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Fuji FinePix F300EXR Review

Using the Fuji FinePix F300EXR

Record Mode

It takes around 2.5 seconds for the F300EXR to extend its lens and prepare for shooting, which is on the slow side.


There's no live histogram on the F300EXR

One of the unique features of the F300 is its hybrid AF system, which combines both traditional contrast detect AF with phase detection, a feature normally found on D-SLR. The result is generally fast autofocus performance, at least in good light. Typically the F300EXR locked focus in 0.1 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle, and 0.4 - 0.8 seconds at the telephoto end of things. The camera did struggle to lock focus at times in low light, though -- it seems like it gives up too quickly. I also noticed that the image on the LCD deteriorates while the camera is focusing. Not a big deal, but worth a mention.

I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot delays were brief. With the flash turned off, you can take another photo in about 1.5 seconds. With the flash, that time doubles to 3 seconds. Do note that some of the multi-exposure modes on the camera will lock up the camera for a bit while the images are processed.

There's no way to delete a photo that you just took -- you must enter playback mode to do so.

Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the F300EXR:

Resolution Quality # images on 40MB onboard memory # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
Large (4:3)
4000 x 3000
Fine 8 418
Normal 13 666
Large (3:2)
4000 x 2664
Fine 9 469
Normal 14 746
Large (16:9)
4000 x 2248
Fine 10 558
Normal 17 885
Medium (4:3)
2816 x 2112
Fine 13 673
Normal 26 1319
Medium (3:2)
2816 x 1864
Fine 15 755
Normal 29 1476
Medium (16:9)
2816 x 1584
Fine 17 885
Normal 35 1319
Small (4:3)
2048 x 1536
Fine 25 1239
Normal 49 1476
Small (3:2)
2048 x 1360
Fine 28 1409
Normal 55 1722
Small (16:9)
1920 x 1080
Fine 37 1878
Normal 57 2384

See why I recommended buying a larger memory card?

The FinePix F300EXR doesn't support the RAW image format.

The F300EXR uses the same menu system that you'll find on other Fuji cameras. I have to admit that it's starting to look and feel a bit dated. That said, it gets the job done. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of items in the record menu:

  • EXR mode (Auto, resolution priority, high ISO & low noise, D-range priority) - only shown when mode dial set to EXR; discussed earlier
  • Advanced mode (Motion Panorama 360, Pro Focus, Pro Low Light) - only shown when mode dial set to Adv. discussed earlier
  • Scene position (natural light & flash, natural light, portrait, portrait enhancer, dog, cat, landscape, sport, night, night (tripod), fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, underwater, party, flower, text) - only shown when mode dial is set to SP
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800)
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Image quality (Fine, normal)
  • Dynamic range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%, 800%) - discussed earlier
  • Film simulation (Provia/standard, Velvia/vivid, Astia/soft, B&W, sepia)
  • White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent, underwater) - the custom option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting
  • Continuous (Off, top 5, final 5, top 23, final 23) - see below
  • Face detection (on/off) - see below
  • Photometry/metering (Multi, spot, average)
  • AF mode (Center, multi, continuous, tracking) - see below
  • Face recognition
    • Recognition (on/off)
    • Register - a new face
    • View & edit - existing faces
    • Erase
    • Auto registration - after repeated photos of the same person, the camera will ask if you want to register their face
  • Movie quality (1280 x 720, 640 x 480)

I covered many of those options earlier in the review, but I do need to talk about the F300's continuous shooting modes. The "top" modes are regular continuous modes, while the "final" modes save the last X number of photos buffered before you let go of the shutter release button. The Top/Final 23 modes increase the ISO to 200 and lower the resolution to the small size in order to obtain a faster burst rate. Here's a table summarizing all four of them:

Setting Performance
Top 5 / Final 5 5 shots @ 1.8 fps
Top 23 / Final 23 23 shots @ 4.6 fps

Those are pretty unexciting numbers, especially at the full resolution. The LCD does keep up well with the action, especially in the 23-shot mode. I should add that the F300EXR will be locked up for almost 15 seconds while it writes the images to the memory card.

What are those AF modes all about? The center and multi options should be self-explanatory. The continuous AF mode keeps the camera focusing while the shutter release is halfway-pressed, which is good for subjects in motion. Speaking of which, the tracking AF option lets you select an object in the frame that you want to the camera to follow as they move around.


