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DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix F30
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 28, 2006
Last Updated: April 6, 2008

The Fuji FinePix F30 ($399) is the follow-up to the company's popular F10 and F11 models. Like those two cameras, the F30's claim to fame is its high ISO performance, which is unmatched in the compact camera arena. In fact, Fuji says that the F30 should do even better than those two -- thanks to its improved SuperCCD HR sensor and image processor -- and they've increased the maximum ISO to 3200 as a result.

Other new features on the F30 include an improved LCD, manual controls (finally), a new flash metering system, and even better battery life. I'll touch on other minor changes in the review itself.

I was a big fan of the FinePix F10. Will the F30 follow in its footsteps? Find out in our review!

What's in the Box?

The FinePix F30 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

One thing that didn't improve on the FinePix F30 was the memory card situation. While Fuji included a 16MB card with the F10, they chose to go the internal memory route with the F30. Unfortunately they included just 10MB of onboard memory, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to buy a memory card right away, which drives up the initial cost of the camera. The F30 uses xD Picture Cards -- which currently top out at 2GB -- and I recommend a 512MB card as a good starter size. Do note that xD cards tend to a little more expensive than the more popular Secure Digital cards. I don't think that a high speed memory card is needed for use with the F30.

The F30 uses the new NP-95 rechargeable lithium ion battery. This battery packs 6.5 Wh into its plastic shell, which is pretty darn good for a compact camera. The NP-95 is actually less powerful than the NP-120 battery used by the FinePix F10, but Fuji managed to squeeze more out of it. Here's how the battery life looks:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD600 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS 240 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z850 440 shots
Fuji FinePix F10 500 shots
Fuji FinePix F30 580 shots
Fuji FinePix V10 170 shots
HP Photosmart R727 270 shots
Kodak EasyShare V603 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix P4 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 710 180 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 320 shots
Pentax Optio T10 130 shots
Samsung Digimax L60 190 shots *
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 300 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 390 shots
* Not calculated using CIPA battery life standard

As you can see, the FinePix F30 has best-in-class battery life. It just keeps going, and going, and going -- no Energizers needed.

The usual negatives about proprietary batteries like the NP-95 apply here. For one, they're expensive -- $40 a pop. Secondly, you can't pop in "off the shelf" batteries when your rechargeables die, like you could on a camera that uses AA batteries. There are a few cameras out there that are similar in size to the F30 that use AAs, if that's important to you.

The F30's battery is charged while it's inside the camera. Just plug in the included AC adapter, pour a cup of coffee (or three) and after an agonizing four hour way the battery will be ready to go. For faster charging you can pick up the BC-65S external battery charger, which costs a whopping $60.

Like all ultra-compact cameras, the F30 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about.

Aside from extra batteries and the external charger that I already mentioned, the only accessories available include an underwater housing ($145) and a soft case ($27). The underwater housing (model WP-FXF30) lets you take the F30 up to 40 meters underwater.
[Paragraph updated 7/2/06]


FinePixViewer 3.4 for Mac

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the F30. The Mac version is very basic, doing things like slideshows, image rotating, resizing, and e-mailing. There are no editing functions at all.


FInePixViewer 5.2 for Windows

Windows users get a slightly better product, with basic editing features in addition to what's listed above. You can adjust brightness, saturation, hue, contrast, and sharpness, and there's an auto adjust feature as well.

The bundled ImageMixer VCD2 LE software lets you create Video CDs (for viewing on your DVD player) and CD albums (for your computer) of your photos. If you shell out a whopping $50 for the unlimited version you can also burn to DVD discs.

[Software section updated 7/1/06]

The FinePix F30 comes with a fairly run-of-the-mill manual. While it's certainly complete, it certainly does not win any points for being user friendly.

Look and Feel

The FinePix F30 is a sleeker version of the F10 and F11 before it. It's made almost entirely of metal, and it feels very solid for the most part. Weak points include a plastic tripod mount and the door over the memory card / battery compartment.

Ergonomically speaking the F30 is pretty good. The important buttons are easy to reach, and the camera can be used with just one hand. The camera isn't as small as, say, the FinePix Z3, but it's still pretty compact.

Speaking of which, lets see how the F30 compares with other compacts in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD600 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.4 cu in. 140 g
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 7.9 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z850 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 130 g
Fujifilm FinePix F10 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.1 cu in. 156 g
Fujifilm FinePix F30 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.7 cu in. 155 g
Fujifilm FinePix V10 3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 156 g
HP Photosmart R727 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8 cu in. 136 g
Kodak EasyShare V603 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.5 cu in. 120 g
Nikon Coolpix P4 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 10.4 cu in. 170 g
Olympus Stylus 710 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 103 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 132 g
Pentax Optio T10 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Samsung Digimax L60 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.7 cu in. 130 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 127 g

The FinePix isn't the smallest camera out there, but it's still compact enough to carry around without it being a burden.

