DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Last Updated: Thursday, June 28, 2001

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The Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom is probably the only thing designed by Porsche that most people will ever own. Thankfully it costs just $899, a mere 1% of the cost of F.A. Porsche's most famous design, the Porsche 911.

Like the 911, the FinePix 6800 has an impressive design, lots of features, and excellent performance. It uses an updated version of Fuji's exclusive SuperCCD, now at 3.3 Megapixels. It can produce images with 6 million pixels (2832 x 2128)! Let's do a little "road test" of the FinePix and see how it stacks up against the competition, shall we?

What's in the Box?

The FinePix 6800 Zoom has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.3 Mpixel Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • Cradle
  • NP-80 rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix view software and drivers
  • 131 page manual

The FinePix 6800 is fairly unique in that it includes a cradle, used for transferring photos to your computer as well as charging the battery. Not unlike the cradle's included with Palm PDAs, I found the cradle to be a very nice addition to a digital camera.

When the FinePix is in the cradle, it will keep the NP-80 battery charged (it takes 5 hours for a full charge). If you hit the Power button, the camera will connect to your computer (Mac or PC) and FinePix Viewer will automatically load.

The big problem with the battery is that it's proprietary, and you're not going to pick up another one for $10 at Radio Shack. You probably will want another one though, so don't forget to add that into the price.

So you've got your rechargeable battery. There's a built-in lens cover, so no lens cap is needed. The 16MB SmartMedia card is a bit skimpy for a camera that takes images so large, but you can't have everything, right?

The FinePix is one of those Swiss army knive cameras that does a little bit of everything. In addition to taking pictures and movies, it can also do video-conferencing and record audio. While there's PC software for video conferencing, Mac users are left out in the cold. Fuji tells me that they're working on a new version of the software that will support it in the future.

Both Mac and PC users CAN use ArcSoft's VideoImpression, which is also bundled. You can take still photos or videos while the camera is in the dock. The frame rate of 10 frames/sec is quite choppy, so you won't be making short films with it.

The FinePix Viewer software is just average. It kind of reminds me of Olympus' Camedia Master software (at least on the Mac). It does the basics fine but it's no substitute for something like Photoshop.

Being a point-and-shoot camera, you won't find any optional lenses, filters, or flashes for the FinePix.

Fuji's manuals have always been better than those included with most digital cameras. While things are a bit cluttered at times, this continues to be true here.

Look and Feel

Those who have used the x700-series of Fuji cameras will feel right at home with the FinePix 6800. It's body is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, in my opinion. It's definitely a one handed camera since it's small and light, and it's easy to hold.

One thing I've noticed about all these metallic cameras is that they scratch very easily.

The dimensions of the 6800 are 1.4 x 3.1 x 3.8 (L x W x H) and it weighs just 258 grams empty.

Looking at the front of the camera, you can see that very handy built-in lens cover. Behind that cover you'll find a F2.8 Super EBC Fujinon lens, which has a focal range of 8.3 - 24.9mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 108mm.

Also on the front you can see the microphone, self-timer/battery charging lamp, as well as the flash control sensor.

The flash (not seen in above shot) has a range of 7.2 inches to 6.6 ft (tele) or 11.5 ft (wide).

The back is the "business end" of the FinePix 6800. I really like the control placement on this model, especially the little circular LCD.

The main LCD screen is 2", larger that most cameras this size. It's also bright and fluid, and very usable, except outside when it's bright (most cameras have that problem though). It is off by default so you'll have to hit the Display button to turn it on.

That Display button is just above the LCD, and so are buttons for menu navigation, flash open, and power/mode. The speaker is just to the right of the LCD.

The many faces of the LCD info display

The LCD info display is one of my favorite features on this camera. It adapts to whatever mode you're in, not only with features, but also with colors (reddish in record, green in play). The camera is also very polite, as you can see above. It even has a screen saved when the camera in power save mode.

In record mode, the info display handles zoom, macro, and flash functions. In playback mode, it moves between pictures as well as zooms into them.

The optical viewfinder is bit small for my taste, and it lacks diopter correction for those of us with glasses.

The mode wheel on the back of the camera has the following choices:

  • Audio recording
  • Movie mode
  • Scene mode
  • Auto record
  • Manual record
  • Continuous shooting

In audio recording mode, you can record up to 33 minutes of audio on the included 16MB card. So you can use the camera is a personal voice recorder, if you wish.

Scene mode has four different choices that choose the appropriate settings for you:

  • Black & White
  • Night Scene
  • Landscape
  • Portrait

Continuous shooting mode will shoot up to 5 frames with intervals as low as 0.2 seconds.

The main difference between manual and auto record modes is the settings you can change. You don't get to change aperture or shutter speed in manual mode. I'll explain more about this in the next section.

Not much on the top of the camera except for the flash and the shutter release button.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the I/O ports, as well as the SmartMedia slot. The I/O ports available are A/V, USB, and DC. There is no serial support available for this camera. The SmartMedia slot is spring-loaded and the card easy to remove. You can put cards as large as 128MB in the slot.

Nothing doing on the other side of the FinePix 6800...

And finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here you can see the metal tripod mount, the battery compartment (with battery shown), as well as the connector for the dock.

