DCRP Review: Fuji FinePix F401
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, September 20, 2002
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2002

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The Fuji FinePix F401 ($499) is the first lower-cost camera to use Fuji's SuperCCD sensor. The F401 uses the third generation SuperCCD, with 2.1 effective Megapixels. Throw that into a small, sleek body with a 3X optical zoom lens and you've got an impressive digicam.

The "deal" with the SuperCCD is that the individual light sensors on the SuperCCD are arranged in a different pattern that on traditional CCD, allowing for a higher density. That's how a 2.1 Megapixel SuperCCD produces images with 4 million pixels. Of course, there is some interpolation ("guessing") going on by the camera in order to pull that off.

It all sounds good on paper but how does the F401 perform? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The FinePix F401 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.1 (effective) Mpixel Fuji FinePix F401 camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • NP-60 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC adapter / battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring FinePixViewer software and drivers
  • 111 page manual

The F401 uses the NP-60 Li-ion battery, and I swear I've seen it somewhere else before. The battery is rated at 3.7V, 1035 mAh, which gives it 3.8 Watt/hours of power. Fuji estimates that you should be able to take approximately 200 photos with the LCD on, or 450 with the LCD off, on a single charge. To charge the battery, you just plug the included AC adapter into the side of the F401.

Fuji includes a 16MB SmartMedia card with the camera. Prices for memory have come down so much, but why are some companies still giving you such a small card? Another thing I have to wonder: Fuji is switching all their cameras over to the new xD Picture Card format, so I'm willing to bet that the lifespan on the F401 will be short.

The F401 is a pretty small camera

Since the camera has a built-in (and stylish) lens cover, there are no lens cap worries.

The only real accessory for the F401 is the CP-FX401 PictureCradle (price not available). This cradle allows you to charge the battery and transfer photos while the camera comfortably rests in the cradle. No lens or flash accessories are available for the F401.

The F401 works fine with Mac OS X and iPhoto. While I can't confirm it, it should work fine with WindowsXP as well.

I 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.

Fuji's manuals have always been better than average, and that continues to be the case here.

Look and Feel

The FinePix F401 is a very small camera. It's more "square" than other small cameras, but it's quite a bit thinner at the same time. This comparison chart should give you an idea:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D) Weight
Fuji FinePix F401 Zoom 3.3 x 2.7 x 1.1 185 g
Canon PowerShot S200 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 180 g
Canon PowerShot S330 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 245 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P9 4.5 x 2.0 x 1.4 206 g
Olympus D-40Z 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 190 g
Pentax Optio 330/430 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.2 205 g
Kyocera Finecam S3 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.2 165 g

The FinePix's body is all metal, and it feels as good as it looks. The camera fits well in your hands, and you can easily use it with one hand. The F401 fits in any pocket with ease. One thing I don't like about all these small metal cameras is that they tend to scratch easily.

Let's begin our tour of the camera now, starting with the front.

The F401 has the most unique power switch of any camera I've used. If you compare the shot above with the "in hand" one in the previous section, you'll notice a difference. To turn the camera on, you pull that area with the little blue lights away from the lens. With a flash of blue light, the camera then turns on. To close, just reverse the process.

The F401 features an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range of the lens is 5.7 - 17.1 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Northwest of the lens is the flash. The flash has a working range of 0.4 - 3.5 m at telephoto, and 0.4 - 2.0 m at wide-angle (a pretty small coverage area). Again, no external flash options are available, nor would one be expected from a small camera like this.

The other item of interest on the front of the F401 are those three blue lights on the left side. They are shown when the camera is turned on, and also offer a visual countdown of the self-timer.

There is no auto focus illuminator on the F401, unfortunately.

Here is the back of the camera.

The 1.5" LCD is typical size for a smaller camera. It's bright and useable in most conditions, except outside when it's bright. LCD brightness is adjustable via the setup menu.

Above the LCD, at the top of the picture, is the optical viewfinder. The viewfinder has a "widescreen" aspect ratio, meaning it's wide but not tall. It shows 80% of the frame. There is no diopter correction for those with poor vision.

Between the LCD and optical viewfinder is the mode switch, which moves between movie, playback, and record modes.

To the right of that is a kind of four-way switch, which is used for zoom, menu navigation, and changing the macro and flash settings. The zoom buttons move the lens from wide to tele in just over two seconds. The available flash choices are auto, redeye reduction, forced, suppressed, and slow synchro.

Below those buttons you will find three more:

  • Menu/OK
  • Back
  • Disp(lay) - toggles LCD on/off; shows thumbnails in playback mode

Ok, let's continue onto the top of the F401 now!

If you thought the back of the camera was buttonless, have a look at the top! The only things here are the shutter release button and the microphone.

There's a bit more to see on this side of the camera. Here you'll see the speaker, USB port, and DC in port (for included AC adapter). The F401 does NOT have video out.

The only thing over here is the connector for the neck strap. Now where is that SmartMedia slot?

It's down here on the bottom of the camera, along with the battery compartment and plastic tripod mount. I must admit that the system for ejecting the SM is well designed -- it took me a minute to figure out how to do it! Yeah, RTFM, I know!

Using the Fuji FinePix F401

Record Mode

It takes just three seconds for the F401 to extend its lens and "warm up" after you turn it on. That's pretty quick.

When you press the shutter release button halfway, the camera locks focus in under a second, though it does have trouble in low light. Pressing the button fully results in a picture quickly, with little shutter lag. Shot-to-shot speed is quite good -- about two seconds between shots.

