Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd|
Stylish, ultra-compact 8-megapixel camera with advanced features
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Like most manufacturers, FujiFilm groups its cameras into different categories, with the "Z" Series representing the "stylish" segment. In FujiFilm's parlance, these cameras have "ultra-compact design with state-of-the-art technology for digital photography with flair." When we reviewed the original FinePix Z1 a couple of years ago, we liked its elegant and unique design, image quality and small size, but complained about the lack of features. There have been a number of additional FujiFilm "Z" Series cameras since then, each a bit sleeker and more powerful than the one it replaced, and now the company introduced the Z100fd as he new flagship of the line. What has changed, and what do you get?
FujiFilm describes the new camera as an eye catching ultra-compact, 8-MegaPixel digital camera designed for the stylistically influenced consumer. Sporting a totally redesigned metal body with a unique 'diagonal slide' lens cover and illuminated 'Z' logo, the FinePix Z100fd is available in four eye-catching color schemes, 'Shell Pink', 'Satin Silver', 'Cappuccino Brown' and 'Tuxedo Black' (a striking black special edition with a contrasting white sliding cover panel).
Having a choice of colors is always nice and FujiFilm certainly chose some eye-catching ones. We've never been too terribly fond of those sliding lens covers because they needlessly add thickness and heft to a slender camera. The fact that the one on the Z100 slides diagonally is novel and perhaps a conversation item, but we'd have preferred for Fuji to relocate the position lens instead. Like in the old Z1, it sits on the upper right of the camera where it is all too easy to obstruct the lens with a finger. The illuminated "Z" logo adds another nice stylish touch, but you're not alone if you're getting impatient to learn about the substance, what this new camera can do. Fortunately, there's a lot of good news to report.
In digital photography, progress is gradual and often a new model seems almost identical to one it replaces. However, compare the latest with what was available two or three years ago, and you see very substantial change. Compared to the FinePix Z1 of just over two years ago, the new Z100 offers more in every respect, and it does so at just over half the price of the old Z1. You get eight megapixel instead of five, a bigger zoom, far more flexibility, more sensitivity, a larger and much better LCD display, and many more features. You also get technologies that simply were not available in inexpensive consumer cameras a couple of years ago, like advanced image stabilization.
What you get with the FujiFilm FinePix Z100fd
That would be a very small and handy camera with a footprint of 3.6 x 2.2 inches, just a bit larger than a credit card. It's slender, too -- just 0.8 inches (despite the sliding cover). And it weighs very little -- not even five ounces without its rechargeable battery. Apart from the playful color schemes and sliding cover, the styling is clean and no-nonsense. The Z100 is a little metal box, all angular in front and with some curves in the back. 8-megapixel resolution is pretty much standard these days, and it is enough for very large prints and substantial cropping.
We've always been fond of internal zooms and the Z100fd has one. There is no big lens barrel motoring in and out; the entire zoom mechanism is tightly packed inside the housing. Internal zooms are offered by other manufacturers as well, but few offer a full 5X optical zoom that's all internal. More optical zoom is always better, and here the Z100fd shines.
Optical viewfinders are a thing of the past, and that means the size and quality of the LCD display are becoming ever more important. FujiFilm gave the Z100 a 2.7-inch amorphous silicon LCD with hgh 230,000 pixel resolution. That is large enough to see and enjoy pictures, and the high resolution means the image is very crisp and you can actually see if a picture is in focus when you zoom in.
Every year brings technological advancements that quickly become "must-have" items. 2007 brought image stabilization and face detection, and the Z100fd has both. Image stabilization means the camera tries to avoid blurry pictures that happen when you don't hold the camera steady. There are different technologies usually described as "optical" and "digital" stabilization. The Z100fd has both. Mechanical image stabilization shifts the camera's CCD sensor to counteract movement. And digital stabilization uses shorter exposure times and higher sensitivity to get sharper pictures in low-light conditions. Usually you get either one or the other, but rarely both in consumer cameras.
Face detection means the camera has the ability to recognize a face, or faces, in a picture and make sure those are in focus and properly exposed. That makes for better protraits. Fuji developed a new chip that, in conjunction with complex software, can detect up to ten faces, expose them properly, and even automatically fix the dreaded red-eye.
Another thing that has changed in this new FinePix camera is storage. Earlier Fujifilm cameras exclusively used xD Picture cards, a format far less common than SD cards. The Z100fd has a card slot that can accommodate either xD or SD cards, including the SDHC format used by the latest high capacity SD cards. This way new Fujifilm owners can use their existing SD cards rather than having to buy the often more expensive xD Picture cards. In addition, you get 54MB of onboard storage to tide you over when card is full.
The Z100fd's hardware controls are laid out logically and cleanly. The backside shows a symmetrical arrangement with a central jog dial control wheel flanked by zoom and display rockers. The jog dial combines the usual 4-way navigation and cycling through various functions (flash, macro, time delay, image stabilization, etc.) with a scroll wheel for selection and a menu/ok button in the center.
For data transfer to a computer, the Z100fd uses not only USB but also infrared. The addition of IR is interesting as IR ports on computers are less and less common.
Like most consumer digicams these days, the Z100fd offers a variety of shooting modes instead of manual control of shutter speed and aperture. You get modes for natural light, natural with flash, portrait, landscape, sport, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, underwater (requires optional underwater housing>, museum, party, flowerd, text, and auction (creates merged images for eBay and such). There's a "dual shot" mode where the camera quickly shoots two images in succession, one with and one without flash, and saves both. A "Blog" mode resizes any picture to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 right in the camera. In movie mode you can shoot 640 x 480 video at 30 frames per second until the card is full.
Those who like to get close to subjects will appreciate the macro mode that let's you get as close as 3.5 inches. There is also an auto focus assist illuminator lamp for proper focussing and exposure in low-light conditions.
With the Z100fd, Fujifilm offers its most advanced "Z" series camera yet. It is a small and slender 8-megapixel camera with eye-catching design and color options. The fully internal 5X optical zoom means no annoying lens barrel protruding from the camera. A combination xD Picture Card and standard SD card slot provides more storage options. The Fuji Super CCD HR imager makes for excellent picture quality, and the camera has both mechanical and digital image stabilization. The Z100fd lists for US$249.99, far less than older "Z"series top of the line cameras, but at the high end of 8-megapixel consumer cameras. Its performance and features justify the price.
Not so much:
- The Fuji Super CCD HR imager
- Large, high resolution 2.7-inch display
- Nicely styled, easy to use
- 5X internal optical zoom
- Dual image stabilization almost eliminates blur
- Addition of IR only marginally useful as IR is becoming rare
- Diagonally gliding lens cover a bit gimmicky and adds to thickness
- No zoom in movie mode
- Apparently no voice recording mode