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Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR Review
by Andy Stanton -  9/29/2010

"What a beautiful camera" was my initial reaction to the Fujifilm Z800EXR. It is a slim, stylish camera that comes in four colors: black, red, pink and gold, the color of the camera given to me for review. The Z800EXR is more than just a pretty face, though. It features the latest version of Fuji's innovative EXR technology and includes some interesting and innovative features.

Fujifilm Z800EXR


The 12 megapixel Z800EXR is the successor to the Z700EXR, which received positive reviews from professional reviewers and consumers. The Z800EXR employs a sophisticated 1/2 inch Super CCD sensor that uses larger pixels than other CCD sensors and is designed to achieve a wider dynamic range and better image quality, especially in low light. The Z800EXR incorporates a new, hybrid auto focus system that enables the camera to employ either contrast detection or phase detection (usually confined to DSLRs), depending on the shooting situation.

Its 5x optical zoom lens (35-175mm equivalent in a 35mm camera) uses folded optics, so the lens does not extend. It has a high resolution LCD monitor with a sophisticated touch screen interface. It contains many interesting shooting options including an easy-to-use panorama mode that operates by moving the camera either horizontally or vertically.

With all these features to explore, I was eagerly looking forward to putting the Z800EXR through its paces.

BUILD AND DESIGN
Many camera companies produce slim cameras with folded optics but the Z800EXR is certainly one of the most attractive. It's small and slim, measuring 3.9x2.3x0.8 inches, with a weight of 5.6 ounces (158g), including battery and memory card. The Z800EXR comes with an NP-45A lithium ion battery, USB cable, charger, wrist strap, a CD containing FinePix Studio (Fuji's photo organizing software), and the owner's manual. The camera also comes with a 23 page paper manual that contains only basic information. Fuji's suggested retail price is $229.95, though it can probably be found for less.

Fujifilm Z800EXR

The camera's body is mostly metal, with some plastic parts, and seems well-built. I did not notice anything fragile that appeared likely to break off. The front has a sliding lens cover with an attractive wave-like curve. A stand-out feature of the Z800EXR is its LCD monitor. At 3.5 inches wide with a 16x9 configuration, it takes up the entire rear of the camera. I was very pleased with the camera's color. It looks quite different than any other gold colored camera - more of a white gold than a yellow gold. All in all, a very elegant design by Fuji.

Ergonomics and Controls
As with similarly-styled cameras, the lens, which is exposed when the front panel slides down, is situated in the upper right-hand corner. I often use my left hand to steady the camera while shooting and sometimes found that my fingers straying in front of the lens, so users of the Z800EXR should keep this in mind. Next to the lens is the flash. When the lens cover is up, neither the lens nor the flash are visible. The Z800EXR does not include an auto focus assist lamp, but the Z on the lens cover acts as a self-timer lamp and flashes after a picture has been taken.

Fujifilm Z800EXR

The bottom of the camera contains a plastic tripod mount located in the center, which means the camera will be well-balanced when it's mounted on a tripod. However, a plastic tripod mount is more prone to wear than one made of metal. Next to the tripod mount is the compartment for the battery and memory card. A plastic cover for the compartment is attached fairly securely to the body, but care must be taken not to snap it off when opening and closing it. The Z800EXR uses SD and SDHC memory cards.

The top of the camera has a large shutter button with a zoom control ring around it. It also features a button which, at first glance, looks like an on/off button. But in actuality it switches the camera from shooting display to playback display, and vice-versa.

Fujifilm Z800EXR

One side of the camera is featureless, except some holes for the speaker. The other side contains eyelets for the wrist strap and also contains a USB connecter port with a tethered plastic cover.

As stated earlier, the rear of the camera consists almost exclusively of the 3.5-inch wide touch screen monitor in a 16x9 configuration, which is ideal for viewing HD movies. There is also a small indicator lamp at the top, which shows the camera status by virtue of color (green, orange or red) and blink status (solid or blinking). The absence of any borders around the monitor means that in order to get a good grip, your thumb must come in contact with the screen. While there is a section at the right side of the screen that contains no icons, I found it difficult to keep my thumb from occasionally touching one of the icons, leading to on-screen actions that I did not intend.

