DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 4700
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, October 8, 2000

 

Few cameras have stirred up as much interest and controversy as the Fuji FinePix 4700. Originally announced back in February (for $999), it was billed as camera capable of producing 4.3 million pixel images. On the interest side, people were amazed that Fuji was able to accomplish this -- leapfrogging over Nikon and Olympus. But then there was the controversy: how could a sensor with only 2.4 million pixels produce images nearly twice as large?

Well, the magic word is interpolation. To Fuji's credit, they aren't pushing this camera that produces 4.3 Mpixel images anymore. Originally, there was a "4.3M" above the SuperCCD sticker. On the production units, it's nowhere to be seen (see above) on the camera, or on the box. Oh, and they dropped the price to $799.

Here's how it all works: up until now, digital cameras used a traditional CCD sensor for gathering image data. Fuji felt that these CCDs were reaching their limits, so they developed a new type of CCD, known as the SuperCCD. A SuperCCD has larger photodiodes (which pick up the light) than a traditional CCD; These sensors are octagonal in shape (as opposed to rectangular), thus they are closer together. This is how a SuperCCD captures 1.6 times as much information as a traditional CCD, and why it produces those high res photos. Like all cameras that use interpolation, there is some noise when you blow up the photos, as you'll see below -- but that doesn't stop the 4700 from being a superb camera.

Read on to find out more...

What's in the Box?

The FinePix 4700 gets two thumbs up for its bundle. When you crack open the box, you'll find

  • The 2.4 Mpixel Fuji FinePix 4700 camera
  • 16Mb SmartMedia card
  • Two rechargeable NiMH batteries
  • NiMH battery charger
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Software including Adobe PhotoDeluxe and drivers
  • Manuals for camera and software

If I'm going to complain about one thing here, it's the SmartMedia card. Fuji isn't the only one at fault here-- every camera manufacturer skimps on these. The included 16Mb card can hold 9 photos in Fine mode in the highest resolution (2400 x 1800), and 248 photos in Basic mode in the lowest resolution (640 x 480).

One thing I usually comment on is lens caps, and there's no need to -- a mechanical lens cover is built into the body of the camera, as you'll see in the next section. Hooray!

Fuji includes two 1600 mAh NiMH batteries in the box, as well as a charger that plugs right into the wall socket. You're probably wondering if this camera really does use just two batteries -- it sure does. You'd also think that it would run out of juice really quick. Nope. While I ever test the manufacturers claims, the manual says that the camera can take 80 pictures with the LCD on, and 230 with it off. From my own usage, it seems to last as long as any other camera I've used.

The 122 page manual thankfully includes just one language (English, of course), and is well done. Fuji has been consistent with providing good printed user manuals.

Look and Feel

Like the other 700-series Fuji cameras I've had, the 4700 gets oohs and ahhs everywhere it goes. I'm not sure if it's the stylish metal body, small size, or cool user interface that draws people to it, but it's certainly well liked. Then the Canon Digital ELPH showed up, but that's another story...

The 4700 has an attractive metal body, with a brushed aluminum look on the front. The thing really looks durable, and it's not even that heavy. I think the 4700 weighs less than the smaller Canon Digital ELPH! Although the shape of the camera is a bit untraditional, it fits well in the hand.

Looking at the front of the camera, you can see the nice metal lens cover, optical viewfinder, self-timer lamp, flash control sensor, and microphone. When the lens does pop out of it's hole (see top picture), you'll see the very impressive 3X optical zoom (equivalent to 36 - 108mm), which is the size of a dime.

The back of the camera has something old, and something new. What's old: the power switch is right in the middle of all the buttons, with a toggle for record or play. The other buttons are for entering menus (and choosing OK or cancel), as well as turning on or off the LCD, or adjusting its brightness.

The 2" LCD screen is bright and fluid, and useable in all conditions except direct sunlight. The optical viewfinder is too small, and is hard to use if you have glasses. It also lacks diopter correction. Your nose won't smudge the 2" LCD, but it will hit the LCD info display if you use your left eye.

And that LCD info display is what's new in this camera. This little circular LCD can display all kinds of information, from options in record or play mode to a USB icon when you're hooked into your computer. When it's safe to disconnect the USB cable, this little screen tells you.

 

As you can see above, the LCD is backlit, and it varies the color depending on which mode you're in! Green for play, orange for record. As you can see, it can display a number of different pieces of information. In the top left photo, it shows navigation and zoom commands in play mode. In the top right, you see zoom controls, as well as macro and flash settings. On the lower right are some settings for resolution and quality.

You can choose from three resolutions on the 4700: 2400 x 1800, 1280 x 960, and 640 x 480. You can also choose between Fine, Normal, and Basic quality. The higher quality, the less JPEG compression. There is no uncompressed TIFF mode.

On the top of the camera is the traditional mode wheel. Your choices are:

  • Setup
  • Movie Mode
  • Continuous Shooting
  • Manual Record
  • Auto Record
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Night Scene

I will discuss many of these in further detail in the next section.

The FinePix 4700 has all the I/O ports on one side. The button at the very top pops up the flash, and below that is the speaker (more on this later). Just below and to the right of that is the SmartMedia slot, with the 16Mb card already inserted. This is one of those spring loaded card slots.

Just to the left of that are ports for USB, A/V out, and DC in for the optional AC adapter. There is no serial support on this camera.

And finally, the bottom of the camera. On the left is the slot for the two AA batteries, and just to the right of that is the metal tripod mount. Oh, and see how those Coolpix lens caps come in handy?

