Review: Fuji FinePix A303
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Saturday, October 19, 2002
Thursday, November 21, 2002
you're a bit confused by Fuji's 2002 camera lineup, you're not alone.
As of this writing, Fuji has nine models. Hopefully the chart below
will clear things up:
camera in question here is the FinePix
A303 ($350), a 3.2 Megapixel camera that uses a traditional
CCD sensor (rather than the SuperCCD used by some other Fuji cameras),
and has a 3X optical zoom lens.
are a lot of small 3 Megapixel cameras out there. How does the A303
fare against the competition? Find out now in our review!
in the Box?
FinePix A303 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Fuji FinePix A303 camera
xD Picture Card
AA alkaline batteries
featuring FinePixViewer software and drivers
on your own as far as batteries go, as the A303 includes two AA
alkalines that will quickly run out of juice. Since the camera uses
just two batteries, one four pack of NiMH rechargeables will be
a great place to start. Fuji estimates that you'll take about 175
photos (with 50% LCD use) with alkaline batteries, and 250 with
How xD stacks up with other memory cards. From
left to right: Memory Stick, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, CompactFlash,
of the big features of the A303 is its use of xD Picture Cards,
instead of SmartMedia like previous Fuji cameras. I really don't
have anything good to say about the xD format, and if you missed
my comments back when it was introduced, I will repeat them here.
The cards are too small -- I almost lost it taking it out of the
box. Imagine what happens when you lose a 1gb card (if they ever
get that big -- they say they will)? Also, they have absolutely
no advantage over other formats. If SmartMedia was truly at the
end of the road, I would have preferred switching to an industry
standard format, like Secure Digital, which is almost as small.
Instead we got yet another memory card format.
rant over. The included 16MB xD card is decent for getting started
with the camera.
the camera has a built-in (and stylish) lens cover, there are no
lens cap worries. As you can see, the A303 is a compact, but not
aren't many accessories available for this camera. The choices include
a camera case, AC adapter, xD USB card reader, and xD PC Card adapter.
A303 works fine with Mac OS X and iPhoto. While I can't confirm
it, it should work fine with Windows XP as well.
am pleased to say that FinePixViewer is now Mac OS X compatible,
and is greatly improved over its Mac OS 9 predecessor. It's snappy
and much more useable than ever before. The software is only really
useful for viewing and rotating images -- you can't correct redeye
or anything like that.
you use a Windows-based PC, you can also use the A303 as a PC camera.
I haven't tried it though.
manuals have always been better than average, and that continues
to be the case here.
FinePix A303 is an attractive, compact camera that looks pretty
nice in pictures. But the first thing I thought of when I held it
was, "wow this thing feels cheap" -- it's mostly plastic.
There are a lot of 3 Megapixel cameras out there that feel a lot
more solid. Even other plastic cameras like the Pentax Optio 330GS
A303 isn't as small as say, the Canon Digital ELPHs, but it's pretty
small nonetheless. The dimensions are 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches, and
it weighs 145 grams. For the sake of comparison, the Canon PowerShot
S230 Digital ELPH's stats are 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches and 180 grams
(the metal body adds some weight).
camera is very easy to hold and operate with one hand or two. Let's
begin our tour of the camera now, starting with the front.
hard to take pictures of these shiny cameras, as you can see by
A303's lens is an F2.8-F4.8, 3X optical zoom model, made by Fuji
of course. The focal range is 5.7 - 17.1 mm, which is equivalent
to 35 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded and accessory lenses are
not supported. I will mention that the FinePix 3800, also 3 Megapixel,
supports accessory lenses.
is also a digital zoom of 1.3X - 3.2X (depending on what resolution
you're using), but image quality will be lowered if you use it.
the center of the camera is the built-in flash. The flash has a
working range of 0.3 - 3.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 3.0 m at telephoto.
Not surprisingly, you can't add an external flash on the A303.
you're looking for an AF-assist lamp, you won't find one. It's a
shame that other manufacturers haven't followed Sony's lead and
put them on all their models, even the cheap ones!
is the back of the camera.
A303 has a 1.5" LCD display, which is fairly easy to see except
in extreme lighting conditions. The LCD isn't as high resolution
as those found on more expensive cameras, and you can't tell, even
in my screen shots later in the review. Nose smudges on the LCD
may be a problem if you use your left eye with the optical viewfinder.
of which, the optical viewfinder is up at the top corner of the
A303. It shows 80% of the frame, and is decent-sized for a compact
camera. One downsize is that it lacks a diopter correction knob,
for those without perfect vision.
the LCD and viewfinder are three buttons: Display, back, and menu/OK.