The camera locked onto two of the six faces

Naturally, the F300EXR sports face detection. The camera will look for faces in the frame, and make sure they are properly focused and exposed. If you're using the flash (and have turned on the appropriate setting), the camera will digitally remove redeye automatically. The Fuji implementation of face detection didn't work as well as I would've liked, with the camera typically finding just two or three of the six faces in our test scene. The face recognition feature does just as it sounds. You can associate a name, birthday, and "category" with each face, and the camera will store that information in the metadata of photos in which these people appear.

There's also a setup menu on the F300EXR, which you can access from either the record or playback menus. The options here include:

  • Date/time
  • Time difference (Home, travel)
  • Language
  • Silent mode (on/off) - you can also quickly turn off all of the camera's noises by holding down the Disp/Back button
  • Reset - back to defaults
  • Format - internal memory or a card
  • Image display (Off, zoom, 1.5 sec, 3 sec) - post-shot review; the zoom option lets you enlarge an image to check for proper focus, open eyes, etc
  • Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
  • Operation volume (Off, low, middle, high) - the F300 is very loud, so you may want to turn this down or off entirely
  • Shutter volume (Off, low, middle, high)
  • Shutter sound (1, 2)
  • Playback volume (0 - 10)
  • LCD brightness (-5 to +5)
  • Auto power off (Off, 2 mins, 5 mins)
  • Dual IS mode (Continuous, shooting only, continuous) - see below
  • Redeye removal (on/off) - whether the camera digitally removes this annoyance from your photos
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this off
  • AF illuminator (on/off)
  • Save original image (on/off) - whether unprocessed versions of photos taken using the redeye removal or "advanced" shooting modes are also saved
  • Auto rotate playback (on/off) - whether portrait images are automatically rotated on the LCD/EVF
  • Background color (Blue, purple, pink, orange, green, black) - for menus
  • Guidance display (on/off) - whether "tool tips" are shown in ceratin situations
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Power management (Power save, quick AF, clear display) - choose a fast LCD refresh rate, quick focusing, or longer battery life

The only thing I want to mention here are those two image stabilization options. Continuous IS has the system always running, which helps smooth things out when you're composing a photo. Shooting IS only activates the system when the photo is taken, which results in better shake reduction. You can also turn image stabilization off entirely, which is advisable if you're using a tripod.

Alright, let's hit those photo tests now!

The FinePix F300EXR did a pretty good job with our macro test subject. Colors look nice and saturated. The figurine is sharp, yet also has a "smooth" appearance often associated with D-SLRs. I can spot some noise here, especially around edges and on the "tie" on Mickey's cloak.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle and 1.2 m at telephoto.

The night shot turned out okay, as well. The camera is capable of bringing in enough light, though you may need to use full manual mode rather than shutter priority mode in order to do that. I say that because 1) you don't get the full shutter speed range and 2) the ISO is fixed at "auto" in shutter priority mode. Anyhow, the buildings here are sharp in the middle of the frame, though a bit soft on the sides. There is some highlight clipping which, as you'll see, is a big problem on the F300EXR. I didn't see much in the line of noise in this photo, and purple fringing was not a problem.

Now, let's use that same scene to see how the F300EXR performed at higher sensitivities in low light:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200 (6M)

ISO 6400 (3M)

ISO 12,800 (3M)

Noise reduction becomes more noticeable right away, at ISO 200. Detail loss becomes more of an issue at ISO 400, so this is a good stopping point. I suppose you could use ISO 800 in an emergency, but you can forget about anything above that. The three highest sensitivities are all at lower resolutions, and they look pretty awful, to say the least. You can't use the high ISO & low noise EXR mode and a slow shutter speed at the same time, though you can certainly lower the resolution to 6 Megapixel for a similar effect.

We'll see if the F300EXR did any better in normal lighting in a moment.

The F300 has the ability to digitally remove redeye from photos that have detected faces. As you can see above, if did a pretty good job getting rid of the red in our test scene. If any redeye slips past this system, there's a tool to remove it in playback mode. You can also see that there's a fair amount of noise, which is a side effect of the camera having to boost the ISO to compensate for its weak flash.

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the F300EXR's 24 - 360 mm zoom lens. Barrel distortion makes things like buildings appear to curve inward, with this photo being my usual example. The F300 does have some pretty strong blurring around the edges of the frame, though -- something tells me that this 15X lens is being pushed beyond its limits. The test chart also shows some vignetting (dark corners), though I didn't find this to be an issue in my real world photos.