Using the Fuji FinePix 4700

The head-to-head review of the Coolpix 990 and C-3030Z raised the bar for DCRP reviews, so I'm going to try to make this section a bit more detailed in our "regular" reviews as well. I'm going to cover five areas in this section: Auto record, manual record, playback, movie mode, and night scene.

Auto Record Mode

When you first turn on the camera, you are really amazed at how quickly the 4700 "boots up" (it takes about two seconds). It only gets better -- the 4700 is an absolute speed demon -- the fastest camera I've tested, by far. It's also the most polite -- it says "Hello" and "Bye" when you turn it on and off.

The zoom controls are smooth and fast as well. But where the 4700 really shines is time between shots - it's less than a second. In fact, it's really hard to tell that it took a picture. You can turn on a "preview" mode, where you can decide whether to save the photo, but it doesn't default to saving like other cameras do. So you might miss some action while fumbling with the controls to save the previous photo.

In auto mode, you can control flash settings, macro mode, self-timer, and quality/resolution settings.

Manual Record Mode

If you want to mess with some more settings, move the mode dial into Manual Record mode. Do note that this camera doesn't have what I refer to as manual controls -- you cannot set shutter or aperture settings manually. This is a point and shoot camera first and foremost. But there still is a great deal you can change in this mode, including:

  • Preview shot after it's taken
  • Sharpness: -, 0, +
  • Photometry (aka metering): average, spot, multi
  • Manual focus
  • Exposure Compensation:n -1.5EV to +1.5EV in 0.3EV increments
  • Flash strength: -0.6EV to +0.6EV in 0.3EV increments
  • White balance (no manual override)
  • Sensitivity: ISO 200, 400, 800 (wow)

Like Toshiba, Fuji likes to use the overlay style menus. Here you can see me changing the exposure compensation.

Next, let's take a look at the traditional macro test shot:

One thing I noticed is that the white balance didn't do a very good job on this one. The lighting is incandescent, and that's what I set the white balance to. Alas, it came out pretty yellow, and it's a bit noisy too (there's that interpolation thing again). In macro mode, you can get as close as 8 inches (20 cm).

One strong point of this camera is the accuracy of the color, probably due to Fuji's RGB filter. I found the colors to be better than the Toshiba PDR-M70 I recently reviewed (compare the GG Bridge pictures to see what I mean).

I'm going to briefly mention the continuous shooting mode here (it has it's own spot on the mode wheel). In this mode, you can shoot three photos in a row, 0.2 seconds apart. You can also turn on auto bracketing, which will shoot each picture with a different exposure compensation value.

Playback mode

Playback mode is super-fast, just like record mode. You can scroll between photos with a delay in maybe a half a second. Want to zoom in and scroll around? You can do that, although these moved too slow for my taste.

A few other nice features in play mode include a nice slideshow mode with a choice of transitions and the ability to downsize an image (e.g 2400 x 1800 to 1280 x 960). There's also DPOF support for getting prints of your photos made.

The letdowns in play mode are the aforementioned slow zoom and scroll, no info about your photos (what settings were used), and you can't delete more than one photo at a time.

Movie mode

The FinePix 4700 has a pretty nice movie mode available on the mode dial. You can record up to 90 seconds of AVI video with sound on the included 16Mb card. You can keep taking video until you fill up the card, which means you can stuff 364 seconds onto a 64Mb Smartmedia card! The video is recording at 10 frames/sec, at a resolution of 320 x 240.

One downer in the video department is that you can only use the digital zoom in movie mode. If this sounds familiar, it's because the Olympus C-3030Z was the same way. I'm not sure why some cameras can use the optical zoom, and others cannot.

That said, take a look at the video of one of the speakers at my sister's college graduation, along with the back of some people's heads. If I can find some more compelling video, I'll replace this one.


Click to play movie (AVI format, 1.9Mb)

Night Scene

This mode will open up the shutter for as long as 3 seconds, to help you get a nice night shot.

For this test, I didn't go to the traditional spot on Twin Peaks. This time, I sought out a famous photo spot, and came back empty handed. I did manage to get one shot, using my car as the tripod:

This shot was cropped and downsized 50% -- it was a 3 second exposure. I may try the Twin Peaks thing with this camera as well, and will add it to this page.

How Does it Compare?

The FinePix 4700 is a good looking, small, and fun-to-use camera, as long as you're doing casual shooting. People who want to tweak aperture and shutter settings will have to look elsewhere. But most consumers don't care about those things, and the 4700 fits the bill very well.

As far as the interpolation issue goes, noise is noticeable when you blow up the pictures, but when you print them on a nice photo printer (such as my Epson 1270), you'll never know it.

What I liked:

  • Great design, sturdy body
  • Lightning fast processing
  • Accurate color, good photos
  • User interface very good - including LCD info display
  • Movies with sound!
  • Good "in the box" stuff, and nicely written manual

What I didn't like as much:

  • Funky white balance sometimes
  • No uncompressed TIFF mode
  • No shutter/aperture controls
  • Zooming/scrolling slow in playback mode.

The FinePix 4700 is kind of in a class by itself. It's not really a 2 Mpixel camera, nor is it a 3 or 4 MPixel camera. It's kind of in the middle. The closest competitor is probably the Canon PowerShot S20 (3 Mpixel), which also lacks shutter/aperture controls, but is missing movie mode.

There are many other cameras that you should consider before buying -- too many to list here -- be sure to try them out yourself before you make any decisions! For the person who wants a small, fun camera that takes high res photos (which print really well, too), I recommend the FinePix 4700!

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 4700. Or, try the Imaging Resource review.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.


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