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DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix F50fd  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 7, 2008
Last updated: February 7, 2008

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The Fuji FinePix F50fd ($399) is the long-awaited successor to the popular FinePix F30 and F31fd. I was a huge fan of the F30: it had much better high ISO performance than your typical compact camera (thanks to its SuperCCD sensor design), plus snappy performance and top-notch battery life. Fuji didn't give in to the Megapixel wars, either: the F30 and F31fd had 6 Megapixel sensors, when everyone else was doing 7 or 8.

Things have changed dramatically on the F50fd, and not necessarily for the better. Fuji's marketing department somehow convinced the engineers to come up with a 12 Megapixel sensor, no doubt so they could keep up with the competition's spec sheets. The battery life went in the other direction: it dropped from amazing to average. On a more positive note, Fuji did add optical image stabilization and support for SD and SDHC memory cards to the F50.

The F50fd gained a "big brother" at the PMA show in Las Vegas in January 2008. The FinePix F100fd ($479) offers a 5X zoom lens, improved face detection, and dynamic range adjustments.

Before I move into the review, I want to discuss my unusual experience reviewing the F50fd. My initial camera produced images that were noticeably softer on the right side of the frame, so I sent it back. Fuji sent another camera, but it too produced unusually soft photos. I traded it for a third camera, which performs a lot better, though noise reduction still softens details quite a bit. Compare these photos from cameras two and three to see the difference in sharpness.

It's highly unusual for me to have to return a faulty camera, and the fact that it took three F50's to get a "good" unit brings up concerns over quality control. Of course, my sample size isn't statistically significant, so I can't draw any conclusions.

With that out of the way, we can begin our review!

What's in the Box?

The FinePix F50fd has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 12.0 effective Megapixel FinePix F50fd digital camera
  • NP-50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix CX software
  • 163 page camera manual (printed)

Like so many cameras these days, Fuji built memory into the F50fd instead of bundling a memory card. The F50fd has 25MB of built-in memory, which holds just five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to buy a memory card right away. One of the new features on the F50fd is support for three memory card formats: xD, SD, and SDHC. If you're going to use an xD card, make sure it's a fast one (Type H), as the regular ones are really slow. I'd go for the SD or SDHC card myself, again going for a high speed model. I'd say that a 2GB card is a good starter size for a camera with this resolution.

The FinePix F50fd uses the NP-50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This battery has 3.7 Wh of energy, which is quite a drop from the 6.5 Wh battery used by the F30 and F31fd. As you might expect, battery life has suffered greatly as a result:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD950 IS * 240 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z1200 340 shots
Fuji FinePix F31fd 580 shots
Fuji FinePix F50fd * 230 shots
Fuji FinePix F100fd * 230 shots
Kodak EasyShare V1233 * 220 shots
Nikon Coolpix S700 * 150 shots
Olympus Stylus 1200 150 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 * 320 shots
Pentax Optio A40 * 180 shots
Samsung NV20 ** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 * 300 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Number not officially calculated with CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

Ahh, how the mighty have fallen. The F31fd was easily the compact camera battery life champion, but the same cannot be said for its successor -- the F50 has 60% lower battery life numbers. That said, if you exclude the now-discontinued F31fd from the above list, the F50's number is just about average for the group.

A few quick notes about the proprietary batteries used by the F50fd and cameras like it. For one, they're quite expensive -- a spare will set you back around $50. Also, should your rechargeable die, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day. That said, you won't find a compact camera that uses anything else.

When it's time to recharge the NP-50, just pop it into the included charger. It takes around 140 minutes to fully charge the battery. This is my favorite kind of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall.

Something else that's common on all ultra-compact cameras is a built-in lens cover. As you can see, the F50fd is considerably smaller and sleeker than its predecessor.

The F50fd is pretty light in terms of accessories. Probably the most interesting one if the WP-FXF50 underwater case (priced from $132), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters under the sea. There's also an AC adapter, though it comes in two parts. You'll need both the AC-5VX power adapter (priced from $37) as well as the CP-50 DC coupler ($25) in order to power the F50. And that's about it!


FinePixViewer in Mac OS X

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the F50fd, which you can use to transfer photos from the camera to your computer. The Mac version is very basic, with slideshows, image rotation and resizing (both of which can be done in a batch), text overlay, and e-mailing being the major features. I'd probably use iPhoto instead.


