Originally Posted: December 3, 2009
Last Updated: December 4, 2009
The Fuji FinePix F70EXR ($249) is a compact ultra zoom camera that uses the unique SuperCCD EXR sensor, which allows it to take better low light / high ISO photos than your typical point-and-shoot camera (I'll explain how it does that later in the review). It's largely the same camera as the FinePix F200EXR (see our review), with the main difference a 10X lens (versus 5X) and a smaller LCD (2.7" instead of 3.0"). The F70EXR also has a lower resolution and slightly smaller SuperCCD EXR sensor.
Other features on the F70EXR include image stabilization, manual controls, auto scene selection, an elaborate face detection system, and new "pro focus" and "pro low light" modes.
Does this compact ultra zoom produce better low light photos than its competitors? Find out now in our review of the FinePix F70EXR!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix F70EXR has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 10.0 effective Megapixel FinePix F70EXR digital camera
- NP-50 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROMs featuring FinePix software and camera manual
- 43 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and the FinePix F70EXR is no exception. It has 47MB of onboard memory, which is able to hold a dozen photos at the highest quality setting. While that's more than on most cameras, you'll still want to get a memory card right away. The F70 is one of the first Fuji cameras to cut the cord entirely from the xD memory card format, supporting only SD and SDHC media. I'd suggest starting with a 2GB card, and you don't need to go overboard with a super high speed model.
The F70EXR uses the same NP-50 lithium-ion battery as the FinePix F200EXR and several other Fuji cameras. This battery holds 3.7 Wh of energy, which is about average for this class. Here's how that translates into battery life:
All of the cameras on the above list have zoom lenses ranging between 7X and 12X. The 1000 shot number on the Casio may look like a typo, but it's for real (what is it, nuclear powered?). While not the worst in this group of ultra zooms, the F70EXR's numbers are definitely below average.
As with every other camera on the above list, the F70EXR uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery for power. This batteries tend to be expensive (a spare NP-50 will set you back at least $45), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery in emergencies. That said, you won't find any really compact cameras that use "regular" AA batteries.
When it's time to charge your battery, just pop into the included charger. The charger plugs directly into the wall, so there's no power cord to deal with. It takes approximately 150 minutes to fully charge the NP-50.
As with all compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the FinePix F70EXR, so there's no lens cap to deal with.
There is really just one accessory for the F70EXR, and that's an AC adapter. You actually have to buy two parts to make it work: the AC-5VX AC adapter ($34) and the CP-50 coupler ($25).
FinePixViewer 5.5 for Windows
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the F70EXR for Mac and Windows. Both versions look about the same with the usual thumbnail view when you first start it up. The Mac version's functionality is quite limited: you can rotate, resize, and crop photos, print text on them, and that's about it. In other words, use iPhoto instead. The Windows version can do a lot more, including showing slideshows, reducing redeye, and adjusting things like brightness, color, and contrast.
Recently, Fuji joined the growing list of camera manufacturers who no longer include a full, printed manual in the box with their cameras. What you will find is a 43 page "basic manual" to get you up and running, plus the full manual in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is above average (by consumer electronics standards) -- it's having to load up the PDF that's a pain. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your computer.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Nothing to see here.
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.
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.
Using the Fuji FinePix F70EXR
It takes about 2.2 seconds for the FinePix F70EXR to extend its lens and prepare for shooting, which is on the slow side.
There's no live histogram available on the F70EXR
On the other hand, the F70EXR is very responsive in the autofocus department. At wide-angle, the camera locks focus in 0.2 to 0.4 seconds. Telephoto focus delays ranged from 0.5 - 0.8 seconds. only occasionally taking a bit longer. The camera focused quickly and accurately in low light situations.
I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot delays are very brief. About a second will pass before you can take another photo when the flash is disabled. With the flash, expect to wait about three seconds between photos.
