DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 4900 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, December 4, 2000
Last Updated: Monday, December 4, 2000

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Last month, I reviewed the first of the new generation of "big guns", the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom ($999). That camera featured a 10X optical zoom and 2.1 Megapixel CCD. The Fuji FinePix 4900 Zoom ($999) that I'll review here takes a little off the zoom (6X), but adds a higher resolution SuperCCD, which produces images with 4.3 million pixels (2400 x 1800). In the end, however, I found these cameras to be more alike than different.

The SuperCCD is different than the traditional CCD used in almost every other camera. It's unique design allows it to produce high resolution images from a fairly small CCD sensor (in this case, 2.4 Mpixel). Because interpolation is involved in this process, some noise is viewable in most images. However, when printed, it's nearly nonexistent. You can read more about the technology in our FinePix 4700 review.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix 4900 Zoom box contains everything you need to start shooting. It includes:

  • The 2.4 Mpixel Fuji FinePix 4900 Zoom camera
  • 16Mb SmartMedia card
  • NP-80 rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • AC adapter / battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Software including Adobe PhotoDeluxe, ActiveShare, and drivers
  • Manuals for camera and software

A big "hurrah" to Fuji for covering all the bases here.

Camera with NP-80 battery

Fuji includes the familiar NP-80 Lithium-ion battery with the camera. The good news is that it's rechargeable (and the AC adapter is in the box). The bad news is that a spare NP-80 will cost you over $60. If you thought proprietary memory formats were the worst problem with cameras, it looks like batteries are catching up. I found battery life to be about average with this camera. I was able to do a full day of photo taking during my recent trip to Florida with one battery. Fuji claims that you'll get 100-120 shots per charge, depending on LCD usage.

One of my favorite things to pick on in camera reviews is the lack of lens caps and straps to keep them attached to the camera. Luckily, I don't need to complain about either, as Fuji includes both of these, as you can see above. The lens cap is sturdy and doesn't pop off accidentally.

The FinePix 4900's lens is threaded, and Fuji sells a few accessory lenses, such as the wide angle lens you see above. The WL-FX9 wide conversion lens includes a step up ring, and the 0.79X lens. No word on pricing at this point.

Look and Feel

Fuji was definitely going for the SLR design when they created the FinePix 4900 Zoom. It kind of looks like the camera of the future, with a metallic silver body and controls. The fit and finish on the 4900 is very good. I especially like the mode wheel, which is very "notchy" and solid-feeling. There's a large grip for your right hand, but its tough to find room for your left hand which isn't on top of the controls on the side of the camera. I found myself accidentally zooming sometimes.

The cameras dimensions are 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.7 inches, and it weighs in at 14.5 ounces empty. By comparison, the Olympus C-2100s dimensions are 4.44 x 3.06 x 5.56 inches, and it weighs 19 ounces (1.2 lbs) empty.

The lens of the camera is probably the main draw of the 4900. It's a Super EBC Fujinon lens with a 6X zoom ratio (7.8mm - 46.8mm, which is equivalent to 35mm - 210mm on a 35mm camera). The lens does come out of the barrel, which is different from the C-2100 which kept the lens inside its "snout" at all times. The zoom on the FinePix is noisier than the C-2100, and it's a bit slower moving as well.

No, the optical viewfinder isn't usually lit up like that. But like with the Olympus C-2100, this viewfinder isn't really optical at all. It's actually a Electronic Viewfinder -- where you look at a LCD of the frame instead of the actual frame. While some people enjoy having the on-screen information that an EVF can supply, I much prefer a real optical viewfinder. On a bright day in Florida, I couldn't see the image in the EVF -- so I had to use the regular LCD instead, which was actually easier to see. Unlike Olympus and Sony's EVFs, the FinePix lacks diopter correction for those of us with glasses.

Another thing I noticed is that some EVFs are better than others. I wasn't terribly impressed with either the C-2100 or FinePix 4900's EVFs, but I just figured that was the best that could be done at this point. Then I got the Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000, and I saw that someone can make a really nice EVF -- Sony's is light years better than the competition. I'm hoping that these things will either go away, or they'll have to improve quite a bit to win me over.

The main 1.8" LCD is nice -- smooth and bright. The rubber cover around the EVF prevents your nose (well, mine at least) from smudging the main LCD.

The buttons immediately around the LCD are for controlling various menu options. The DISP button toggles the text and framing guidelines on or off on the LCD.

In addition to its duties as a menu navigator, the four-way switch also doubles as a zoom control (up and down).

Just to the right of the EVF is a button which switches between the main LCD and the EVF.

The Focus Check button in action

Just right of that is the Focus Check button, which enlarges the center of the frame you're composing, so you can check on the focus. The button to the right of that is the AE-Lock, which locks the exposure settings until you turn it off. This feature is handy for panoramic shots where you don't want the background or sky changing from frame to frame.

