ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

ISO equivalence on a digital camera is the ability to increase the sensitivity of the sensor to enable faster shutter speeds and/or better performance in low light. The way this works in a digital camera is by "turning up the volume" on the CCD's signal amplifiers, nothing is without its price however and doing so also amplifies any noise that may be present and often affects colour saturation.

The F601Z features sensitivities of ISO 160, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. ISO 800 and 1600 are only available at 1 MP (1280 x 960) resolution.

Noise levels

Below you will find a montage of 60 x 60 pixel crops from our standard GretagMacBeth ColorChecker shot taken at each selectable sensitivity. Remember that at ISO 800 and 1600 the camera is actually combining adjacent pixels to produce more "effective" sensitivity.

ISO 160
(6 MP)
ISO 200
(6 MP)
ISO 400
(6 MP)
ISO 800
(1 MP)
ISO 1600
(1 MP)

Noise is visible at most sensitivities, however I would consider it to be acceptable up to ISO 400.

94% of the frame at ISO 800, 1600

Just like the S602Z the F601Z at high sensitivities of ISO 800 and 1600 you will lose approximately 6% of the frame. Keeping the camera on a tripod and not altering zoom but simply increasing the sensitivity from ISO 400 to 800 the ISO 800 shot seems to crop the center 94% of the frame (as indicated by the red box in the diagram below). What's even more curious is that the LCD monitor view and 'post view' after taking the shot show the entire frame, but if you switch to play mode you will see the cropping effect. This is worth noting.

White Balance

While the F601Z does provide a good selection of pre-programmed white balance settings I would have liked to have seen Fujifilm adding a manual preset option. The majority of recent higher end compact digital cameras have all provided this feature and it can be invaluable in difficult lighting conditions. Generally speaking the F601Z's automatic white balance performed well under natural light and less well under artificial light.

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Cloudy (or Sunny)
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, FL3 (also FL1, FL2)

First word indicates the light in which the shot was taken, the second indicates the selected white balance mode.

Macro Focus

The F601Z's macro focus mode can only be engaged via the menu, it really should be an external button. Minimum horizontal frame coverage was approximately 5 cm (2.0 in).

Low Light Focus

This test measures the minimum amount of light under which the camera can still focus. The focus target is our lens distortion test chart (shown here on the right), camera is positioned exactly 2 m (6.6 ft) away

Light levels are gradually dropped until the camera can no longer focus. This is carried out at both wide angle and telephoto zoom positions (as more light reaches the focusing systems with a larger aperture).

This test target is the optimum type of subject for most "contrast detect" AF systems (as it has a vertical line at its center), you should consider the results below the best you could expect to achieve.

Lens position Aperture Lowest light focus
Wide angle (36 mm) F2.8 1.6 EV (7.6 Lux / 0.7 foot-candle)
Telephoto (108 mm) F4.5 2.3 EV (12.3 Lux / 1.1 foot-candle)

Light intensity (Lux) = 2.5 x 2^EV (@ ISO 100), 10.76391 Lux = 1 foot-candle (fc)

The F601Z managed to outperform its bigger brother the F602Z in this test (perhaps the S602Z relies too much on its external AF sensor). With its 'normal' TTL auto focus system the F601Z managed to lock its focus even at low light levels, a good performance.