DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 1400
by Alex Dunne, DCRP Contributing Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2000
Last Updated: Saturday, October 7, 2000

I first got to play with a model of the Fuji FinePix 1400 back at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Before I even saw it, the guys from Fuji said something like "When you see it, you're probably going to say something. We know." Sure enough, I did just as they predicted -- they whipped out the 1400 and I said "wow, it looks just like the Olympus D-400 series!" I was told that consumers seemed to like that type of camera, so Fuji set out to make their own camera like the D-400. For this review, I'm pleased to welcome back Alex Dunne, who reviewed the Ricoh RDC-5300 for us last year. Enjoy! --Jeff

When Jeff asked me to review the $350 FinePix 1400 Zoom, I thought to myself "sure Jeff, go ahead and give me the low-end Fuji to review, while you save the fun high-end models for yourself!" But once I started using this camera, I found that it to be well designed, easy to use, and with the exception of some small problems, a good camera all around. For a 1.3 megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom (plus 2x digital zoom) at an MSRP of $399, it's a good deal.

What's in the Box?

Cracking open the box for the FinePix 1400 and peering inside, you see the following:

  • The 1.3 megapixel FinePix 1400 Zoom camera
  • 4MB SmartMedia card
  • 4 "AA" alkaline batteries
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM containing USB drivers and software package (including Exif Viewer)
  • Owners manual.

Note that you don't get a serial cable, an AC adapter, or a soft camera case in the box. For me, USB is a must, but if your computer doesn't have a USB jack, that could be a deal-breaker right there. I also will forgive Fuji for not supplying an AC adapter, because the only time I ever use one is while downloading pictures to the computer, and that's a minute or two of battery drain that I can live with. And since the FinePix 1400 Zoom does a pretty good job of protecting itself without a soft case, the omission of a soft case didn't strike me as a big deal. (Remember, this camera costs about $350 on the street, so Fuji had to reduce the price by leaving out some frills.)

That said, what I would have liked in the box is at least an 8MB SmartMedia card (the camera supports up to 64MB). With just 4MB of storage capacity right out of the box, you'll only get about 6 shots at 1280x960 at the "Fine" (highest picture quality) setting. If you don't care about picture quality (though most of us do), know that you can get over 60 640x480 shots at the "Basic" (lowest picture quality) setting onto the 4MB card. There is also a "Normal" picture quality setting in between "Fine" and "Basic". All photos are stored as JPEG images, and there is no support for uncompressed TIFFs.

Look and Feel

Right off the bat, I have to compliment Fuji on the design of this camera. I'm on the go a lot, and I bring cameras to places that can be inhospitable to cameras (particularly digital cameras), like on mountain-bike rides, while I sail, and on hikes in the mountains. Fortunately, Fuji designed the FinePix 1400 to defend itself under rough conditions. The camera's plastic body includes a built-in lens cover, and when you flip the camera into picture-taking mode and slide the lens cover it back, the lens quickly and quietly motors out. When turned off, the lens retracts, you close the cover, and once again it's protected. This also gives the camera a slimmer profile too, which is good when you're storing it in your pocket. There is also a clear plastic plate covering the 1.6" LCD on the back of the camera, for added protection. If Fuji had just only put a cover over the camera's USB and AC adapter plugs, this little guy would have been all battened down against sand and dirt. As it is, though, it's still generally well protected. (Note that Fuji doesn't bill this camera as water resistant or somehow less prone to the elements than other cameras -- I just feel that all things being equal, this camera would do better than most under tough conditions.) The FinePix 1400 isn’t too heavy either, weighing in at about 12 ounces ready-to-go.

The FinePix 1400 uses a similar control panel as other Fuji models. There is a mode switch on top of the camera, which toggles between picture-taking mode, picture-viewing mode, and the "Off" position. On the back are four round buttons: Display (for adjusting options related to the rear LCD display), the ever-present flash on/off button, and Cancel/Back and Menu/Exe buttons which are mostly used for aborting and confirming camera options within the navigation menus. On the far right is a constellation of three navigation buttons (up/down, left, and right) which are used for navigating the camera's interface, and also for zooming in/out on subjects.