Fujifilm Z800EXR

Menus and Modes
All the menus of the Z800EXR are controlled by the touch screen LCD monitor. The basic icons are set at the left and right sides of the screen. There are two sets of icons, one for the shooting display and one for the playback display. The menus are logically laid out, though they are a bit confusing until you get used to them.

The shooting display contains icons for the shooting mode, flash, self-timer, macro (as close as 9cm), shooting menu, face recognition, playback and display (determines what appears on the LCD monitor). Shooting menu options include exposure compensation, ISO (up to 3200), image quality, dynamic range (auto and three other selections), film simulation (standard Provia, vivid Velvia, black & white and sepia), white balance (auto and six other choices) continuous shooting (a burst of five pictures), face detection (including face recognition), auto focus mode, dual image stabilization (sensor shift and increased shutter speed) and several others.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Provia
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Velvia
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Black & White
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Sepia

The self-timer mode is interesting, as it contains options for auto release (the shutter releases when the subject turns towards the camera, ideal for pictures of babies), couples (the shutter releases when two subjects are close together), groups (the shutter releases when a designated number of subjects are close together), ten second release, two second release and timer off.

Selecting the EXR shooting mode will lead to a sub-menu with various modes:

Other scene mode options include:

The playback display contains icons for delete, favorites, image search, photobook assist, playback menu, multi-frame, edit, forward, back and display. If you wish to exit the playback display you must press the display selector button at the top of the camera.

Display/Viewfinder
Like all small cameras these days, the Z800EXR does not have a viewfinder. It does have a large, 3.5 inch high resolution (460,000 dot) LCD monitor in 16x9 configuration, with 100% coverage. The LCD monitor is reasonably fluid and clearly displays the information required to operate the camera. It can be set for five brightness levels.

Fujifilm Z800EXR

I had no problem using the LCD monitor indoors but I did have trouble viewing it outdoors, especially in bright sunshine. The touch-screen is very responsive and I found it to be easy to use. Although I still prefer buttons and dials, I am coming to realize that a touch-screen can be a real asset to a camera, especially when done well, as it is here.

PERFORMANCE
The Z800EXR is a quick, responsive camera. Menu operations are smooth, with little delay. The camera is somewhat slow to start up, as it took about three or four seconds after sliding down the lens cover for the menu to become active. However, the camera focuses and shoots quickly. I was able to take numerous successive pictures, both outdoors and indoors, with only a couple of seconds of delay between them. Using the flash adds an additional second.

Shooting Performance
The performance tables confirm that the Z800EXR is one quick little camera. Compared to the Nikon Coolpix S8000, the Panasonic DMC-FX75 and the Canon Powershot S95, the Z800EXR was the quickest overall. Shutter lag - the time between pressing the shutter and taking the picture when the camera is pre-focused (the shutter is pressed halfway down) - was a virtually instantaneous 0.01 second.

Auto focus acquisition, the time between pressing the shutter and taking the picture without pre-focusing, was a DSLR-like 0.19 seconds, one of the quickest times I've seen for point and shoot cameras. These figures are consistent with my experience with the Z800EXR, as I found it to be noticeably quicker to capture focus than most of the small cameras I've used.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.01
Canon PowerShot S95 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.19
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.26
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.28
Canon PowerShot S95 0.36

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 3 2.6 fps
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 4 1.6 fps
Nikon Coolpix S8000 10 1.2 fps
Canon PowerShot S95 0.9 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The Z800EXR rarely failed to find focus in good light, though it occasionally had focus problems in low light - unsurprising considering that it lacks an AF assist lamp. While its continuous shooting speed, 1.6 frames per second, is not blazingly quick, it beats two of the three other cameras. Overall, a very good showing by the Z800EXR.

