much of this review in that mode.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
(view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Black and White (view large image)
 

While the dynamic range setting offers some slight gains in specific instances when shooting in manual mode, I'd be very tempted to shoot the F100fd with F-Chrome color and post process to deal with shadow detail enhancement as needed versus shooting with standard color as required to make use of the DR feature.

White Balance

Auto white balance worked well in a range of daylight conditions, from bright sun to heavy overcast, flash and fluorescent light sources. Incandescent shot a bit warm on auto, but was correct with the incandescent WB setting.

Lens Faults

There is fairly slight barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from center of image) at the wide angle end which is gone by the time the lens is zoomed about a third of the way to telephoto, and just the slightest hint of pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward center of image) at the telephoto end. There is some slight softness at the edges and corners, but image impacts from these problems go virtually unnoticed.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Wide-Angle (view large image)
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Telephoto (view large image)

Chromatic aberration (color fringing) is well controlled, and although present in some instances that could be noticed by a sharp-eyed viewer on larger crops, is generally not a significant concern. I'd rate the F100fd lens as second overall to the excellent Panasonic FX35 with regard to lens imperfections.

Sensitivity and Noise

When I first looked at the full size images from the F100fd I was struck by the fact that ISOs 100 through 3200 looked fairly similar. A second, more critical look revealed more subtle changes, but it took going to the crops to really start to highlight the differences.

Fuji FinePix F100fd
ISO 100
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 100, 100% Crop

Fuji FinePix F100fd
ISO 200
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 200, 100% Crop

Fuji FinePix F100fd
ISO 400
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 400, 100% Crop

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 800
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 800, 100% Crop

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 1600
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 1600, 100% Crop

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 3200
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 3200, 100% Crop

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 6400
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 6400, 100% Crop

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 12800
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
ISO 12800, 100% Crop

There's not a lot to choose from between the 100, 200 and 400 sensitivities, particularly in the full-frame shots. There is more noticeable noise in the 800 crop, and an even larger bump between 800 and 1600, but the full frames still look pretty good. ISO 3200 is looking pretty noisy in the crop and is the first full frame where I start to see some noise in the white background. ISO 6400 still looks relatively good as a full frame, but clearly distressed as a crop, and 12800 is the choice of last resort.

When I reviewed the Fuji F50fd, I thought it was about a stop better than its competitors in the high ISO sweepstakes at that time. I happen to have a Casio Ex-Z80 compact that I'm reviewing as well right now, and comparing shots side-by-side looks to favor the Fuji by about that same stop of performance improvement (that is, ISO 1600 from the Fuji lots like ISO 800 from most other cameras, and so on). I don't think that Fuji hasn't improved since their last model; I think it's a case of everyone's improving and Fuji has maintained their edge. With the ongoing march of technology, holding onto your lead is no small feat.

Additional Sample Images

Fuji FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fuji FinePix F100fd
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Fuji FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
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Fuji FinePix F100fd
(view large image)
Fuji FinePix F100fd
(view large image)


CONCLUSIONS

After reviewing the Panasonic FX35, I was sure I'd discovered the compact to get for my sister who wanted to take photos without any real involvement other than being there, but now comes the Fuji F100fd and the decision is up in the air. The Panasonic was a favorite because of its excellent lens, but the Fuji's got a lens that's pretty close. Decisions, decisions.

The F100fd lost the aperture and shutter priority controls of the F50fd, but gains the latest generation sensor and processor, as well as a wider and longer zoom lens. Color and image quality is first rate, and while the F100fd may perform a bit better with higher contrast images than earlier models, that's not the only reason to consider the Fuji: in fact, I'd rate it as one of the less compelling reasons. Good shutter performance, stabilization, that 28mm wide angle lens, still the best high ISO performance I've come across in current production point-and-shoots, and a simple, fairly intuitive layout and operation make this camera easy and friendly to use. Consider the wider dynamic range as icing on the cake.

Pros:

Cons:

 

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd Specifications:

Sensor12.0 megapixel, 1/1.6" Fujifilm Super CCD
Zoom5x (28-140mm) Fujinon zoom, f/3.3-5.1
LCD/Viewfinder2.7", 230K-pixel TFT LCD
SensitivityISO 100-12800
Shutter Speed8-1/1500 seconds
Shooting ModesAuto, Manual, Scene, Movie
Scene PresetsNatural Light, Natural Light with Flash, Portrait, Portrait Enhancer, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Underwater, Museum, Party, Flower, Text
White Balance SettingsAuto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, Custom
Metering ModesNot Specified
Focus ModesCenter AF, Multi AF, Area AF, Continuous AF, Macro
Drive ModesNormal, Top 3, Top 12, Final 3, Final 12, Continuous
Flash ModesAuto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Syncrho with Red-Eye Reduction
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory FormatsxD-Picture Card, SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
57 MB
File FormatsJPEG, AVI, WAV
Max. Image Size4000x3000
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video No
BatteryRechargeable lithium-ion
ConnectionsUSB 2.0, AV output, DC input, IrSimple
Additional FeaturesFace Detection 3.0, Dual Image Stabilization, Continuous Shooting, Portrait Enhancer Mode, Dual Shot Mode, Slideshow