The LCD on the FinePix 1400 does the job, but it's a bit grainy and not as bright as those I've seen on other cameras. One nice feature was the ability to adjust the brightness of the LCD according to outside lighting conditions, but that didn't help the graininess of the image, and if you bump up the brightness too far, the image washes out into bright whites, not necessarily made brighter.


You can see the DC input and USB out ports here. Note the lack of video out.

The manual that came with the camera was easy to read and navigate, with plenty of helpful diagrams to get you up to speed quickly. And once the USB drivers (which were a snap to install) were loaded, I was off and running with the FinePix 1400 Zoom.


The 4Mb SmartMedia card hides behind a sturdy plastic door on the opposite side.

Using the Fuji FinePix 1400

Picture Taking

Taking shots with this camera and navigating through the LCD picture-taking interface is easy. I wasn't acquainted with the menuing system on Fuji cameras prior to this review, but nevertheless I was able to pick it up quickly (see shotoffuji-backmenu.jpg to get an idea of the menu’s look and feel). In picture-taking mode, hitting the "Menu/Exe" button brings up an overlay menu on the rear LCD screen for adjusting these settings:

  • Macro On/Off
  • EV (exposure compensation)
  • White balance
  • Self-timer on/off (only available in Auto mode)
  • Camera mode (for switching between Auto/Manual/Set-Up).


A look at the menus in record mode.

If you want to point and shoot, the FinePix 1400 can be set up to do just that, just by staying in Auto mode. But if you're a bit more of a control freak like me, the camera has a Manual mode that lets you tweak settings. In his earlier reviews of the Fujifilm MX-1700 and FinePix 4700, Jeff opined that it’s a little misleading of Fuji to call it "Manual" mode because unlike an SLR camera’s manual mode, you can neither adjust the shutter speed (it varies between 1/2 and 1/750 of a second, and is determined by the camera) nor the aperture. But fortunately you can exert some control over difficult lighting situations. Like its higher-end Fuji brethren, the FinePix 1400's Manual mode lets you modify lighting exposures of a shot (between -0.9 to 1.5 EV, in 0.3 increments), so that high-contrast scenes can be equalized somewhat (which comes in handy when you are taking a picture of a backlit person). See the three photos of San Francisco below to see the difference this makes, which were photographed at -0.9, 0.0, and 1.5 EV, respectively.

 

The FinePix 1400 also has seven different white balance settings to give you more accurate colors in various types of indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. These different settings are somewhat helpful for giving you a more accurate representation of a scene's colors under, say, incandescent lights, but if you plan to take a lot of indoor shots and you are really concerned about accurate color representation, nothing beats the "Auto Levels" function of Adobe's Photoshop. In other words, invest in some good image editing software too, because digital cameras in general (not just the FinePix 1400) are not so hot at color balancing. See below to see an example of the not-so-white white balancing.

There are some downsides to the Manual mode. For some reason, Fuji doesn’t let you use the self timer when you're in Manual mode, which I found a bit odd. Another drawback to Manual mode is that it displays the picture on the LCD after you take a shot, and you must confirm or cancel each one after you take it. That means taking shots in rapid succession while in Manual mode is problematic.

Just for the record, some of the features found in higher-end Fujis that you do not get with the FinePix 1400 are flash strength controls, continuous shooting, sharpness controls, manual focus, and sensitivity (ISO settings) controls. But again, there's a reason why those cameras are more expensive.


