The F50fd is a complete redesign of the F31fd. The simple boxy shapes of its predecessor have been modified with a variety of curves and edges, all part of Fujifilm's 'Aero' design. Aesthetics aside, as a side-effect this makes you feel slightly more comfortable holding the camera with one hand, there is also a'hint' of a grip. Build quality and finish are excellent despite the use of some plastic. The F50fd has the look and feel of a premium product. The camera dimensions have hardly changed: the F50fd is still not the slimmest or most compact camera in its class.
The amount of external controls remains on a fairly minimal level, too. Although it offers a range of manual controls (Aperture and Shutter Priority) the F50fd is essentially a 'point and shoot' model. Manual control can be fiddly and changing most of the settings requires you to dive deep into the menus. Having said that, the camera performs well in full auto mode and there is not usually a need to modify anything more than ISO and AE-comp settings which are both easily accessible.
In your hand
The FinePix F50fd is not the smallest camera of its kind, but the protrusion-free design means it's definitely handbag and even jacket pocket compatible. At around 175g (including battery and memory card) it's hardly a lightweight amongst compact cameras either, but does feel reassuringly stable in use and is easily lightweight enough to carry with you at all times. The F50fd generally feels comfortable in your hand although there is so much screen on the back of the camera that (depending on the size of your hands) you could find it difficult not to leave your fingerprints on it all the time.
The battery and card slots share a single compartment under a well-constructed hinged door. The Li-Ion battery has been reduced both in size and capacity, and now holds power for approximately 230 shots per charge (CIPA standard test conditions). An optional AC adapter is also available. The new 'dual' memory card slot takes xD and SD(SDHC) cards, which is a big improvement on the F31fd. There is also 25MB of internal memory for emergencies.
Fuji has increased the size of the F50fd's screen to 2.7-inch, although resolution remains the same at 230,000 pixels. The screen is clear and sharp and the viewing angle fairly wide. Unfortunately contrast and brightness do not really allow for framing shots in direct sunlight despite the anti-glare screen. In these situations a optical viewfinder will definitely be missed. The glare problem is made worse by the fact that the screen seems to pick up fingerprints more easily than the CSI team.
The combined AV Out/USB socket is hidden underneath a slightly fiddly plastic flap.
The small built-in flash has an effective range of around 0.6 to 4.4 m(2.0 - 14.4 ft) at wideangle, dropping to 2.4 m (7.9 ft) at the tele end of the zoom (using auto ISO), fairly normal specifications for a camera of this type. The flash is located pretty close to the lens, so the anti red-eye is a welcome new feature.
The 3x zoom lens retracts fully into the body when not in use and has a built-in lens cover. The range covered is equivalent to 35-105mm on a 35mm camera, and the maximum aperture goes from a respectable F2.8 at the wide end to a less impressive F5.1 at the long end. As usual we'd prefer the short end to be slightly wider, but maybe that's something Fuji can implement in the next generation.
The camera top plate remains fairly simple. Power button, shutter button with zoom lever and the image stabilization on/off button are located here.
The small mode dial has moved from camera top onto its rear. There are eight positions; Movie, A/S (aperture and shutter priority), Rec-Manual, Rec- Natural light and flash, Rec-Auto, Rec-Natural light, Scene position 1 and 2.
The rear controls are all located to the right of the LCD screen. The 4-way controller is used to navigate menus and control exposure compensation, flash, macro and self-timer. The up arrow also deletes images in play mode. Above are buttons for playback mode and Fuji's standard 'F ' button (power management, ISO, image size and quality). The DISP button changes the amount of information on the screen and there is also a button for activating Face Detection and Red-eye removal.