Operation and controls

As mentioned before the F50fd is a 'point and shoot' camera at heart, external controls are fairly minimal. Flash mode, macro mode, self-timer and AE compensation are accessed via a four-way controller. Fujifilm's standard 'F mode' button brings up a small menu containing ISO, quality & size, color settings and power management. There is also a button on top to activate image stabilization. Most other settings such as metering mode, white balance, AF mode, burst mode etc. have to be changed in the menu, and unfortunately the F50fd's user interface simply was not designed for tweaking these settings on a shot-by-shot basis. However, the F50fd does offer more sophisticated features and has some interesting extras; aperture and shutter priority being the most important for the enthusiast.

Rear of camera

The rear of the camera is dominated by the large 2.7-inch LCD, with all the main controls arranged to the right. From the top we have the mode dial, play mode button and 'F ' button (for fast access to file size/quality, ISO, color effects and power management). 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 AE compensation, with the up arrow also used for single frame deletion in playback mode.

Finally, the bottom button is used to cycle through the various screen display options (and as a 'Back' or cancel button when using menus) in record and play mode. Face detection and the anti red-eye mode are now controlled by their own dedicated button which is located at the bottom right.

Top of camera

The top plate of the F50fd has been kept very simple. From left to right there are the main power (on/off) switch, the shutter release with zoom lever and the IS button.

Display and menus

The F50fd's user interface is very similar to its predecessor's. The biggest change is the new F Menu in play mode. Anyone who has used an F31fd before will feel at home pretty quickly. However, some of the options for the 'advanced' photographer are still hidden deeper in the menus than we would like to see. The interface design is pretty much tailored for 'point and shoot' photography, most of the buttons have multiple funtions and setting parameters manually can sometimes be a quite fiddly as we experienced during our studio tests.

The basic record screen in auto mode, shows fairly comprehensive shooting information across the top of the frame - you can switch to an information-free preview image or a grid overlay by pressing the DISP button. A half-press of the shutter button will set the focus and exposure, indicating the focus point chosen (in multi-AF mode). Shutter speed and aperture are displayed at the bottom of the screen, flash settings at the top. Warning symbols will indicate any potential focus or camera shake problems.
In 'manual' (actually more like a 'P' mode) mode you get more control over settings. The display shows white balance, flash and ISO settings. AE compensation is also available in M mode - press the '+/-' button and then up and down on the four-way controller to change the setting. In A/S mode the shooting menu contains an option for chosing between aperture or shutter priority.
In A/S mode (in this case we're using aperture priority) press the '+/-' button and then 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. This process works perfectly but can sometimes be slightly fiddly. You'll probably want to stick to 'Auto' or 'M'(P) modes most of the time. The 14 scene modes can be accessed via the 'SP1' and 'SP2' positions on the mode dial. There is a short explanation for each of the scene options.
If the 'guidance display' option is activated in the menu the camera will display a short 'help' text each time you change a setting. This is a useful feature for beginners, once you are familiar with the photo terminology used by Fujifilm you can switch this feature off. Pressing the 'F ' button brings up a menu with options for image quality/size (from 12MP down to 0.3MP), ISO (100-6400@3MP, plus three auto settings), color settings (B&W, standard, chrome) and power options which let you prioritise AF speed, display brightness or a power save mode. As usual we feel this menu - which has the luxury of its own button - could be made better use of.
Less frequently accessed controls are found in the shooting mode menu (activated using the menu button; the number of menu options varies with shooting mode). Here you'll find options for metering mode, white balance, burst mode and AF mode. From here, by another click, you can also access the set-up menu. In the shooting menu, pressing the right arrow when an item is selected brings up a list of options. It requires a few button clicks to modify settings and if you need to change white balance a lot this can be fairly annoying. There is lots of screen space available in the F Menu and the white balance setting would be much better situated there.
As in record mode, you can change the amount of information on the display by pressing the DISP button in play mode. Unfortunately Fujifilm still has not managed to implement a histogram. Moving the zoom lever to its tele position in play mode lets you enlarge images up to 6.6x (the actual amount depends on the size of the image). You can scroll around enlarged images using the four-way controller.
Moving the zoom rocker to the 'wide' position will display the images on your memory card as thumbnails, you can display 2, 9 or 100 frames. You can also view the images on the card in a 'calendar' format (sorted by the date they were taken).
The playback menu has options for deleting images, red eye removal, rotating, protecting (locking), copying, trimming and adding voice memos to pictures. The F Mode menu changes its appearance when you are in play mode. If you are in play mode and press the 'F ' button you can access options for IR communication, trimming (cropping), slide show generation and printing.
With the IR communication option you can send images to other Fujifilm cameras with IR capability or other mobile device with the IrSimple function. The five-page setup menu has been divided into two pages of shooting related settings (including IS mode and digital zoom) and three pages of basic settings (such as language, sounds etc...) which you'll probably leave untouched after you've adjusted them for the first time. It really is high time Fuji gave these menus a design refresh.