DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix 40i
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, October 8, 2000
Last Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2000

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Convergence is one of the hottest buzzwords around right now. Cell phones and PDAs are converging. The Sony Playstation2 combines a game console and a DVD player. In our review of the Fuji FinePix 40i, you'll see what happens when a digital camera and portable MP3 player get together.

The FinePix 40i really is in a class by itself -- there's nothing else like it on the market. I'm not sure if more cameras like this will pop up though. Most people I showed it to thought it was kind of a strange combination of products. But if you want both a high res digital camera and an MP3 player, the 40i might be what you've been looking for.

The FinePix 40i uses Fuji's exclusive SuperCCD technology, which produces 4.3 million pixel images from a 2.4 Mpixel sensor. You can read more about the SuperCCD in our FinePix 4700 review.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix 40i has all the necessities in the box, including:

  • The 2.4 Mpixel Fuji FinePix 40i camera
  • 16Mb SmartMedia card
  • Two NiMH rechargeable batteries
  • NiMH battery charger
  • Hand strap
  • A/V cable
  • USB cable
  • Remote control
  • Headphones (in-ear type)
  • Software including Audio Transfer Software, RealPlayer Jukebox, MacMP3 LE, and more.
  • Manuals for camera and software

Kudos to Fuji for including the rechargeable batteries and charger. You'll probably want to buy a few more batteries as backup though.

The camera includes a wired remote control (shown above) and headphones. I'm not a big fan of this style of headphones, but it's not a problem -- you can plug in your own just as easily. The remote control has all the buttons like your Discman does including forward/reverse, stop/play, volume, bass boost, mode, and hold (so you don't hit a button when you don't want to).

My main complaint is this area is the skimpy 16MB card that was in the box. If you realistically want to use this camera for playing MP3s, you'll want AT LEAST one 64MB SmartMedia card. I was only able to store four songs on the card (128 kbps bit rate), and had no room for photos. If you're mostly using the camera for photography, you'll probably want a larger card as well.

I'll discuss the MP3 functionality in further detail later in the review.

The manual included with the 40i covers both the photographic and MP3 functions in good detail.

Look and Feel

The FinePix 40i's sexy body is reminiscent of the FinePix 4700. It's all metal (brushed aluminum), and is small and light. A built-in metal lens cap is nice as well. Its dimensions are 3.4 x 2.8 x 1.1 inches, and it weighs just 5.5 ounces empty. The 40i is definitely a one-handed camera since it's so small and light.

The 40i has a fixed focus 8.3mm lens, which is equivalent to 36mm on a 35mm camera. There is no optical zoom on the 40i, though there is a digital zoom available at the lower resolutions (1280 x 960 and 640 x 480).

The simple controls on the back of the camera (above) take care of almost all of the camera's functions.

The optical viewfinder seems a bit small, and lacks diopter correction for those with glasses. Your nose will only smudge the LCD if you use your left eye to look through it.

The 1.8" LCD is bright and fluid. You can adjust the brightness of the LCD at any time by holding down the DISP button.

The three buttons above the LCD control the LCD (on/off) and invoke/navigate the menus. The three buttons on the top right (the middle one moves up and down) are for menu navigation and using the digital zoom.

The mode wheel (top, center) lets you choose between Record, Playback, and Movie modes.

The top of the camera is pretty quiet, since there's no LCD info display to be found. You can see the power switch in the center of the above photo. To turn the camera on or off, you just push it to the right. To listen to MP3s, you slide it to the left.

The shutter release button (far right) is well placed and gives good tactile feedback.

On the side of the camera you'll find ports for A/V, USB, the remote, and the AC adapter. The 40i is a USB only camera, so users of serial connections are out of luck. Just above all those ports is a speaker for playing back movies. (The microphone is on the front of the camera.)

By now you're probably saying, "but where's the SmartMedia slot?!" Rest assured, it's still there, just on the bottom, in the battery compartment. You just open the door and there's your two batteries, as well as the SmartMedia card you can just pull right out.

The tripod mount on the FinePix 40i is metal, to match the rest of the body.

Using the Fuji FinePix 40i

I'm going to discuss the Record, Playback, and MP3 modes in this section.

Record Mode

Record mode, with overlay-style menus

The FinePix 40i starts up and is ready to go in less than two seconds. The LCD does not turn on by default, so you'll have to hit the DISP button to turn it on. Like the FinePix 4700, the shot-to-shot speed on the 40i is very fast - definitely less than one second. This is one of the fastest cameras out there for sure.

Menus in record mode

There are automatic and manual modes on the 40i. In auto mode, you can only adjust flash, macro, and self-timer settings. In manual mode, you can do all that plus adjust exposure compensation and white balance. The exposure compensation range is -1.5EV to +1.5EV, in 0.3EV increments. There are a number of white balance modes, but no manual option is available.

Even in "manual" mode, the FinePix 40i really is only a point-and-shoot camera.

