We've managed to get our hands on a Japanese pre-production Fujifilm FinePix F601 Zoom. This is the 3.1 megapixel SuperCCD III successor to the popular FinePix 6800Z. The camera is one of just a few which have vertically orientated bodies, as is always the case with Fujifilm the design and finish on this camera is excellent with a full metal body and large automatic lens cover.

Fujfilm F601Z First Look

This article is intended to provide a preview 'first look' at a pre-production F601 Zoom. The camera used here is a Japanese pre-production unit with Japanese control labels and menus. A full review of this camera will follow when we can get a full production English (US/Europe) model. Details and specifications can also be found in our original news article.

Those familiar with the 6800Z will instantly notice how much the camera controls have been simplified. Instead of no less than ten buttons on the back of the 6800Z we now have this reduced to just six on the F601Z. The most important of these being the new four way navigator / OK button / zoom control. This controller is used to retrieve and navigate the camera menu (where all camera settings are changed) as well zoom in and out (push up, pull down).

Beside this are the flash open button (more of a mechanical lever than a button), the Cancel button and the record / play switch which has also changed its design since the 6800Z. Just above the LCD monitor we have the display button, beside this are indicators for the current camera mode (see below). Finally comes the press on/off power switch.

Mode dial / Shutter release

Now positioned on the top right corner of the camera is the camera mode dial which surrounds the shutter release button. Camera modes are Manual record mode, Portrait mode, Auto record mode, Movie clip record mode and Audio clip record mode.

Overall the changes to the camera control system are logical and very welcome, the camera is now far easier to understand and use from the word go. The reduction in the number of button hasn't affected the usability of the camera and of course goes some way to avoiding accidental settings changes.

Battery / SmartMedia compartment

Also changed with the new model is an integrated battery and SmartMedia compartment. Both slots are now tucked behind a single door which is on a sprung metal hinge. Note also that the F601Z now takes a new battery, the NP-60 is rated at 3.7 V 1035 mAh (3.82 Wh), about the same power as two NiMH AA's. It's a little sad to see Fujifilm sticking with SmartMedia, I would have thought SD/MMC was a wiser choice going forward.


Fujfilm has also updated the cradle, it's now silver to match the camera and has a rounder design. Pop the camera into the cradle and you get instant USB connection and automatic recharging of the internal battery. There's a power button on the front of the cradle which operates the camera. When connected (USB) the cradle allows the camera to be accessed directly as an external drive or used as a webcam. Kudos to Fujifilm, cradles are great (as is in-camera battery charging).

Display / Menu interface

I won't pretend to have understood the entire menu system, at the moment there isn't an English language option however Fujifilm supplied a very rough translation of most of the menu options.

LCD monitor view just before taking a shot, note the information bar along the top of the screen indicating the current camera settings. Half-press the shutter release and the auto focus and metering lock (very fast). The exposure is displayed at the bottom of the screen. Fully depress the shutter release to take the picture.
Record menu - this appears in an animated fashion over the top of the current live view (black background used here for clarity). Move around each menu option using the 4-way controller and select by pressing the same controller in. Top option reads 'next page'. Next page - Previous page, Metering, Exposure compensation, Flash compensation, White balance, Focus mode, ISO sensitivity, Sharpness.
ISO sensitivity option - the 6800Z only had options for ISO 100, 200 or 400. The F601Z shifts ISO 100 to ISO 160 and offers ISO 800 and 1600 at 1 megapixel resolution (1280 x 960). White balance option - Select from no less than seven white balance options, three of which are for different fluorescent bulb types. There's no manual white balance.
Image size option - Select 6, 3 or 1 megapixel or VGA. Then select Fine / Normal or Basic JPEG qualities. In movie mode you can select from VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240) sizes. The F601Z has the amazing ability to record continuously at either resolution until the storage card is full (15 fps including audio).
Setup menu page 1 - Record review mode, Power off, USB setting, LCD brightness, Volume, Beep. Setup menu page 2 - Date / Time set, LCD On at power up, Reset All.
Movie clip mode - unlimited length (limited only by storage space) movies at 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 including audio. Voice recorder mode - allows you to record voice annotations, only limited by storage space, WAV format. Approx. 4.5 hours on a 128 MB card.

Image Quality / Samples Gallery

Bear in mind that this is a pre-production camera, and so image quality is likely to be better on a final production unit. I won't at this stage be publishing our standard resolution chart or colour patches (Fujifilm still have some tweaking to do) but I have prepared a gallery of sample images to allow you to get a feel for the camera. As always I'm never particularly impressed when viewing 'SuperCCD' processed (interpolated) images at 100%, but reduce them in size or print them at nothing larger than 8 x 11" and the results are really quite good. Metering appears good, as does dynamic range. Colours are strong if a little over-saturated for red.

Fujifilm FinePix F601Z Beta preview gallery - posted 17/March/2002