DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix F700
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 23, 2003
Last Updated: August 24, 2003

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The Fuji FinePix F700 ($599) isn't just another compact digital camera. While you can't tell by looking at it, the F700 uses Fuji's revolutionary new SuperCCD SR sensor. The SR sensor's main goal is to capture photos with more dynamic range than traditional CCDs. The diagram below shows how it's done:

Hopefully that chart makes sense. The F700's sensor has 3.1 million S-pixels, and 3.1 million R-pixels. Using interpolation, the camera can produce images with 6 million pixels, or you can stick with the native 3 MP resolution. Note that the total number of pixels on this camera is up for debate. I'm in the 3.1 Mpixel crowd, myself.

Does the new sensor make the F700 stand out from the crowd? Find out now in our review!

Due to the fact that the F700 shares a lot in common with the recently-reviewed S5000, I will reuse text where appropriate.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix F700 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 (effective) Mpixel FinePix F700 camera
  • 16MB xD Picture Card
  • NP-40 Lithium-ion battery
  • AC adapter
  • Camera dock
  • Wrist strap
  • A/V cable
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePix SX software
  • 103 page camera manual (printed)

Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with the camera. That's enough to get started with, but you'll want a larger one right away. xD cards are currently available as large as 512MB, and Fuji lists them as supported in the manual.

Compact cameras usually use proprietary batteries, and the F700 is no exception. It uses Fuji's NP-40 lithium-ion battery, which has a so-so 2.6 Wh of power. Fuji estimates that you can take about 200 pictures with 50% LCD use. Proprietary batteries are quite expensive ($60 a pop) and you can't use AAs when you're in a bind -- which is why I prefer cameras that use "regular batteries".

When it's time to charge the battery, plug in the included AC adapter. You can plug the adapter directly into the camera, or you can use the camera dock, which is shown above. It takes 2 hours to charge the battery.

In addition to battery charging, the dock can also be used for transferring photos to your Mac or PC. In most cases, the FinePix software will launch as soon as you put the camera in the dock.

The F700 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about. As you can see, it's also quite small.

There aren't a whole lot of accessories available for this camera. The only interesting one that I could find was an external battery charger ($80).

Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the F700. 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, and ImageMixer VCD (for making video CDs, Windows only) on the CD.

The camera manual is typical of those included with 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 F700 has a stunning, all-metal body, that will definitely get people's attention. The construction is excellent, and the camera feels quite solid. All of the important controls are easy to get to, and it's simple to operate the F700 with just one hand.

The camera is a little wider than most, and some will find it too large to fit in your pocket. I think it's just right.

The official dimensions of the F700 are 4.3 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs just 170 grams empty.

Let's begin our tour of the F700 with a look at the front of the camera.

The camera uses an F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom Fujinon lens. The focal range is 7.7 - 23.1 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Directly to the right of the lens is the C-AF button. Holding this down will allow the camera to continuously focus on the subject, which helps reduce AF lag. Slightly above that is the microphone.

At the top-right of the photo, you can see the built-in flash. The flash has a pretty nice working range of 0.3 - 5.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 4.0 m at telephoto. The FinePix F700 does not support an external flash.

To the left of the flash, we find the optical viewfinder, AF-assist lamp, and self-timer lamp. That's right, the F700 is one of the rare Fuji cameras that actually has an AF illuminator! It works by blasting the subject with a green light, which aids the camera in focusing.

The only other item of note on the front is the flash sensor.

Now onto the back of the camera. The 1.8" CG Silicon display is one of the best LCDs I've ever seen on a digital camera. It's incredibly bright, sharp, and fluid. It has a resolution of 134,000 pixels. Brightness can be adjusted via the setup menu.

Just above the LCD is a rather small optical viewfinder. It shows about 80% of the frame. There is no diopter correction feature available to help focus what you're looking at.