Okay, let's tour the camera now!

The FinePix F30 has the same F2.8-5.0, 3X optical zoom lens as its predecessors. The lens has a focal range of 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 108 mm. The lens is not threaded.

To the lower-right of the lens is the microphone. Up above that is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

Above the AF-assist lamp is the built-in flash, which is slightly weaker than the one on the F10 (though still very powerful). The working range of the flash (at Auto ISO) is 0.6 - 6.5 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 3.5 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to this camera.

On the back of the camera you'll first notice the large 2.5" LCD display, which has been improved since the F10. This screen has double the resolution of the one on the F10, with a total pixel count of 230,000. As you'd expect, everything is nice and sharp on the screen. Fuji has also added a "Clear View" anti-glare filter, similar to what you'll find on plasma televisions. That makes the screen quite visible outdoors, even in bright light -- and using the "quick brightness" feature helps even more. Low light visibility was also very good, as the screen brightens automatically in those situations.

As you probably noticed, there's no optical viewfinder on the FinePix F30 (there wasn't on the F10 either). Whether this is a bad thing sort of depends on you: some people love'em, others could care less. Ultimately you'll need to decide for yourself if you can live without a viewfinder.

To the upper-right of the LCD you'll find the zoom controller. This moves the lens quickly, taking just 0.8 seconds to go from wide-angle to telephoto. I counted seven steps in the 3X zoom range.

Below that you'll find the playback and F-Mode buttons. Pressing the latter will open up the F-Mode menu, which has these options:

There are many choices in the ISO menu, as you can see. There are two auto modes: one that tops out at ISO 400, and another that goes up to ISO 1600. If most of your photo prints will be on the small side then you can safely use the Auto 1600 setting. If you make a lot of large prints then you might want to either use Auto 400, or just set the ISO manually.

The chrome color option is a quick way to boost color saturation (by quite a lot, too).

Next up we have the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation as well as:

When you're in record mode, pressing the four-way controller in the up direction will brighten the LCD automatically, making it even easier to see in bright outdoor light.

The last two buttons on the back of the F30 are for Display (toggles what is shown on LCD) + Back (for menu navigation) and exposure compensation (with the usual +2EV to -2EV in 1/3EV increment range).

On top of the camera you'll find the power and shutter release buttons plus the mode dial. The options on the mode dial include:

Option Function
Anti-blur mode Cranks up the ISO in order to get a shutter speed fast enough for a sharp photo; the flash may be used in this mode
Natural Light / Scene mode Choose from these scenes: natural light, natural light & flash, portrait, landscape, sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, underwater, museum, party, flower, text; see below for more
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, some menu options locked up
Manual record mode Still point-and-shoot but with full menu access
Aperture / shutter priority mode In aperture priority mode you can choose from apertures ranging from F2.8 to F8; in shutter priority mode you can choose a speed between 3 to 1/1000 sec
Movie mode More on this later

There's a bit to talk about before I move on. The anti-blur and natural light modes are very similar, except that the former allows the use of the flash. On the F30 Fuji added a new "natural light & flash" feature which takes two shots in a row: one with natural light mode and the other using the flash.

Why would you want to use the natural light mode? Let's suppose it's around dusk and you want to take a photo of this great rose in your garden. You turn on the camera, put it in auto mode, and it takes a flash photo that comes out looking like this:

That's not a very flattering picture in my opinion. Let's take the same shot using natural light mode:

I think you'll agree that this photo is much more pleasing to the eyes. The F30 increased the ISO to 1600, which allowed the camera to take in enough light for a sharp, bright photo. Things are a little noisy here, which isn't surprising considering the ISO setting, so natural light mode is best suited for those making smaller-sized prints. You can achieve the same effect by increasing the ISO manually, of course, which allows you to control how much noise will be in the finished product.

Getting back to the mode dial options now. The F30 lets you select the aperture and shutter speed separately, but not at the same time (which is fine for most people). The slowest shutter speed available in shutter priority mode is just 3 seconds, but if you want to take longer exposures then you can turn on the long exposure setting, which you use in the night scene mode. This allows for exposures as long as 15 seconds.