FInePixViewer in Windows XP

As is often the case, Windows users get a better version of FinePixViewer. This one does everything the Mac version does, adding basic image editing, redeye reduction, and a slicker interface.

Fuji includes a detailed owner's manual with the F50fd. It's not the easiest manual to read, with lots of fine print on each page, but it should answer any question you may have about the camera.

Look and Feel

The FinePix F50fd is a compact (but not tiny) camera made almost entirely of metal. It's well put together in most respects, though I'm never a fan of a plastic tripod mount. Ergonomically speaking, the F50 is easy to hold and operate, with the important controls in the right places. The mode dial is a little wonky -- it turns so slowly that I felt like it was stuck in bubble gum.

Here's a look at how the the F50fd compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD950 IS 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 10 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z1200 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 152 g
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 170 g
Fujifilm FinePix F31fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.7 cu in. 156 g
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 155 g
Kodak EasyShare V1253 4.0 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 155 g
Nikon Coolpix S700 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 130 g
Olympus Stylus 1200 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 125 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8 cu in. 148 g
Pentax Optio A40 2.2 x 0.9 x 3.6 in. 7.1 cu in. 130 g
Samsung NV20 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.4 cu in. 152 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.1 cu in. 142 g

Two things to mention here. First, the F50fd has thinned a bit since the F30 and F31fd, though its weight is unchanged. Second, in the F50fd is of average size in this group, though it's one of the heavier cameras on the list. The camera is still small enough to fit into any of your pockets with ease.

Alright, now it's time to tour the FinePix F50fd, beginning (as we always do) with the front of the camera.

Front of the FinePix F50fd

Like the F30 and F31fd before it, the FinePix F50fd has a pretty run-of-the-mill 3X optical zoom lens. With a maximum aperture of F2.8 - F5.1, it's on the slow side at the telephoto end of things. The focal length of the lens is 8.0 - 24.0 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.

If you travel all the way through the lens you'll find a seventh generation, 12 Megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor. These sensors have unique hexagonal-shaped photosites, which are able to capture more light than a traditional CCD. The benefit of this is that a SuperCCD-equipped camera can produce nicer-looking photos at high ISOs than a "regular" camera. We'll see how the F50fd does performs at high ISOs later in the review.

Probably the most significant new feature on the F50fd is the addition of sensor-shift image stabilization. The SuperCCD sensor is mounted on a platform, which can shift in all four directions. The camera detects the tiny movements on your hands ("camera shake") that can blur your photos, and moves the sensor to compensate for it. Image stabilization systems don't work miracles: they can't stop a moving subject, nor will they allow for handheld, multi-second exposures. That said, they do allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could on an unstabilized camera. Want to see the F50's IS system in action? Have a look at these:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

I took both of the above shots at the very slow shutter speed of 1/3 second. As you can see, the IS system did its job, producing a noticeably sharper photo. The F50's image stabilization wasn't as impressive in movie mode, as it doesn't seem to dampen the shaking very well in this sample video.

To the upper-left of the lens you'll find the camera's AF-assist lamp. The F50 uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also doubles as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

Above the AF-assist lamp is the F50fd's built-in flash. The flash has a decent amount of power for a compact camera, with a working range of 0.6 - 4.4 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.4 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). You cannot add an external flash to the F50fd.

The main event on the back of the FinePix F50fd is its 2.7" LCD display, which is slightly larger than the 2.5" one on the F30/F31fd. The screen has 230,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp, and the 60 fps refresh rate makes motion fluid. The screen has a coating on it to allow for wider viewing angles and less glare. Outdoor visibility was very good, and I recommend using the "clear display" option (described below) for best results. Low light viewing was also good, as the screen brightens automatically in those situations.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the F50fd (there wasn't one on its predecessors, either). Whether this matters is up to you -- some people want them, while others could care less. What I'm saying here is that it's a personal decision.