Now looking at the top of the camera. The FinePix 4900 has a hot shoe for external flashes, which the C-2100 lacked (though it did have a flash sync port).

The buttons to the right of that are for self-timer and continuous shooting (top), as well as power and record/playback (bottom). To the right of that is the shutter release (top), macro and flash controls (middle), and mode wheel (bottom).

The mode wheel has a number of options, including:

  • Movie mode
  • Scene Position
  • Auto
  • Program Mode
  • Shutter Priority Mode
  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • Full Manual Mode
  • Setup

As I already mentioned, I like the feel of the mode wheel -- it's also probably the only metal mode wheel on any digital camera. Below it is another metal dial for changing settings like shutter speed and aperture.

Shutter Priority mode lets you choose speeds ranging from 3 sec to 1/1000 sec. In aperture priority mode you can choose a number of settings between f2.8 and f11.

Scene Position mode is similar to S-Program mode on the C-2100. Here, you can choose from a few different situations, and the camera picks the most appropriate settings. The choices here are strangely similar to those on the C-2100:

  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Sports/Action
  • Night Scene

My thought about modes like this is that if you're going to do it, go all the way. See the Nikon Coolpix 880 or most Casio cameras for a really full-featured Scene mode (with choices like fireworks, food, and sunsets).

The shutter release button has a bit too much "play" for my taste -- there's lots of dead space before you get halfway, and then it takes just a little more of a push to go all the way down.

Just when you thought we were done, a bunch of extra buttons showed up on the side of the camera. On the far left, there's a switch for auto/manual focus. If you put it in manual focus, you get to use the focus ring you can see on the left. This is not a mechanical focus ring -- it's essentially a big dial. The camera shows little arrows on the LCD or EVF to tell you which way you need to twist the ring in order to get proper focus.

Just below the MF/AF toggle is the other zoom control on the 4900. This is the one that I kept bumping accidentally with my left hand.

Info button in record mode

Below and to the right of the zoom control is the Info button. In record and playback mode, it shows something similar to the above, which tells you more info about the photo you're about to take / have taken.

Above the info button are buttons for exposure compensation and manual white balance. For exposure compensation, you can move between -2.0EV and +2.0EV, in 1/3EV increments.

One big advantage the 4900 holds over the C-2100 is support for manual white balance. When I take the photos of the camera you see above, I'm forced to use manual white balance, since most cameras just don't get it right. So this is a pretty important feature, for me at least. You just put a white piece of paper in front of the camera and hit the the magic button, and that's the new white balance setting.

Here's a close-up look at all the buttons, plus a peek under the plastic door which hides the I/O ports. Here, we've got ports for USB, video out, and DC in. The FinePix 4900 doesn't support serial connections.

On the other side, you'll find the SmartMedia slot under a plastic door. The slot isn't spring loaded, so you just yank the card right out.

Finally, the bottom of the camera. You can see the battery compartment to the left of the photo, and a metal tripod mount right in the middle. A metal tripod mount is much less likely the be stripped than the plastic mount on other cameras, including the C-2100UZ.

Using the Fuji FinePix 4900 Zoom

I'm going to discuss the Record and Playback modes in this section.

Record Mode

The FinePix 4900 gives you a number of choices for record mode, ranging from "let the camera do everything" Auto mode, to "let me set a few things" Program mode, all the way to "lemme at it" Manual mode.

The camera fires up in about four seconds -- about twice as long as the C-2100, but then again, it has a lens to extend. There's some lag while the camera autofocuses on a subject - a little less than a second. When you depress the shutter release fully, the photo is taken pretty quickly. As others have said, the FinePix 4900 takes photos so quickly that you're not sure if it took it or not. You can go to the Setup option on the mode wheel to turn on a "Preview" mode which will let you confirm or delete each photo. The recycle time on the FinePix 4700 and 4900 is probably the fastest of any consumer digital camera out there.

As I mentioned, one of the advantages of the EVF is that you can see a bunch of information that you just can't get on an optical viewfinder. What you see in the above picture is what you'd see in the EVF.

