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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution
  • Bright, but natural colors
  • Class-leading battery life
  • Low noise
  • Usable ISO 1600 setting (and pretty accurate ISO ratings too!)
  • Clean, sharp results
  • Fast start-up and operation, very low shutter lag
  • Superb build and handling
  • Good flash performance
  • Good movie mode
  • Fast, reliable focus
  • AF illuminator
  • Large bright screen
  • Well-priced

Conclusion - Cons

  • No real manual controls, limited scene modes
  • Slightly high contrast - cannot be changed in-camera
  • Some commonly-used functions buried in menus
  • Menu system fiddly
  • 3-shot limit in continuous mode
  • Screen can be hard to see in very bright light
  • Screen resolution should be higher
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Separate 'terminal adaptor' to charge battery or transfer images

Overall conclusion

It may not look it, but the FinePix F10 is something of a revolution, and is probably the first time a compact camera has really shown the potential offered by Super CCD for high resolution, high sensitivity and low noise. I cannot emphasize enough the value of usable high ISO settings in a compact camera - from reducing camera shake to more natural low light portraits (without flash) to extended flash range and all the other advantages DSLR users take for granted and most compact users - stuck to ISO 200 (or 400 at a push) can only dream of.

It's a pity that first impressions of the camera itself are a little underwhelming; it has none of the panache or super-slim styling of many of its competitors, and offers little in the way of real photographic control for the serious user to get his or her teeth into. But after using the F10 for a couple of months I found myself reaching for it much more often than some of the other cameras I had on test at the same time - especially when going out in the evening, when the extra sensitivity really counted. And it may not be as slim and sexy as models such as the Canon SD500, but it handles a lot better and produces better results in most circumstances - most especially when light levels start to drop. I found the images a little lacking in punchiness, but boosting saturation produced very nice prints.

Then of course there's battery life, which at 500 shots per charge (CIPA standard) is far better than any similar camera I can think of. Even turning on the High Speed mode (which really speeds up focus and increases battery drain) leaves you with a camera capable of going for a good 300 to 350 shots on a single charge.

On the downside the F10 can be frustrating - if you like to change white balance a lot, use AE compensation or continuous shooting often, you'll find yourself cursing the fiddly menu system (though to be fair I eventually mastered it!). But ultimately this is a fast, reliable, well-built and easy to use 'point-and-shoot' camera that is both undemanding and rewarding in use and is capable of superbly detailed results with no serious image quality issues. If only it had the features and controls of the FinePix F810, for example, it would be highly recommended - and the F10 certainly bodes well for future, more advanced cameras based around the same chip. As it is, the F10 is a serious alternative to the current crop of 7MP compacts (most of which produce less detailed results), at a competitive price and with a couple of genuinely unique features under its belt.

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