The F30 is a slightly curvier, slightly more refined version of the F10, and users of that camera will feel perfectly at home here. Like the F10 the build and finish are excellent, giving the F30 a real 'quality' feel. Again it's not the slimmest or prettiest camera in its class (the depth is in part down to the decision to use such a large battery), and external controls are fairly minimal meaning you're going to be using the menu system a lot if you like to tweak settings. the major changes over the F10 include the regrettable loss of the shallow 'grip', meaning the F30 feels marginally less safe held in one hand (there is a small chrome grip, but it's too slippery to be much use) and a new '+/-' button, used to control AE compensation and Aperture / Shutter priority modes.
In your hand
The FinePix F30 is by no means ultra-compact, but the protrusion-free design means it slips fairly easily into a jacket pocket. At around 200g the F30 is weighty enough to feel reassuringly stable in use, without being too heavy to carry with you at all times. The only complaint - common to all small cameras with large screens - is that it is a little too easy to accidentally press one of the buttons (the 'F' button being the worst offender) when shooting with one hand. In fact I found the F30 very difficult to use single-handed; it just feels a lot safer - and the controls are a lot easier to use - if you hold it in both your mitts.
The battery and card slots share a single compartment under a well-constructed hinged door. The large NP-70 Li-Ion battery is claimed to be good for approx 580 shots per charge (CIPA standard test conditions), which is even better than the F10 - and sets new standards for this type of camera. The battery is charged in-camera using the supplied adaptor, and now, thankfully, has a retaining clip to stop it falling out when you change cards.
Like all Fuji's compact cameras the F30 uses xD-Picture Cards. We found getting the cards in and out a little fiddly because the slot is so far recessed (and it's not obvious which way round the card goes), but you soon get used to it.
The F30's 2.5-inch screen has a much better resolution (230,000 pixels) than the F10; it's very clear and sharp, there is no visible lag, and it has a fairly effective anti-glare coating. Unfortunately it's not really bright or contrasty enough to use in direct sunlight, where the lack of an optical finder means you may as well be shooting blindfolded. Like the F10, the frame rate doubles (to 60fps) when you half-press the shutter (which makes the display a lot smoother)
Thankfully Fuji listened to its critics and got rid of the 'terminal adaptor' (also known as 'the vital bit you lose') and the F30 has a full complement of I/O ports on-camera. Hidden under a rubberized flap are a combined USB / video out socket and a DC port for the (supplied) mains adaptor.
The small built-in flash has an effective range of around 0.6 to 6.5 m (2.0 - 21 ft) at wideangle, dropping to 4 m (13 ft) at the tele end of the zoom (using auto ISO). If you're thinking this is a long way for such a small flash to reach you're not wrong - that's one of the advantages of an auto ISO mode that goes up to 800... The flash is fairly close to the lens, so red-eye is a problem in many shots, but it's no worse than 99% of the competition.
The 3x zoom lens retracts fully into the body when not in use and has a built-in lens cap. The range covered is equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm camera, and the maximum aperture goes from a respectable F2.8 at the wide end to a less impressive F5.0 at the long end. As with all cameras of this type I'd rather the short end of the zoom was a little wider, but you can't have everything!
The F30 has a small mode dial on top (next to the main power button). There are six positions; Movie, A/S (aperture and shutter priority), Rec-Manual, Rec-Auto, Scene and 'anti blur'.
The rear controls are all clustered to the right of the LCD screen. The 4-way controller is used to navigate menus, and each 'arrow' has a secondary function in record mode (flash, macro, self-timer and LCD brighten). The up arrow is also used for deleting images in playback mode. Above the 4-way controller are buttons for playback mode and Fuji's standard 'F' button (used to quickly change ISO, image size and quality). New for the F30 is a '+/-' button for controlling exposure.