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 numerous image resolution and quality options available on the FinePix F70EXR:
While the built-in memory holds a decent amount of photos, you can see the benefits of buying a larger memory card. As a reminder, the medium resolution is what the camera uses with the high ISO / low noise and dynamic range priority modes. The F70EXR does not support the RAW image format.
The F70EXR uses the same menu system that's been on Fuji cameras for several years. It's not terribly attractive, and navigating the menus seems a bit clunky to me. Anyhow, keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in each shooting mode, here's the full list:
- Scene position (listed earlier) - only available when mode dial is set to "SP"
- Shooting mode (Program, aperture priority) - only available when mode dial is set to "P"
- EXR mode (Auto EXR, resolution priority, high sensitivity / low noise, dynamic range priority) - described earlier, and only available when mode dial is set to "EXR"
- ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600, Auto) - these options will vary depending on the shooting mode
- Image size (see chart above)
- Image quality (see chart above)
- Dynamic range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%, 800%) - see below
- Film Simulation (Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, black & white, sepia) - described earlier
- White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, fluorescent x 3, tungsten) - the custom option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting conditions
- Continuous (Off, top 3, final 3, top 12, final 12) - see below
- Photometry [metering] (Multi, spot, average)
- AF mode (Center, multi, continuous) - the last option has the camera keep focusing with the shutter release halfway pressed, which is useful when your subject is moving
The dynamic range option takes advantage of the SuperCCD EXR sensor. If you're in Auto EXR mode, this setting will be adjusted automatically. In the D-Range Priority EXR mode, you can select from 100% to 800%. In all other shooting modes (where this setting can be adjusted), it can be set from 100% to 400%, or left on Auto. If you're shooting at full resolution then the ISO will go up as the dynamic range increases. For example, if you want 400% DR, the ISO will need to be set to ISO 400 or higher.
The example below was taken in dynamic range priority mode. While you can sort of catch a glimpse of the changes from the downsized images below, you may want to view the full size photos for a closer inspection.
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
The easiest way to see the improvement in dynamic range is to look at the columns on the left. Notice how the highlight clipping starts to disappear as you increase the dynamic range. If you view the full size images, you can see that the textures on the columns become clearer due to the reduction in clipping. You may also notice an increase in noise, due to the camera boosting the ISO in order to pull off this trick. The DR feature is certainly worth using in situations where there is bound to be highlight clipping -- just remember that the photos may be a bit noisier if you're shooting at the 10 Megapixel setting.
Now let's go over the continuous shooting options on the F70EXR. There are two basic types of continuous shooting on the camera, which Fuji calls "top" and "final". For the "top" modes, the camera saves the photos that were taken after you start holding down the shutter release. For the "final" modes, the camera keeps shooting away (well, for up to 40 shots), but only the photos taken before you released the shutter release button are saved. The table below summarizes the various modes and how they performed:
So you have a choice: three full resolution photos at an average clip, or a dozen photos at a lower resolution and higher sensitivity. I should add that the LCD keeps up fairly well with the action in the faster burst modes.
There's also a setup menu on the FinePix F70EXR, which is accessible from the record or playback menu. The options here include:
- Date/time (set)
- Time difference (Home/travel)
- Silent mode (on/off) - turns of the beeps and the flash too
- Image display (Off, 1.5, 3 secs, zoom/continuous) - last item enlarges the photo and keeps it there until you press a button
- Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
- Operation volume (Off, low, mid, high)
- Shutter volume (Off, low, mid, high)
- Shutter sound (1, 2)
- Playback volume (0-10)
- LCD brightness (-5 to +5 in 1-step increments)
- Auto power off (Off, 2, 5 mins)
- Dual IS mode (Continuous, shooting only, off)
- Redeye removal (on/off) - remove this annoyance as pictures are taken
- Digital zoom (on/off) - best to keep this off
- AF illuminator (on/off)
- Save original image (on/off) - whether unprocessed images are saved along with retouched photos when redeye reduction is used
- Background color - choose the menu background color
- Guidance display (on/off) - whether hints are shown when you change shooting
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Power management (Power save, quick AF, clear LCD) - quick AF reduces focus times by shrinking the active focal range; clear LCD boosts the refresh rate of the screen
The only thing I want to mention here is the Dual IS mode option (the "dual" implies sensor-shift and ISO boost). The continuous option always has the system running, so you can compose your photos without camera shake. The shooting only option activates the system when the photo is actually taken, which is more effective at reducing blur than the continuous mode. You can also turn the IS system off entirely, which you'll want to do when the camera is on a tripod.
