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DCRP Review: Fuji
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 2, 2005
Last Updated: April 6, 2008
The FinePix Z1 ($399) is Fuji's entry into the ultra-thin camera market. Using the same "folding lens optics" system as the Sony T series, Nikon Coolpix S1, and the Minolta X series, the Z1 is just 0.7 inches thick. The FinePix Z1 uses a 5.1 Megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor which allows for lower noise levels at high ISO sensitivities when compared to other cameras. Other features include a 2.5" LCD, VGA movie mode, and support for USB 2.0 High Speed.
There's a lot of competition in the ultra-thin camera arena. How does the Z1 perform? Find out in our review!
Since the two cameras have so much in common, I will be reusing a lot of text from the FinePix F10 review here.
What's in the Box?
The FinePix Z1 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with the camera, which holds just six images at the highest quality setting. That means that you should plan on buying a larger card right away. xD cards are currently available as large as 1GB, and I think 256MB is a good starter size. Be warned that xD cards tend to be more expensive than CompactFlash and SD cards.
The NP-40 lithium-ion rechargeable battery used by the Z1 has just 2.7 Wh of power, which isn't much. That translates to 170 shots per charge using the CIPA battery life standard. Here's how the Z1 stacks up against the competition in terms of battery life:
As you can see, the Z1's battery life is average, and everyone else needs to find out Casio's secret to great battery life.
While they're unavoidable on utlra-thin cameras like this, be warned that proprietary batteries like the one used by the Z1 are expensive: $40 a pop. You also cannot use alkaline batteries as a backup when the main battery dies.
The included PictureCradle camera dock is used for charging the battery and connection to a TV or PC. This is the only way to hook into those things since there are no I/O ports on the camera itself. It takes about two hours to fully charge the NP-40 in the cradle. An external battery charger is also available if you don't want to deal with the cradle.
The cradle supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard for fast photo transfer to your Mac or PC. It also has one more important function that you'll find out about later in the review.
The Z1 has a sliding lens cover that protects the lens while doubling as the power switch.
There are just two accessories available for the FinePix Z1. They include an external battery charger ($60) and a soft carrying case.
FinePixViewer 3.3 for Mac
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer software with the Z1. The version numbers are 5.0 for Windows and 3.3 Mac OS 9 and OS X. FinePixViewer is for basic image organizing and editing, and is no substitute for something like Photoshop Elements. Also included is ImageMixer VCD2 for Mac and Windows, which lets you create Video CDs from your still images and movie clips.
The Z1's manual is fairly average for a digital camera. It's complete, but a bit cluttered.
Look and Feel
The FinePix Z1 is an ultra-thin camera made mostly of metal. It's well constructed save for the usual cheap plastic door over the memory card/battery compartment. It's small enough to go anywhere and it's easy to hold with one hand. The controls are generally well placed and functional, though I'm not a huge fan of the small shutter release button.
Image courtesy of Fuji
The Z1 is available in silver and black bodies. If you've read this far you already know when color camera I had.
Now here's a look at how the Z1 compares in terms of size and weight with the competition:
As you can see, the FinePix Z1 is one of the smallest cameras in its class!
Enough numbers, let's start our tour of the camera now, beginning with the front.
The FinePix Z1 uses the same "folding lens design" as some of other ultra-thin cameras on the market. This means that most of the lens elements travel perpendicular to the front lens element, going down the body instead of toward the back. Thus the lens takes up less space and never leaves the body. The lens here is is a F3.5-4.2, 3X optical zoom model which is fairly standard for this class of camera. The focal range is 6.1 - 18.3 mm which is equivalent to 36 - 108 mm. As you might imagine, the lens is not threaded.
One thing you need to watch out for on this camera (and others like it) are your fingers. It's very easy to accidentally put fingers in front of the lens -- and thus into the photo.
At the top-center of the photo is the Z1's built-in flash. This flash has a working range of 0.3 - 3.0 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.3 m at telephoto which is pretty average for this class. You cannot attach an external flash to the Z1.
Just to the left of the flash is the self-timer lamp. Unfortunately there is no AF-assist lamp on this camera.
The FinePix Z1 features a large 2.5" LCD display. While large in size, this screen isn't big on resolution, with just 115,000 pixels. While I could tell that the screen resolution wasn't the best, it didn't really bother me while using the camera. Outdoor visibility is good with the screen brightness at its normal level and even better with it turned up (I'll show you how to do that in a second). Low light visibility is very good, especially with the LCD brightness cranked up.
As with most cameras in this class, there's no optical viewfinder to be found on the Z1. Whether that bothers you or not is sort of a personal decision. I like to have one, but you might not care.
