DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, July 15, 2001
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

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Fuji's FinePix 6900 ($999) is their new top-of-the-line consumer digital camera. It's the successor to their FinePix 4900 (see our review), adding the new 3.3 Megapixel SuperCCD that is also found on the FinePix 6800 Zoom (see our review). This new SuperCCD chip uses a different arrangement of the sensors to produce larger images (6 million pixels, in this case), with fewer pixels. Of course, to do that, the camera does some guesswork (interpolation) to get all those pixels.

The other notable features on the 6900 are the 6X optical zoom lens and large array of manual controls. Read on to find out more about this new camera.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix 6900 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.3 Mpixel Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • NP-80 rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • AC Adapter / battery charger
  • Lens cap w/strap and holder
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix viewer software and drivers
  • 131 page manual

Fuji includes everything you need to get started taking pictures. The 16MB SmartMedia card is on the small side for a camera that produces such large files, so you'll want to invest in a larger card. The 6900 supports cards as large as 128MB.

One thing that I'm not a big fan of is proprietary batteries, and unfortunately, the 6900 uses one. The NP-80 Li-ion battery has been seen before, in cameras from many manufacturers. My big issues with it are short battery life and price. Fuji says the NP-80 will last for about an hour, or 100-120 shots. You'll probably want to get another battery, and you can grab Kodak's equivalent (KLIC-3000) for under $50 here.

On to nicer stuff now: Fuji includes a lens cap and strap to protect that big lens. You can also hook the lens cap onto the shoulder strap if you wish.

As far as accessories go, you can pick up Fuji's Wide Conversion Lens (WL-FX9) and Tele Conversion Lens (TL-FX9), and you can also use the adapter ring to use 55mm filters. Do note that with those conversion lenses, you cannot use the built-in flash.

Fuji's FinePixViewer software is just average, and useful only for transferring, rotating, and resizing images. You'll want a more powerful photo editing suite if you need more than those features.

The manuals for Fuji cameras have always been better than average, and that's still the case here.

Look and Feel

The FinePix 6900 is essentially the same as the 4900, with the big change being the new black paint job. Even with its large lens, the 6900 is easy to hold, with a large grip for your right hand, and plenty of room for your left. The body is mostly metal, and it feels very solid. It also seemed surprisingly light to me.

The dimensions of the FinePix 6900 are 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.7 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs 410 grams empty. Let's begin our tour of the 6900 now, starting with the front of the camera.

The big attraction on the front of the camera is the 6X optical zoom lens (F2.8). The focal range is 7.8 - 46.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 210 mm. Though you can't see it in this shot, there is a manual focus ring around the lens. This isn't a true mechanical focus ring -- rather, it's a "fly by wire" electronic system. I'll have more about the manual focus feature a bit later in the review.

Above the lens, you can see the pop-up flash. The effective range of the flash is 0.3 - 3.6 m at full wide-angle, and 0.9 - 3.2 m at full telephoto. As you'll see in a second, you can also use an external flash with the FinePix 6900.

Here's the back of the FinePix 6900, which is the same as on the 4900. The 2" LCD is bit larger than those found on most digicams, and is bright and fluid. You can adjust the brightness if you'd like, by holding down Shift and Display.


Look through the EVF or LCD and you'll see this when taking photos

Above the LCD is the EVF - electronic viewfinder. Rather than a traditional optical viewfinder, it's more like looking at a small LCD. The pluses of the EVF is that you get to see menus and information in the viewfinder instead of just the LCD. The downsides are the poor resolution and brightness, and additional power drain (but it's still better than using the LCD). I'd take an optical viewfinder over an EVF any day... but that's just me. Thanks to the rubber cover over the EVF, nose smudges on the LCD won't be a problem.

Just to the right of the EVF is the "EVF/LCD" button, which is used to switch between the two.


Focus Check in action. See the macro test below to see what I'm taking a picture of.

