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Fujifilm FinePix F800EXR Review
by Howard Creech -  12/31/2012

The Fuji FinePix F800EXR is their newest camera in the "f" series cameras. This line is known for its long zoom and compact shape. Fuji kept many features the same as the rest of this line. It has a 16 Megapixel EXR CMOS sensor, 20x zoom and 3 inch LCD screen just like the rest of the line. But Fuji decided to add a Wireless Image Transfer System feature to the F800 in hopes to keep up with everchanging wireless technology. On the flipside, though, Fuji removed the built-in GPS that the rest of the cameras in this line retain. Will this camera be able to stand up to our tests as a great travel camera? The F800EXR is available for around $300.

Overview

I've been a photographer for a long time; long enough to see photography/imaging technology evolve through more than four decades of unrelenting change, refinement, and improvement. I love the changes introduced by the digital imaging revolution, especially being able to review each image immediately after I shoot it, rather than having to wait from two hours to two weeks (depending on what variety of slide film I was shooting that day) before being able to see whether I got the shot. I have been reviewing SLRs since 1994 and I wrote my first digital camera review in 2000. My latest camera reviewing adventure stars the new Fujifilm Finepix F800 EXR, a compact P&S digicam with 16 megapixel resolution that attempts to create a seamless integration between your smart phone and this smart camera.

The Fuji F800EXR is available for around $300.

Build and Design

The F800 EXR is a prime example of a relatively new digital camera genre; the Travel Zoom digicam. Cameras in this class are designed primarily for travelers who want a compact camera, a long zoom, tons of useful features, HD video capture, and lots of user input into the exposure process. The people who buy travel zoom style P&S digicams are often photography enthusiasts, but they are travelers first -- so most of them are reluctant to carry a heavy DSLR and an a bulky assortment of interchangeable lenses along on their trips.  For those who believe that the journey is the destination, travel zooms are a cheaper and much more compact alternative to carrying a heavy DSLR or even a much lighter CILC (compact interchangeable lens camera - also called mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras). The F800EXR could be the poster child for this demographic; it combines the convenience of a compact P&S digital camera (a large LCD screen, Auto mode ease of use, 1080p HD video, and lots of popular consumer features) with most of the creative potential of an interchangeable lens DSLR or CILC including a real wide-angle to long telephoto 20x optical zoom, direct access controls (photography enthusiasts rarely like touch screens), and full manual exposure capability.

The F800EXR's body construction uses a durable polycarbonate outer shell over a metal alloy frame; tough enough for most travelers and its dust/moisture seals are more than adequate for this camera's target audience. The F800 EXR is compact (although not quite compact enough to slip in the back pocket of your jeans), but it is still small and light enough to drop in a jacket pocket or purse so that you will have it with you whenever a Kodak moment occurs.  After more than 170 years of camera development there is still no genuine bridge camera, the mythical all-in-one imaging device that does everything for everyone, so serious shooters must continue to accept compromises.  The primary concern here is whether Fuji was actually able to stuff a truly useful and dependable device with an impressive level of creative capability into such a small camera. 

Ergonomics and Controls

The F800EXR is an attractively understated, well designed, precision built and robustly constructed imaging tool that was obviously designed by photographers, for photographers. This camera is an update of the F770EXR, but the F770's GPS receiver was eliminated in favor of Wi-Fi connectivity in the F800EXR.  For Wireless Image Transfer - users will need to download the Fujifilm Photo Receiver app for their smartphone or tablet, because the F800EXR can't communicate directly with the World Wide Web. Using the free Photo Receiver app allows users to download images in batches of up to thirty, to a smartphone or tablet, and from there to the internet for use on social networking sites, etc. Using another free app (FUJIFILM Camera Application) allows users to view and then tag them with their capture location, using the phone or tablet's GPS receiver. Since the camera has no built-in GPS receiver, images not transferred in this way at capture can't be geotagged later.

South Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Australians have a choice of four body colors: gold, black, red, and white, but in the North American market - black is the only option.  Unlike many recent P&S digicams, the F800 provides a full complement of traditional dials, switches, and buttons. The F800's handgrip is small and fairly shallow, but it is a handgrip and it is more than consumers get with many compact P&S digicams. The F800 EXR feels substantial and it fits nicely in the hands. Weather seals and dust-proofing appear to be first rate.  The F800EXR is unapologetically practical and utilitarian, so it doesn't seem strange that it would be built to old-school standards. In my opinion the F800EXR is tough enough to go just about anywhere -- including extreme environments.  The F800EXR's user interface is logical and uncomplicated. All controls are clearly marked, sensibly placed and easily accessed by right handed shooters. The F800EXR's shutter button is fairly large and surrounded by a standard back-and-forth zoom tab. While the zoom tab is quite small, zooming from wide-angle to telephoto and back is smooth, easy, and fairly precise.

Menus and Modes

The Fujifilm FinePix F800EXR's menus are straightforward, logical, comprehensive, and easily navigated.  Menus are unavoidably a bit complex, but they aren't counter-intuitive and due to the large font size they are easy to read. Shooting modes are a fairly typical compact digital camera mix of fully automatic modes, scene modes, full manual control and a useful panorama capture mode.

Shooting modes include:

Display/Viewfinder

Like most currently available digicams the F800EXR doesn't provide an optical viewfinder so the LCD screen must be used for all framing/composition, image review, WiFi, and menu access chores. The F800EXR may lack an optical viewfinder, but it makes up for this omission (somewhat) by featuring a large 3.0 inch LCD screen with twice the 230K resolution that was the industry standard LCD resolution just a couple of years ago. The F800EXR's wide-viewing angle (160 degrees) 3.0 inch TFT LCD is bright and quite sharp (460,000 pixels), hue (color) accurate, fluid, and the info display provides all the information this camera's target audience is likely to need. The LCD gains up (automatically increases brightness) in dim lighting and brightness can also be adjusted to the individual shooter's preferences via the set-up menu. The F800's 3.0 inch LCD screen does not feature either touchscreen controls or the ability to tilt and/or swivel. Some earlier Fuji digicams featured LCDs that were too shiny, making them almost useless in bright outdoor lighting. The F800EXR shows marked improvement over its predecessors in this area -- the anti-glare/anti-reflection LCD coating is noticeably better than average for digicams in this class.

Performance

The Fuji F800EXR provides a comprehensive selection of shooting modes including advanced shooting modes, which is very nice for users. Even nicer is the well designed processing and exposure system, one of the best processing and exposure systems I have used recntly. Users can set the exposure mode to full Manual or Shutter priority or Aperture priority and consistently rely on the Auto ISO (ISO 100 - 12,800 range - ISO 6400 and 12800 with boost), auto WB mode, the default TTL (spot and Manual metering are also available) metering system, and snappy AF performance to capture dependably very good to excellent images in a remarkably broad range of shooting scenarios.

Shooting Performance
The F800EXR provides numerous focus options, including Multi-area, Center, Tracking, Single, Continuous, and Face Detection AF.  I found the F800's auto focus to be quick and reliably accurate in decent lighting, even when shooting at longer focal lengths.  However, the camera sometimes had difficulty finding focus in low light.  Shot to shot time is quite fast, about one second between pictures without the flash.  The F800's diminutive multi-mode pop-up flash provides a minimal selection of artificial lighting options, including Auto, On, Off, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-sync.  Based on my very limited flash use, the F800's flash recycle time is between 2 and 4 seconds. Maximum flash range (according to Fuji) is 3.7 meters - just over 12 feet. The F800EXR saves images and video to SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory media and 30MB of internal storage. The Fuji F800 EXR draws its juice from a proprietary Fuji Lithium-ion NP-50A rechargeable battery which is charged (2-3 hours) via the included wall type charger. Fuji claims the F800EXR is good for 300 exposures on a fully charged NP-50A battery and based on my experiences with the camera, that number is accurate.

Lens Performance
When the F800 EXR is powered up the zoom extends from the camera body automatically, and when the camera is powered down, the lens retracts and a built in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is fairly smooth and lens operation is relatively quiet. The F800 needs between 4 and 5 seconds to move the lens from the wide angle end of the zoom range to the maximum telephoto setting. The F800 EXR's zoom is actually fairly sharp, better than I expected it to be, but the lens displays some minimal light fall-off and visible corner softness.  There's no vignetting (dark corners) and  Chromatic Aberration (purple fringing) is visible in some high contrast shots, especially when shooting dark objects against a bright background, but overall CA is fairly well controlled. Barrel distortion (at the wide-angle end of the zoom range) is noticeably above average, but I didn't see any pin cushion distortion.

