Review: Fuji FinePix 3800
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, November 4, 2002
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
of the hottest Christmas gifts last year was the Fuji FinePix 2800Z
(see our review).
And I wasn't surprised at all. The 2800 broke out of the boring
field of 3X zoom cameras, featuring a 6X zoom lens for a great price.
is at it again this year with the FinePix
3800 ($449), which uses the same lens, but bumps the resolution
to 3.2 Megapixel, adds support for conversion lenses, and switches
from SmartMedia to the new xD Picture Card format. I don't have
to tell you that these are going to go quickly!
the FinePix 3800 be under your tree this year? Find out in our review!
in the Box?
FinePix 3800 has an above average bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Fuji FinePix 3800 camera
xD Picture Card
AA alkaline batteries
featuring FinePixViewer software and drivers
on your own as far as batteries go, as the 3800 includes four AA
alkalines that will quickly run out of juice. I highly recommend
buying two or more sets of NiMH rechargeables, which will lost longer
and protect the environment too. Fuji estimates that you'll take
about 320 photos (assuming you use the EVF) with alkaline batteries,
and 350 with NiMH rechargeables.
How xD stacks up with other memory cards. From
left to right: Memory Stick, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, CompactFlash,
of the big features of the 3800 is its use of xD Picture Cards,
instead of SmartMedia like previous Fuji cameras. xD cards are very
small -- perhaps too much so. They are faster than other memory
cards out there (on paper at least), but I still wish we didn't
have another memory card format to deal with. The included 16MB
card is enough to get started, but you'll probably want a larger
one soon after buying the camera.
3800 has a huge lens cap, as you can see. Speaking of which, I'm
very pleased that Fuji supports conversion lenses on the 3800. Better
yet, they have included the adapter (shown later in the review)
in the box. The lens adapter also doubles as a lens hood, for shooting
outdoors. There are two conversion lenses available, each priced
at $179. The WL-FX9 wide-angle lens has a magnification ratio of
0.79, which means you can shoot at 30 mm. The other lens is the
TL-FX9 tele converter, which magnifies things 1.5X, for a grand
total of 340 mm. Remember that you can only use these at the end
of the zoom range: wide-angle with the wide converter, telephoto
with the tele converter.
FinePix accessories include a camera case, AC adapter, xD USB card
reader, and xD PC Card adapter.
3800 works fine with Mac OS X and iPhoto. While I can't confirm
it, it should work fine with Windows XP as well.
am pleased to say that FinePixViewer is now Mac OS X compatible,
and is greatly improved over its Mac OS 9 predecessor. It's snappy
and much more useable than ever before. The software is only really
useful for viewing and rotating images -- you can't correct redeye
or anything like that.
you use a Windows-based PC, you can also use the 3800 as a "PC
cam" for video conferencing. I haven't tried it though.
manuals have always been better than average, and that continues
to be the case here.
FinePix 3800 is a well-built, mostly plastic camera. It looks a
little strange, but I found it very easy to hold and operate. There's
a large grip for your right hand which makes it easy to keep the
dimensions of the camera are 3.9 x 3.0 x 2.7 inches (W x H x D),
and it weighs 295 grams empty. It's not a small camera by any means
and probably won't fit in your pocket. At the same time, it was
never a burden to carry around.
start our tour of the 3800 now!
biggest feature on the 3800 is undoubtedly its 6X Fujinon zoom lens.
This F2.8-F3.0 lens has a focal range of 6 - 36 mm, which is equivalent
to 38 - 228 mm. As I mentioned earlier, the lens is threaded and
you can add conversion lenses.
above the lens is the 3800's pop-up flash. The flash has a working
range of 0.3 - 3.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.8 - 3.5 m at telephoto.
