DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix A101/A201
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, November 15, 2001
Last Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2001

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The FinePix A101 and A201 are essentially the same cameras, so I'm reviewing them together. The major difference is that the A101 is 1.3 Megapixel, and the A201 is 2.1 Megapixel.

All product photos from here on will be of the A201 model.

The FinePix A101 and A201 are Fuji's new entry-level digital cameras. Both feature fixed focus lenses with digital zoom, and very easy point-and-shoot action. The A101 ($179) is 1.3 Megapixel, while the A201 ($249) is 2.0 Megapixel. Are either of this cameras right for you? Read on...

What's in the Box?

The FinePix A101/A201 have decent bundles. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 1.2/2.0 (effective) Mpixel Fuji FinePix A101/A201 camera
  • 8MB/16MB SmartMedia card
  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Fuji FinePixViewer and drivers
  • 84 page camera manual plus software manual (both printed)

Fuji includes two decent sized SmartMedia cards with the cameras. You get 8MB on the A101, and 16MB on the A201 -- both are good sized for a low resolution camera.

Unfortunately, you're on your own when it comes to batteries. Fuji includes two alkaline batteries that will end up in the trash after a few hours. I suggest buying some NiMH rechargeables and a fast charger -- it's good for your wallet and good for the environment.

With alkaline batteries, Fuji says that you'll get about 140 photos before the batteries die (50% LCD usage). Using NiMH batteries, you should get 225 photos or more.

The camera has a built-in lens cover, so you don't need to worry about lens caps.

The camera does work correctly with Mac OS X version 10.1 and above. The Image Capture application starts right up.

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.

For those of you with Windows PCs, the A101/A201 can also double as a "PC camera", for videoconferencing on the Internet. This feature isn't Mac compatible so I couldn't try it out.

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

Look and Feel

The FinePix A101 and A201 are small plastic cameras. I'd rate the build quality as average for entry level cameras. The cameras are light and easily fit into your pocket.

The cameras are identical externally, except the A101 is darker in color.

The official dimensions of the cameras are 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches, and they weigh just 145 grams empty. Let's take a tour of these two cameras.

Here is the front of the camera (A201 shown in all product shots). The lens is fixed-focus, and you can switch between regular and macro mode using the switch on the front. The lens is equivalent to a 36mm lens on a film camera. As you might expect, the lens is not threaded.

Just below the lens is that switch I was telling you about. It moves between macro and landscape mode.

The flash on the camera has a working range of 0.8 - 3.0m.

Here's the back of the camera. The 1.6" LCD has the same problem that I mentioned in the FinePix 2600 review -- it's just too dark. If you turn up the brightness, the image just washes out.

The optical viewfinder just above the LCD covers 80% of the frame. There is no diopter correction for those of you with glasses.

Over to the right, you can see the four-way switch as well as three other buttons. Those three are for Display (LCD on/off), Menu/OK, and Back.

In addition to navigating the menus, the four-way switch is also for operating the digital zoom. Do note that digital zoom only works at the 1M and VGA settings on the A201, and VGA o the A101. Also, using it will reduce the quality of your photos.

On the top of the camera, you can see the power switch, mode dial, and shutter release button. The power button mechanically opens the lens cover, as well.

The mode dial has three choices: record, playback, and movie mode. I'll have more about each of these later in the review.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the I/O ports. These include USB and DC in (for an optional AC adapter).

And on the other side, there's nothing except a spot to tie on the hand strap.

Finally, here's the bottom of the camera. The battery and SmartMedia compartment as at left, while the plastic tripod mount is towards the right. What's under the plastic cover on the left?

That's where you will find the battery compartment, as well as the SmartMedia slot. The slot is one of those grab it yourself types. Be careful opening the cover on this compartment, as too much force could snap it off, I fear.

Using the Fuji FinePix A101 and A201

Record Mode

The cameras take less than two seconds to start up before you can take photos. The LCD is off by default, so you'll need to press Display to turn it on. Since the camera is fixed-focus, there is no autofocus lag. There is, however, about one second of shutter lag before the photo is taken. You have to be aware of this, otherwise you may end up with blurry pictures. Shot-to-shot speed is good -- about two seconds at the highest quality setting.