Jeff here: Okay, I blew it on this night shot, and took it in 640 x 480, but you get the idea

The FinePix 1400's 3X lens responds quickly and quietly during zoom operations, and is equivalent to a 38-144mm lens on a 35mm camera. If you're a fan of digital zoom, you might be disappointed in the digital zoom on this camera, because it's an all-or-nothing feature. Unlike the optical zoom, the digital zoom is not adjustable -- when it is enabled, it automatically magnifies the image by a set amount, and there is no way to pull back a bit to somewhere in between the maximum optical zoom (3X) and the full-strength digital zoom (effectively 6X). Additionally, the digital zoom feature only works when you're taking pictures at 640x480, and is unavailable if you are shooting 1280x960 images. All told, however, I don't consider this to be a major deficiency. Digital zoom is not nearly as important as optical zoom, and I wouldn't warn someone off from this camera just because of this. It's really a minor drawback in the big scheme of things.


Jeff couldn't let a review go by without this picture!

The flash can be set to auto flash, forced flash, forced off, red-eye reduction, and "Night Scene". The first four modes are fairly common, but the last mode bears some explanation. In "Night Scene" (also called "Slow Synchro"), a slow shutter speed is combined with the flash to illuminate people in the foreground and distant background cityscapes at night.

Playback Mode

The Playback mode is very straightforward and easy for viewing pictures you’ve already taken, either individually or in grid of thumbnail-size shots. In picture-viewing mode, hitting the "Menu/Exe" button brings up a menu for:

  • Erasing images
  • Protecting images from erasure
  • Resizing previously taken pictures
  • Adjusting the DPOF and date/time settings.


A look at play mode.

To erase images, you can opt to erase one at a time, or the entire lot on the SmartMedia card. There is no selective deletion of multiple pictures at once. Protecting images is likewise accomplished one at a time, or altogether.

The FinePix 1400 lets you resize images in the camera, too. If you have a 1280x960 image and you want to take it down to 640x480 or 320x240, you can do that within the camera. Note that the original is not affected -- another image is created on the SmartMedia card with the new, smaller image. Then, if you like, you can delete the original.

You can use the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings to set how many copies of a particular picture you want printed, whether you want the date and time printed on the photo, and so on.

A feature that I liked is the ability to zoom in on a picture that I already took, and pan around to see details. In the course of using digital cameras, I've often taken pictures that looked great on the back LCD panel, but then when I got home and downloaded them, it turned out that they were blurry, the lighting was too dim on the target, and so on. Because the LCD panels on cameras are so small, it’s hard to make out subtle details in photos from the small representation. But with the playback mode on the FinePix 1400, you can zoom in way into pictures (up to 4.0X) simply by pushing the "up" button (which is also the zoom button while in picture taking mode, so the context of the button is similar). You zoom into images at .2X increments each time you push the up button, and when you hit the "Disp" button, the four navigational buttons on the back of the camera become panning controls.

How Does it Compare?

As I said at the beginning of this review, I didn’t have high hopes for this camera when I began, but I quickly came to feel that this camera has a lot going for it. I think it’s a credit to Fuji that they were able to pack quite a bit into a low-end digital camera. On top of that, Fuji kept "must have" features on board, and ditched those that were not important (or at least, the features Fuji omitted wouldn’t be on my "must have" list).

Here’s what I liked about the FinePix 1400 Zoom:

  • Good, color accurate pictures
  • USB support
  • It’s not too heavy, and the protection the streamlined case offers makes the camera good for bringing just about anywhere.
  • Menu system is simple and pretty easy to use.

And as for what turned me off about the camera:

  • The LCD on the back betrays a lack of quality – the display is grainy and not very bright.
  • The camera only comes with a 4MB SmartMedia card, and no AC adapter.
  • I’d like to be able to take pictures rapidly in Manual Mode, and to be able to use the self timer, but no such luck.

On the whole, the FinePix 1400 Zoom is a great camera for the price. If you’re in the market for a digital camera and you don’t need 2+ megapixel images, you ought to seriously look at it. I might have been skeptical of this low-end camera when I began this review, but now, at the end of the review process, I’m a believer.

Jeff says: As always, I recommend going out to your local reseller to play with the camera before you buy it. The only real competitor here is the Olympus D-460Z, no surprise there.

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the FinePix 1400. Or, try the Imaging Resource review.

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