Alright, let's move onto our photo tests now, shall we?
The FinePix F70EXR did a nice job with our standard macro test subject, which was taken at the high resolution (10MP) setting. Colors are pretty good, though they could be a bit more saturated, in my opinion. The easy way to fix that is to change the Film Mode to Velvia/Vivid, though that may be a little too much here (click here to see the results). The figurine has a very smooth appearance to it, similar to what you'd see from a D-SLR. While I don't see any noise here, if you inspect the edges closely you can see some artifacting, though I'm not sure if it's from JPEG compression or noise reduction.
The focus distance in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle, and 90 cm at telephoto -- both average numbers.
In order to take night scenes like the one you see above, you'll have to make sure the camera is in the right shooting mode. That's because, in most cases, the slowest shutter speed the camera will use is 1/4 sec. If you use the night (tripod) mode, that number goes up to 3 seconds. For the most control, you'll want to use "M" mode, which raises the limit to 8 seconds.
I took these photos at the full resolution setting, since the EXR modes don't let you adjust the shutter speed. At ISO 100, the image is fairly sharp, again with the smooth look that you saw in the macro test. There is some highlight clipping here, though you could reduce that by using the dynamic range adjustment, though keep in mind that this will require increasing the sensitivity (if you're shooting at full resolution), and thus the noise levels. Speaking of noise, it can be found in this photo, but there's not enough to concern me. Purple fringing levels are low.
Now, let's use that same scene to see how the F70EXR performs at high ISOs in low light. Remember, these are taken at the 10 Megapixel (resolution priority) setting, since you can't use the other two EXR modes while in full manual mode.
There's not much of a difference between the the ISO 100 and 200 shots. At ISO 400 you start to see detail loss, but a midsize print is still a possibility. Things start to really go downhill at ISO 800, so I'd save that setting for emergencies only. Everything above that is not worth using, especially the two highest sensitivities, as you can see.
You might say "why not shoot these in high sensitivity / low noise mode"? The answer is that I can't, since the slowest shutter speed available is 1/4 second. You can lower the resolution to 5 Megapixel and get the same effect, though it doesn't make ISO 800 and above any more appealing, in my opinion.
Look for our studio ISO test in a moment.
There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the F70EXR's 27 - 270 mm lens. There's also some vignetting (dark corners) here, though it's fairly mild when it does occur in real world photos. I also had trouble with corner blurring, specifically in the lower-right (example). I tried two different cameras and both had the problem, so I'm thinking that the lens is being pushed a little too hard.
Compact cameras always have trouble with redeye. The F70EXR uses both pre-flashes and digital redeye removal to get rid of this annoyance as a photos is taken. At least in my experience, this didn't help, with fairly strong redeye remaining. Even using the removal tool in playback mode didn't help. As always, your mileage may vary.
Here's our studio ISO test. Since the lighting is consistent, you can compare it to other cameras I've reviewed over the years. I'm going to use this scene for several comparisons, so grab a cup of coffee! First, we're going to look at noise levels with the camera at high resolution:
Everything looks very nice through ISO 400. At ISO 800 we see a bit of an increase in noise, but it won't keep you from making a large print at that sensitivity. Noise and detail loss become a lot more obvious at ISO 1600, though a small or midsize print is still a possibility (especially with a trip through noise reduction software). When you get to ISO 3200 the resolution drops to 5 Megapixel, the image gets even grainier, and I can spot a little banding, too. The highest ISO settings (6400 and 12,800) lower the resolution to 3 Megapixel, and are really only there to look good in the press release, as the image quality is quite poor.