At the upper-right of the photo is the zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.7 seconds. I counted ten steps throughout the 3X zoom range.
Those three white circles aren't what they seem. Only the left one does anything, and it's the indicator light for focus and flash. The other two are just for show.
Below the three circles are two buttons: one for playback mode, the other for opening the Photo Mode menu.
The Photo Mode menu has been toned down since last year's Fuji cameras. Gone are the fancy colored menus -- this one is kind of boring in comparison. Anyhow, the items in this menu include:
The four-way controller is used for menu navigation and also for:
The last button on the back of the camera is the Display/Back button. This toggles what is shown on the LCD and also "backs out" of the menus.
The only things to see up here include the shutter release button (which is too small and poorly placed in my opinion) and a switch for moving between movie and still recording mode.
The speaker is the only thing to see on this side of the camera.
Over here you'll find an infrared port (which is not used, apparently) and the wrist strap connector.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the Z1. Here you'll find the dock connector and the battery/memory card compartment. As is usually the case, this compartment is covered by a pretty flimsy plastic door that could bust off if forced. The included NP-40 battery is shown at right.
You're probably wondering where the tripod mount is. Well, there isn't one on the camera. But don't fret -- that camera dock has one more use:
Yes, there's a tripod mount on the bottom of the dock. Sure I'd rather have it on the camera, but something is better than nothing, right? Using the dock for tripod shooting was made worse by the fact that the camera doesn't exact stay still when it's in the dock.
Using the Fuji FinePix Z1
The FinePix Z1 starts up super quick, taking just one second to "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. Just slide the lens cover open and away you go!
|The FinePix Z1 offers a traditional shot preview (minus a histogram) as well as a unique view that shows the current shot as well as the three previous photos you took.|
With the high speed shooting feature turned off, autofocus speeds were about 0.3 - 0.5 seconds, which is average. With high speed shooting turned on those numbers drop considerably to around 0.1 - 0.3 seconds. Great! Low light focusing was above average, which surprised me since the camera lacks an AF-assist lamp.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem on the FinePix Z1.
Shot-to-shot speeds are superb, with a delay under 1.5 seconds before you can take another photo, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature. There's no way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you must first enter playback mode.
Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.
The SuperCCD HR sensor on the FinePix Z1 doesn't work like those used on previous Fuji cameras. The camera still takes the 5.1 Megapixels worth of data and interpolates it up to 10MP (it has to due to the design of the sensor), but then it brings it back down to 5.1MP again. This is, in my opinion, a good thing, as the interpolated image quality wasn't very good in the first place.
There is no RAW or TIFF mode on the FinePix Z1, nor would I expect one.
The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card.
The FinePix Z1 has the same new menu system as the F10 which I just reviewed, and I'm not a huge fan of it. The layout is strange and navigating the menu just doesn't feel right. There aren't too many menu options on this point-and-shoot camera, and here they are:
As you have probably noticed, the FinePix Z1 is a 100% point-and-shot camera. There are no manual controls at all, not even the useful custom white balance option. The manual mode in the shooting mode menu merely unlocks all the menu options that aren't available in the auto or scene modes.
Speaking of scene modes, the natural light mode is quite handy. I've got an example that just about everyone can relate to. Ever take a photo indoors without the flash and have it come out looking like this?
Yes, it's blurry... something that happens an awful lot when you take photos without the flash. Now here's that same photo using the natural light mode:
Now that's more like it! Natural light mode boosts the ISO as needed (up to 800) to allow for faster shutter speeds and therefore sharper pictures. Noise levels increase, of course, but 1) they're lower than on other cameras in this class, and 2) the noise won't show up in your smaller-sized prints. I'll have more on the Z1's high ISO performance in a bit.
There's also a setup menu, of course, which is accessed from the record or playback menu. The items here include:
Those should be self-explanatory so let's move on to the test photos now!
The FinePix Z1 did a decent job with our macro test subject, with my only complaints being the too-orange cloak and slight "fuzziness" in the image. Unlike the FinePix F10, the Z1 lacks the custom white balance option which comes in handy when shooting in my photo studio. This probably accounts for the color inaccuracy.
You can get as close to your subject as 8 cm at wide-angle and 45 cm at telephoto while in macro mode, which is average.
Except for a few "hot pixels" the night shot turned out well. The camera took in enough light, which is good because the slowest shutter speed available on the camera is 4 seconds. Noise levels are reasonable here and purple fringing was not a problem at all.
Using that same shot, let's see how the noise levels change at high ISO sensitivities. Due to some bad luck I do not have an ISO 100 sample available -- sorry!
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The FinePix Z1 keeps noise levels down through ISO 200. At ISO 400 details start getting destroyed but the image is still usable. The ISO 800 image may still be a keeper if you use decent noise reduction software.