On this side of the FinePix F30 you'll find its I/O ports, which are behind a plastic cover. The ports include A/V + USB (one port for both) and DC-in (for the included AC adapter). The F30 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

There's nothing to see on this side of the camera, though it's worth mentioning that the lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Our tour ends with the bottom of the F30. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo!) and the battery/memory card compartment. The latter is protected by a plastic door of average quality. You may or may not be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod -- it depends on your equipment.

The included NP-95 battery is shown at right.

Using the Fuji FinePix F30

Record Mode

You'll wait about 1.4 seconds after turning on the FinePix F30 before you can start taking pictures -- not bad at all for a camera with an extending lens.


No live histogram here

Focusing times were very good on the F30. When focusing is easy you'll want between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds (and less with the high speed focusing mode on) for the camera to lock focus. At the telephoto end the times are longer, but not too horrible. Low light focusing wasn't terribly quick, but it was accurate.

Shutter lag was not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds.

Shot-to-shot speeds were average, with a delay of around two seconds between shots.

You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must enter playback mode first.

Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the F30:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 10MB onboard memory # images on 512MB xD card
(optional)
6M
2848 x 2136
Fine 3.0 MB 3 170
Normal 1.5 MB 6 339
3:2
3024 x 2016
Normal 1.5 MB 6 339
3M
2048 x 1536
Normal 780 KB 12 651
2M
1600 x 1200
Normal 630 KB 15 818
0.3M
640 x 480
Normal 130 KB 77 3993

See what you need to buy a memory card right away?

The FinePix F30 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats.

Files are numbered using a simple convention: DSCF####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained as you swap or erase memory cards.

The FinePix F30 has a pretty basic menu without too many options. Do note that not all of these options are available in all shooting modes. And with that, here's what's in the full record mode menu:

The FinePix F30 has a custom white balance feature which lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color even under the most usual lighting. Thus, the camera has almost a complete set of manual controls, with only manual exposure (M) mode and manual focusing features missing.

There are three continuous shooting modes on the F30, none of which are particularly impressive. The top 3 mode took just three shots in a row at 2.3 frames/second. The final 3 mode takes up to 40 shots in a row (at the same frame rate) and saves the last three photos that were taken before you took your finger off the shutter release button. The long-period takes up 40 shots in a row at a very sluggish 0.5 frames/second. The camera re-focuses between each shot in this mode, which slows things down considerably. The LCD keeps up well during shooting in all three of the continuous modes.

There is also a setup menu, which you get to from either the record or playback menus. Here's what you'll find in that:

Enough menus, let's talk about photo quality now!

The FinePix F30 did a very nice job with our usual macro test subject. The colors are nice and saturated, and the subject has a nice smooth look to it. The F30's custom white balance feature had no trouble with my studio lamps.

In macro mode you can be as close to your subject as 5 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto.

The night shot looks very good as well. The camera took in plenty of light, though you'll need to use that manual shutter speed option in the night scene mode for the longest exposures. The buildings are all nice and sharp, and noise is minimal. There's a fair amount of purple fringing in the photo, which is something you'll see again below.

I have two ISO tests in this review. The first one is for low light shooting, and it uses the scene you see above. Here goes:


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Things look very clean though ISO 400. The ISO 800 shot isn't too much worse, and you can get a midsize print out of that photo. Once you get to ISO 1600 you're pretty much limited to small (4 x 6 inch) prints. The ISO 3200 shot looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph, and I don't think it's usable.

There's very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the F30's 3X zoom lens. While the test chart shows a bit of vignetting (dark corners), this wasn't a problem in my real world photos. Corner softness was not an issue either.

The F30 doesn't have too bad of a redeye problem. There's a bit of red, but it's not the full-on demon eyes that you're used to seeing on a compact camera.

Here's ISO test number two. This one is taken in my studio under two 600W quartz lamps. You can compare this test from camera to camera since the lighting is consistent. While the crops below give you an idea about the noise levels at each ISO setting, you should really check out the full size images for a detailed comparison.


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

You need a magnifying glass to see the difference between the ISO 100 - 400 shots. ISO 800 is just a tad bit noisier, but even so, the F30 wipes the floor with the competition. Just compare the F30's ISO 800 shot with the ones from the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 to see what I mean. Even at ISO 800 you can still make beautiful 8 x 10 prints. Details start to look a bit muddy at ISO 1600, so you print sizes will drop to smaller sizes (though noise reduction software like NeatImage helps considerably). And, believe it or not, you can even get an acceptable 4 x 6 inch print taken at the ISO 3200 setting, especially after a trip through NeatImage.