Next, I wanted to see how the images looked when using the high sensitivity / low noise EXR mode. I was also interested in seeing if you could get the same result by just downsizing the high resolution image in Photoshop. Here's how things look at ISO 800 and 1600 (which is as high as you can go in the EXR modes, by the way).
High resolution mode (downsized)
High sensitivity / low noise mode
What does this test tell me? That by downsizing the photos in Photoshop from 10 to 5 Megapixel, you actually get better results than shooting in the high sensitivity / low noise mode. Basically, the EXR mode just saves you the need to downsize the images manually, with just a slight decrease in image quality.
My last comparison is to test whether the F70EXR produces better high ISO images than other compact ultra zooms. (If you've read this far, you probably know the answer to that question.) Here I selected two other ultra zoom cameras as the competition: the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS and Nikon Coolpix S630, and you might want to look at the Canon PowerShot G11 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 photos as well, since they're advertised as high sensitivity cameras. I downsized their test photos to 10 Megapixel, to match those taken in the high resolution mode on the FinePix F70EXR. Let's see how this one turned out:
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS (downsized)
Fuji FinePix F70EXR
Nikon Coolpix S630 (downsized)
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS (downsized)
Fuji FinePix F70EXR
Nikon Coolpix S630 (downsized)
I think it's safe to say that the F70EXR really cleaned up in this competition. While it's not going to rival output from a digital SLR, Fuji definitely has at least a full stop advantage over other compact cameras in terms of noise. The only non-Fuji cameras that really come close are the Canon PowerShot G11 and (presumably) the S90, though the F70EXR pulls away at ISO 1600.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the images produced by the FinePix F70EXR. Exposure was accurate, though like most compacts the F70 does suffer from highlight clipping at times. You can address this by adjusting the dynamic range settings, though remember that at full resolution the ISO will need to increase proportionally (and that you're limited to 5 Megapixel in the D-Range EXR mode). I can't complain about color -- everything is nicely saturated. Photos have a smooth, almost SLR-like appearance to them. I've already shown you that the F70 has less noise than other compact cameras at high ISOs. You may notice what I call "SuperCCD artifacting" at lower ISOs, which smudges the details in low contrast areas of a photo. The good news is that for all but the largest print sizes, you won't notice it. I mentioned corner blurring and vignetting a bit earlier, and you can expect to see a little of both in your photos. Another thing you will notice occasionally are moderate levels of purple fringing.
Now, I invite you to have a look the photo gallery for the FinePix F70EXR. Take a look at the full size images, and maybe print a few of them if you can. Then you should be able to decide whether the F70EXR's photo quality meets your expectations!
The FinePix F70EXR has an unremarkable movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 at 30 frames/second (with sound) until the file size hits 2GB, which takes around 29 minutes. You can also lower the resolution to 320 x 240 (still at 30 fps), but then the maximum file size goes down to 1GB, so your maxi um recording time there is 28 minutes (I'm not following Fuji's logic).
The F70 is one of the rare cameras that lets you use the optical zoom while you're filming a movie. You can also have the camera focus continuously while you're recording, and the image stabilizer is available as well. The problem with all three of these things is that their sound (especially the AF and zoom) will be picked up by the camera's microphone.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's a sample movie for you that cuts out a little earlier than I would've liked. You might want to turn your volume down before viewing it!
Click to play movie (12.8 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The FinePix F200 has a pretty standard playback mode, as well. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last option lets you enlarge the photo (I'm not sure by how much), and then scroll around. This comes in handy when you want to verify focus, or whether your subject blinked.
|Crazy thumbnail view||Viewing photos by date|
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.
Photos can be rotated, trimmed, and downsized right on the camera. If you weren't using the automatic redeye reduction feature for your people pictures, you can remove it via a tool in the playback mode. Speaking of people pictures, you can get close ups of any faces detected in a photo by pressing the -- you guessed it -- face detection button. There are no movie editing tools on the camera.
