It's that time of year again, when the major camera manufacturers rush to release their new digital cameras just in time for the holiday shopping rush. Digital camera buyers continue to demand smaller cameras, more megapixels, and longer zooms - so it really isn't too surprising that quite a few of the newest point and shoot digital cameras are smaller, feature higher resolution sensors, and have more reach. This may be the year of the mini-megazoom.
Typically, point and shoot digital cameras generate high-quality pictures in good (read: outdoor) light, but they don't perform nearly as well in dim/low-light situations. Once the sun goes down, in dull weather, and indoors - most compact digicams produce noisy images with flat contrast, poor dynamic range, and dull colors.
These inherent faults have been exacerbated by the Lemming-like rush of the major camera manufacturers to continually reduce camera size, crowd more megapixels onto tiny sensors, and add longer and longer zooms. Generally, smaller electro-mechanical devices are more complex than larger electro-mechanical devices of the same type. It is a simple law of physics that as complexity increases the limitations of the technology are magnified exponentially.
One of the more interesting new units now starting to hit store shelves is the Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR. The F70 is a fairly compact point and shoot featuring a 10 megapixel sensor, a 10x (27mm-270mm) Fujinon optical zoom with Super EBC Coating (to reduce ghosting and flare), a 2.7 inch High Contrast LCD with a 160 degree viewing angle (vertically and horizontally), Dual Image Stabilization, color saturation choices based on well known Fuji 35mm slide films like Velvia, Provia, and Astia, and a full manual exposure mode.
The F70's Super CCD EXR imaging sensor incorporates larger pixels and a novel new layout that (according to Fuji) permits the sensor to capture more light over a shorter period of time than standard sensor arrays. This new EXR sensor functions either automatically or in one of three user-selected modes: High Resolution, Wide Dynamic Range, or High Sensitivity/Low Noise. The F70's EXR Auto mode automatically selects one of those three modes (depending on conditions) and automatically shifts (based on what's in front of the lens) between Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Backlit Portrait, Night, and Night Portrait scene modes to select the best EXR mode and the optimum scene mode for the lighting and subject.
How well does all this nifty stuff work? Can the FinePix F70EXR really compete with Canon's PowerShot G11 and entry-level DSLRs in the image quality department? Does the F70EXR expand on the promise of the very popular F200EXR? Check back soon for our full review and we'll try and answer some of these questions.