Externally the F810 is identical to the F710, itself an evolution of the original F700 design. It's a little wider, but also a fair bit thinner than most competing cameras. Although the design lacks a proper hand grip, the F810 has a small finger grip on the front, which along with the textured and indented 'thumb well' on the rear is surprisingly effective for single-handed operation. The all-metal construction exudes quality and the control layout is logical, and easy to master.
In your hand
The FinePix F810 is by no means ultra compact, but the protrusion-free design and Calista Flockhart slimness mean it slips very easily into a jacket pocket.The combination of high quality magnesium alloy body materials and thoughtful ergonomics mean handling is excellent. It's very light too (around 200g fully loaded), though very well balanced. Fujifilm's designers should be applauded for refusing to cut corners in the manufacture of the F810, giving the camera a real 'luxury' feel in the hand. Thanks too for putting the lens bang in the middle of the camera, which should also help control camera shake.
The battery and card slots share a single compartment under a well-constructed spring-hinged door. The NP-40 Li- Ion battery is held in place by a plastic release catch, so you won't lose it when changing your xD-Picture Card. The small battery takes around 2 hours to charge from flat and is good for approx 115 shots per charge (CIPA standard test conditions). A spare will set you back around $35. The battery is charged in-camera using the supplied AC unit or PictureCradle PC dock.
The 2.1-inch LCD screen is very bright, and at 173,000 pixels, very clear. The widescreen (16:9) shape is very unusual, though with the ubiquity of widescreen TVs I suspect we'll see a lot more of this in the future. Shooting in standard (4:3) mode puts black bars either side of the preview image (the preview is thus roughly what you'd see on a 1.8-inch monitor). The lack of an anti-reflective coating can cause problems in very bright light, but low light performance is very good indeed.
This shot shows the mains adapter port (on the left side), metal tripod mount and multi-connector port. This not only acts as a USB port for direct connection to a PC or printer, but also an A/V out port (using the supplied cable) and an interface for the supplied PictureCradle docking station. Our only minor complaint here is the positioning of the tripod mount - it would be nice to see it nearer the center of the lens, though we presume its positioning is dictated by internal components.
The optical viewfinder is pretty standard stuff, meaning it's too small, not very clear, and shows only around 80% of the scene being recorded. There's no dioptre adjustment, and I found it so unclear as to be utterly useless. Still, if you miss the element of uncertainty you used to get with film or like to view the world through a spy hole, then you'll love it. Or you could use the excellent 100% view LCD screen. The bright LED blinks different colors to show focus/flash status.
The pop-up flash (which is actually motorized, not the usual spring-and-catch type) is far enough away from the lens to reduce red-eye to about as little as you can expect without using an external unit. Flash range is approx 0.3 to 4.0m (1-13ft) at the wide end of the lens, and around 0.6-2.5m (2-8ft) at the tele end. Flash recycling could be a little quicker (see timings page), but exposure is excellent, and the output is throttled down well when shooting nearby subjects.
The 4x zoom lens retracts fully into the body when not in use and has a built-in lens cap. Unlike most small consumer digital cameras the zoom range starts at a fairly respectable wideangle (32.5mm equiv.), great for landscapes and group shots. The lens is fast moving too - it extends to its full length in around a second. Slightly less impressive is the maximum aperture, which is fine at the wide end (F2.8) but much less useful at the telephoto end of the range (F5.6).
The main mode dial for selecting exposure modes (Full auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Scene) or switching to movie capture. It sits on the top of the F810 and has nice positive click-stops.
Also on the top of the camera are the shutter release and power switch, which also switches between play and record modes. It is possible to power the camera up directly into playback mode (without extending the lens), but the switch is fairly stiff, so it's a bit of a challenge not to overshoot and go straight past the click stop!
Fujifilm's now ubiquitous 'F' (that's F for 'Photo Mode', apparently) button sits beside the LCD monitor and acts a little like the Canon 'FUNC' button, bringing up menus to change commonly-accessed shooting parameters, such as ISO speed and image size/quality.
The unusual 'command dial' has various functions, including selecting apertures or shutter speeds in semi-automatic or manual modes. It also activates the program shift function in P mode and scrolls through images in playback.