Now, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera.

Resolution Quality # photos on 16MB card (included) # photos on 64MB card (for reference)
(2304 x 1728)
Fine 9 40
Normal 19 79
(1600 x 1200)
Normal 39 159
(1280 x 960)
Normal 49 198
(640 x 480)
Normal 122 497

There is no TIFF or RAW support on the FinePix F401.

The FinePix F401 has a simple, and quite nice looking menu system. There aren't many options, but it's easy to find your way around what's there.

One thing I really like is how the menu tells you have many photos you can take in each quality mode (see above).

Let's see what is actually in these menus. Items in bold are only available in manual mode.

  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent)
  • Exposure compensation (-2.1EV to +1.5EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • ISO sensitivity (200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • Self-timer (on/off) - 10 seconds
  • Continuous shooting (Final 4, top 4, off) - see below
  • Option (Setup, LCD brightness, manual/auto mode)

I want to comment on some of these menu items.

The SuperCCD allows the F401 to have impressive ISO flexibility for a consumer-level camera, with a range of 200 - 1600. The catch? If you want ISO 800 or 1600, you'll be forced to use the 1MP resolution.

The F401 has two types of continuous shooting. The first is the normal type (called top 4 here): you can take up to 4 shots with intervals as short as 0.3 seconds. Final 4 is different; you hold down the shutter release and the camera will take up to 25 photos (still with the 0.3 sec interval). When you release the button, or when the buffer is full, the camera saves the last four shots taken.

Let's do our usual photo tests now.

The FinePix did a "fine job" with the macro test. As is the norm with Fuji cameras, the color is right on. You can see a bit of the SuperCCD "artifacting" if you look closely (more on this in a second).

The F401 gave an unimpressive performance high atop Twin Peaks on a beautiful, clear September night. The camera has no control over shutter speed, and there's no "night scene" mode either. The slowest it would go was 1/4 sec, which as you can see, wasn't slow enough. There's also quite a bit of noise.

I took the same shot at ISO 400 and ISO 800 -- as you can see, the noise goes up quite a bit. I also took it at ISO 1600, but I think the camera shook on that picture (but it was noise city), so I'm not posting that one.

There is some noticeable, but not major redeye in our redeye photo test. Since the flash is close to the lens, redeye is more likely than if it was further away (which is why many cameras have pop-up flashes). What you see here could easily be removed in software. The image above was enlarged to show detail.

The FinePix F401 has very good photo quality, for the most part. Fuji always does a really nice job with the color accuracy on their digicams. Also, chromatic aberration (purple fringing) as not a problem. One big issue with these SuperCCD cameras is "artifacting".

When you look at the images on the screen -- especially those taken at the 4MP (interpolated) setting -- you will see noise, artifacts, and "jaggies". Intricate details are often lost (see the red tiled roof in our gallery for an example). Downsizing the image gets rid of them, as does printing -- the 4MP images are excellent when printed on a capable photo printer. The 2MP images will (usually) not have these problems, since there is no interpolation going on.

Please check out the photo gallery and decide about the F401's photo quality for yourself!

Movie Mode

The F401 has an above average movie mode. You can record movies for up to 120 seconds at 320 x 240, or 480 seconds at 160 x 120. It's important to note that the included 16MB card cannot hold that much video. Sound is recorded with the movie.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec, at 10 frames/second.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming, though the digital zoom works okay.

Here's a sample movie for you. I used the digital zoom at the very end.

Click to play movie (AVI format, 2.0MB)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The FinePix F401 Zoom 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.

The zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you zoom in as much as 14.4X into your photo, and then scroll around it. Another nice feature is the ability to crop ("trim") photos when you're zoomed in.

There is no way to get any exposure information about your photos, unfortunately. The F401 moves through your photos at an average clip -- about two seconds go by before the next one is shown.

How Does it Compare?

While not really a standout in any way, the Fuji FinePix F401 is still worth a look. It offers very good photo quality (more so at the native 2MP resolution), good color, a small and stylish metal body, and robust performance. The negatives include the rather high price (considering that it's really a 2.1MP camera), lack of manual controls of any kind, and poor night shot ability. One last concern is over the lifespan of the F401. With Fuji switching all their cameras over to xD, this one is probably going to be replaced soon.

What I liked:

  • Small, stylish metal body
  • High quality pictures in most cases (esp. when downsized or printed)
  • Quick startup time, minimal AF/shutter lag
  • Above average movie mode
  • Improved FinePix Viewer software

What I didn't care for:

  • Noisy images at higher ISO settings (esp. compared to other SuperCCD cameras) plus normal SuperCCD artifacting at interpolated resolutions
  • Disappointing night shot ability
  • Playback mode just OK
  • No manual controls to speak of
  • No AF illuminator
  • Expensive

Other small, 2 Megapixel (or greater) cameras include the Canon PowerShot S200, S230, and S330 Digital ELPHs, Fuji FinePix A203 and A303 (these do not use the SuperCCD), Kodak EasyShare DX4330, Konica KD-400Z, Kyocera Finecam S3X and S4, Minolta DiMAGE X, Nikon Coolpix 2500 and 3500, Olympus D-520Z and D-550Z, Pentax Optio 330RS and 430RS, and the Sony DSC-P2, DSC-P7, and DSC-P9. An exhaustive list, for sure -- this is a crowded field!

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera reseller to check out the FinePix F401 and its competitors, before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photos turned out? Check out our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion?

None available!


Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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