This camera does not support an external flash.
three little holes just northeast of the lens make up the microphone.
the last item on the front of camera. Keeping with recent Fuji tradition,
there's no AF illuminator lamp, which means that for low-light photography
will be frustrated.
the back of the 3800, you can see the 1.8" LCD display. One
thing I don't like about Fuji's mid and lower-end cameras are their
low resolution LCDs. This one here has only 62,000 pixels. For the
sake of comparison, the Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi (the last camera I tested)
had twice that number. The images on the LCD aren't bad, they just
aren't really sharp. Like most LCDs, it becomes harder to use in
bright light outdoors. It's also quite grainy in low light.
above the LCD is the electronic viewfinder, or EVF. EVFs are the
norm for cameras with a big zoom lens. An EVF is a little LCD screen
that you look at through the viewfinder. It shows the same thing
as the LCD, and virtually 100% of the frame. Fuji has a large rubber
eye piece which helps keep your nose off the LCD. The two negatives
here are the lack of a diopter correction knob (to focus the image
on the EVF), and the fact that it becomes unusable in low light.
Cranking up the brightness does not help matters.
camera's default is to use the EVF in record and movie mode. To
switch between the EVF and LCD, you can press the button between
the right of the EVF is the four-way switch. In addition to menu
navigation, this is used for controlling the zoom, activating macro
mode, and changing the flash mode (between auto, auto w/redeye reduction,
forced, slow synchro, and slow synchro w/redeye reduction). The
zoom controls move the 6X from wide to telephoto in about 2 seconds.
three buttons to the right of the LCD are fairly self-explanatory.
The Disp button toggles the information shown on the LCD/EVF.
I had to brace
the camera with the lens cap, which is why this shot looks a bit
the top of the camera, you'll find the mode wheel (two of them,
actually), and the shutter release button. The mode wheel around
the shutter release button moves between off, playback mode, and
other mode wheel will move you between movie, auto record, scene,
and manual record modes. Auto record mode is totally point and shoot.
Manual mode opens up all the menus, but the controls you'll find
aren't really that advanced. More on those later.
scene mode has a number of presets for various situations. This
Scene - only way to get long exposures, with up to 3 sec shutter
- takes two shots in a row at about 1 frame/sec
that last one isn't very exciting. But I did find that the night
scene mode was the only way I could pull off a respectable night
shot. But more on that later in the review.
a lot to see on this side of the camera!
first thing that I want to point out is the conversion lens adapter
that I screwed on. The lens cap sort of fits on it, but it doesn't
like to stay put.
are two I/O ports to see here: USB and DC in (for optional AC adapter).
There is no video out on the FinePix 3800.
above those is the xD Picture Card slot, with the included 16MB
card shown at right. Pretty tiny!
up, we have the speaker. Above that is the release for the pop-up
only thing over here is the connector for the neck strap.
the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery compartment (note
clever use of one battery to brace the camera) and a tripod mount.
I'm not 100% positive, but I think the tripod mount is metal.
the Fuji FinePix 3800
FinePix 3800 has an impressive startup time of just over 2.5 seconds.
The EVF is turned on when you start the camera, and the LCD is off.
You'll see the same thing on the LCD and EVF
good lighting, the 3800 locks focus less than a second after you
halfway-press the shutter release button. In dim or low lighting,
expect a lot of frustration. I dimmed my lights in my office and
was unable to get the camera to focus on anything. Here's where
that AF illuminator comes in handy. The camera does better in terms
of shutter lag -- press the shutter release fully and there's a
very short delay before the picture is taken.
speed is good: about three seconds between pictures.
let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available
on this camera.
photos on 16MB card (included)
photos on 64MB card (for reference)
(2048 x 1536)
(1600 x 1200)
(1280 x 960)
(640 x 480)
3800 doesn't have any TIFF or RAW mode. Files are named DSCFxxxx.JPG,
where x = 0001-9999. One annoying Fuji tradition is the lack of
any file numbering memory. Erase the card, the numbers reset. This
can be frustrating.
FinePix has a basic, nice looking menu system. There aren't many
options, but it's easy to find your way around what's there.
thing I really like is how the menu tells you have many photos you
can take in each quality mode (see above).
see what is actually in these menus. Items in bold are only
available in manual mode. Like most of Fuji's mid and lower-end
cameras, there's nothing really "manual" about manual
compensation (-2.1EV to +1.5EV in 1/3EV increments)
(Auto, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent,
cool white fluorescent, incandescent)
(-0.6EV to +0.6EV in 1/3EV increments)
(Hard, normal, soft)
(Auto, F2.8, F4.8, F8.2) - more below
(Setup, LCD brightness, manual/auto mode)
FinePix 3800 is the first low-cost Fuji camera to have any sort
of "real" manual control. Unfortunately you only get three
aperture values to choose from, but hey, it's a start. By changing
the aperture, you can manipulate the depth of field. By selecting
a wide aperture (like F2.8), you will have a blurred background.
