White Balance

The F50fd offers six white balance presets (Fine, shade, fluorescent day, fluorescent warm white, fluorescent cool white and incandescent) as well as the usual auto white balance and a custom (manual) setting. In your normal daylight shooting situation white balance is generally very accurate and the 'Auto' setting will produce fine results. Indoors, under artificial light, the story is a slightly different one.

Under incandescent light the 'Auto' setting produces quite warm output. As so often it is a matter of taste, if you like to preserve the 'warm' atmosphere of a dimly lit pub you'll probably be quite happy with the F50fd's 'Auto' setting. If you prefer your whites to be white, switch to the incandescent preset and your results will be more neutral (although far from perfect). Under fluorescent light the F50fd is doing a slightly better job but it is by no means fool-proof. There are three fluorescent presets though, so you can pick the most suitable one for your specific lighting situation and, if all else fails, there's always the manual white balance option.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 15.0%, Blue -18.7%
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red 6.3%, Blue -10.6%
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 5.3%, Blue -11.9%
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red 6.1%, Blue -14.8%

Flash Performance

The F50fd's small built-in flash has a range of around 0.6 - 4.4m (2.0 - 14.4 ft) at the wide end of the zoom and around 0.6 - 2.4m (2.0 - 7.9 ft) at the long end. This is not a bad range for a compact camera of this type but disappointingly quite a bit shorter than the F31d (6.5m max). Like its predecessor the F50fd uses Auto ISO (up to ISO 800) to increase their flash range and you can, of course, increase flash range further by setting a higher sensitivity manually before shooting with flash. Flash exposures are generally excellent.

Skin tone
Good color and exposure
Color chart
Slight cool tone, slight underexposure

Intelligent flash modes

The F50fd has taken over its predecessor's fairly sophisticated flash features. The 'intelligent' flash, as it was christened by Fujifilm, increases the sensitivity and turns down the flash as required to achieve an improved balance between the foreground (lit by flash) and background. It also means slow synch flash mode can use a higher shutter speed, which reduces the need for using a tripod. Of course the intelligent flash has to change the ISO setting, and so only works in Auto ISO mode. In practice this works quite well and allows you to capture more of the 'ambient atmosphere' than would be possible with a standard flash although Auto ISO tends to push up sensitivity quite rapidly which often results in images that have a lot of noise reduction applied to them.

The F50fd has also taken over the F31fd's 'Natural Light & Flash' mode, which takes two shots in rapid succession, one with flash, and one without flash at a much higher ISO setting, so you can choose which image you prefer. Both shots are shown (side by side) in the instant review. The only downside of this system is that there is a delay between the shots (and quite a wait afterwards).

Red eye can be removed either as a shot is taken (which adds a slight delay whilst the system does its magic) or later on in review mode and does an excellent job. However, removal at a later stage only works if face detection was activated when the image was recorded.

Macro Focus

The F50fd has decent, if unspectacular macro capabilities for a camera of this kind. It can focus down to as close as 7 cm at the wide end of the zoom, capturing an area around 68mm across. At the tele end of the lens the minimum focus distance is a less impressive 30 cm in macro mode, capturing an area 105 mm across. Distortion is hardly visible at the long end of the lens. However, the corners are a little soft. As expected, at wide angle this is reversed, the image is slightly more distorted but there is less corner-softness.

Wide macro - 68 x 51 mm coverage
59 px/mm (1489 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Average
Equiv. focal length: 35 mm
Tele close focus - 105 x 79 mm coverage
38 px/mm (962 px/in)
Distortion: Very low
Corner softness: Higher than average
Equiv. focal length: 105 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Distortion won't cause you any sleepless nights when using the F50fd. Barrel distortion is visible but low at 0.8%. At the telephoto end of the zoom there is no measurable distortion at all. We did not find any evidence of vignetting either.

Barrel distortion - 0.8% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 35 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 105 mm

Specific image quality issues

Overall impressions of the F50fd's output are very positive - the focus is very accurate, white balance (except, as noted above, under artificial light) spot-on and colors rich and punchy without veering too far away from 'natural'. The exposure system is also generally very reliable with only the occasional hiccup (see below), and - for standard print sizes - the results are superb, detailed, colorful and - as long as you don't stray too far over ISO 400 - some of the best you'll get from a camera in this class.

Looking a little closer (at a pixel level) reveals a slightly less appealing picture. Viewed on-screen at 100% the output - even at low ISO setting - is far from clean, with obvious noise reduction issues and the return of the unsightly Super CCD artefacts we thought we'd seen the last of with the F31fd. The lens is obviously being pushed to its limit by the 12MP sensor, and there is a slight drop off in sharpness in the corners at all focal lengths. None of this will be visible at normal magnifications (either on-screen or in print), but it does mean that the leap from 6MP to 12MP brings few real benefits.

As usual there's some highlight clipping (not helped by the rather steep tone curve), but we were pleased to see that the purple fringing that plagued the F31fd has been sorted (presumably it's removed through processing).

Over exposure

Very occasionally the metering gets things wrong and over exposes a scene. To add insult to injury, in Auto ISO mode the camera will sometimes also push ISO up in order to 'achieve' the over exposure. This does not occur very frequently but you should be aware of it and check the image on screen in critical situations. If required you can always apply exposure compensation and retake the shot (if the subject is still there!).

63 mm equiv., ISO 400, +/- 0 eV 63 mm equiv., ISO 200, -0.67 eV