At the top-right of the photo is the F50's mode dial. As I said a few paragraphs ago, I really don't like the feel of it -- it's so slow-moving and not "notchy" enough for my taste. Anyhow, the options on the mode dial include:

Option Function
Auto mode Point-and-shoot, most menu options locked up
Natural Light & Flash mode Takes two photos: one in Natural Light mode (described below) and another with the flash
Manual mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
Aperture/Shutter priority mode You set the aperture or shutter speed; aperture range is F2.8 - F8.0, shutter speed is 1 - 1/1000 sec
Movie mode More on this later
Scene Position 1/2 Portrait, portrait enhancer (soft skin), landscape, sport, night / long exposure, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach
Natural Light mode Boosts the ISO in order to take a sharp photo in natural lighting

There are a few items on the mode dial that I want to discuss before we move on. First, the manual mode isn't really that manual -- it's the same as auto mode, just with full menu access. If you want to adjust manual exposure settings then you'll want to use the A/S mode, which lets you set the aperture or shutter speed. I was disappointed to see that the slowest shutter speed available in shutter priority mode is 1 second. If you want longer exposures, you'll have to use the long exposure scene mode, which allows for exposures as long as 8 seconds.


Scene mode menu

Speaking of scene modes, you may be wondering why there are two "SP" spots on the mode dial. Both contain the same items -- it just lets you have your two favorite scenes easily accessible.

Fuji was really the first camera company to develop a high sensitivity mode, which they call Natural Light mode. In this mode, the camera boosts the ISO (as high as 1600) in order to obtain a sharp photo. The problems with these modes is that they can result in some pretty noisy photos. The F50fd does better than traditional cameras, but don't expect SLR-like performance.

Below is an example of a situation where you might want to use natural light mode. Let's pretend that I wanted to take a picture of my hand-painted Humuhumunukunukuapua'a so I could (God forbid) sell it on eBay. Here's the photo, taken with both the flash and natural light mode:


Flash shot, ISO 200


Natural light mode, ISO 800

Figuring out which shot was taken with the flash is a no-brainer: there's a big reflection on the subject. The wall in the back has a color cast, instead of its natural white color, as well. The natural light mode photo has more consistent lighting and no color cast, though it's a bit washed out. If you view the full-size versions of those photos (click on the images to do that), you'll see the downside of natural light mode: noise and noise reduction artifacting. Fuji applies a lot of noise reduction to the F50's high ISO images, which smudges away fine details, which limits what you can do with the photo. If you're making small prints, it's not a big deal, but for large prints or 100% on-screen viewing, you'll definitely notice this. My advice is to skip natural light mode and set the ISO manually, or use one of the Auto ISO modes with an upper limit (e.g. Auto 400). I'll have a lot more on the camera's ISO performance later in the review.

Getting back to the tour now: below the mode dial are the Playback and F-mode button.


F-mode menu

Press the F-mode button and you'll open up -- get this -- the F-mode menu. In it you'll find these options:

  • Power management (Power save, quick AF, clear display) - see below
  • ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600) - see below
  • Quality (see chart later in review)
  • FinePix Color (Standard, chrome, black & white) - the chrome setting boosts the contrast and color saturation

The power management option lets you choose what you want the most in life: great battery life, fast autofocus, or a bright and fluid display. You can choose only one of those options. The quick AF mode works by limiting the focus range in order to reduce focus times. If you want the LCD to look its best, you'll need to use the clear display option -- that's the one I used while reviewing the F50.

There are a bunch of Auto ISO modes on the F50fd, and basically you're choosing the highest sensitivity the camera will use. There may be a generic "auto" option in some of the scene modes, as well. I'll have more on on the camera's ISO capabilities later in the review.

Below those two buttons we find the four-way controller, used for menu navigation as well as:

  • Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments) + Delete photo
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec)
  • Left - Macro mode (on/off) - more on this later
  • Right - Flash (Auto, forced flash, suppressed flash, slow synchro)
  • Center - Menu/OK

Below the four-way controller are two final buttons. The display button toggles what is shown on the LCD, and is also used to "back out" of menus. The other button activates the camera's Face Detection and redeye reduction system.


The camera locked onto just two faces here

The FinePix F50fd uses Fuji's updated Face Detection 2.0 system. It's able to detect faces from almost all angles -- even a 90 degree profile. It can also remove redeye automatically from any faces that it does find (though you can turn this off). The results here were mixed. On the one hand, the F50fd could do what Fuji brags about, namely detecting the profile of a face. However, its regular, straight-ahead detection was disappointing. It was fast enough, but I was lucky if I could get the camera to recognize 3 of the 6 faces in our test scene. Fuji cameras used to be better at this, but after testing the F50fd and S8000fd, I'm starting to wonder what happened.

Top of the Fuji FinePix F50fd

The first thing to see on the top of the F50fd is its infrared transmitter. This is used for beaming photos to and from other IrSimple-capable devices, which are few in number (some other Fuji cameras support it).