Display toggles the LCD and the displayed info on/off, and the other
two buttons are fairly self-explanatory.
the right of the LCD is the mode dial. This is one of those parts
of the A303 that really feels "cheap" to me. Anyhow, the
choices on the wheel include:
thing I don't like about having things like self-timer and macro
on the mode wheel is that it's often restrictive. For example, the
A303 cannot use the self-timer in macro mode.
below the mode wheel is the flash button. The flash modes are auto,
auto w/redeye reduction, forced, suppressed, and slow synchro.
final item on the back of the camera is the four-way switch, which
doubles as the zoom controller. Using the up/down part of the switch,
you can smoothly move the 3X zoom lens from one end to the other
in about two seconds.
only items on the top of the camera are the power switch and shutter
this side of the A303, you'll find the USB and DC in ports. The
latter is for the optional AC adapter. There is no video output
on the camera.
only thing over here is the connector for the wrist strap.
on the bottom of the A303, you'll find the battery compartment,
xD slot, and plastic tripod mount. As I said earlier, this camera
uses only two AA batteries. The included 16MB xD card is shown at
the Fuji FinePix A303
takes just three seconds for the A303 to extend its lens and "warm
up" after you turn it on. That's pretty quick for a camera
with a zoom lens.
you press the shutter release button halfway, the camera locks focus
in about a second, though it does have trouble in low light. When
you fully press the shutter release button, a shot is taken after
a very noticeable lag -- probably 1/2 second. The shot-to-shot speed
of 3 seconds is about average.
let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available
on this camera.
photos on 16MB card (included)
photos on 64MB card (for reference)
(2048 x 1536)
(1600 x 1200)
(1280 x 960)
(640 x 480)
A303 doesn't have any TIFF or RAW mode, which isn't surprising considering
the target audience of the camera.
FinePix has a basic, nice looking menu system. There aren't many
options, but it's easy to find your way around what's there.
thing I really like is how the menu tells you have many photos you
can take in each quality mode (see above).
see what is actually in these menus. Items in bold are only
available in manual mode. Like most of Fuji's mid and lower-end
cameras, there's nothing really "manual" about manual
compensation (-2.1EV to +1.5EV in 1/3EV increments)
(Auto, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent,
cool white fluorescent, incandescent)
(Setup, LCD brightness, manual/auto mode)
addition to those items, which should be self-explanatory, the A303
has a basic setup menu as well. You'll find things like post view
(shows image on LCD after its taken), power save, USB mode, date/time,
and language. One thing that's missing is any kind of file numbering
system. Erase or format the memory card, the file numbering restarts
at zero. That's a pain if you take a lot of photos.
do our usual photo tests now.
its macro mode is a bit limiting, I'm pleased with the results I
got from the A303. The colors look good and the subject is sharp.
In macro mode (accessible only via the mode dial), the camera will
be locked at the wide-angle setting -- you can only use the digital
any real manual controls, it's not surprising that the A303 didn't
fare well at my night shot test. Even if I cranked the exposure
compensation all the way up, it didn't help. The camera just doesn't
take in enough light. There wasn't much noise to speak of, but then
again, it wasn't that long of an exposure (1/2 sec).
A303 did a decent job in the redeye test. There's a bit of redeye
seen here, but it's nothing major. If you wanted, you could clean
it up a bit more with software. Note that I enlarged this shot a
bit so you could see the details.
the end, the most important thing about a digicam is how well it
takes pictures. And the A303 does a pretty good job at that. Fuji
is famous for their vibrant, accurate color, and the FinePix delivers
on that promise. Noise levels are low as well. There were some sample
photos (not included here) that didn't come out since I had no control
over what metering method was used, but overall I'm happy. Chromatic
aberrations, AKA purple fringing, were not a major problem here.
Don't just take my word for it though, check out the gallery
and judge for yourself.
A303 has a pretty uninteresting movie mode. You can record clips
of up to 60 seconds, without sound, at 320 x 240. At the 160 x 120
resolution, your clips can be as long as 240 seconds.
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec. The frame rate
is 10 frames/second.
not recording sound along with the movie, you still cannot use the
optical zoom during filming.
a sample movie, taken in Berkeley near sunset.
Click to play movie (AVI format, 1.6MB)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
FinePix A303 has an average playback mode. While it does feature
thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, and 30 second
voice memos, it lacks the common slide show feature.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you zoom in as much as 13X
into your photo, and then scroll around it.
is no way to get any exposure information about your photos, unfortunately.
The A303 moves through your photos at an average clip -- about two
seconds go by before the next one is shown.
Does it Compare?
Fuji FinePix A303 is a camera which did not excite me very much,
in case you didn't notice. It does take good, colorful pictures,
except in low light. It's easy to use with an attractive interface.
There were three items that turned me off though: the first is the
very noticeable shutter lag -- it's easy to miss a shot. The second
is the very limited feature set (options & movie mode, especially).
Finally, the cheesy plastic body just doesn't compare to other cameras
in the price range. If you take a lot of outdoor shots of stationary
subjects, and don't want to deal with many options, check out the
A303. However, if you take action or low light shots, or want more
control over the camera, there are better choices out there.
good photo quality
easy to use interface
FinePix Viewer software
I didn't care for:
body feels cheap compared to competition
mode just OK
few manual controls means hard to get the shot in low/difficult
sound/zoom in movie mode
a fan of xD memory card format
small, 3 Megapixel cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot
Digital ELPH and S30,
FinePix 3800 (a much nicer camera!), Kodak
DX4330, Kyocera Finecam S3 series (S3x,
DiMAGE Xi, Nikon
Coolpix 3500, Olympus
D-550Z, Pentax Optio 330 series (GS,
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7
and the Toshiba PDR-3310
and PDR-3320. A long list, I know -- there is lots of competition!
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera reseller to check
out the FinePix A303 and its competitors, before you buy!
to see how the photos turned out? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
find one at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.