Fujifilm FinePix 40i review

Started Sep 26, 2002 | User reviews thread
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David Chien
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Fujifilm FinePix 40i review
Sep 26, 2002

Pretty long, but useful because I've used and abused this baby over 9000+ pictures over the past two years, and it has been my camera of choice for the most part when I want a small, portable travel and general use camera that is light enough to take with me everywhere.

Solid as a rock and takes all the abuse I've given it without a sweat due to the solid metal casing.

Must use it as a daytime camera or well-lit evening camera because of very limited low light capability and short 4-6' flash range. Indoors in a school classroom with the lights on is the lowest lighting condition you'd want to take =good= quality pictures in. Lower light levels either introduce too much grain and poor color quality, or no picture at all. Times Square, N.Y. at night works fine however, given the enormous amount of light there.

Crisp, clear optical viewfinder lets you view everything just fine even in bright sunlight where the LCD panel washes out and becomes nearly/is impossible to see.

Image quality was great when it was released a few years ago, and you can make quite nice 8x10" prints from the images, esp. after reducing the noise with Qimage Pro.

but today, the lot of 3-4MP mini-cameras such as the 3MP Canon Elph can produce better images with lower noise levels at the same image sizes without the limitations of the Fuji, including higher SuperCCD sensor noise in images, short flash range, limited low light capability, no CompactFlash for 1GB+ card support, etc, etc.

Thus, if you've got one or want a digicam that can playback MP3s, it is a nice camera. If you're buying something new and are looking today, then it's not the first choice by far. Here, even the 3MP Minolta X (to be released soon), would be my #1 pick over my trusy 40i, beating it easily with an internal 3x optical zoom and smaller, lighter body. My second choice for a MP3/small digital would be the Casio EXILIM 2MP model -- although the image quality on this is lower quality, it's sufficient to take nice 4x6" prints and decent 8x10" prints given the super, super small size and weight. The 40i feels and looks like a monster next to the EXILIMs! (or for that matter, even a Canon Elph!)

Still, battery-wise, the use of AA batteries are a godsend because I can buy packs of Ni-Mh AAs cheaper than any propritary battery back used by most other small digicams, and that means I never have to worry about running out of power on a long day's travel, where I usually go through 3-5 sets of 2 AA Ni-Mhs and 2-3 128MB flash cards with several hundred photos taken. Here, the 40i shines because if one were to buy extra battery packs for the other digicams, the cost alone would be another $50-150 just for 2-3 spares

The lack of a fast ISO speed and a minimum 1/2 second shutter speed means that the 40i is also limited in exposing nightime shots vs. most of the other, newer cameras out today, such as the Minolta X. Thus, simply expect to miss night shots. Fuji has taken care of this with their latest f402 model, which directly replaces the 40i, but does remove the MP3 feature (which I honestly, rarely ever use) while adding improved ISO speeds up to 1600. However, even the f402 is limited by a minimum shutter speed of 1/4th second! (vs. 2 seconds on the Minolta X)

Thus, my ratings for everything reflect my usage over the past two years, and the $350 I bought it for back then, when there wasn't anything else as small.

Nowadays, I'd rate the image quality lower at about 3.5-4 and the value at 3.0 if the 40i is to be compared to other, newer digicams such as the Minolta X.

A few tips for 40i uses follow, along with resolution test comparison vs. APS disposable camera, and more comments at length.

As you may have read earlier, my article at:
http://www.silverace.com/dottyspotty/ discusses the fundamental
physical reasons why the current crop of 2-4MP digital cameras for
<$1000 for the home consumer market cannot beat a basic 35mm Point &
Shoot camera using 100 speed film in terms of resolution and image
quality.

However, this does not mean such digital cameras cannot beat a film
camera! A 2-3 MP digital camera today can beat a disposable APS film
camera in terms of quality and resolution, due to a lower quality lens
and smaller frame size in the disposable APS cameras.