Overall the FinePix F30 took very good quality photos, though there are a few things that keep it from perfection. On the positive side, images were well exposed, with pleasing sharpness and minimal noise. Colors did seem a little dull to me in some of my outdoor photos, though this is a subjective thing. The biggest photo quality flaw is with regard to purple fringing: the F30 has more than it's share of this annoyance. While you won't notice it in smaller prints, you most certainly will if you're making large prints or viewing the images on your computer screen.

Ultimately you need to be the final judge of the FinePix F30's photo quality. Have a look at our extensive photo gallery, print the photos if you'd like, and then decide if the F30's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The FinePix F30 has a very good movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card is full. It takes just eight seconds to fill up the internal memory, so you'll want a memory card for longer movies. A 1GB xD card holds about 15 minutes of video.

For longer movies you can drop the resolution to 320 x 240, which doubles recording time.

As is usually the case, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming.

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

Here's the usual train station sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (12.3 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The FinePix F30 has a standard issue playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, 30 second voice captions, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom & scroll. This last option lets you enlarge the frame by as much as 4.5 times and then move around in the zoomed-in area. As you might expect, the F30 is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.

Photos can be viewed one at a time sequentially, or by date (see above). You can rotate, resize, and crop photos right on the camera. In addition, you can copy photos from the internal memory to an xD card and vice versa.

The F30 shows basic exposure information in playback mode, but it lacks a histogram.

The camera moves from photo to photo at an average pace. There's about a one second delay before the next photo is shown.

How Does it Compare

It's not very often where I really become fond of a camera that I review. Usually this happens with expensive digital SLRs that I can only dream about. This time around, I fell in love with a compact camera -- the Fuji FinePix F30. While it's not quite perfect, the F30 won me over with its great high ISO performance, battery life, LCD, and manual controls. It's a camera that I can recommend without hesitation.

The FinePix F30 is a compact -- but not tiny -- camera made almost entirely of metal. It feels solid in the hand, and the important controls are easy to reach. I do with the camera had a metal tripod mount and a sturdier door over the memory card/battery compartment. On the back of the camera you'll find a large and sharp 2.5" LCD display. Fuji's made sure the screen is easy to see in bright outdoor light, including an anti-glare filter plus an instant brightness adjustment feature. The F30 lacks an optical viewfinder, though. The F30 has a pretty standard 3X zoom lens and a powerful flash that doesn't have too much of a redeye problem.

The FinePix F30 has features for beginners and enthusiasts alike. There are plenty of scene modes, including the natural light mode that I described earlier. In case you're one of those "jump straight to the conclusion" people (and shame on you, if so), I would recommend using that scene mode only if you know that you'll be making smaller sized prints. Otherwise I'd probably adjust the ISO yourself so you can keep noise levels where you want them. Power users will like the almost full set of manual controls on the F30. You get aperture and shutter speed control, plus a custom white balance feature. The only things missing are manual focus and the ability to set the shutter speed and aperture at the same time. All F30 users will like its movie mode, which allows for continuous recording at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second (with sound).

Camera performance was very good in most areas. The F30 starts up quickly, focusing times were above average, and I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem. Shot-to-shot times were just average, and I wasn't terribly impressed with the continuous shooting modes either. Battery life, on the other hand, was stupendous -- the F30 lasts longer than any compact camera on the market. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard for fast photo transfers to your Mac or PC.

Photo quality was very good, especially in terms of high ISO performance. The F30 isn't quite as clean as a digital SLR, but it's way better than your typical fixed lens camera. You can print 8 x 10's (and maybe larger) all the way through ISO 800, with smaller prints at ISO 1600. The F30 took generally well-exposed photos, though I thought the colors could be brighter. Sharpness was just about where I like it. Unfortunately the F30 has higher than average purple fringing levels, which is really a shame since Fuji got almost everything right.

I have just two complaints about the F30 that weren't mentioned above and they both concern the bundle. For one, the 10MB of built-in memory is not nearly enough -- even the 16MB xD card that came with the FinePix F10 was better! And finally, the FinePixViewer software isn't great -- it's very basic compared to what comes with other cameras these days.

As you probably gathered, I really like the Fuji FinePix F30. It offers low light performance that approaches (but doesn't match) digital SLRs, and it's pretty good at the other stuff too. The F30 is absolutely worth a look -- I highly recommend it.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other compact cameras worth a look include the Canon PowerShot SD600 and SD700 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z850, Fuji FinePix V10, HP Photosmart R727, Kodak EasyShare V603, Nikon Coolpix P4, Olympus Stylus 710, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, Pentax Optio T10, Samsung Digimax L60, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 and DSC-W50.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix F30 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned out? Then have a look at our gallery!

Want another opinion?

You'll find another review of the F30 at CNET.com.

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

 

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