The camera comes with an NP-45A lithium ion battery which Fuji claims will shoot 170 frames. This is a rather low number but it is quite understandable considering the power drain caused by the high resolution touch screen LCD. While using the Z800EXR I noticed that that battery life was relatively short and I made sure I charged the battery each time I took the camera out to do some shooting. It would be a good idea to purchase an extra battery, especially if you plan to take movies or make extensive use of the LCD.

Lens Performance
The lens range of the Z800EXR is 35-175mm (35mm film camera equivalent), usefully long at telephoto but somewhat narrow at the wide end. The practical effect of this is minor - the user will have to move back when taking certain pictures at wide angle to make sure everything at either side of the frame fits into the image. However, most of the cameras in the Z800EXR's class have much wider angle lenses.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
35mm
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
175mm

With regard to lens performance, most pictures I took were sufficiently sharp, even at the long end of the zoom, but some would have benefited from additional sharpening. Unfortunately the camera does not include the option to increase sharpness. I found the lens to be mostly free of distortion, with little chromatic aberration, no vignetting and only minor blurriness at the corners. I noted a small amount of barrel distortion at wide angle and pin cushion distortion at maximum telephoto.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Wide Angle
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Telephoto

Video Quality
The Z800EXR takes average quality HD videos at 1280x720 resolution at 24 frames per second. Zoom must be set before recording begins - neither optical nor digital zoom can be used while the recording process is ongoing. Audio is monaural only.

Image Quality
Images produced by the Z800EXR are of good quality with realistic color, though the colors could use a bit more punch. Almost all of my sample pictures were taken in standard Provia, rather than in Velvia mode, which produces more vivid colors. However, after examining my photos, I cam to the conclusion that shooting in Velvia would have probably produced more pleasing results. Overexposure from bright sunshine was a problem that affected many of my outdoor pictures. This occurred even though I usually shot in EXR Auto mode, in which the camera is supposed to apply D Range priority when appropriate.

I enjoyed using the camera's Motion Panorama mode. I think few users will opt to use the full 360 degree mode, as the image comes out too thin. However, shooting at 120 degrees and 240 degrees produced good results.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image

The Z800EXR has white balance settings for auto, direct sunlight, shade, three types of fluorescent lighting and incandescent lighting. I used auto white balance with almost all of my pictures and found it to be very accurate, as demonstrated by the image below using the fluorescent setting.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The Z800EXR has what Fuji calls a "Super Intelligent Flash" which analyzes the scene and adjusts the flash output accordingly. Fuji states that flash range is 1 to 12.8 feet at wide angle, 1.3 feet to 10.5 feet at telephoto and 1 to 1.26 feet at macro, an average range for a small camera's flash. I found that the flash worked well, producing output that was appropriate for the lighting conditions.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image

Fuji claims its EXR technology is able to produce high ISO shots with reduced noise and this is borne out, to some extent, by the ISO results in the table below. Image quality is good through 200 ISO, with little noise and strong color.

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 100
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 200
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 400

Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 800
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 1600
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Noise starts to intrude at 400 ISO, stays at about the same level at 800 ISO and becomes worse at 1600 ISO. Good color is maintained throughout. These results are better than most cameras in the Z800EXR's class, but are not outstanding.

Additional Sample Images
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image
Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image Fujifilm Z800EXR Sample Image

CONCLUSIONS
The Fujifilm Z800EXR is an excellent camera in many respects. It has a very attractive appearance, it contains some interesting features including a fine touch-screen LCD, it is a very quick performer and its lens produces relatively little distortion. I was a bit disappointed by its image quality, especially its tendency towards overexposure, although this is a problem with most small cameras.


That's not to say that the Z800EXR doesn't produce good-looking images, only that its image quality is not at the level I expected considering all I had read about Fuji's EXR technology. For those who want a sleek, elegant, quick camera with good image quality at a reasonable price, the Z800EXR makes a lot of sense.

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