For a camera with so many features, the FinePix 4900 has a surprisingly simple menu system, which is accessible in P/S/A/M modes. You can change the following settings:

  • External flash (on/off)
  • Sharpness (hard/normal/soft)
  • Auto bracketing (1EV, 2/3EV, 1/3EV, off)
  • Flash strength (-0.6EV to +0.6EV in 0.3EV increments)
  • White balance (auto, manual, sunlight, cloudy, fluorescent [3 choices], incandescent)
  • Metering (multi, spot, average)
  • ISO (125, 200, 400, 800)

A number of other options are available in Setup mode:

  • File size/quality (see below)
  • Preview (on/off)
  • Auto power save (on/off)
  • Beep (volume)
  • Date/time

The chart below describes the various size and quality modes available on the FinePix 4900:

Resolution 2400 x 1800 1600 x 1200 1280 x 960 640 x 480
Quality Mode Hi (TIFF) Fine Normal Basic Fine Normal Fine Normal Normal
Image Data Size 12.7MB 1.7MB 810KB 330KB 770KB 390KB 620KB 320KB 90KB
Num. photos on 16MB card 1 9 19 47 20 39 25 49 165

As you can see, the FinePix 4900 does have an uncompressed TIFF mode. The nice thing about it on this camera is that it does all the processing in the background, so you can keep on using the camera instead of waiting for it to write. When viewing the TIFF in playback mode, it'll take around 15 seconds for the image to show up on the LCD.

I had one weird problem with my FinePix 4900, and it's probably just my unit since I haven't heard any other complaints. If the camera went to sleep to save power, sometimes after it's awaken, it would be unresponsive. The LCD would work and all that, but none of the buttons did anything. The only way to bring it back to life is to remove the battery. Again, I'm thinking it might just be my camera since nobody else has mentioned this.

I had some trouble getting good saturation in our macro test shot. Tinkering with manual white balance and auto bracketing still left me with the washed-out photo you see above. But that's why they created Photoshop. A quick run through Auto Levels added that missing saturation in a second.

The FinePix 4900 takes exceptional night shots, as you can see from the above photo. I was very pleased with how my night shots from Walt Disney World turned out -- especially with a tripod!

The FinePix also has a movie mode available, though it lacks sound recording. You can record up to 160 seconds at a time, at 320 x 240 @ 10 frames/sec. You can use the zoom lens during filming as well, as you'll see in my example below.

Watch the end of Fantasmic! (7.3MB AVI format)
Sorry it's hard to see, the smoke doesn't help!

Overall, I was pleased with the photos that the 4900 produced. They did have a tendency to be overexposed, but that can be remedied with auto bracketing or just taking the exposure compensation down a notch. Judge the photo quality for yourself in the gallery!

Playback mode

The Fuji FinePix 4900 has a good playback mode -- about the same as the Olympus C-2100. You've got the basics covered with feature like slideshows (with choice of transitions), protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail mode, and "zoom and scroll".

Playback mode

The zoom and scroll mode is a bit clumsy. You use the zoom controls to slowly move closer into your photo, and if you want to scroll to the side, you've got to hit the shift button to switch to panning mode. Both of these are choppy and slow. Casio and Canon still have the best implementation of this feature.

A nice feature on the 4900 is the ability to resize your photos. Using the menus, you can downsize your photos to the next size down. By default, the original sized photo is not deleted automatically.

Another interesting feature is the Fast Forward mode, which lets you quickly scroll through thumbnails to get to the photo you want. If you'd like, the traditional 9 thumbnails at once is available by pressing the DISP button twice.

Hitting the Info button gives you some details about the photo you've taken, such as resolution, quality, and exposure settings.

Moving between photos is pretty snappy - it takes a little over one second to go from one to the next. However, if one of those thumbnails is a TIFF file, it will take about 15 seconds for that one to display.

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji FinePix 4900 Zoom is a full-featured, capable camera that can be enjoyed by beginners and pros alike. The 6X optical zoom really comes in handy sometimes (see the tiger picture in the gallery for a good example) -- it really overpowers the standard 3X zoom of most cameras. The camera is also one of the fastest out there, with minimal processing times. The build quality is very good, and the camera includes an attractive bundle.

How does it compare to the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom, which is the same price? That's a tough one. The Olympus clearly out guns the FinePix with it's 10X optically stabilized zoom lens. It has most of the same features as the FinePix such as manual controls and TIFF mode. It does have movies with sound, which the FinePix does not offer. The FinePix, however, offers superior resolution, faster processing, manual white balance, and a hot shoe. So you'll want to decide what features are important to you, and use this review to help you decide -- because I'm not going to do it for you. Oh, and be sure to head out to a local camera store and try them both out to see what fits you better.

What I liked:

  • Good build quality
  • Full manual controls (inc. white balance)
  • Super fast processing speeds
  • Uncompressed TIFF mode
  • Amazing 6X optical zoom
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Impressive night shots

What I didn't care for:

  • No sound in movie mode
  • Scene mode a bit limited
  • Not totally sold on Electronic Viewfinders
  • Zoom and scroll feature in playback mode could be better

You already know that the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom is the main competition, but also check out the Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000 and MVC-FD95.

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? Or more?

Check out FinePix 4900 reviews from Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource, and DP Review.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.

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