Fuji FinePix F70EXR Review

Look and Feel

The FinePix F70EXR looks nearly identical to its older sibling, the F200EXR. It's a compact camera made of a mix of metal and plastic, and it feels pretty solid, save for the usual flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment. While the camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, I did notice that it's fairly easy to accidentally block the flash with your fingers. Due to its smaller LCD, your thumb probably won't rest on the mode dial, as it could on the F200EXR. The extra real estate afforded by the smaller LCD also allows for a larger four-way controller, which is a nice improvement over the F200.

Now, here's a look at how the F70EXR compares to other camera in its class, in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 14.8 cu in. 220 g
Casio Exilim EX-H10 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.0 in. 10 cu in. 164 g
Fuji FinePix F70EXR 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 8.1 cu in. 180 g
Kodak EasyShare Z950 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.4 in. 15.7 cu in. 223 g
Nikon Coolpix S630 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.7 cu in. 140 g
Olympus Stylus 9000 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 10.9 cu in. 185 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 12.8 cu in. 206 g
Ricoh CX2 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.2 in. 11 cu in. 185 g
Samsung HZ15W 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 14.8 cu in. 219 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.9 in. 22.9 cu in. 250 g

As you can see, the FinePix F70EXR is currently the smaller ultra zoom camera on the market. It should fit into your small pockets with ease.

Alright, let's begin our tour of the camera now, beginning with the front:

Front of the Fuji FinePix F70EXR

The FinePix F70EXR features an F3.3-5.6, 10X optical zoom lens. Like the F200EXR (and most compact cameras), this lens is on the slow side in terms of maximum aperture. The focal range of the lens is 5 - 50 mm, which is equivalent to a very nice 27 - 270 mm. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.

The F70EXR uses a lower resolution and slightly smaller version of the SuperCCD EXR sensor that was found in the F200EXR. The unique hexagonal layout of the photo sites -- combined with unique image processing algorithms -- allow this sensor to be more sensitive than traditional CCDs. You can read more about how the sensor works in my F200EXR review, and you'll see the benefits of it when we get to the photo tests.

The F70 features a sensor-shift image stabilization system to reduce the likelihood of blurry photos. The camera detects the tiny movements of your hands that cause "camera shake", which can blur your photos, especially in low light or telephoto shooting situations. The F70EXR actually shifts the sensor itself to compensate for this motion, which makes a sharp photo a lot more likely. It won't work miracles, though: image stabilization cannot freeze a moving subject, nor will it allow for multi-second handheld shots -- but it's way better than nothing at all. Here's an example of the image stabilization system in action:

Image stabilization off

Image stabilization on

I took both of the above photos at the very slow shutter speed of 1/4 second. While it's not tack sharp, the photo taken with IS turned out is definitely sharper than the one without. Unlike on the F200EXR, you can use the image stabilizer in movie mode as well. This short sample clip shows the IS system in action while recording a movie.

At the top-left of the above photo you'll spot the F70EXR's built-in flash. This flash has a decent amount of power, with a working range of 0.3 - 4.2 m at wide-angle and 0.9 - 2.4 m at telephoto -- though Fuji measures this at ISO 800 instead of Auto ISO like everyone else. You cannot attach an external flash to the F70EXR.

Just to the right of the flash is the AF-assist lamp, which the camera uses as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

The last thing to see on the front of the camera is its microphone, which is to the lower-left of the lens.

Back of the Fuji FinePix F70EXR

As I've mentioned at least twice, the LCD on the FinePix F70EXR is smaller than the one on the F200EXR. The screen here is 2.7" in size, with a resolution of 230,000 pixels. The screen is pretty sharp, though I've seen other LCDs with the same resolution that look a little better. I found outdoor visibility to be quite good, though low light viewing could be better.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the F70EXR. That's pretty much the case on compact cameras these days, for better or for worse.

Now let's talk about the dials and buttons located to the right of the LCD. The one at the top-right is the mode dial, which isn't "notchy" enough for my tastes (its movement is really sloppy). The options here include:

Option Function
Auto mode Point-and-shoot, most menu options locked up
EXR mode Point-and-shoot with auto scene selection; you can select from the three EXR modes (high resolution, high sensitivity / low noise, or dynamic range priority that I will mention below, or you can have the camera pick the right EXR mode for the situation.
Program / aperture priority mode Program mode is automatic, but with full menu access; aperture priority mode gives you two apertures to choose from at a time, with a range of F3.3 - F11.
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture; shutter speed range is 8 - 1/2000 sec; aperture range is the same, with only two choices at any given time.
Movie mode I'll have more on this later
Scene Position (SP) mode You select the situation, and the camera uses the appropriate settings; select from pro focus, pro low light, portrait, portrait enhancer, landscape, sport, night, night (tripod), fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, party, flower, text
Natural light mode Boosts the ISO and turns off the flash for a photo using existing light
Natural light & flash mode Takes one photo with the flash, and another with natural light mode