The 40i doesn't have an optical zoom lens, but it does have a digital zoom that you can use in certain circumstances. (What's the difference between the two?) If you're in 2400 x 1800 mode, you're out of luck. But in 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480 you can use a 1.88X or 3.75X digital zoom (respectively).

In our night shot test, the FinePix 40i was about average for a number of reasons. The first being the lack of an optical zoom -- the closer to the skyline I can zoom in, the more detail the camera can capture. Another issue is that there is no night/low light setting on this camera (nor is there a way to set the shutter speed), so this is about as good as you can get in this situation. There isn't too much noise in this shot (especially in the sky), which is good.

The macro test came out pretty well, though the white balance was a bit off. The lighting in the "studio" often fools digital cameras, and the 40i was no exception. The only way I've found to get accurate white balance in this room is to use manual white balance, which few cameras have. Nevertheless, a quick trip through Photoshop can easily fix this problem. You can get as close as 6cm in macro mode on the 40i.

Photo quality is very good overall, though there is definite noise in the pictures due to the interpolation scheme that the SuperCCD uses. You'll especially notice this noise in the darker parts of photos (such as shadows). In past tests, photos printed from a SuperCCD camera print as well as those from a 3 Mpixel traditional CCD camera.

The 40i also has a movie mode, which can record up to 90 seconds of 320 x 240 AVI video with sound. For a sample, see the FinePix 4700 review.

One other fun feature on the 40i is the ability to use the remote control to take pictures and zoom in and out! It's sort of a remote shutter release built right in!

Playback mode

Just like in record mode, the playback mode on the 40i is very fast. You can move between high res photos in a little over one second!

The zoom and scroll feature is available on the 40i, though I found it to be too slow moving for my taste.

Most of the other playback functions are here too (DPOF print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, slideshow), plus a few extra ones that are nice. The first of these is the ability to resize photos to the next lower size. If you have a 2400 x 1800 photo, you can shrink it to 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480. From 1280 x 960,0 you can resize it to 640 x 480.

Another nice feature is the ability to erase all music files, all photos, or both. Of course, you can delete one photo at a time. To delete a song at a time, you have to use the Audio Downloading Software (see below).

There's not much info available on a photo except for the basic info like date and filename. I'd love to see some exposure info too.

MP3 Mode

And finally, the feature that makes the FinePix 40i unique -- it's ability to store and play MP3 files.

Fuji includes a bunch of software to help you "rip" music off your CDs (an out-of-date version of RealJukebox Plus), and an application to send those files to the camera.

Above is a shot from the Mac version of the Audio Downloading Software. The two songs in blue have already been transferred to the camera, and the green one hasn't yet been sent over. Depending on how the MP3 was encoded, the Artist and Comment fields may have something there. Here, only one song has anything in the Artist field. As you can see, with a few photos already on the 16MB card, I can only squeeze three songs onto the camera.

To transfer music, you drag the MP3 file over to the window, and it adds it to the list. You hit the transfer button, and away it goes. And now, a few caveats about the 40i's MP3 support:

  • Bit rates above 128kbps are not supported. Quite a few MP3s found on Napster are above this bit rate, which means you're out of luck, unless you want to decompress them to AIFF or WAV files and encode them again.

  • There's no way to manage these songs from inside the camera. If you're out in the field and see something you have to take a picture of, you can't just delete the Shaft Theme to get that space back -- you'd have to erase all the songs.

  • MP3 files on the camera use copy protection known as InfoBind. This means you can't pop that card into a card reader to share your songs with friends.

  • As I already mentioned, you need a big memory card to truly enjoy this feature. If you get a big enough card, you'll really start to like this portable MP3 player! Even with a 64MB card, that's only 60 minutes of audio with a 128kbps bit rate!

You can listen for up to 150 minutes with the NiMH batteries included with the camera, according to Fuji. Now if you could only hold that much music on the card!

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji Finepix 40i is an interesting concept camera for sure. I suppose sales will decide if another camera like this comes out. As a camera, it does a pretty good job, though I'd love to see an optical zoom on it. As an MP3 player, it's fine, but it's almost useless without a couple of large memory cards. It seems like Fuji cut a few corners to merge these two devices. What I'd like to see in the next version of this camera (if there is one) is a FinePix 4700 with the MP3 functionality, with a 128MB SmartMedia card! I can dream, right?

What I liked:

  • Sexy body and fast processing, just like the FinePix 4700
  • Good picture quality - lots of pixels too
  • MP3 player is cool
  • Extra bonus: remote control as remote shutter release
  • Movie mode with sound

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical zoom; digital zoom only works at lower resolutions
  • Included memory card far too small for real world use as MP3 player
  • Inability to play MP3 files with bit rates higher than 128kbps
  • No real manual controls

The FinePix 40i is certainly a cool camera, and it gets lots of looks. Whether or not the masses are going to buy a device like this is another story. If you're interested in it, you're going to want to buy a bigger memory card for sure.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local retailer to try the 40i first, before you buy! After all, your views may differ from mine!

Photo Gallery

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

Want a second opinion?

Check out Digital Photography Review's look at the FinePix 40i

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

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