Photo mode menu

To the left of the LCD, you'll find three buttons plus the speaker. The blue button (with an "f" on it) is known as the photo mode button, and it lets you select:

  • Image quality (6M, 3M, 2M, 1M)
  • ISO sensitivity (200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Color (Standard, chrome, B&W)

One thing I love about the photo mode menu is that it tells you how many photos you can take at a given image quality setting (see above). It's also a very good looking screen!

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, 800, or even 1600. Do note that ISO 1600 is only available at the 1M resolution.

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

The other two buttons I mentioned are for metering (multi, spot, average) and exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments).

Over on the right side of the LCD, you'll find a few more buttons, including display (toggles info shown on LCD), back (for menus), and the four-way controller. In addition to navigating the menus, the four-way controller is also used to activate macro mode and to change the current flash setting (auto, redeye reduction, forced flash, flash off, slow synchro, redeye reduction + slow synchro).

At the top-right of the photo, you can see the zoom controller. The controller moves the lens smoothly from wide-angle to telephoto in under two seconds -- very quick. Rapid presses of the buttons will allow you to be more precise.

On the top of the F700, you'll find more buttons and dials. I'll work my way from left to right.

The button on the far left is for continuous shooting. The F700 has four options to choose from:

  • Top 5-frame - camera takes 5 frames in a row with intervals "as short as" 0.2 sec
  • Auto bracketing - Camera takes three shots in a row with different exposures. Choose from ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, ±1EV intervals
  • Final 5-frame - Hold the shutter release button down to take up to 25 shots at 0.2 sec interval; camera saves the last five shots taken before the shutter button is released
  • Long-period continuous - camera takes up to 40 shots (interval of 0.6 sec) at 1M setting

Continuing to the right, we find the mode wheel. The items here are:

  • Scene mode (portrait, landscape, sports, night scene) - you just select SP on the dial, you cannot choose one of the items in gray; I don't know why Fuji did this.
  • Movie mode - more on this later
  • Auto record - point and shoot
  • Program mode - still point and shoot, but you have access to all camera settings
  • Shutter priority mode - you choose shutter speed, camera picks appropriate aperture. Shutter speed range is disappointing at 3 - 1/1000 sec
  • Aperture priority mode - you choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture. Range is F2.8 - F8, depending on focal length
  • Full manual - you choose both the shutter speed and aperture; same ranges as above

I was disappointed to see that the slowest shutter speed available on the F700 is 3 seconds (at least its more than the 2 sec limit on the S5000). There are plenty of other low-cost cameras that do 15 seconds, or more.

In Program mode, you can do something called "program shift", by using the four-way controller. You can cycle through sets of shutter speed/aperture combinations, which lets you use a faster shutter speed (when you don't have a tripod) or a smaller aperture (for more depth of field).

On the far right, we find the shutter release button, with the power/playback/record switch below it.

The only thing to see on this side of the F700 are the camera's two I/O ports, which are surprisingly not protected from the elements. The ports are USB + A/V out (one port for both) and DC-in (for included AC adapter).

Nothing to see on this side.

On the bottom of the F700, you'll find the battery compartment, xD card slot, and metal tripod mount. The battery and memory card slots are protected by a fairly sturdy plastic door.

The tripod mount is not centered, nor inline with the lens.

The included NP-40 battery and optional 64MB xD card are shown at left.

Using the Fuji FinePix F700

Record Mode

Cameras with zoom lenses don't start any faster than the F700. It's startup speed is stunning: it takes just 1.8 seconds before you can start shooting. I don't think I've ever seen a lens extend and retract this quickly.

The F700 is just as fast in terms of AF speeds. It locked focus in about 1/2 second in most cases. In low light, it's AF illuminator helped it focus pretty well, although it blinks on and off much faster than others I've seen.

Shutter lag is barely noticeable.


No histogram in record mode

Shot-to-shot speed is also excellent. Assuming you have the post-shot review feature turned off, you can shoot as fast as you can compose another shot.