In a direct same-day, same-position test of the Fuji Finepix 40i
digital camera (2400x1800 mode, lowest compression ratio, best image
quality) against the Fuji Disposable QuickSnap Multi-View APS camera,
I've found that the image quality and resolution of the 40i image is
actually greater than that achieved by the QuickSnap APS camera by a
noticable amount. (ie. APS disposable cameras yield horribly
low-resolution, low-quality pictures)
----Details of the comparison

The 40i image was viewed at 100% size on a 15" monitor. The
QuickSnap images were printed by Kodak to standard 4x7" size paper, and
examined under a 4x magnifier to enlarge details to approximately the
same viewing size as the 40i image on screen.

Several pictures were taken at the local beach, of the pier, the
beach to the horizon, etc.

In one image, the words on a sign posted on the pier was sharper and
more defined in the 40i image than the QuickSnap image.

In another image, the children playing in the foreground of the 40i
image were more crisply defined and detailed than in the QuickSnap
image.

In another image, the small lifeguard towers in the distance were
more detailed and sharper in the 40i picture than in the QuickSnap
image.

In general, I'd say ~10-30% better on the 40i vs. QuickSnap APS.

-- hide signature --

http://www.silverace.com/bad40ipic.jpg

No in-camera adjustments made except:
Manual Mode & 0.6+EV set. No flash, Auto WB, etc. - everything else
default.

Reduced from the 2400x1800 original in a paint program and saved as a
JPEG file, but no color/contrast/brightness modifications were made -
the odd orange sky you see is exactly what you see on the 40i LCD
viewscreen during playback.

Yes, that was a blue sky this Sunday at the beach, turned horribly
orange by the Finepix 40i. All other photos taken before and after this
one at other subjects had no such problems. Batteries were just fully
recharged and working perfectly.

I suspect that extreme exposure situations can cause the internal
algorithms of the 40i to exceed bounds and lead to such problems. Other
40i and similar users of related Fuji Finepix digicams should be aware
this may be a problem.

Another possiblity is that the internal system have not been fully powered by the time the camera is started up and the button pressed quite soon thereafter, but I have never been able to duplicate this problem on purpose.

----
> Otherwise, how are you liking it? Any other oddities?

Nice, portable digicam that's pretty friendly as a point & shoot (ie.
don't expect to do 35mm SLR manual tricks with it like depth of field,
aperature/shutter speed adjustments, etc.). If you use it as such, it's
great.

Besides the bad points below, and as long as you use it as a P&S, and
if you get a really good price on one like I did ($350), then it's a
great all-day carry around P&S digicam that's among the smallest and
most porable digicams you can carry about.

I like mine a lot since I know it isn't destined to do much more than
being a P&S in life, and I understand and am comfy working around its
limitations.

---

A few more goodies I've found useful:

1) Olympus Stylus neck strap works better on the 40i. Allows you to hang
the baby around your neck with a longer cord strap than provided, and lets
you position the camera around your body in numerous ways.

2) Sephora Small Oval makeup Bag
http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?SectionID=B60&productId=P4933

Only $12. You take a small piece of bubble wrap (smaller bubbles),
fold in half, then put into the bag U-side down. Put 40i and accessories
(remote,headphones) inbetween the bubble wrap, flash cards and batteries
between the case and bubble wrap. (the case is already padded, but figure
extra can't hurt the $350 baby)

Very sleek, elegant, and discreet. Smoothly textured surface. Easy
zip to get to everything inside.

3) Rayovac 1 hour ni-mh aa charger or Kodak K1000 1 1/2hr ni-mh all-in-one
charger.
Former at Walmart stores; latter at www.thomas-distributing.com.

The fuji charger is brain-dead. An overnight?! charger in today's 1-3
hour rapid chargers?

These chargers let you recharge quickly, and you get a second (or third
in the case of Kodak) pair of ni-Mh AAs you can take with you on the go.

Rayovac if you want the very fastest charger - it has a heavy AC
adapter. Kodak if you want a slim all-in-one charger that you can pocket
and go.

My own preference is the Kodak K1000 charger because I get two pairs of
AAs with the kit, and the extra 30 minutes of waiting isn't bad compared
to the super-light size & weight.

4) 3M Scotchbrite Cleaning clothes (KMart & elsewhere).

Textured, thick cloth with microfibers that cleans the body and LCD panel
of the 40i quickly and easily after each use. Removes potentially harmful
oily fingerprint residue and keeps the baby looking new.