Just right of that are the Focus Check and AE Lock buttons. The Focus Check feature is unique to the FinePix 4900 and 6900, and it allows you to zoom into an area of the frame, so you can make sure it's in focus. This comes in most useful in manual focus mode, but can be used any time.

The DISP (Display) button is used to change the amount of information shown on the LCD, in both record and playback mode. The buttons below that are for invoking and navigating the menu system. You can also use the four-way switch for controlling the zoom.

Over on the other side of the LCD is the Shift button. Pressing the shift button lets you quickly adjust the LCD brightness and resolution/quality settings.

Here's the top of the 6900. Towards the left, you can see the hot shoe for an external flash. Fuji says that you can use any flash unit that meets the following conditions:

  • The aperture can be set
  • External flash synchronization can be used
  • The sensitivity can be set

Towards the right are a number of other controls (left to right, top to bottom):

  • Shutter release button
  • Self-timer (2 or 10 seconds)
  • Continuous shooting (up to 5 shots, with intervals as short as 0.2 sec)
  • Macro mode
  • Flash setting
  • Power and Record/Playback
  • Mode Wheel, with dial underneath. The dial is used to change settings in manual mode like shutter speed and aperture

The Mode Wheel has the following options:

  • Setup
  • Full manual mode - you pick both aperture and shutter speed
  • Aperture priority mode - you choose aperture between F2.8 and F11, camera chooses appropriate shutter speed
  • Shutter priority mode - you choose shutter speed between 3 sec and 1/1000 sec, camera chooses appropriate aperture value
  • Program mode - can adjust all settings except shutter speed and aperture
  • Full auto mode - you can only adjust flash and exposure compensation
  • Scene position - camera picks the best settings for the following scenes: portrait, landscape, sports, night scene, black and white

Over on one side of the camera are more buttons, as well as the I/O ports.

On the far left, you can see the second way to control the zoom lens. Above that is the switch that puts the camera into manual focus mode. In this mode, the LCD/EVF will display little arrows hinting at which way to turn the focus ring. You can also use the Focus Check feature (described earlier) to make sure the shot is in focus.

The three buttons to the right include:

  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Manual White Balance (this is the only camera I've tested that can store two custom white balance sets)
  • Info (shows information about photo in playback mode)

To the right of those buttons, under a plastic cover, are the I/O ports for:

  • USB
  • Video Out
  • Power (DC) input

Serial support is not available on the FinePix 6900.

On the other side, you'll find the SmartMedia slot. This is one of those non spring-loaded "grab it yourself" slots. The included 16MB SmartMedia card is also shown.

The last stop on our tour is the bottom of the camera. You can see the compartment for the battery, as well as a metal tripod mount.

Using the Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom

Record Mode

The camera takes four seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. When you depress the shutter release button halfway, it takes about a second to lock focus in most situations. Fully pressing the button results in a photo after a noticeable but minimal delay. Shot-to-shot speed is excellent - you'll wait about two seconds even with the 6 Megapixel "HI" quality images. As I mentioned earlier, you can take 5 shots in a row in continuous shooting mode, even in 6MP mode. The zoom mechanism is also quite fast, and accurate.

There are many choices available for resolution and quality on the 6900, as this table hopefully explains:

Resolution Quality Approx. File Size # photos on 16MB card (included) # photos on 64MB card (for reference)
6M
(2832 x 2128)
Hi (TIFF) 17,720 KB 0 3
Fine 2,400 KB 6 26
Normal 1,200 KB 13 56
Basic 460 KB 33 137
3M
(2048 x 1536)
Fine 1300 KB 12 50
Normal 590 KB 26 107
1M
(1280 x 960)
Fine 620 KB 25 101
Normal 320 KB 49 198
VGA
(640 x 480)
Normal 90 KB 163 663

As you can see, the "HI" quality mode is the uncompressed TIFF-RGB mode. You can also tell that you can't actually fit one on the included SmartMedia card.