By setting "image view" in the setup menu to "preview", the camera will let you decide whether to keep or delete a photo after it is taken.

Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.

Resolution Quality Approx. File Size # photos on 16MB card (included)
6M
(2832 x 2128)
CCD-RAW 12.9 MB 1
Normal 1.5 MB 10
3M
(2048 x 1536)
Normal 780 KB 19
2M
(1600 x 1200)
Normal 620 KB 25
1M
(1280 x 960)
Normal 460 KB 33

It would be nice to have different compression levels available on this camera, as Fuji really over-compresses their JPEGs. File sizes are about half that of other cameras with the same resolution.

As you can see, there is a CCD-RAW mode on the F700. The files are especially large for a RAW file, too. If you want to view the images in your favorite software, first you'll need to use Fuji's RAW converter software. There's no extra delay in saving RAW files to the memory card.

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

The FinePix F700 has a super attractive, easy-to-use menu system -- one of the nicest I've seen. Here's what you'll find in the menu:

  • Self-timer (Off, 2, 10 seconds)
  • White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, fluorescent x3, incandescent)
  • AF mode (Manual, area, center, auto) - more below
  • Bracketing (±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, ±1EV) - choose the interval for AE bracketing
  • Sharpness (Hard, normal, soft)
  • Flash brightness (-0.6EV to +0.6EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Setup (Set-up menu, LCD brightness, volume)

As you can see, the F700 has a custom white balance mode. This allows you to shoot a white or gray card to get perfect color in any lighting.

The F700 has four focus modes. Manual focus lets you use the C-AF + four-way controller to get your subject in focus. Unfortunately, without any indication of the focus distance on the LCD, it's harder than it should be. Center AF always chooses whatever is in the center of the frame. And Area AF divides the frame into a 6 x 6 grid, and lets you choose a spot to focus on by using the four-way controller and C-AF button.

In addition to that menu, there's also a setup menu, with the following options:

  • Image display (On, off, preview) - post-shot review; preview will confirm that you want to save each photo to memory
  • Power save (2, 5 mins, off) - turn off camera automatically after a few minutes
  • Format card
  • Beep (Off, 1-3) - volume level
  • Shutter (Off, 1-3) - 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 F700 as a webcam for videoconferencing; Windows only.
  • CCD-RAW (on/off) - take shots in 6M/RAW mode
  • Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese [I think])
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Reset - settings to defaults

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The only real complaint I have about the macro test shot is that the F700 locks the lens at the wide-angle position. Once there, you'll have a focus range of 9 - 80 cm. Colors and detail both look good in the above shot.

Now this an interesting shot. It seems that the F700 has no noise reduction system for long exposures, hence the "hot pixels" in the photo. It's a shame too, as it took in plenty of light and would've been great otherwise. The F700 has a 3 second max shutter speed, which seems too short to me. Purple fringing is obvious in this shot as well.

The F700 did a very good job with the redeye test, which surprised me, considering how close the lens and flash are. There's just the slightest hint of red. Do note that I enlarged this crop a bit, so you can see the detail.

The distortion test shows very mid barrel distortion, and no vignetting (darkened corners).

So everyone wants to know: does the SuperCCD SR sensor live up to the hype? Well, yes and no. Does it improve dynamic range? Yes, to a degree, but its certainly as revolutionary as Fuji was claiming it would be. Rather that just blab on about it, let's take a look at some photos.

This is going to take some work on your part. Open the images below in separate windows so you can compare.

Shots with noticeable differences in dynamic range

Best two to open are the F700 and V4 shots. You'll first notice how much sharper the F700 is. But have a look at the background, under the arches. There's more detail on the F700 in the shadows. At the same time, notice how the S5000 does almost as well.

