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Conclusion - Pros

  • Exhibits more resolution than a camera with a normal 3 million pixel CCD
  • Vivid color response, if a little strong with primary reds
  • Startup / shutdown speed very fast
  • Build quality, metal finish, slim body
  • "Thirds grid" overlay option on live view is useful
  • Flexible Program AE (up / down arrow to select equiv. exposures)
  • Range of manual controls including aperture and shutter priority
  • Unlimited 30 fps VGA video (although large storage requirements)
  • RAW format (although large at 12 MB per file)
  • Bright high resolution LCD monitor (although live view poor in low light)
  • PictureCradle for charging, image transfer and video connection
  • Short write times to xD-Picture Card
  • Novel Final-5 continuous shooting mode
  • Lens quality good, almost no lens shading and very little CA
  • Visible improvement in image resolution using the 6mp image size


Conclusion - Cons

  • SuperCCD SR doesn't live up to its promise (the improvement is not significant)
  • Tone curve too 'contrasty' doesn't reveal extended dynamic range
  • Sharpening algorithm too harsh (and/or unsophisticated)
  • Use of higher sensitivities affects image sharpness
  • Not enough latitude (or fineness) of adjustment of image parameters
  • No direct adjustment for tone or color saturation
  • Lens relatively slow at telephoto (F4.9)
  • Macro focus locked at wide angle
  • Flash exposures slightly underexposed (although could compensate)
  • ISO 1600 limited to one megapixel image size (1280 x 960)
  • Poor live view in low light situations (no 'auto gain')
  • AF Assist lamp was offset, didn't help AF very much in low light
  • Price


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Fujifilm FinePix F700: (3 megapixel compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 8
Image quality 7
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8
Value for money 7

The FinePix F700 is a digital camera which unfortunately doesn't deliver on its technical promise. If we consider the F700 as a 'normal' digital camera it's a reasonable enough proposition, small proportions, light weight, excellent build quality, very fast startup. Comparing its image quality it certainly produces more resolution than most three megapixel digital cameras, however I felt that the source data was being damaged on its way to the final image by unsophisticated or overly harsh sharpening (and an overly contrasty tone curve).

Now consider the breakthrough in sensor technology which came along with the F700. I admit to being excited by the promise when Fujifilm first revealed their SuperCCD SR design, although not technically easy to produce I had every confidence that the concept of having two photodiodes, one normal and one low sensitivity could easily produce very high dynamic range images with lots of highlight detail and smooth transition to clipping. Later I was surprised to learn that the first implementation of such a breakthrough sensor was to be in a compact camera, the F700, I and many others had expected to see this feature in a prosumer type camera such as the S7000 or even a D-SLR (although as I understand it there are reasons why the current SR design doesn't scale well to large sensors).

It seems a pity therefore that the first SuperCCD SR digital camera simply doesn't produce images that visibly have any more dynamic range than other traditional CCD digital cameras. Certainly in technical side-by-side tests it is possible to detect a little extra dynamic range but it doesn't extend as far as we had expected nor has it delivered smooth highlights or extended shadow detail. On the contrary Fujifilm appear to have chosen a particularly contrasty tone curve for the F700 which means that it clips shadows to black far earlier than we would like, in addition overexposed areas of the image tend to clip harshly with an almost immediate pixel level transition from detail to pure white.

Lastly we come to price, clearly if this digital camera had delivered its high dynamic range promise then the asking price could be accepted, however at the price and considering number of cameras available around $500 the F700 (with significantly higher effective pixel count and comparable dynamic range) doesn't appear a very attractive proposition to any but those curious about SuperCCD SR.

Average

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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