Using the Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom

Record Mode

The camera starts up very quickly and can start taking pictures in just two seconds. It takes about half a second to lock focus when the shutter release is depressed halfway, and it takes the photo almost instantly when you press the button all the way down. Shot-to-shot speed is also excellent, with roughly a 2 second wait before you can take another picture (6M, Normal). The zoom control is quick and responsive as well.

There are quite a few choices in photo resolution and quality on this FinePix camera:

Resolution Quality # photos on 16MB card (included) # photos on 64MB card (for reference)
6M
(2832 x 2128)
Fine 6 26
Normal 13 56
Basic 33 137
3M
(2048 x 1536)
Fine 12 50
Normal 26 107
1M
(1280 x 960)
Fine 25 101
Normal 49 198
VGA
(640 x 480)
Normal 163 663

And now, a word about SuperCCD. SuperCCD is a Fuji-developed technology which arranges the elements on a CCD diagonally rather than in squares. This allows you to gather more information using less pixels. It also means there's some interpolation going on, which is why Fuji doesn't call this a 6 Megapixel camera. You will notice the noise from interpolation on screen, but the SuperCCD really shines in the prints. A 6MP photo printed at 8 x 10 looks excellent.

Being a point-and-shoot camera, there aren't too many menu items on the 6800. The list below describes them all -- items in bold are only available in Manual mode:

  • Self-timer
  • Voice captioning - record a voice memo for up to 30 secs after a photo is taken. Auto record mode only.
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, fluorescent (3 choices), incandescent)
  • ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400)
  • Manual Focus (on/off)
  • Sharpness (hard, normal, soft)
  • Flash strength (-0.6EV to +0.6EV in 0.3EV increments)
  • Exposure compensation (-1.5EV to +1.5EV in 0.3EV increments)
  • Multi-exposure - takes a bunch of exposures and puts them into one photo
  • Photometry AKA metering (average, spot, multi)
  • Auto-bracketing - continuous shooting mode only

There is no uncompressed TIFF mode on the FinePix, nor is there manual control of white balance, aperture and shutter speed.

Our macro test subject came out sharp and clear. The only problem is that it's washed out -- not saturated enough. The lighting conditions in the "lab" are not great to start with, and the camera totally messed up in Auto WB mode. The shot above was with incandescent WB and is much closer to reality than my first attempt.

In our nightshot test, the FinePix 6800 fared pretty well, which is unusual for a point-and-shoot camera. It took in a good amount of light, so the San Francisco skyline is recognizable. One downside is the amount of noise in the sky. Those aren't red and blue stars in the sky -- it's noise.


The main LCD during recording

Aside from that, I was pleased with the photo quality from this camera. The colors were accurate and the detail was sharp. The noise is the only downside, as I mentioned earlier. Take a look at the FinePix 6800 gallery to see for yourself.

Movie Mode

The FinePix 6800 Zoom can record video (encoded with Motion JPEG) at 320 x 240 at a rate of 10 frames/sec, with sound. You can record up to 160 seconds of continuous video! Of course, the 16MB memory card can only hold 94 secs, but if you have a 32MB card, you can pull it off. It will take about 22 seconds to save a 160 second video to the SmartMedia card.

There's gotta be a downside to all this right? Yep - the camera is locked at full wide-angle and you can only use the digital zoom.

Here's an uninteresting sample movie from the FinePix 6800:


Click to play movie (1.2MB, 9 sec, QuickTime format)

Playback Mode

The FinePix 6800's playback mode is very fast (much like record mode). You have all the usual functions such as slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and zoom and scroll.


Playback mode menu (in audio recording mode)

You can zoom into your photos, and scroll around in them, albeit slowly. When zoomed in, you can trim (crop) your photos, which saves them at a lower resolution. This is good, since you'd lose quality otherwise. You can't rotate photos in-camera, which would be a nice extra.

Moving between photos is much faster -- it takes just one second to go from one high res thumbnail to the next. There's also a 9 thumbnails-at-once option as well.

How Does it Compare?

I really like the Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom, but I'd like it a lot more if it was less expensive. Its got a smorgasbord of features and a slick design -- digital cameras aren't just for still photos anymore, as Fuji has shown. The camera takes nice high res pictures, and that dock sure is handy too. My main issue is that with all those features, it's essentially a $900 point-and-shoot camera. I'd love to have manual control over exposure on a camera that costs that much - all the other $900 cameras do. This camera is very good -- I just wouldn't pay full price for it.

What I liked:

  • Really nice looking camera, great usability
  • Very good photo quality
  • Cradle a very nice addition
  • Movie, audio, video conferencing - the works!
  • Fast processing speeds

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical zoom in movie mode
  • Playback mode could use some more features
  • No manual controls
  • Too expensive

It's hard to compare the FinePix 6800 to other cameras, because it's a 6 Megapixel camera trapped in a 3 Megapixel camera's body. Here are a few cameras to consider, from the 3MP range: Canon PowerShot G1 and S20 (no movie mode), Casio QV-3500, Nikon's Coolpix 880, 990, and 995, Olympus' C-3000Z and C-3040Z, Sony's DSC-P1 and DSC-S75, and Toshiba's PDR-M70.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the FinePix 6800 Zoom and its competitors before you buy!

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?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the FinePix 6800. If that's not enough, Imaging Resource has one too!

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

 

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