The LCD in record mode (from the FinePix 2600 - the A201 LCD did not photograph well)

There are several resolution and quality choices available on these cameras:

Resolution Quality Approx. File Size
(A101/A201)
# photos on included card
(A101/A201)
2M
A201 only
(1600 x 1200)
Fine 770 KB -/20
Normal 390 KB -/39
Basic 200 KB -/75
1M
(1280 x 960)
Fine 620 KB 12/25
Normal 320 KB 25/49
Basic
A101 only
170KB 46/-
VGA
(640 x 480)
Normal 130 KB 61/122

There is no TIFF or RAW mode on the entry level FinePix cameras, which isn't surprising considering their cost.


The menu system on the FinePix A101/A201 is the same one that I saw on the FinePix 2600. There are little tabs with different options, each with it's own color. There is a manual mode, which essentially unlocks some menu items. Strangely, manual mode locks out one useful option. Anyhow, here are the menu choices:

  • Flash (Auto, redeye reduction, forced flash, no flash, slow synchro)
  • Self-timer (on/off) - 10 seconds - only in auto mode (!)
  • Exposure compensation (-1.5EV to +1.5EV in 0.3EV increments) - only in manual mode
  • White balance (auto, sunlight, shade, fluorescent x3, incandescent) - only in manual mode
  • Setup (LCD brightness, auto/manual mode, quality)

Let's take a look at our photo tests now.


A101

A201

Both cameras did a decent job at the macro test. If you're thinking "gee, he took that shot a lot closer than he usually does", you're right. The cameras have a very limited macro range of 8 - 13 cm. If you're not in that range, the subject will be blurry. If I took the usual macro shot, it came out blurry.


A201 photo shown - view A101 photo

Both cameras did not perform well at the night shot test. With a slow lens (I don't know the aperture) and no shutter speed controls, this is expected. If you're looking for a camera capable of shots like this, you'll have to spend more money. Cranking up the exposure compensation did not help, either.

Overall I'd rank the photo quality as average for an entry-level camera. The colors were usually good, but photos often appeared either overexposed or underexposed. Then again, it's been cloudy every time I went out to take pictures. I also noticed chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) in many of the photos I took. Take a gander at the A101 gallery or the A201 gallery to see the photo samples for yourself.

Movie Mode

The FinePixes (is that what you call two of them?) can record movies as long as 20 seconds, at 320 x 240 and 10 frames per second. No sound is recorded during filming since the camera lacks a microphone.

The camera can hold about 94 seconds of total video on the included 16MB card (A201) and 47 seconds on the 8MB card (A101).

Here's a quick sample movie from each:


A101 movie - 952KB, AVI format

A201 movie - 1.5MB, AVI format

Playback Mode

The FinePix A101/A201 playback mode has all the basic features that you'd expect. That includes thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, and zoom and scroll. One basic feature that I was surprised not to see is image protection so you don't accidentally delete important photos. Another feature that I would've liked is the ability to rotate photos in-camera.

The zoom and scroll feature, as I call it, lets you zoom in as much as 4X (A101) or 5X (A201) into your photo, and then scroll around in it.

Moving between photos takes just over two seconds. When you want to delete photos, you can do one at a time, or all. There is no way to delete a selected group of images.

In addition, there isn't any information about your photos, other than their number and time they were taken.

How Does it Compare?

The FinePix A101 and A201 are decent, but not great, entry-level cameras. My personal rule is to skip over entry-level cameras, and get something a little more "midrange". For a few dollars more ($279), you can pick up Fuji's FinePix 2600 Zoom, which has the same feature set, plus a real 3X optical zoom lens and better photo quality. The A101/A201 take decent photos, though chromatic aberrations were obvious in my test photos. Also, the LCD was quite dark and the shutter lag frustrating. If you can afford another $100 or so, I'd advise skipping over these two and getting a more advanced camera. I think you'll be glad that you did.

What I liked:

  • Small, easy to pocket
  • Accurate color
  • Menu system intuitive, easy to use
  • Can be used for videoconferencing - though Windows only

What I didn't care for:

  • Shutter lag
  • LCD too dark
  • Digital zoom only
  • Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) evident in many pictures
  • Playback mode could have more features
  • No sound in movie mode

Other entry-level cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot A10 and A20, Fuji FinePix 2600 Zoom and 2800 Zoom, Kodak DX3215 and DX3600, Olympus Brio D-100 and D-150Z and D-370, Sony DSC-P20 and DSC-P30, and the Toshiba PDR-M21 and PDR-M25.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the FinePix A101/A201 and their competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out the FinePix A101 and A201 galleries.

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Steves Digicams has reviews of the A101 and A201. If you need another opinion, check out the Imaging Resource A201 review.

Feedback

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

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