Next to that we have the microphone, power and shutter release buttons, and the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the F50's lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.1 seconds. I counted ten steps in the camera's 3X zoom range.

The button at the far right turns on what Fuji calls "dual image stabilization". That's marketing-speak for "CCD-shift image stabilization plus ISO boost". If you're using a fixed ISO (always a good idea), then it's not "dual" anymore. There are two IS modes on the F50fd (continuous or shooting only), and I'll explain those in a bit later.

Side of the Fuji FinePix F50fd

The F50's speaker is the only item of note here.

Side of the Fuji FinePix F50fd

On the other side of the camera you'll find it sole I/O port, which is under a plastic cover, plus the pass through for the AC adapter cord. The I/O port does double duty, providing the connection for both USB and A/V output. The F50fd supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Fuji FinePix F50fd

On the bottom of the FinePix F50fd you will find a plastic tripod mount (hidden from view here) and the battery/memory card compartment. The memory card slot supports both xD and SD/SDHC memory cards, and I applaud Fuji for doing this (now if Olympus would just follow suit). As you might imagine, you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The included NP-50 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Fuji FinePix F50fd

Record Mode

It takes about 1.7 seconds for the FinePix F50fd to prepare for shooting, which is about average in this class.


No histogram to be found here

The FinePix F50fd's focusing performance was very good, though the focus motor was rather noisy. At the wide-angle end of the lens, the F50fd typically locked focus in 0.2 to 0.4 seconds. You won't wait much longer at the telephoto end -- focus times rarely approached one second. Low light focusing was quick and accurate, due in part to the camera's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which it can occur.

Shot-to-shot speeds were average. You'll wait 2 to 3 seconds before you can take another shot, with or without the flash. I did notice that the camera takes an eternity to write the image to regular xD cards -- about 8 seconds to be exact -- though you can take another photo after the initial 2-3 second delay has passed. Using a high speed SD card cut the write speeds in half, but didn't seem to affect actual shot-to-shot times.

There's no way to delete a photo immediately after taking it -- you must enter playback mode to do so.

Now here's a look at the available image resolution and quality options on the FinePix F50fd:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 25MB onboard memory # images on 2GB xD card (optional)
12M
4000 x 3000
Fine 4.7 MB 5 434
Normal 3.0 MB 8 695
3:2
4224 x 2816
Normal 3.0 MB 8 695
6M
2848 x 2136
Normal 1.5 MB 16 1360
3M
2048 x 1536
Normal 780 KB 32 2558
2M
1600 x 1200
Normal 630 KB 40 3198
0.3M
640 x 480
Normal 130 KB 200 15992

See why buying a larger memory card is a good idea? The F50fd doesn't support the RAW image format, which is too bad, as you could probably extract a lot more detail from those files than the JPEGs.

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 F50fd has a small, unremarkable-looking record menu. What drives me nuts about Fuji's menu system is that pressing the "OK" button not only saves the desired setting -- it backs out of the menu system entirely. With that out of the way, I can tell you about the items in the record menu. Keep in mind that some of these options are unavailable in the auto and scene modes.

  • Photometry [metering] (Multi, spot, average)
  • White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent) - see below
  • Continuous (Off, top 3, final 3, long period, top 12, final 12) - see below
  • AF mode (Center, multi, continuous) - see below
  • Setup - see below

The FinePix F50fd offers manual control over white balance. Select the custom option, point the camera at something white or gray, and you'll get accurate colors even under unusual lighting conditions.

The F50 has a whopping five different continuous shooting modes. The top-3 mode takes three shots in a row at 1.9 frames/second. The final-3 mode will keep shooting at the same frame rate (for up to 40 shots) and will save the last three photos that were taken before you let go of the shutter release button. The next mode, called long period continuous, can keep shooting until the memory card is full. However, since the camera refocuses before each shot, the frame rate is just 0.4 frames/second. The top 12 continuous mode takes twelve photos in a row at an impressive 5 frames/second. The catch is that 1) the resolution is lowered to 3MP and 2) the ISO is fixed at 400, neither of which is terribly desirable. The final 12 mode works in the same way as the final 3 mode did, except that it has the same frame rate and limitations of the top 12 mode. Confused yet? Anyhow, the LCD keeps up fairly well with the action here, so you should be able to track a moving subject. It takes the camera a while to clear the buffer, ranging from 9 to 12 seconds, depending on the speed of your memory card.

