Operation and controls

Although it offers slightly more bells and whistles than the F10, at heart the FinePix F30 is still a straightforward 'point and shoot' camera that isn't designed for extensive tweaking of settings and parameters. That said, the F30 is a more sophisticated camera, and has some important extras; aperture and shutter priority being the most important, though there are so new scene modes too; some of them designed specifically to take advantage of the unusually high ISO options.

Like the F10, the F30 has external controls for flash mode, macro mode and self-timer, plus a new button for AE compensation. The standard 'F mode' button brings up a small menu containing ISO, quality & size and color settings, but if you want to change anything else; metering mode, white balance, AF mode, burst mode etc; you'll have to venture into the menu system.

Rear of camera

The rear of the F30 is dominated by the large 2.5-inch LCD, with all the main controls ranged to the right. From the top we have the zoom rocker, and, below the rubber 'dots' that act as a thumb grip, play mode button and 'F' button (for fast access to file size/quality, ISO and color effects). Below these are the standard four-way controller keys and a central MENU/OK button. The arrow keys are used to navigate menus, and each has a secondary function when there's no menu displayed: in record mode they give direct control over flash mode, self-timer, macro mode and LCD brightening, with the up arrow also used for single frame deletion in playback mode. Finally, the bottom button is used to cycle through the various recording mode screen display options (and as a 'Back' or cancel button when using menus) and the '+/-' button is used for AE compensation (and for adjusting settings in A/P mode). My only complaint is that it would be nice to have white balance in the 'F' FinePix Photo Mode menu.

Top of camera

The top view of the F30 shows its simple, fuss-free lines perfectly. The mode dial and shutter release are joined by the main power (on/off) switch on the top plate.

Display and menus

One of my biggest complaints about the F10 was the new menu system. Well, after using the F10 regularly for the last 15 months I can tell you that I was being kind when I described it as a little clunky and counter-intuitive; the user interface appears to have been designed by someone with either a very cruel sense of humor or a serious sadistic streak. The F30, thankfully, features an all-new menu system that - though still a little inelegant - is much, much easier to use and nowhere near as frustrating.

The basic record screen in auto mode, showing pretty comprehensive shooting information across the top of the frame - you can also choose an information-free preview image, a 'rule of thirds' grid overlay if you struggle with straight horizons and Fuji's unique 'Post Shot' mode (see below). Half press the shutter and the camera will set the focus and exposure, indicating the focus point chosen (in multi-AF mode). The shutter speed and aperture chosen are displayed at the bottom of the screen, and warnings indicate if there is a focus problem or danger of camera shake.
In rec-manual mode (where you get more control over parameters) the display also shows metering, white balance and ISO settings. AE compensation is also available in M mode - press the +/- button and use the up and down arrow keys to change the setting. The shooting menu contains an option for the A/S position on the mode dial; you have to choose whether it will be aperture priority or shutter priority.
Using A/S mode (in this case we're using aperture priority) is fairly straightforward - press the '+/-' button and use the left/right arrow keys to choose an aperture (or shutter speed in S mode). The up and down keys still operate the AE compensation. The 14 scene modes are accessed by turning the mode dial to 'SP' and using the menu. As with the basic rec-auto mode you don't get much manual control when using the scene modes.
The Post Shot view - in record mode - shows up to three of the last shots taken in a column up the left side of the screen (the main, live, image appears to the right). This is designed to help you get your composition exactly right. Pressing the 'F' button brings up a menu with options for image quality/size - from 6MP down to 0.3MP, ISO (100-3200, plus two auto settings; one tops out at ISO 400, the other at 1600) and color settings (B&W, standard, chrome). Annoyingly whilst there are two JPEG options (fine and normal) for 6MP pictures, there's none for any other size.
Less frequently accessed controls are found in the newly designed main record mode menu (activated using the menu button). The menus are a lot easier to navigate than the F10's (due in no small part to the use of words as well as icons, and the loss of those annoying 'tabs'). Here you'll find options for everything from white balance to focus, burst mode and metering options and the 'High Speed' shooting mode. Incidentally, in full auto mode you only have access to a couple of these options. Pressing the right arrow when an item is selected brings up a list of options. It's still a fairly long-winded affair if you change white balance often, but at least it's an improvement on the previous model.
In playback mode you have the option of an information overlay, and a big improvement over the F10 is the option to view full exposure information, as shown here. Unfortunately there's no histogram. The right (tele) zoom button lets you enlarge images up to 4.5x (the actual amount depends on the size of the image). You can scroll around enlarged images using the four-way controller.
Pressing the DISP button cycles through the various playback modes, including 3x3 thumbnails, as shown here. You can also view the images on the card in a 'calendar' format (sorted by the date they were taken).
The playback menu has the usual options for deleting images, protecting (locking) them and producing on-screen slideshows. There are also options for rotating pictures, adding voice memos and trimming (cropping) photos. The three-page setup menu (accessible from both playback and record modes) is where you find camera-related settings. There's a lot here, but to be honest you're unlikely to be changing anything very often once you've done your initial setup.