DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix A210
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 22, 2003
Last Updated: September 22, 2003

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The Fuji FinePix A210 ($279) is the latest update of Fuji's old 2600-series cameras. It packs a 3.2 Megapixel CCD and 3X optical zoom into a fairly small plastic body. A 2MP version, known as the A205, is also available for $199. Both of these cameras make up Fuji's entry-level line of cameras, with a price that makes them attractive to first-time buyers. The main differences between the A205/210 and the FinePix 2650 are a faster lens (F3.0 vs F3.7) and a video out port.

Is the A210 a good value for the money? And how does it compare to what I consider the best camera in this class, the Canon PowerShot A70 (read our review)? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The FinePix A210 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 (effective) Mpixel FinePix A210 camera
  • 16MB xD Picture Card
  • Two AA alkaline batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • Video cable
  • USB cable
  • Cradle adapter
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix SX software
  • 82 page camera manual (printed)

Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with the camera. That's enough to get started with, but you'll probably want a larger one right away. xD cards are currently available as large as 512MB, and Fuji lists them as supported in the manual.

Fuji includes two alkaline AAs which will quickly find their way into the trash (or should I say, recycling bin). Instead of throwing money away on alkalines, you should pick up a set or two of NiMH rechargeables. Fuji would be happy to sell you their NH-10 NiMH battery back (basically two AA's taped together), but at $20, it's overpriced. Since the camera uses two batteries, a four-pack will keep you going for quite a while.

Fuji estimates that you can take about 350 photos using the NH-10 battery pack, or 385 photos with your own 2100 mAh batteries (assumes 50% LCD use in both cases). I survived a full day at Magic Mountain using the alkaline batteries that came with the camera.

Another way to get that Fuji NiMH battery pack is to buy the CP-FXA10 cradle ($99) -- it's included with the dock. The cradle lets you charge the battery, view photos on your TV, and transfer photos over the USB connection.

A common question that I get is "do I need the dock?", and the answer is no. Assuming you buy your own batteries and charger, you can do everything the dock does with the items included with the camera.

The A210 has a sliding lens cover to protect your lens from the elements. Unlike on some cameras, the lens cover is not used to turn the camera on and off -- that's a good thing in my opinion.

Accessory choices are limited on this entry-level camera. Aside from the cradle and battery pack, the only other options are an AC adapter ($50), memory cards, and card readers. Since I'm comparing the A210 to the Canon A70, I should mention that the A70 supports add-on lenses.

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the A210. The version numbers are 4.0 for Windows, 3.2 for Mac OS 8/9, and 1.4 for Mac OS X. Even with the differing version numbers, the software acts about the same on each platform. FinePixViewer is for basic image organizing and editing, and is no substitute for something like Photoshop Elements. Fuji also includes a RAW File Converter (not needed for this camera), and ImageMixer VCD (for making video CDs, Windows only) on the CD.

The camera manual is typical of those included with digital cameras. It's complete, but finding what you're looking for may be difficult. There's lots of small print as well.

Look and Feel

The FinePix A210 is a small (but not too small) camera with an all-plastic body. I'd rate the build quality about average, and a notch below similar plastic cameras from companies like Canon and Olympus. Still, the A210 should be able to go where life takes you, as long as you don't drop it. The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand.

The official dimensions of the A210 are 3.9 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 175 grams empty. Those numbers for the Canon A70 are 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches and 215 grams, respectively. The A210 is a surprisingly "thick" camera.

Let's begin our tour of the FinePix A210 now!

Behind that sliding lens cover, you'll find an F3.0 - F4.8, 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 5.5 - 16.5 mm. The 35mm equivalent is 36 - 108 mm. The lens on the A70 is slightly faster (F2.8), and is threaded for conversion lenses.

Above the lens, you'll find the optical viewfinder, flash sensor, and self-timer lamp. There's no AF illuminator on this camera, which is a shame (the A70 has one).

To the upper-left of the lens is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.8 - 3.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.8 - 3.0 m at telephoto. The numbers for the A70 are 0.46 - 4.2 and 0.46 - 2.5 m, respectively. Neither the A210 nor the A70 support an external flash.