Not surprisingly, there's a tool to copy photos from the internal memory to a memory card and vice versa.
Unfortunately, there camera doesn't give you much in the line of information about the photos you've taken. What you see above is all that you get. No histograms here, sorry folks.
The F70EXR moves through photos quickly. A lower resolution version is shown instantly, with a sharper version following about a half second later.
How Does it Compare?
The Fuji FinePix F70EXR is a compact ultra zoom camera whose low light shooting is best in its class. The F70EXR isn't perfect, but for a little over $200 you get a compact camera with a big 10X zoom, image stabilization, at least a full stop advantage in terms of noise, several manual controls, a dynamic range enhancement feature that actually works, and generally snappy performance. Image quality is very good, though you will have occasional vignetting, blurry corners, and artifacting that is a by-product of the SuperCCD EXR sensor. Some of the camera's flaws include a clunky, dated menu system, unremarkable movie and burst modes, manual exposure control limitations, and below average battery life. Despite these imperfections, the FinePix F70EXR's 10X zoom lens and superior low light skills make it a camera I can recommend.
The FinePix F70EXR looks nearly identical to its sibling, the F200EXR. On the outside, the main differences are the lens (10X vs 5X on the F200) and LCD (2.7" vs 3.0"), while the sensor on the inside is lower resolution and a bit smaller on the F70. The camera is made of a mixture of metal and plastic, and feels pretty solid, with the usual exception of the door over the battery/memory card compartment. The F70 features an F3.3-5.6, 10X optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 27 - 270 mm. Yes, that maximum aperture range isn't as fast as I'd like, but it's what you'll find on most compact cameras. Inside the lens is the SuperCCD EXR sensor, whose unique pixel arrangement allows for better performance at high sensitivities than conventional CCDs. This sensor is mounted to a movable plate which makes up the camera's image stabilization system. The IS system reduces the risk of blurry photos, and it can smooth out your movies as well. On the back of the camera is a 2.7" LCD with the typical resolution of 230,000 pixels. Outdoor visibility was very good, while low light viewing could be improved upon. The F70EXR does not have an optical viewfinder.
The F70EXR has a nice feature set, though some of them are crippled a bit. The camera has two auto modes: a regular one that shoots at full resolution, and an EXR mode that will select a scene and an EXR mode for you. Do note that the exposure compensation cannot be adjusted for either of these modes, and the slowest shutter speed is just 1/4 second. The EXR mode does have a manual override which lets you select one of the three modes (high resolution, high ISO & low noise, dynamic range priority), and it opens up the exposure compensation feature (but not slower shutter speeds) as well. The high resolution EXR mode doesn't do anything fancy: it takes photos at the full 10 Megapixel resolution of the SuperCCD sensor. The high ISO & low noise mode lowers the resolution to 5 Megapixel and produces photos with less noise than a typical compact camera (though you can shoot at full resolution and downsize the photos for the same or better effect). The dynamic range priority mode reduces clipped highlights (and you can adjust this in the P and M shooting modes as well), though if you want full resolution photos, you'll have to boost the ISO proportionally.
The F70EXR has limited manual controls, allowing you to adjust the aperture alone, or along with the shutter speed (there's no shutter priority mode, though). One annoyance is that there are only two aperture settings to choose from at any one time, rather than a whole range. The camera offers a custom white balance mode, but it lacks a manual focus feature. The F70 does not support the RAW image format. I should also mention two new scene modes on the F70EXR: Pro Focus and Pro Low Light. I was never able to fire off a single shot with the Pro Focus feature (the camera always gave me an error), but it's supposed to give you a sharp subject with a blurry background. The Pro Low Light Feature works by combining four exposures into one, which helps produce a sharper photo. This only works for stationary subjects, though. Lastly, there's the F70's movie mode, which lets you record up to 29 minutes of continuous VGA quality video (where's the HD?). The camera lets you use the optical zoom and image stabilizer while recording, and continuous autofocus is available as well. However, the noise from all three of these is easily picked up by the microphone.
