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Review – Fuji FinePix Z20fd

by David Tong

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Overview

From Fuji’s website:

[tag]Fuji[/tag] [tag]FinePix Z20fd[/tag] features at a glance:

  • 10 Megapixels
  • 2.5-inch LCD screen
  • 3x Fujinon zoom lens
  • Stylish ultra compact design
  • Face Detection Technology with intelligent automatic red-eye removal
  • Dual shutter releases: One button for still capture, one for movie record, for ease of use
  • Intelligent Flash: i-Flash detects subtle lighting differences within a scene, and then varies the flash intensity accordingly. It also uses the high sensitivity of the FinePix Z20fd to enable the camera to use less flash, preventing that “blasted with light” effect that so many digital camera flashes leave you with
  • Dual Shot Mode: In this mode, the FinePix Z20fd quickly shoots two images in succession — one with and one without the flash — saving both. This convenient function lets the user perform an on-the-spot picture comparison and decide whether the FinePix Z20fd produced the best shot with or without flash
  • Special scene modes: The FinePix Z20fdhas 14 scene positions including Fireworks, Beach and Snow, offering a one-touch setting for almost any situation
  • xD/SD/SDHC compatible slot: A single media slot that accepts both xD Picture card and SD/SDHC media cards
  • Stamp It: Add a little fun to your images by “stamping” a variety of fun designs to up to three detected faces in your shots!
  • Battery Life: Long-life rechargeable Li-ion battery

Exterior

This camera is clearly aimed at the casual, fashionable, chic market and it is available in red, pink, green, blue, and black. The camera is very small and handy measuring only 3.6″ long, 2.2″ in height, and about 0.8″ at its thickest (slide cover included). Priced at about S$299, it sits comfortably between the entry level and lower-mid-level pocket cameras.

A sliding cover powers the camera on and off as well as protect its lens at the corner of the body. A handy notch allows you to easily slide the cover as it locks into place. The Fujinon 35-105mm f/3.7-f/8 (3x) zoom lens does not extend during zooming and focusing, which helps keep the sleekness of the body untouched. The half-inch flash unit can be seen when you slide the cover out. The whole camera body is made of reinforced plastic with a brushed-metal feel. The tolerances are tight and the body is very robust.

The battery and memory card compartment sits at the base of the camera alongside the mini-USB jack, both are color matched to the body. The battery/memory card door snaps firmly into place despite feeling a little flimsy when flipped open.

It is worth noting that the camera uses an SD/SDHC memory card and not the expensive, proprietary xD card that the old Fuji camera uses. Strangely, if the memory card is not fully inserted into its slot, the sliding compartment cover can still be closed snugly and the camera will not “see” a memory card being used and will notify you that the camera’s generous 45MB internal memory.

A standard-sized, tripod mount is positioned just off-center of the camera base.

The rear of the camera is dominated by a 2.5″ LCD screen, with two 4-way toggle dials and a display button. The upper dial controls the Face Recognition, zoom, and playback features while the bottom dial controls the main selection button, anti-blur, flash, macro, timer, infrared, and delete functions.

The sides of the camera shows the speaker/microphone on one side, while the other side houses the IR sensor and strap attachment slot.

The Fuji FinePix z20fd slips into your pocket unobtrusively and the rounded profile of the camera won’t snag your clothing when you need to whip it out in a jiffy.

One problem I do have with cameras like the z20fd where the small lens is placed at the edge of the camera body is the odds of your fingers blocking or smudging the lens will be a very frequent occurrence. Try to hold the left side of the camera with an “L” finger arrangement instead.

Finally, the Fixepix z20fd features a one-touch movie mode where a dedicated shutter for movie mode is available at any time. There’s no need to switch to movie mode via menu or knob, anytime you want to shoot video, a small shutter button beside the main shutter button is all it takes to start and stop your movie capture.

Lens

The Fuji FinePix z20fd sports a decent 35-105mm lens, as mentioned earlier. It’s not a very fast lens but is adequate for most day-to-day usage. It is very sharp and provides excellent color and contrast. The lens exhibits quite a lot of flare regardless of zoom angles, so try to shade it with your off-hand if possible. Mild vignetting is also visible up to around 60mm range. The lens’ weakest point for me would be distortion and flare control. In general, avoid high-contrast, wide-angle scenes, if possible. Then again, this camera is designed for day-to-day, casual shooting, I’m sure most users won’t find this too bothersome.

There’s a strange phenomenon here as well, when you view the images through the camera’s LCD, the distortion and pincushioning is much more pronounced than the actual image captured, this will make it difficult for those who are trying to level their images when shooting a clear horizon.

Macro performance is decent and having the lens at the corner of the camera helps a bit since the lens doesn’t block the available light when you get close to the minimum focusing distance.

Features

The FinePix z20fd’s processing engine works well with the hardware. The resulting images are sharp, crisp, and noise is well controlled for a small sensor. The JPEG images are full of sharp details without smudging as well, which is important.

As you can see between ISO 64 and ISO 1600, the noise and detail differences are visible, but hardly unusable for small and medium prints. For a small and affordable pocket camera, I find this to be impressive for a budget camera.

ISO 64

ISO 1600

ISO 1600

The color tone differences are due to the actual ambient light changing (I was in a bus). Fuji continues to do an admirable job with balancing noise control and detail retention even with their “fashionable” camera line.

The FinePix z20fd’s dynamic range isn’t great as it tends to clip highlights in high-contrast scenes but it’s at par with most other cameras at this class.

I do want to talk about the flash for a moment as most users of this camera will undoubtedly use flash quite often. I’m glad to say that the intelligent flash metering of the camera provides nice flash exposures in most cases, even on back-lit scenes. Recycle rate is a bit slow, however, but pretty average for an entry-level camera.

Color modes include the usual Standard, Chrome, and Monochrome modes, with Chrome providing a deeper saturated image compared to Standard.

White balance is good to excellent in most cases, very accurate in auto white balance mode in most cases and the presets offers subtle changes as necessary.

There’s one gimmicky but (I think) useful features squeezed into the z20fd, the “Auction” mode. It allows you to take a series of photographs in pre-determined layout modes for online auction purposes. It’s quite a fun mode to use and it’ll save most casual auctioneers from doing layouts for their items.

Battery life is good to excellent depending on how often you use the flash.

Overall, the target market of the FinePix z20fd would be the chic, no-frills casual snapper who wants a fairly fast responsive camera that’s stylish to carry while providing decent images for web and small prints. The Fuji FinePix z20fd will satisfy such users with ease. There are no manual or complex modes to fiddle with, which is just fine for most users of this segment.

It’s a more than decent camera for most users, but if you seek higher quality optics, controls, or results, you might want to try the more upscale F-series of Fuji FinePix cameras.

Good:

– Stylish and Pocketable

– Affordable

– Good high-ISO images and flash exposures

Bad:

– Lens flare and quality at wide angles.

– Slow flash recycling.

– Average high-contrast scene images.

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