Now let's do our studio ISO test. Since this test is taken under the same lighting every time, you can compare the results between the various cameras I've reviewed over the years. Keeping in mind that viewing the full size images shows you a lot more detail than just the crops, let's see how the F300EXR fared:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200 (6M)

ISO 6400 (3M)

ISO 12,800 (3M)

There's just a slight increase in noise from ISO 100 to 200. At ISO 400, there's a drop in color saturation and increased noise. Still, this setting is usable for most print sizes. Things start getting pretty noisy at ISO 800, so I would consider using the high ISO & low noise EXR mode that I showed you on the previous page, keeping in mind that the resolution drops to 6 Megapixel. The ISO 1600 crop looks pretty lousy at the 12 Megapixel setting, but again, you'll get usable results by using the EXR mode or just dropping the resolution to 6 Megapixel. I would pass on the three highest sensitivities. Frankly, I don't know why camera manufacturers even bother putting ISO 12,800 on their compact cameras, when the results are so poor.

Overall, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with the FinePix F300EXR's photo quality, especially at the default 12 Megapixel resolution. There you'll find plenty of noise reduction artifacting, substantial highlight clipping, and blurring around the edges of the frame (example). You can reduce some of the noise by using the High ISO & Low Noise EXR mode I told you about earlier. The highlight clipping can be toned down (no pun intended) by cranking the DR setting as high as it can go (400% or 800%), though this requires boosting the ISO. The F300EXR also tended to overexpose by about 1/3-stop. Purple fringing was strong at times. On a more positive note, the camera had nice, vivid colors. By the way, a lot of these complaints won't be noticed by folks who are just printing 4 x 6's. But if you're making larger prints, or just had high hopes for this camera (especially given the history of the F-series cameras), you'll probably be disappointed.

I thought I'd throw together a little comparison between the F300EXR and another "high sensitivity" camera, the Canon PowerShot S95. I've got samples taken at full resolution (I reduced the F300's photo to 10MP to match that of the S95) and at 6 Megapixel (to take advantage of the F300EXR's High ISO & Low Noise feature). Let's see how the two compare:

ISO 800, 10 Megapixel

Fuji FinePix F300EXR (downsized to 10 Megapixel)

Canon PowerShot S95
 
ISO 1600, 6 Megapixel

Fuji FinePix F300EXR

Canon PowerShot S95 (downsized to 6 Megapixel)

As the photos above illustrate, the PowerShot S95 out-does the FinePix F300EXR, both at ISO 800 and 1600. It also shows how other manufacturers have done a lot to improve their high ISO performance, while Fuji cameras seem to have gotten worse over the years.

Alright, that's all for test photos. I now invite you to have a look at our FinePix F300EXR photo gallery, and see if its photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The FinePix F300EXR has the ability to record movies at 1280 x 720 at 24 frames/second with monaural sound. As you might imagine, that frame rate makes things a bit on the choppy side. You can keep recording until the file size reaches 2GB, which takes around ten minutes. For longer movies, you can drop the resolution to 640 x 480, which allows for up to 25 minutes of continuous recording.

Much to my surprise, you can actually use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie -- a rarity on a compact camera. The lens moves slowly, to reduce the amount of noise picked up by the microphone. You will, however, still hear it in your movies, especially if you're recording a quiet scene. You can also use the sensor-shift image stabilizer while you're recording, though it too makes a bit of noise.

There are no manual controls of any kind in movie mode. You just press the red button to start recording, and again to stop -- as point-and-shoot as you can get.

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

Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the 720p24 setting. The video quality doesn't seem to be wondrous.


Click to play movie (1280 x 720, 24 fps, 23.7 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

The FinePix F300EXR has a pretty neat playback mode. Basics include slideshows (complete with transitions and the ability to highlight faces), image protection, favorite tagging, voice captions, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (up to 100 at a time), and playback zoom.

Image search feature Searching by date

In addition to viewing photos one at a time or as thumbnails, you can also search through them by date, face (recognized, close-up, couple, or group), scene mode, file type (still or movie), or whether they're tagged as a favorite.

Another neat trick the F300 can do is create photobooks. These aren't books you can have printed; rather, they're more like electronic albums. You can manually add photos to a book, or you can use the image search to help pick them.

The camera allows you to rotate, resize, or crop photos. The only editing tool for photos is redeye removal, though it only works if the camera detected faces in the image. There are no movie editing tools available.

The F300EXR supplies fairly basic information about your photos. There's no histogram available, unfortunately.

The camera moves through photos at a fairly good clip. A lower resolution version of a photo is shown instantly, with the full res version coming in less than a second later.

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