There are three AF modes to choose from on the FinePix F50fd. Center and multi-area AF should be self-explanatory. The continuous mode will keep focusing at all times, which is useful when your subject is moving. Do note that this puts an extra strain on the battery.

The F50fd also has a setup menu, and it contains these options:

  • Shooting options 1
    • Image display (1.5, 3 secs,zoom/continuous) - post-shot review; the last option enlarges the image
    • Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
    • Dual IS mode (Continuous, shooting only) - see below
    • Save original image (on/off) - whether to save a photo before auto redeye reduction is performed
    • AF illuminator (on/off)
    • Digital zoom (on/off) - I highly recommend keeping this off
  • Shooting options 2
    • Long exposure mode (on/off) - lets you use shutter speeds as slow as 8 seconds in the Night scene mode
  • Setup 1
    • Date/time
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-3)
    • Shutter sound (1, 2)
    • Playback volume
    • Blog image size (640 x 480, 320 x 240) - more on this in the next section
  • Setup 2
    • LCD brightness (-5 to +5 in 1-step increments)
    • Format (Internal memory or memory card)
    • Language
    • Auto power off (Off, 2, 5 mins)
    • Time difference (Home, local) - for when you're on the road
    • Background color (Blue, purple, pink, orange, green, black) - for the menus
  • Setup 3
    • Guidance display (on/off) - whether help for functions is displayed
    • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
    • IR communication (Standard, IrSS) - first one is for cameras and printers the second for televisions
    • Reset - back to defaults

The only item up there to talk about are the two IS modes. Continuous mode activates image stabilization as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release, which allows for photo composition without camera shake. For more effective blur reduction you'll want to use the shooting only mode, which doesn't activate IS until the photo is actually taken. To turn IS off, you'll need to use the button on the top of the camera. Doing that is a smart idea when the camera is on a tripod.

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

The FinePix F50fd did an excellent job with our standard macro test shot. The figurine is quite sharp, with plenty of detail captured. Colors are accurate, with the reds in particular being quite vivid. If you look closely you can spot tiny amounts of noise/grain, but overall the image is very clean.

The minimum focus distances in macro mode are 7 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto, both of which are fairly average numbers.

The F50's night scene performance was good, but not great. In order to take exposures longer than 1 second, you'll need to turn on the long exposure night mode, which allows you to set the shutter speed as slow as 8 seconds. The ISO is fixed at 100 in that mode in order to minimize noise, but you'll still spot visible (but mild) noise throughout the photo. Thankfully, details remain relatively intact. Purple fringing popped up here and there, but it wasn't bad enough for me to consider it a problem.

Since I can't control the shutter speed and ISO at the same time, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I'll have the studio ISO test for you in a bit.

The distortion chart shows fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the F50's 3X zoom lens. While vignetting (dark corners) wasn't a problem on the F50fd, I did encounter noticeable corner blurriness in some of my real world photos.

Those eyes may be sleepy looking, but at least there's no redeye. That's because the F50fd removes it automatically, as part of the face detection system. If you didn't have that feature turned on, you can still remove it later in playback mode.

Here now is our studio ISO test, which can be compared between cameras that I've reviewed. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise levels at each setting, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. Here we go:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800


ISO 1600


ISO 3200 (6M)

ISO 6400 (3M)

Everything is nice and clean at ISO 100 and 200. The image is a bit soft, and there are minute amounts of noise to be found, but not nearly enough to concern me. Noise reduction becomes more obvious at ISO 400, though there's still plenty of detail left, allowing for mid and large-sized prints. Noise reduction really starts to smudge away details at ISO 800, limiting your print sizes to small and perhaps midsize. There's more of the same at ISO 1600, though I'd still consider it usable. At ISO 3200, the resolution drops to 6 Megapixel, there's a noticeable color shift, and details really start to disappear. The same is true at ISO 6400, except now the resolution is just 3 Megapixel. I would not consider either of these two settings to be printable.

Does the FinePix F50fd do as well at high ISOs as its predecessor, the F30/F31fd? I don't believe so. Does it still do better than other super high resolution cameras? Absolutely. Check this out:


FinePix F50fd, ISO 800, 12MP downsized to 8MP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100, 12MP downsized to 8MP

Canon PowerShot SX100 IS, 8MP, ISO 800

Casio Exilim EX-V8, 8MP, ISO 800

All three of the photos above were taken at ISO 800. While the Canon and Casio were shot at their native 8 Megapixel resolution, I downsized the 12 Megapixel images from the F50 and the FX100 using Adobe Photoshop. It doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure see that the F50fd preserves more detail than the other three cameras. Unfortunately, the F50fd doesn't perform as well as the other cameras at lower ISOs, as I'll discuss in a moment.