While it lags in a few areas, generally the F70EXR was a snappy performer. One of the areas in which it's a bit slow is startup speed: it takes around 2.2 seconds to prepare for shooting. Focusing speeds are very good, whether you're at wide-angle or telephoto. The camera focused quickly and accurately in low light, as well. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot speeds range from one second without the flash to around three seconds with it. The F70EXR won't win any awards for its continuous shooting mode. At full resolution, it takes just three photos at an average 1.7 fps frame rate. You can shoot faster (4.7 fps), but at 3 Megapixel / ISO 400, which isn't necessarily desirable. The F70EXR's battery life is below average for its class.
That brings us to photo quality which, in most respects, is the FinePix F70EXR's strong point. The camera had accurate exposure overall, though it does tend to clip highlights, just like other compact cameras. Unlike most of those cameras, however, you can actually use the dynamic range enhancement feature to reduce the highlight clipping, though as I mentioned, the ISO sensitivity will have to go up a notch or two. Colors were nice and saturated, and photos had a smooth appearance to them. At low ISOs you may find some detail smearing in low contrast areas, which is kind of a trademark of SuperCCD sensors. Noise levels stay very low until you hit ISO 800 in low light and ISO 1600 in good light -- yes, that's a full stop better than most cameras I review. At ISO 800 and 1600, the F70EXR wipes the floor with nearly all of the competition. Above that, don't expect much: the image size goes down and the noise goes up, and there's even some banding to be found. Photos taken at the highest ISOs are lacking far too much detail to be used. The F70EXR has moderate levels of purple fringing at times, and expect to see some corner blurring and vignetting, as well. The camera is supposed to remove redeye automatically, but that didn't work too well in my tests (though your results may vary).
There are a few final things to mention before I wrap things up. The menu system on the F70EXR is difficult to navigate at times, and just feels dated. I found the mode dial on the camera to be a little sloppy, just like the one on the F200EXR -- it needs to be more "notchy", if you know what I mean. The door over the battery/memory card slot could really use a lock, and you won't be able to access it when the camera is on a tripod. Finally, in the bundle department, the included Mac software is poor (thank goodness for iPhoto) and the full manual is only available in digital format on an included CD-ROM disc.
If you're looking for a compact ultra zoom camera that excels at low light shooting, then the FinePix F70EXR should definitely fit the bill. It's not the most feature-packed camera in its class, but it delivers better high ISO shots than almost anything else out there (save for a digital SLR, of course). While there's definitely some room for improvement (mostly in terms of features and usability, rather than image quality), the F70EXR is a camera well worth your consideration.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality
- Low light performance a full stop better than other compact cameras
- 10X zoom in a compact body
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- Dynamic range priority mode restores clipped highlights
- Many manual controls
- Automatic scene and EXR mode selection
- Good AF, shot-to-shot speeds
- Optical zoom, image stabilization, and continuous AF available in movie mode (though noise from each will be picked up by the microphone)
- Good value for the money
What I didn't care for:
- Some artifacting from SuperCCD sensor at low ISOs; some corner blurring, vignetting, and purple fringing, as well
- Only two apertures to choose from at a time; no shutter priority mode or manual focus
- Exposure compensation not available in auto modes; slowest shutter speed is 1/4 sec with rare exception
- Unremarkable continuous shooting mode
- Menu system feels clunky and dated
- No optical or electronic viewfinder
- Sloppy mode dial; door over memory card / battery compartment is a bit flimsy, and is inaccessible when using a tripod
- Below average battery life
- Full manual only on CD-ROM; Mac version of FinePixViewer is very basic
Some other compact ultra zoom cameras include the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, Casio Exilim EX-H10, Kodak EasyShare Z950, Nikon Coolpix S630, Olympus Stylus 9000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1, Ricoh CX2, Samsung HZ15W, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the FinePix F70EXR and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our gallery!