Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom
If online postings by Fuji owners are to be believed, the arrival of the F10 is akin to the Second Coming in the still-unfolding history of photography.
Why all the fuss? Well, the F10 is arguably the first compact camera that allows users to shoot in very low light without flash – up to an equivalent light sensitivity of ISO1600 in fact. This is a degree of specification usually reserved for much higher-end digital SLRs. And there’s more: this capability is down to the combination of a Fuji-exclusive, fifth-generation Super CCD HR sensor, which boasts 6.3 million effective pixels, and a new, ultra-quick ‘Real Photo’ processor. Fuji claims this provides users with the pixel-crunching power of the company’s own S3 SLR, costing five times as much.
At first glance, the camera looks much like any point-&-shoot in this price range: metallic silver finish; 3x zoom lens that extends from storage flush to the body; a whopping 2.5-inch LCD screen at the expense of an optical viewfinder; and the miniaturization of other controls. Like other compacts in the FinePix range there’s a handy ‘F’ (photo mode) button that allows direct access to image quality and ISO settings, plus colour, chrome effect or black-&-white shooting modes.
There’s also a large shutter button surrounded by a mode dial for auto, manual, video or scene modes (natural light, portrait, landscape, sports or night scene), next to a smaller power button. Battery life is claimed to be good for up to 500 shots utilising the LCD, which is itself bright and clear even in sunlight. Its brightness can even be increased at the touch of a button.
The F10 is very responsive. Before you can blink twice the camera is powered up ready to take the first shot. Under normal conditions there’s little noticeable shutter delay and reviewing shots is more or less instantaneous. For the impatient, hidden in the on-screen menu system is a high-speed mode for ramping up the speed of in-camera processing (turn this on when desired as it will affect the battery life). For action snappers there’s a continuous-shooting option with three settings: a standard one allowing the capture of up to 40 frames; ‘Top Three’, for capturing three frames in rapid 2.2fps succession; and ‘Last Three’, which shoots continuously while your finger’s on the shutter button and records the preceding three images when you let go.
While the F10’s low-light capabilities are impressive, without flash, even at ISO800 you’ll get camera shake shooting in the dim – image blur due the camera’s shutter opening for an extended period of time to let in enough surrounding light – if not using a tripod or resting on a level surface.
I was able to try out the F10 in the photographer’s pit at a music festival – where flash was forbidden – alongside a year-old D-SLR from another brand. Thinking there would be no contest, I was surprised to find the F10 not only handling image noise better but producing almost as sharp a shot – thanks in part to the AF Assist Illuminator beam aiding the auto focus in low light. It’s not the sexiest compact around, but the F10 is pretty good value. In terms of a religious experience, it’s more the parting of the Red Sea than Christ returned, but that’s impressive nonetheless.