On the back of the camera, we find that the A210 has a 1.5" LCD display with a relatively low resolution of 60k pixels. The A70 has the same size LCD with a few more pixels, though it's still low in terms of resolution. The A210's LCD is bright and fluid, and you can easily adjust the brightness in the menu. The LCD shows 92% of the frame.

Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which shows 80% of the frame. It's decent-sized, though it lacks a diopter correction feature for those of us without perfect vision. Next to the viewfinder is the display button, which turns the LCD on and off, and also displays a 3 x 3 grid on the LCD, to help you compose your shots.

To the right of the LCD, you'll find the menu/ok and back buttons -- both of which are used for menu navigation.

At the top-right is the four-way controller, which is used for controlling the zoom, navigating menus, and setting the macro and flash setting. When controlling the zoom, the controller smoothly moves from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.5 seconds. The available flash options are auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow sync, and slow sync w/redeye reduction.

This shot of the top of the A210 gives you an idea about how thick it is. The only items worth mentioning up here are the power switch, mode switch, and shutter release button. The three modes are record, playback, and movie -- this is a point-and-shoot camera if there ever was one, so don't expect any manual control over shutter speed or aperture (the opposite of the A70).

On this side of the camera you will find the I/O ports. These include video out, USB, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). There's no cover to project these ports, which surprised me.

Nothing to see on this side!

We finish our tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment, xD card slot, and plastic tripod mount. The batteries and xD card are both protected by a fairly sturdy plastic door. One thing to note is that you can't remove the memory card (or the batteries for that matter) while the camera is on a tripod.

The included 16MB xD card is shown as well.

Using the Fuji FinePix A210

Record Mode

It takes about three seconds for the A210 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.

Autofocus speeds are average, with a half-second lag in good light, and more like a second if the camera has to work a little. Like most cameras without an AF-assist lamp, the A210 struggled to lock focus under dim indoor lighting.

Shutter lag was noticeable, even at fast shutter speeds. In those situations, the lag was fairly short. When you start approaching slower shutter speeds (where you should be using a tripod anyway), the lag becomes quite apparent.

Shot-to-shot speed on the A210 is average as well. Assuming you have the post-shot review feature turned off, you can take another photo in about two seconds.

Unlike some of the other recent Fuji cameras, the A210 lacks the ability to let you delete a photo immediately after it is taken.

Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.

Resolution Approx. File Size # photos on 16MB card (included)
3M
(2048 x 1536)
780 KB 19
2M
(1600 x 1200)
630 KB 25
1M
(1280 x 960)
470 KB 33
0.3M
(640 x 480)
130 KB 122

As with Fuji's other recent cameras, there is only one quality level available at each resolution. I can forgive them for that here, but on the more expensive cameras it's definitely a no-no.

There's no TIFF or RAW mode on this camera.

The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card.

The FinePix A210 has a nice looking, very basic menu. Like I said, this is the epitome of a point-and-shoot camera. Some of the options are only available in "manual" mode -- I'll put those in bold. The menu options are:

  • Quality (see chart)
  • Self-timer (on/off)
  • Exposure compensation (-2.1EV to +1.5EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, fluorescent x3, incandescent) - no custom option available
  • Shooting mode (Auto, manual) - manual mode unlocks the two bold options above
  • Option (Set-up menu, LCD brightness)

Pretty simple, eh? In addition to that menu, there's also a setup menu, with the following options:

  • Image display (on/off) - post-shot review
  • Power save (on/off) - LCD monitor turns off after 30 secs to conserve power
  • Format card
  • Beep (Off, low, high) - volume level
  • Date/time (set)
  • LCD (on/off) - whether LCD is on by default
  • Frame number (Continuous, renew)
  • USB mode (DSC, PC-Cam) - the latter option lets you use the A210 as a webcam for videoconferencing; Windows only
  • Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese [I think])
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Discharge - unusual option for discharging NiMH batteries
  • Reset - settings to defaults

Just in case you didn't notice, the A210, like all of Fuji's recent cameras, can be used as a webcam on Windows systems.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The FinePix A210 did a fine job with the macro test subject, though you'll notice that the white wall in the background has a brownish cast to it. The A210 is one of those cameras that locks the lens at the wide-angle position in macro mode. The focal range is 10 - 100 cm in macro mode on this camera.