Fuji F700 Fuji S5000 Samsung Digimax V4
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Here's an example where you can really see the difference. Look inside the building (through the glass). Check the sign and the windows. It also seems that noise levels are higher in these shadowed areas than elsewhere in the image.
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The shot below is my torture test for exposure and purple fringing. None of the cameras did very well (the Samsung was pretty awful), and you can certainly see a difference. Even so, the F700 didn't do a great job with this shot.
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6MP performance

Both of the recent FinePix models that I've tested can produce images with 6 million pixels through interpolation. The F700 does a FAR better job than the S5000, as you can see in the comparison below. The 6MP mode is actually useful on the F700, especially for making large prints.

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Something else I noticed...

Whenever I took a shot with really tough metering, the F700 always produced this light blue sky, which I found quite unnatural. The shots below at the left and center illustrate it, as does the building shot above. The shot on the right, taken at the same time, shows what the sky looked like to the human eye.
All from F700
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What it really boils down to is whether or not the camera's fancy new sensor is worth the price? I'd say probably not. At the same time, this is a darn nice camera, regardless of the sensor being used. It takes nice pictures in normal situations, and does pretty well in really tough situations -- it's just not a miracle worker. Three other photo quality notes: purple fringing was low, color was excellent, and images were quite sharp.

I've got a large F700 photo gallery for you to look at. Be sure to compare it to the Fuji S5000 and Samsung V4 galleries, as many of the photos were taken at the same time.

Movie Mode

The movie mode on the F700 is as good as it gets. You can shoot VGA quality video (640 x 480) at 30 frames/second, until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as well. You can only store 13 seconds of VGA video on the included 16MB xD card (or 26 seconds at 320 x 240). A 256MB card can hold about 3.7 and 7.3 minutes, respectively.

Like most cameras, you cannot use the zoom during filming.

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

Here's a fairly short movie -- but be warned, it's a big download since it's 640 x 480. The quality is most impressive for a digicam.


Click to play movie (11.1MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Playback mode on the F700 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 anywhere from 8-18X, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. When you enlarge an image, you have the option to trim (crop) it down.

The F700 allows you to add 30 second voice clips to each image.

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 F700 does move through images with great speed, with virtually no delay between them. Everything is fast on this camera!

How Does it Compare?

Coming up with my conclusion for the Fuji FinePix F700 review has proven to be difficult. On the one hand, the F700 is an excellent camera in terms of most everything: photo quality, features, movie mode, and performance. The construction and menus are excellent as well. This is the best Fuji camera I've used in a long time.

At the same time, I'm not sure that the improvement in photo quality (notably dynamic range) from the SuperCCD SR sensor is great enough to justify the $600 price tag. For around that price, you can buy a PowerShot G3, Coolpix 5400, or DSC-F717, all of which are nicer cameras. Or, for half as much, you can pick up something like the PowerShot A70, which has most of the same features and competitive photo quality (at the 3M setting). I think the F700 would be a more compelling product if it was priced a little closer to the other 3MP cameras -- and I do believe that people are willing to pay a little more for the improved picture quality. I just think $300 is a little too much to ask.

Ultimately the purchasing decision lies with you, the reader. I've given several examples of the SuperCCD SR sensor earlier in the review, and I've got a bunch of sample photos for you to check out. You'll have to decide if the F700 is worth the extra bucks.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality; Dynamic range is better, just not revolutionary.
  • Well-designed metal body
  • Full manual controls
  • Excellent menus; easy to use.
  • Low redeye
  • Stunningly fast performance
  • AF illuminator
  • First rate movie mode
  • One of the best LCDs I've seen

What I didn't care for:

  • Improvements from new sensor are not enough to justify the $600 price
  • Slowest shutter speed available is 3 sec
  • No slow shutter noise reduction?
  • No guide in manual focus showing current focus distance
  • No exposure info for photos in playback mode
  • Would like to choose compression levels. JPEGs are too compressed and there's nothing to do about it.

There are no other cameras that use a sensor like the SuperCCD SR. Please click here for a list of other 3 Megapixel cameras in our Reviews & Info database.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix F700 before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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

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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.

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