5) MGIsoft.com MGI Photovista

Out of all the programs reviewed at www.panoguide.com, MGI Photovista,
IMO, is the easiest and most user friendly panoramic stiching program
available today.

just swirl with the 40i while taking pictures that overlap each other
by 1/3rd or so, stich with Photovista, and voila! beautiful panoramics!

6) Epson 780 & 785epx.

Actually, any 6-color Epson printer will do great for photo prints, but
the 780 at $99 (less at www.shopper.com) is a steal. The 785epx at $200
is a bit more, but it can print directly from the 40i's flash card without
any PC attached or required!

You can actually take camera and printer to another house, take
pictures, and print them right away on the 785epx.

In any case, panoramic roll paper option included along with one of the
broadest selections in paper media avail. from any photo inkjet printer
maker today.

7) www.newegg.com
Currently, without looking all over www.pricewatch.com, gets you 128MB
Smartmedia cards cheap. Ships fast and lets you get ~150 normal
compression, highest resolution shots on the 40i.

8) Zio! Smartmedia reader adapter for USB ports. If you need an extra
external card reader adapter and don't want to order another USB adapter
cable from www.fujifilmsupport.com, then this is one of the best, most
compact designs around.
As an added bonus, you can turn any spare SM card into a portable 'hard
drive' for your PCs. Simply plug the Zio! into the USB port, and transfer
files to the SM card just like any other drive.

9) www.fujifilmsupport.com
Lastest drivers & manuals in case you lose yours.

10) #9 & www.finepix.com for the English & Japanese product brochures in
Adobe Acrobat format in case you're a camera collector that simply must
have everything about the 40i.
They also have sample pictures to look at.

11) The 40i occassionally has the problem where if you take a picture,
it'll either say card error when you switch to playback mode, or the
picture will look as if some funky color special effects have been
applied.

The usual fix I've found is to turn it off, let it wait for a dozen
seconds, then turn it back on again.

It's either caused by low battery charge/power upon initial turn on,
switching modes too fast, and/or CCD overload in the latter color case.
I haven't seen it too often in over 5000 pictures, but it does happen
about once a quarter or so in my experience.

12) If you accidentally select ERASE ALL or DELETE ALL PICTURES when you
don't intend to, immediately open the battery/flash card cover! This will
switch the 40i off immediately (they've got a safe switch I believe) and
it will stop erasure wherever it is at. On a 128MB card, if you're fast
enough, you'll probably be able to save anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 of the
pictures if you're fast enough.

13) Don't forget that with MP3 music, you can also use 96Kb/s rather than
128Kb/s encodings. You can squeeze some more music/audio tapes onto a
card in case you need to this way and the 40i will handle it just fine.

14) Press and hold the display button down until you can change
brightness (and volume in some modes) of the LCD panel. This way, you can
turn it up when using the 40i outdoors to see the images on the screen,
turn it back down indoors when it's too bright. Up the sound level, too,
on movie playback.

15) Use the video mode to take short audio notes to yourself just like you
would use a microcassette recorder.

16) Be careful upon storage you don't kick the switch into AUDIO mode.
It'll drain the batteries dry.

17) clean the battery contacts in the 40i often. they corrode easily.

18) the LCD totally off when switching to record mode only works when in
AUTO mode, not MANUAL. In manual mode, the LCD panel is dark, but the
backlight is still on so you see a dark gray instead. This is important
if you're trying to save energy and have the LCD panel off by default - it
will only work in AUTO mode, not MANUAL.

19) On a freshly charged set of Ni-Mh AAs, you should be able to grab ~150
shots or a full 128MB card's worth of pictures and videos with judicious
cycling of the 40i off right after you've taken the pictures you want.
Keeping the 40i off as much as possible lets you go 3-5 hours of picture
taking on a day-trip. Bring extra pair of Ni-Mh AAs and flash card if you
expect to be out longer.