EXR mode menu

There are several things to touch on before we can continue the tour. First up is that EXR mode, which is where you can take advantage of the F70's SuperCCD EXR sensor. The default setting (EXR Auto) selects both a scene mode and an EXR mode automatically. If you want to manually select the EXR mode, you do so using the menu you can see above. What are those EXR modes, anyway? Here are your three choices:

  • Resolution priority: full 10 Megapixel photos
  • High ISO & low noise: Lowers resolution to 5 Megapixel and produces photos with less noise at high sensitivities
  • Dynamic range priority: Lowers resolution to 5 Megapixel and boosts dynamic range enhancement to 800% for better highlight detail

The first EXR mode doesn't do anything fancy -- the camera shoots at the maximum resolution. The other two emphasize either low noise or wide dynamic range, and I'll have examples of both later in the review.

The F70EXR has manual controls, but they're somewhat crippled. While you can set the aperture manually, there are only two settings available at any point. For example, at wide-angle you can choose from F3.3 and F6.4, and that's it. For some reason, there's no shutter priority mode available, either. The Auto shooting modes are limited, too: you cannot adjust exposure compensation and the slowest shutter speed is 1/4 sec (even in Program mode).

Two new scene modes on the F70EXR are Pro Focus and Pro Low Light. Pro Focus mode gives you that sharp subject with a blurry background look by combining three photos into one. You can adjust the amount of background blurring before you take the shot. Pro Low Light mode combines four pictures in a row and does some fancy post-processing, which is supposed to result in a sharp photo when taking pictures in low light, or when the lens is at the telephoto position.

I'd love to give you an example of Pro Focus mode, but I could never get it to work. No matter what I tried, the camera always gave me the same "cannot create effect" error. The Pro Low Light mode actually works, but only for stationary subjects. Trying to take pictures of a child or pet doesn't work, since they don't stay still (at least when they're awake). For still-lifes, however, the feature does work, producing a sharp (though somewhat noisy) 5 Megapixel photo (example).

The natural light mode has been around for a few years now, and in case you're not familiar, here's the low-down. The camera turns off the flash and boosts the ISO as high as it needs to in order to get a sharp photo. Thus, you can take photos using the natural light in the room, without getting the nasty effects of a direct flash. You can use the natural light & flash mode to compare to take a photo using both methods.

F-mode menu

Getting back to the tour now: below the mode dial are buttons for entering playback mode and activating the F-mode menu. The items in the F-mode menu will vary depending on your shooting mode, but here's the full list:

  • ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, Auto, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600)
  • Image size (see chart later in review)
  • Film simulation (Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, black & white, sepia)

As you can see, there are many ISO options available on the FinePix F70EXR. The easiest thing to is use one of the Auto modes, which allow you to set an upper limit for the ISO setting. If you want to select the ISO manually you can do that too (in some shooting modes), though the two highest settings lower the resolution to 3 Megapixel.

The film simulation option used to be called "FinePix Color" and are now named after Fuji's various brands of film. These let you adjust the color saturation levels of your photos, ranging from neutral to vivid. Here you'll also find the camera's black and white and sepia modes.

Returning to the tour, let's talk about the four-way controller. You'll use this for navigating the menus, reviewing photos you've taken, adjusting manual exposure settings, and also:

  • Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV) + Manual exposure adj + Delete photo
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Left - Macro (on/off)
  • Right - Flash (Auto, flash on, flash off, slow synchro)
  • Center - Menu (more later on this) + OK

The last two buttons on the back of the FinePix F70EXR are for toggling what's shown on the LCD (and backing out of menus) and for activating the face detection system. If you hold down the Display button, you can also turn on "silent mode", which turns off all camera sounds as well as the flash.

The camera locked onto just one face

The F70EXR has one of the most elaborate face detection systems you'll find. The camera can detect up to ten faces in the frame, whether it's from the front, side, or even upside-down. An automatic redeye reduction system is tied into all this, so everyone will have clear-looking eyes (well, in theory). The F70EXR, like the F200EXR, does not seem to like my face detection test scene. The camera typically found just one of the six faces in the scene, where the best cameras I've tested usually find five or all six with ease. I can't really say how this applies to real world scenarios, but there you have it.

Top of the Fuji FinePix f70exr

The only things to see on the top of the camera are the power and shutter release buttons, as well as the zoom controller, which wraps around the latter. The zoom controller moves the lens (somewhat noisily) in 1.3 seconds. I counted twenty steps in the camera's 10X zoom range.

Side of the Fuji FinePix f70exr

Nothing to see here.

Side of the Fuji FinePix f70exr

The only thing on this side of the F70EXR is its one and only I/O port, which handles both USB and video output. In case you're wondering where you plug in that optional AC adapter: the camera uses a DC coupler, which is essentially a battery with a power cord coming out of it.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Fuji FinePix f70exr

On the bottom of the FinePix F70EXR you'll find its speaker, a metal tripod mount, and the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is a bit flimsy, and could really use a locking mechanism. As you can see, you wont' be able to access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod.

The included NP-50 battery can be see on the right.

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