FinePix F50fd, ISO 800, reduced to 6MP

FinePix F30fd, ISO 800

How does the F50fd compare to its predecessor? While it does preserve colors better at ISO 800, there is a bit less detail captured. That's not entirely surprising, as the F50fd has double the resolution of the F30fd.

Overall, the FinePix F50's photo quality is a mixed bag. The F50fd took photos that were generally well exposed, with pleasing, vivid colors. Photos were often quite soft, especially in the corners -- but not consistently. While the F50fd does better than the competition at high ISOs, the same is not true at low sensitivities. You'll find noise or noise reduction artifacting in most of my real world photos, even those taken at ISO 100. The noise reduction in particular smudges away fine details (such as hair, grass, and fur), and gives solid colors a mottled appearance. Now, if you're downsizing the photos, or making smaller-sized prints, you probably won't notice this. But if you view them at 100% on your computer screen or make large prints, you won't miss it. It's disappointing that a camera that performs so well at high ISOs does not do the same at lower ones. Lastly, while it popped up here and there, purple fringing was not a major problem.

Don't just take my word for it, though. Have a look at our photo gallery -- maybe print a few of them -- and then decide if the FinePix F50fd's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The FinePix F50fd has a fairly unremarkable movie mode. The camera can record video at 640 x 480 (25 frames/second) with sound until the file size reaches 2GB. That takes about 35 minutes. Using a high speed xD or SD/SDHC card will give you the best results.

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

As is often the case, you cannot use the optical zoom lens while recording a movie. The sensor-shift image stabilizer is available, though it didn't seem terribly effective (see example earlier in review).

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

Here's a sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (11.1 MB, 640 x 480, 25 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The F50fd has a pretty standard playback menu. 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 a factor of up to 6.3 times and then move around in the zoomed-in area.

Viewing photos by date 100 thumbs at once!

Photos can be viewed one at a time, by date, or as thumbnails. One view shows 100 thumbnails at once, though they're so tiny that it's hard to make out anything.

You can rotate, resize, and crop photos in playback mode. The "blog mode" lets you do the last two in one step, with the resulting image saved at 640 x 480 or 320 x 240. The redeye reduction tool I mentioned earlier is available here as well.

If you're (very) near another IrSimple-compatible device, you can beam photos to it in playback mode. There's also a "copy" tool available, for moving photos between the internal memory and a memory card.

The F50fd tells you a decent amount of information about photos you've taken, though no histogram is available.

The camera feels a bit sluggish when you're playing back photos. It takes about one full second to move from one image to another.

How Does it Compare?

If there ever was a camera that gave me mixed feelings, it's the Fuji FinePix F50fd. On the one hand, I like its design, LCD visibility, and of course, its high ISO performance. However, I was disappointed by the F50's heavy noise reduction and blurry edges in low ISO photos, sluggish performance, and possible quality control issues. And, as someone who was a huge fan of the FinePix F30, I find the F50fd to be a step in the wrong direction. If you want a compact camera that does indeed perform better at high ISOs than other compact cameras, then the FinePix F50fd is worth a look. If that's not important to you, then you're better off looking at other cameras.

The FinePix F50fd is a stylish, compact camera. It's made mostly of metal, and it feels quite solid for the most part. The exceptions are the flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment, and the plastic tripod mount. The proximity of those two items means that you will not be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. The F50fd has a standard-issue 3X zoom lens (though it's a bit slow at full telephoto), with a focal length equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The F50fd has a sensor-shift image stabilization system to prevent blurring due to camera shake. While it worked well for photos, it didn't seem quite as effective for movies. On the back of the camera is a large and sharp 2.7" LCD display. An anti-glare coating makes it easy to see the screen outdoors, no matter how bright it may be. Low light viewing is just as good, with the screen brightening automatically in those situations. The F50fd does not have an optical viewfinder.