Ultra-thin cameras like this one always have redeye problems and the Z1 is no exception. While your results may vary, expect to deal with this annoyance at least part of the time.
Barrel distortion is fairly mild at the wide end of the Z1's lens. While the test chart showed a bit of corner softness, it was fairly minor in my real world photos.
Overall the Z1's image quality is very good, though not as good as on the FinePix F10 which I reviewed previously. Color and exposure were generally good and images were sharp. Photos did have a grainy/fuzzy look to them (like most of the cameras that use this lens design) and purple fringing levels were a little above average. For smaller prints these issues won't really matter, but when printed at 8 x 10 inches or larger or if viewed on-screen then you may notice them.
One of the Z1's strengths is how well it shoots at high ISO sensitivities.
This is my living room. I took this shot with the Z1 as well as with the similar Nikon Coolpix S1 -- let's see how they compare. Do note that I adjusted the levels and colors a bit in these crops so you can better make out the details. This brings out a bit more noise, so look at the full-size images to see how things looked straight out of the camera.
The two cameras do about the same at their lowest ISO levels, with perhaps the Coolpix being slightly cleaner. Let's turn things up now:
FinePix Z1, ISO 400
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Nikon Coolpix S1, ISO 400
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At ISO 400 the Z1 is less noisy than the S1, but the S1 is quite a bit sharper.
FinePix Z1, ISO 800
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For my last trick I'll show you what the Z1 looks like at ISO 800, the highest it can go. As you can see things are awfully noisy. With good noise reduction software you ought to be able to get a decent smaller-sized print out of this. While not quite as good as the F10 at high ISOs the Z1 still does better than the competition.
That's all for photo quality. I invite you now to visit our photo gallery and see if the Z1's image quality meets your expectations!
The FinePix Z1 has an excellent movie mode. You can record movies at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card is full. That doesn't take very long with the included 16MB card -- it holds just 13 seconds of video. A 256MB xD card holds about 3.7 minutes worth. If you want longer movies and don't mind a lower resolution then try the 320 x 240 (30 fps) mode which doubles your recording time.
As is usually the case, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's an exciting sample movie for you, taken at the high quality setting:
Click to play movie (16.7 MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the Z1 is typical of those on other cameras. Basic features are here, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, voice annotations (30 seconds worth), and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge your image by up to 4.1 times, depending on the resolution of the photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area.
Other features include in-camera image rotation and trimming (cropping).
The Z1 also offers a handy "date view" of your photos.
The Z1 only shows you basic exposure information for your photos. More info would've been nice, such as the shutter speed and aperture used.
The camera movies through images at a good clip. There's about a 1/2 second delay between photos, with no low resolution placeholder used.
How Does it Compare?
The Fuji FinePix Z1 is a capable ultra-thin camera and it earns my recommendation. Just be prepared for some of the tradeoffs that come with owning a camera this small.
The Z1 is an ultra-thin metal camera that's very stylish. It comes in both silver and black colors and it's small enough to go anywhere. It features a large 2.5" LCD that's usable in bright and dim light. Some things I didn't like about the Z1's design include the missing tripod mount and I/O ports (both of which require using the included camera dock) and the too-small shutter release button. Those of you who like having an optical viewfinder should know that, like many cameras in this class, the Z1 does not have one.
The FinePix Z1 is a good performer, with near-instant startup, good focusing times (with high speed shooting turned on), no shutter lag, and good shot-to-shot speeds. Photo quality is good, though images have a fuzzy/grainy look to them which seems to be the norm for cameras with this lens design. The Z1 can perform better than the competition at high ISO settings, though you'll probably want to use those photos for smaller-sized prints only. The natural light mode is especially handy for those low light shots that always turn out blurry. In terms of features the Z1 is fairly stripped -- there are no manual controls of any kind and there's not even a continuous shooting mode. In other words, it's 100% point-and-shoot. One really nice feature on the Z1 is its VGA movie mode.
A few other negatives should be mentioned. Like most of the cameras in this class, battery life and flash strength are below average. Redeye is also a problem.
Overall the Z1 compares well against the competition from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony, and it earns my recommendation. If you want something stylish with a little more ability at high ISOs than the other cameras then it's worth a look. Things are pretty close if you ignore that feature, however. So be sure to check out the Z1 and the other cameras in this class in person, before you buy!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other ultra-thin cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD400 and SD500, Casio Exilim EX-Z57, Kodak EasyShare V550, Nikon Coolpix S1, Olympus C-630Z and Stylus Verve S, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7, Pentax Optio S5z, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 and DSC-T33.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the FinePix Z1 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see some pictures? Check out our huge photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
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.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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