----

Now, anyone in Japan remember who made that waterproof 40i case? Saw it
mentioned once somewhere and wanted to know more about it. Sure would be
nice to go to the beach or into the rain/snow w/o worrying about the 40i

Problems:

Bad points?
- poor indoor lighting white balance. Even the MX-1200/1300 is
better. Strangely, you'll either get orange or green despite
auto/manual white balancing, making me thing either Japan has different
lights (since it was designed in Japan), or they just didn't get it
right (even a camcorder gets the white balance better nowadays).
- Lots of CCD noise at the 2400x1800 size in various darker shadow
areas. Their stupid Honeycomb CCD arrangement and poor CCD noise
control most likely. Naturally, it's not as good as the Nikon 990 or
other better 3MP digicams.
Acceptable for the most part, and mostly invisible/gone if you use the
smaller 1280x960 size (though still present in shadow areas to a
degree).
- No shutter speed slower than 1/4 second! Forget night shots w/o
flash.
- Weak flash that isn't as powerful as the Fuji MX-1200 I've got
(which really lights up the room like a flare!) - thus limited flash
coverage with corner falloff past 4-6 feet, and poops out with a tummy
up photo of a group of four people (too little flash power).
- Impossible to get MP3 remote control. Fuji doesn't seem to have any
idea when, if ever, it'll come in, so don't go losing it. You can only
play MP3s if you've got the remote (no way to control from the camera,
duh), and the sound only plays through the headphone, not the internal
speaker in the camera (the movie sound only plays through the internal
speaker, never the headphones, duh!).
- MP3 music download software only works with Win98/2000 - thus forget
Linux, Win95 and other OSs. MP3 files are wrapped with a wrapper before
downloading to prevent copying to other cards - stupid copyright
protection idea that only wastes added time wrapping MP3 files, when we
all know everyone is Napstering like crazy w/o regard to such.
- No save/delete image in manual mode. On the MX-1200, the image
stays on screen after each shot in manual mode until you decide to
save/delete it. A very nice feature because you're most likely in
manual mode because you've got a tricky shot and want to re-take until
you've got it right. Not on the 40i, so you take a bunch of shots,
clueless as to what they look like, until you turn the dial to playback
to see and delete as needed. Slower interface vs. the MX-1200, but at
least the camera changes modes decently quick.
- LCD screen is not as bright as that on the MX-1200/1300 or the Canon
G1. Thus, it is very difficult/impossible to view images outdoors during
the day unless you cup your hand and peek through. You'll even be
forced to use the optical viewfinder to line up shots during the day.
THe LCD is viewable once you get in shade/inside however.
- Pink color only available in Japan. Blue and Silver in the US
only. I just happened to pickup a Japanese model in Pink for a good
price and noticed the country color differences. Naturally, all the
menus are in Japanese....
- Uses smartmedia cards. Max size is 64MB today, with 128MB coming
next year. CompactFlash cameras are already up to 1GB.
- 80 second movie clip max. size per clip. You can't just go the full
300+ seconds on a 64MB card, but must chop up your video taking into 80
second clips. On-screen playback of the 320x240 movie file shows up on
a small chicklet of the screen (sort like 1/4 the size of the LCD) and
there's no way to blow it up to the full screen, duh.
- Movie files require QuickTime to be installed or MJPEG decoder (both
free luckily). While they're AVI files, they're not the standard
Windows AVI file (that plays out of the box w/o added decoders). Still,
I know that w/o using MJPEG compression, there really isn't any way they
could have packed video into such a small camera/card and make it work
for 80 seconds.
- No accurate battery life indicator ala Sony digicams using the Sony
Info Lithium batteries, which do tell users every second how many
minutes remain. Then again, most digicams besides Sony's don't have
this feature either.
- Auto exposure isn't as accurate as the Nikon 990s. Pretty much a
small central balanced metering pattern so you can work around it, but
not as smart as a multi-pattern metering patter off a Nikon where it
automatically adjusts for bright backlighting and such.
- Slow digital zoom adjustment. You do wish it would go faster at
times.
- Useless Slow Sync flash mode. IF it's that dark, the 1/4 second
min. shutter speed won't help in getting a nice picture of a dark
background anyways with flash on the foreground subject. And indoors,
you simply want flash on not slow sync because slow sync gets you that
funky mix of orange/green colors due to bad white balancing for the
background. I've yet to see it get perfectly neutral colors with home
lighting.
- Doesn't remember playback settings (ie. display on/off of picture details
like time and date taken) when turned off. Have to manually turn the overlay on/off again.

David Chien's score
4.6
Average community score
4.1
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