DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix A310
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 19, 2003
Last Updated: November 19, 2003

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The FinePix A310 ($299) is Fuji's lowest priced camera with a SuperCCD sensor. The 3.1 million hexagonal-shaped sensors on the SuperCCD HR sensor allow it to produce images with 6 million pixels. That doesn't make this a 6 Megapixel camera by any means -- but it's handy for making large prints. In addition to its SuperCCD, the A310 also features a 3X zoom, compact body, and an easy to use menu system.

Is the A310 a good entry level camera? Find out now!

Since they are so similar, I will be reusing sections of the FinePix A210 review here.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix A310 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.1 (effective) Megapixel FinePix A310 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
  • 83 page camera manual (printed)

Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with the camera. That's barely enough to get started with, so you'll want a larger one right away. xD cards are currently available as large as 512MB.

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 plus a charger. Since the camera uses two batteries, a four-pack will keep you going for quite a while.

Fuji estimates that you can take about 205 photos using alkalines, 340 using the optional ($20) NH-10 battery pack, or 300 photos with your own 1700 mAh NiMH batteries (assumes 50% LCD use in all cases). That's not bad.

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 A310 has a sliding lens cover to protect your lens from the elements.

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. The A310 does not support a conversion lens or external flash.

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the A310. 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 most 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 A310 is a compact, all-plastic camera. It definitely does not feel as solid as other cameras in its class. The body is compact (much more so than the A205/210), and it will fit in your pockets with ease. While the important controls are easy to reach, I'm not a fan of the too-small four-way controller.

The official dimensions of the A310 are 97.0 x 63.9 x 33.0 mm / 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.3 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 155 grams / 5.5 ounces empty. Those numbers for the Canon A70 are 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches and 215 grams, respectively.

Let's begin our tour of the FinePix A310 now!

The FinePix A310 has an F2.8-4.8, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal length of the lens is 5.7 - 17.1 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded.

To the upper-left of the lens is the built-in flash. This flash has a working range of 0.3 - 5.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.3 - 4.0 m at telephoto. The camera does not support an external flash.

The items to the right of the lens include the flash sensor, self-timer lamp, and optical viewfinder. There's no AF-assist lamp on this camera.

The mirror-looking thing on the far left (I hate photographing these) is the power switch. Push it away from the lens to turn on the camera, and toward the lens to turn it off.

The FinePix A310 has a 1.5" LCD with a pretty low resolution of just 60,000 pixels. You'll notice too, as things on the screen just aren't sharp. The screen is bright, though, and images on it move smoothly. Brightness can be adjusted in the menu system. I did notice that the screen become quite grainy indoors or in dim lighting.

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.

Below 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. The "f" button to the right of that turns on the Photo Mode menu. This menu has the following options:

  • Quality (6M, 3M, 1M, 0.3M)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 200, 400, 800)
  • FinePix Color (Standard, chrome, black & white)

One thing I love about the quality option up there is that the camera tells you how many photos you can take at a given image quality setting (see screen shot).

The lowest ISO on the camera is a rather unusual 200. If you need more sensitivity (at the expense of noise), you can bump it up to 400 or 800. Do note that ISO 800 is only available at the 1M resolution. Also note that the Auto option is only shown with the camera in auto mode, with the ISO 200 option only shown in manual mode.

The FinePix color options let you select normal color, chrome (high contrast and saturation), and black & white.

The two buttons to the right of the LCD include Menu/OK and Back. Both of these are used while navigating the menu system.

To the right of that is the mode dial. It's a little weird, as it has four options that you cannot actually select by turning the wheel. To get to those items in gray, you must turn the wheel to SP and then use the menu. The items on the mode dial include:

  • Movie mode
  • Playback mode
  • Record mode
  • Scene position (Portrait, landscape, action, night scene)

The final item on the back of the camera is the four-way controller, which also operates the zoom. It takes just under two seconds for the lens to move from the wide-angle to telephoto positions. Quick presses of the buttons allow you to make precise movements of the lens.

The only thing worth mentioning on the top of the A310 is the shutter release button.

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 is unusual.

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.

While I'm showing a 64MB xD card in that picture, your camera will include a 16MB card.

Using the Fuji FinePix A310

Record Mode

It takes a little over two seconds for the A310 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.

Autofocus speeds are about average, with a half-second lag in good lighting, and slightly longer for "tough to focus on" subjects. Like most cameras without an AF-assist lamp, the A310 struggled to lock focus under dim indoor lighting.

Shutter lag was quite low at fast shutter speeds, and noticeable (though still brief) at slower speeds.


Very basic info is shown on the LCD in record mode

Shot-to-shot speed wasn't nearly as fast as on Fuji's other SuperCCD-based cameras. It took 3 seconds before I could take another shot, even with the post-shot review turned off.

Unlike some of the other recent Fuji cameras, the A310 lacks the ability to let you delete a photo immediately after it is taken (you must enter playback mode).