The F50fd has a nice mix of automatic and manual features. On the automatic side, we have numerous scene modes, a "natural light" (ISO boost) mode, plus a regular auto mode. The natural light mode allows you to take sharp photos in low light, though it's best suited for people making small prints, as the amount of detail lost at high ISOs is quite noticeable. The "fd" in F50fd stands for face detection, and the F50 has one of the most elaborate systems you'll find, at least on paper. While the camera could indeed detect faces in profile, it didn't do as well in straight-on photos as other cameras I've tested. An automatic redeye reduction feature is tied into the face detection system, and I found it to be very effective. If it's manual controls you're after, the F50fd has all of them except manual focus. My one beef is that the slowest shutter speed in shutter priority mode is 1 second (you'll have to use the night scene mode to use longer ones).

The FinePIx F50fd was an average performer in most respects. You can expect a 1.7 second startup time, and 2-3 second shot-to-shot delays. Focusing was noisy but fairly quick, ranging from 0.2 seconds in the best case scenarios to around 1 second in the worst. Low light focusing was fairly good. While the F50fd has many continuous shooting modes, none of them were terribly impressive. The F50fd's battery life numbers aren't nearly as good as those on the F30/F31, but they're still about average for a compact camera. The FinePix F50fd supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol, so data transfers to your computer will be quick. The camera also supports the IrSimple infrared protocol, so you can beam photos to a compatible device.

Photo quality is really a mixed bag. On the positive side, the F50fd took well-exposed photos, with pleasing, vivid color. Purple fringing was well controlled. The camera definitely has issues with blurring around the edges of the frame -- I think this lens is really being pushed to its limits. The biggest selling point for the F50fd is its high ISO performance, and the camera does indeed do better than the competition in this respect. While you probably won't be making 20 x 30 inch posters of photos taken at ISO 800 or 1600, they are usable for small prints. The two highest ISO settings -- 3200 and 6400 -- are mostly for show, as they are recorded at lower resolutions, and their quality is lacking. Ironically, the F50fd performs worse than many compact cameras at lower ISOs, due to the heavy amount of noise reduction being applied (the corner blurring doesn't help, either). It's a shame that there's no RAW mode here, as you would've been able to extract more detail from the photos than what the camera is producing.

I have a few other things to mention before I wrap things up. As I said at the start of the review, I went through three F50's before finding one that produced a sharp image. While I can't draw any conclusions about any quality control issues with this camera, it does make me wonder, as I almost never have to swap out cameras. Second, the camera seemed pretty sluggish at times, especially when moving through photos in playback mode. Write times to the internal memory or xD cards were especially slow, as well. Speaking of internal memory, the 25MB built into the camera holds just five 12 Megapixel photos, which isn't much at all. Finally, while the camera can record movies at 640 x 480, the frame rate is 25 fps, which is less than what most cameras in this class offer these days.

All things considered, the FinePix F50fd is an average camera whose only real standout feature is its high ISO performance. It's not a bad camera by any means, but there are simply better choices out there. I'd recommend it to those looking for a compact camera that can produce better high sensitivity shots than the competition (but don't expect miracles). For everyone else, I think you'll ultimately be happier with something else.

What I liked:

  • Good exposure and color; no redeye
  • Better-than-average high ISO performance
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Slim, stylish metal body
  • Nice 2.5" LCD is easy to see outdoors and in low light
  • Many manual controls
  • Can use xD or SD/SDHC memory cards
  • Support for IrSimple infrared protocol
  • USB 2.0 High Speed supported

What I didn't care for:

  • Lots of blurring near the edges of the frame
  • Heavy noise reduction, visible even at low ISOs
  • Step down from the F30/F31 in terms of photo quality and battery life
  • Quality control concerns
  • Unimpressive continuous shooting modes; sluggish shot-to-shot, playback, and memory card write times
  • Slowest shutter speed in shutter priority mode is 1 second (hint: use night scene mode to get around this)
  • Movie mode frame rate lower than most cameras in class; image stabilization not terribly effective in movie mode
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment
  • Plastic tripod mount; can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
  • Not much built-in memory
  • Mac software leaves much to be desired

Some other high resolution compact cameras include the Canon PowerShot SD950 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z1200, Fuji FinePix F100fd, Kodak EasyShare V1233, Nikon Coolpix S700, Olympus Stylus 1200, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100, Pentax Optio A40, Samsung NV20, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix F50fd and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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

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.

Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of the FinePix F50fd at Digital Photography Review, PopPhoto, CNET, and Steves Digicams.