A narrow aperture (F8.2) will result in the foreground and background
both being in focus.
addition to the menu described above, there is also a setup menu.
Items there include the usuals: power saver settings, USB mode,
beep noises, etc.
enough about menus, let's talk photo quality now.
its macro mode is a bit limiting, I'm pleased with the results I
got from the 3800. The colors look good and the subject is sharp.
In macro mode (accessible only via the mode dial), the camera will
be locked at the wide-angle setting -- you can only use the digital
zoom. The focal range in macro mode is 10 - 80 cm.
has pulled it off: they have finally made a lower-cost camera that
can take a decent night shot. The secret is the night scene mode;
auto or manual modes won't get you this. In night scene mode, the
3800 can shoot as slow as 3 seconds. While the above photo won't
win any awards, it's still pretty good. Noise levels are respectable
as well. Go Fuji!
3800 also did a good job with the redeye test. There's really nothing
to complain about! As always, I've enlarged this crop a bit so you
can see the details.
I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, I was happy with
what I saw. The 3800 takes vibrant, sharp images, with Fuji's trademark
color accuracy. Noise levels were a bit higher than I would've liked,
but are certainly acceptable. Purple fringing (chromatic aberrations)
never showed up in any of my test shots. But don't just take my
word for it though, check out the gallery
and judge for yourself.
was not impressed with the FinePix 3800's movie mode. You can record
for a long time: 60 seconds at 320 x 240, and 200 seconds at 160
x 120. Sound is recorded with the movie.
what's wrong? The lens is locked at the wide-angle position! It's
one thing to lock the lens during filming, but to restrict you to
wide-angle only on a 6X zoom seems, frankly, stupid. You can use
the digital zoom if you want, but the quality is lousy if you do
a very short sample movie for you. The quality isn't great, as you
will see. I apologize for the "jump" at the end -- I was
waiting to cross the street!
Click to play movie (AVI format, 1.0MB)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
FinePix 3800 has an average playback mode. While it does feature
thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, and 30 second
voice memos, it lacks the common slide show feature.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you zoom in as much as 12.8X
into your photo, and then scroll around it.
is no way to get any exposure information about your photos, unfortunately.
The 3800 moves through your photos at an average clip -- about 1.5
seconds go by before the next one is shown.
Does it Compare?
it has it's share of problems, the Fuji FinePix 3800 still gets
my recommendation. The thing that will attract people the most to
the 3800 is the 6X optical zoom lens. Behind the lens is a 3.2 Megapixel
CCD which takes good quality photos. In terms of controls, the 3800
is pretty limited, though it was nice to see a kind of aperture
priority mode. The night scene feature was also welcome, as it allowed
me to finally take a respectable night shot with a low
cost Fuji camera! Support for conversion lenses is a plus. Some
annoyances include the lousy movie mode, lack of a file numbering
system, and poor low light focusing. The latter is important: if
you take a lot of shots in dim light, this is not the camera for
you. Some kind of manual focus feature would've helped to make up
for the lack of an AF illuminator. So hopefully you can take what
you've learned from this review and decide if the Finepix 3800 is
the right camera for you!
good photo quality
optical zoom in a lower priced camera
easy to use interface
startup, shooting speeds
redeye, night shot results
for conversion lenses
I didn't care for:
AF illuminator -- poor low light focusing ability
movie mode. Wide-angle only?
memory for file numbers
hard to see in low light
could be better
only other lower-cost cameras with a 6X zoom or better are the HP
Photosmart 850 (8X), and the Olympus C-720
Ultra Zooms (8X and 10X, respectively). I for one would love to
see more manufacturers coming out with < $500 big zoom cameras!
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera reseller to check
out the FinePix 3800 and its competitors, before you buy!
to see how the photos turned out? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
find one at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.