Like its predecessor, the F800EXR is built around a very long 20x zoom.  The Fujinon f3.5-f5.3/4.6mm-92mm (28mm-500mm equivalent) zoom's slow f3.5 maximum aperture already lets in 60% less light than an f2.8 maximum aperture - so clearly this camera is going to stumble a bit in poor lighting. The F800's slow maximum aperture is one of those inevitable quality compromises that photographers often talk about.  A P&S digicam with a 28mm to 500mm (equivalent) zoom and an f2.8 maximum aperture would probably be at least twice the size (and weight) of the F800EXR and it certyainly would cost a lot more too. While the F800's f3.5 maximum aperture may seem abysmally slow when compared to the Nikon P310's f1.8 maximum aperture, that's the price consumers must pay to have a truly pocketable camera with a 20x zoom. 

Wide angle, 28mm                                                         Telephoto, 500mm

Consistently capturing sharply focused pictures with a P&S camera, especially one with a long zoom, offers some unique optical engineering challenges. The F800EXR's mechanical image stabilization system reduces blur by rapidly and precisely shifting the CMOS sensor to compensate for involuntary camera movement. Typically, image stabilization systems allow users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three EV slower than would have been possible without image stabilization  Since overcoming camera shake is a real challenge, especially at the telephoto end of that 20x zoom, Fuji also provides high ISO IS, which when combined with sensor shift IS ensures sharper images even when conditions are less than ideal.

Video Quality
The F800 EXR's 1920x1080p @ 30fps HD movie mode produces properly exposed and color correct video clips that are remarkably similar to the video clips captured by its competitors.  The F800EXR's video capability is especially impressive since you can use the 20x zoom while recording. Fuji recommends a class 4 (or higher) memory card for video.  The F800's dedicated movie start/stop button allows photographers to become videographers and capture Full HD (1920x1080p) video at 30fps with stereo sound.

Image Quality
The F800EXR image files are optimized for bold bright hues and hard-edged but slightly flat contrast.  Reds are a little warm, blues are a bit brighter than they are in real life, and greens/yellows are a bit too vibrant.  Images generated by the F800 are consistently a tiny bit soft. Image quality is just a bit below average, but for enlargements up to 8x10 this little Fuji Travel zoom will do a fine job. As a veteran photographer I like Fuji's color intensity (saturation) settings which correspond to a couple of venerable Fuji slide films - instead of vivid the F800 EXR offers a "Velvia" setting and the setting for standard saturation is listed as "Sensia" though neither setting actually produces images that evoke either of those slide films. 

ISO 100                                                                     ISO 200

ISO 400                                                                     ISO 800

ISO 1600                                                                   ISO 3200

ISO 6400                                                                   ISO 12,800

Additional Sample Images 

Conclusion

Buying a digital camera is not as easy as it was in the early days of the digital imaging revolution and that's a good thing for consumers. Today's digital camera marketplace provides an almost endless parade of new cameras and photographers (at every experience level) have more choices than they've ever had before. Fuji's new F800EXR was designed to be a competent travel zoom style P&S digicam and this little camera does deliver in that capacity, it can capture images of just about anything - from expansive landscapes, to casual portraits, to in your face macro, to super telephoto shots. The F800 EXR is a winner for those users who can accept slightly soft images. Most photo enthusiasts understand that no camera with a 20x zoom is going to consistently produce critically sharp images. Professional photographers, who must insist on critical sharpness in their images, will opt for a Canon or Nikon Pro model DSLR and prime lenses or very expensive professional quality zooms. Consumers who want sharper images without giving up compact size will have to settle for Nikon's nifty P310 or another high-end short zoom compact P&S digicam. The F800EXR is a very good general purpose P&S digicam and it will dependably produce very good to excellent images for travelers, photo enthusiasts, casual shooters, family photographers, sports fans, and aspiring wildlife shooters.