The night shot above could've been great, had the A210 had some form of shutter speed control, or a night scene mode at the very least. The longest shutter speed on the camera is just 1/2 sec, which isn't long enough to take enough the light needed to properly expose this shot. If you're not going to put a shutter priority mode on a camera, at least have an automatic slow shutter mode!

There's a bit of redeye in our flash test shot, which is typical of a compact camera. This annoying phenomenon can be removed pretty well using software on your PC.

The distortion test shows minor barrel distortion, and no vignetting (dark corners).

Overall, the photo quality on the A210 was competitive with other cameras in its class. Color and exposure were good in almost all of my test photos, and purple fringing was not a problem. Noise levels were low in good lighting, but in low light, some noise was present. I wish the A210 had a way to force a fast shutter speed, as it didn't freeze moving subjects (roller coasters, at least) very well.

The best way to judge photo quality is with your own eyes, so have a look at the A210 photo gallery!

Movie Mode

The A210's movie mode is not great. You can record video at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120, at a frame rate of 10 frames/sec, for up to 60 and 240 seconds, respectively. Sound is not recorded, since the A210 lacks a microphone.

Despite not recording sound with movies, the A210 doesn't let you use the zoom lens during filming. In fact, it goes a step further, and locks the lens at the wide-angle position.

For the sake of comparison, the PowerShot A70 lets you record up to 30 seconds of video (with sound) at 640 x 480, and 3 minutes at 320 x 240 and 160 x 120.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a brief sample movie for you. This was pretty funny in person:


Click to play movie (1.8MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Playback mode on the A210 is typical of those on other cameras. Basic features are here, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge your image by up to 13X, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. When you enlarge an image, you have the option to trim (crop) it down.

If you want to see more information about your photos, you're out of luck with this camera. What you see above is all that the camera tells you.

The A210 isn't going to win any awards for playback speeds. It takes over two seconds to go from one photo to the next.

How Does it Compare?

For those looking for a basic camera for good outdoor photos, the Fuji FinePix A210 is worth a look. If you want to delve into more manual features or desire higher performance, then I'd probably go with something else (the PowerShot A70 remains the best in this class, in my opinion). The A210 takes good quality pictures, with accurate color, low noise, and no purple fringing that I could spot. Indoor shooting adds a little noise, but the autofocus performance and shutter lag were frustrating. The A210 is a total point-and-shoot camera, with a grand total of zero manual controls. At the very least, I would've liked to have seen scene modes for action and night photography. The camera's movie mode is not great (lens locked at wide-angle, slow frame rate), nor is the macro mode (lens locked at wide-angle, 10 cm minimum distance). Finally, the plastic body seemed a little too thick compared to other cameras in its class.

For those who are interested in the A210 but want to save a few bucks, don't forget about the 2 Megapixel FinePix A205 model.

What I liked:

  • Good picture quality
  • Above average battery life; uses two AAs
  • A pretty good value for the money
  • Optional camera dock for battery charging, photo transfer, and photo viewing on TV

What I didn't care for:

  • No manual controls of any kind
  • Lens locked at wide-angle in movie, macro modes
  • Slow frame rate, no sound recording in movie mode
  • Shutter lag quite noticeable in many situations
  • Poor AF performance in dim light, due in part to lack of AF illuminator
  • Cannot remove xD memory card while camera is on tripod
  • Plastic body seems a little chunky compared to competition

Other low cost, 3 Megapixel / 3X zoom cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot A70, Casio Exilim EX-Z3, HP Photosmart 735, Kodak EasyShare CX6330, Kyocera Finecam L3v, Minolta DiMAGE E323 and Xt, Nikon Coolpix 3100, Olympus D-560Z and Stylus 300, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33, Pentax Optio S and 33L, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix A210 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality stacks up in our photo gallery!

Want another opinion?

Get another view over at Steve's Digicams.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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