Since many options on the 6900 are found on buttons, the menu system is fairly small. Here's a description of what you'll find in the menu system:

  • External flash (on/off)
  • Multi-exposure (on/off) - this lets you take several exposures and put them into one photo.
  • Sharpness (hard/normal/soft)
  • Auto-bracketing (1/3, 2/3, 1EV increments) - takes 3 shots in a row with different exposure compensation values
  • Flash strength (-0.6EV to +0.6EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, custom (x2), sunlight, shade, fluorescent (x3), incandescent)
  • Photometry AKA metering (average, spot, multi)
  • ISO (100, 200, 400)

And that's it all the menu choices! So let's talk about photo quality now.

The camera did a fine job of our macro test, especially in the color department. No white balance changes were needed to get the correct color of this little statue, which is a rarity for me. You can get as close as 10 cm in macro mode on the FinePix 6900.

The 6900 also did a good job with our night shot test, which is a bit different than the usual one. This one is taken from a ledge at Pac Bell Park (in SF, obviously), which is why you can see that blurry portion in the lower-left corner. As you can see, there's no unusual noise here - check the sky and you'll see no "unnatural stars". You can even see the exercise equipment in the building across the street pretty well. Since you have full control over the shutter speed, you can do low-light shooting easily -- but just remember to bring a tripod.

I was quite happy with the photo quality on the FinePix 6900. The colors really stood out -- the grass on the field and the red (phony) brick walls at PAC Bell Park were reproduced perfectly. There is some noise visible on the 6M shots (due to that interpolation thing again), but if you resize the photos to a smaller size (for webpages) or print them, you won't notice. A print of a 6 Mpixel image is exceptional, even at 8 x 10 inches. But don't take my word for it -- check out the photo gallery and see for yourself.

Movie Mode

The FinePix 6900's movie mode can record lengthy movies, but it has some annoyances as well. Movies can be up to 160 seconds long (though note that the included 16MB SmartMedia card can only hold 94 sec), and they're recorded at 320 x 240, 10 frames per second.

The bad news is that no sound is recorded, and you cannot use the optical zoom while filming. In fact, the zoom is locked at full wide-angle.

Here's a sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (AVI format, M-JPEG codec, 1.2MB)

Playback Mode

The FinePix's playback mode is quite nice, with a ton of features. The basic features found on every camera are here: slideshows, DPOF Print Marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom and scroll".

The zoom and scroll feature allows you to get closer to your image, and then scroll around it. Both zooming and scrolling are a bit on the slow side, for my taste. Also, if you are zoomed in, you can "trim" your image, taking the selected area and putting it into a separate image.

The 6900 can move through 6MP images in about two seconds. You can get more information about a photo by pressing (get this) the Info button on the side of the camera. This extra information also includes a histogram.

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom is a high resolution, "pro-styled" camera with a lot of features, yet it's easy to use. If you want basic point-and-shoot action, you can just pop it in Auto mode and forget the rest. If you're leaning towards the professional end of things, you can use manual controls or even an external flash. The photo quality was excellent, with vivid color reproduction and high res files. The only downsides in my eyes are the use of a low-capacity proprietary battery, a lackluster movie mode, and the electronic viewfinder. If you're examining 3 and 4 Megapixel cameras, be sure to include this FinePix in your search.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Full manual controls
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Handy Focus Check feature
  • Fast processing speeds
  • Powerful 6X zoom lens

What I didn't care for:

  • Proprietary battery
  • Electronic Viewfinder (I'm not a fan of them in general)
  • No sound in movie mode; lens locked at wide-angle

There aren't very many high res "big zoom" cameras out there. Here are just a few: Casio QV-2900UX (8X, low res), Minolta DiMAGE 5 (7X), Nikon Coolpix 995 (4X), Olympus C-700UZ, C-2100UZ, and E-10 (4X), Sony MVC-CD1000 (low res, CD-based, 10X). For more cameras, check out our Reviews & Info system.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the FinePix 6900 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?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the FinePix 6900 Zoom.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited time, please do not e-mail me asking for personal camera recommendations.

 

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