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)
6M
(2816 x 2120)
1.5 MB 10
3M
(2048 x 1536)
780 KB 19
1M
(1280 x 960)
470 KB 33
0.3M
(640 x 480)
130 KB 122

While the SuperCCD sensor has 3.1 million pixels, its design requires it to first create the 6 Megapixel image, and then downsize to whatever resolution you selected. That leads to some debate over what the native image size is -- 3M or 6M? I suppose the correct answer is "both".

As with Fuji's other recent cameras, there is only one quality level available at each resolution. This is a shame, as they really compress the heck out of these images.

There's no TIFF or RAW mode on this camera. I was surprised to see that the A310 didn't have a RAW mode, as the other recent SuperCCD cameras do.

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

The FinePix A310 has a nice looking, very basic menu. The camera has an auto mode, where many of the menu options are locked up. If you want full access to the menu, you need to switch into "manual" mode. Here's a look at the menu now, with the manual mode-only options in bold:

  • Self-timer (on/off)
  • Continuous shooting (Off, final 4, top 4) - see below
  • Scene position (Portrait, landscape, action, night scene) - only available in SP mode
  • Shooting mode (Auto, manual) - manual mode unlocks the two bold options below
  • Option (Set-up menu, LCD brightness)
  • Exposure compensation (-2.1EV to +1.5EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, fluorescent x3, incandescent) - no custom option available

The only thing worth mentioning up there are the two continuous shooting modes. Top 4 mode will take up to 4 shots in a row at about 3 frames/second. Final 4 mode will take up to 25 shots in a row at the same frame rate, and will save the last four shots taken before the shutter release button is, well, released. If the 25 shot buffer fills up, it will also stop shooting and save the last four photos.

As you can see, it's a simple, brief menu! In addition to that one, 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 A310 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 A310, 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 did an okay job with the macro test, with color and exposure being accurate. The problem here is noise though: just look at Mickey's coat (cloak?) and see it -- this is not something usually seen in the macro test. The A310 is one of those cameras that locks the lens at the wide-angle position in macro mode. The focal range is 10 - 80 cm in macro mode on this camera.

The night shot is also average. As this is a point-and-shoot camera, you're at the mercy of the camera's brain for taking long exposures. The longest shutter speed on the camera is just 2 seconds, so don't expect miracles. The issue in the shot is (again) noise -- which eats away at the detail of the image. This is most noticeable on the right side of the picture.

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 mild barrel distortion and no vignetting (dark corners) at the wide end of the lens.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but noise has been a problem with all of Fuji's recent SuperCCD HR-based cameras. That noise is what makes the A310's photo quality worse than average. It's too bad, as color and exposure are both very good, and purple fringing was not a problem. You definitely want to shoot in 3M mode, as 6M is just too noisy, reducing the detail in your photos (use it only when you know you're making large prints). Noise was especially bad indoors, as you can see in this flash shot. I'm hoping Fuji will address this with a firmware upgrade one day.

The best way to judge photo quality is with your own eyes, so have a look at the A310 photo gallery!

Movie Mode

The A310's movie mode isn't nearly as good as the one on some of Fuji's more advanced cameras. You can record video at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120, at a frame rate of 10 frames/sec, for up to 120 and 480 seconds, respectively. Sound is not recorded, since the A310 lacks a microphone.

Even though it doesn't record sound with movies, the A310 doesn't let you use the zoom lens during filming. In fact, it goes a step further, locking the lens at the wide-angle position.

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

Here's a fairly unexciting sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (2.1MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Playback mode on the A310 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 18X, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. This feature is a little on the slow side. Once you're zoomed in, you can use the trim feature to crop your images right on the camera.

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 A310 isn't going to win any awards for playback speeds. It takes two seconds to go from one photo to the next.

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji FinePix A310 is average in almost all respects, except for image quality, where it's worse than average. For whatever reason, Fuji is overcompressing and overprocessing their images, giving them way too much noise, even at the 3M setting. And that's a shame, as the other important factors in photo quality (color, exposure) are all good. In terms of performance, the camera is average, and that goes for features as well -- the A310 is point-and-shoot, with few gimmicks other than the Windows-only webcam ability. The plastic body and movie mode both leave much to be desired. The A310 isn't a bad camera, but there are several superior cameras available for around the same price.

What I liked:

  • Good value
  • Compact, lightweight body
  • Can be used as a webcam (Windows only)
  • Optional camera dock for battery charging, photo transfer, and photo viewing on TV

What I didn't care for:

  • Too much noise in images
  • No manual controls of any kind
  • No image compression options
  • Slow frame rate, lens locked at wide-angle, no zooming, and no sound recording in movie mode
  • Average performance
  • Poor low light focusing / no AF-assist lamp
  • Cannot remove xD memory card while camera is on tripod
  • Cheesy plastic body

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 A310 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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

Want another opinion? How about two?

Read more reviews at Steve's Digicams and Imaging Resource.

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.

Keep in mind that this review is just one person's opinion. Your conclusion may be different than the one above.

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