Fuji Finepix F80 EXR Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The Fuji Finepix F80 EXR turns in an exceptional level of image quality, better than any non-EXR camera in its class by a wide margin.
At 12 megapixels, image noise is negligible up to ISO 400. Going a stop higher to ISO 800, noise is apparent but not really objectionable. At ISO 1600, noise is more visible and fine details start getting destroyed. Without surprising anyone noise increases steadily from there. Given that this is already an outstanding performance, the 6 megapixels SN mode gives an added half-stop of advantage. ISO 800 only shows a hint of noise and ISO 1600 is quite usable for a medium-sized print. The ISO 3200 to 12800 settings cannot be used in SN mode.
Color on the Fuji F80 is controlled by Film-Simulation: Provia, Velvia, Astia, B&W or Sepia. Provia is the default setting with natural but gently oversaturated colors. The Velvia setting captures over-the-top colors and is better avoided for anything resembling reality. Astia is the soft setting yet maintains slight oversaturation compared to reality. The white-balance of this digital camera is good but not perfect. Outdoors it does well but under artificial light is leaves a slight yellowish cast. The preset white-balance options are limited but generally perform well. Custom white-balance is very accurate though.
EXR cameras distinguish themselves by their dynamic range more than any other characteristics. This Fuji is just as good as its siblings providing 800% (3-stops) more dynamic-range than most ultra-compacts. The metering system can be used to determine how much dynamic range is needed or the photographer can set the range between 100% and 800% depending on the camera mode. The 800% option is only accessible in EXR-DR mode which limits image resolution to 6 MP. Auto works extremely well since the camera's metering system is aware of tonalities. The other settings are dependent on the current ISO setting, with all options available from ISO 400 to 3200. Remember that since all JPEG files have the same bit-depth, increasing the dynamic range reduces scene-contrast because more tonalities are squeezed into the same range of RGB values.
The metering system is simply superb and manages to balance shadows and highlights very well. This is certainly helped by this camera's exceptional dynamic range. In high-dynamic range mode, it is surprisingly difficult to make it burn-out highlights. This is the most impressive and advantageous of all EXR modes. One thing that users will need to know is that the dynamic range captured by the Fuji F80EXR is greater than what can be shown on the camera's LCD screen. As such, wide dynamic range images can appear too dark when viewed on the LCD screen.
This ultra-compact digital camera features an excellent stabilized wide-angle 10X optical zoom lens. Distortion is extremely low with minimal barrel distortion at wide-angle and pincushion at the telephoto end. One place where Fuji skimped is on the lens aperture. Instead of a physical opening to control the amount of light let in, the F80 slides in a neutral-density filter. This darkens the image for a proper exposure without affecting the depth-of-field.
Corner to corner sharpness is excellent with only the slightest hint of softening towards the corners, nothing noticeable on anything but the largest prints.
The Fuji Finepix F80 does everything fast. Focusing is incredibly quick, zooming is very fast, lag is short and shot-to-shot speeds are great. Focusing remains fast down to very low light levels. Even in Playback mode, everything is fast, even zooming in on images. Startup and shutdown are also quick, taking just over 1s.
The Fuji Finepix F80 has image stabilization which proved extremely effective at all focal lengths. At both ends of the zoom, there is roughly a 3-stop advantage over the usual hand-held rule-of-thumb. Note that this camera generally prefers to increase the ISO, when the ISO is set to automatic, than to lower the shutter-speed and let the stabilizer handle it. Luckily, there are several automatic ISO modes which allow the user to choose an ISO limit from 400 to 1600. This lets people select which is the maximum ISO acceptable to them.
There are four continuous drive modes on the Fuji F80 EXR: Top-5, Final-5, High-Speed Top-23, High-Speed Final-23. The Top-5 shoots up to 5 images at 1.6 FPS. Top-23 mode works similarly but shoots 3 megapixels images at 4.2 FPS up to a maximum of 23.
Final-5 and Final-23 modes perform similarly to their Top-5 and Top-23 counterparts except that they only save the last 5 or 23 images shot, respectively. These modes are designed for action photography where it is difficult to anticipate the action. Unfortunately there is a significant lag between what the LCD displays and the photographs being taken. Like its predecessors, Entering playback mode strangely cancels continuous shooting mode. Finally, battery-life is below average, even for an ultra-compact. Particularly, Auto-EXR mode is very battery hungry.
The Fuji Finepix F80EXR is an exceptional camera with the top image quality among fixed lens cameras, ultra-compacts, compacts or even larger ultra-zooms other than its sibling, the F200EXR. Despite using a smaller image sensor which lets it double the zoom range to a very versatile 27-270mm equivalent range, it keeps an excellent performance in terms of image quality.
The F80EXR is also very fast for its class, showing very good performance where it matters the most: focusing, shot-to-shot times and zooming. Other operations are also quick and the camera remains responsive almost all the time. This ultra-zoom completes the package by having an advanced feature set.
Nothing is perfect though and the F80 shows its flaws with an overly complex system of modes and features which interact with each other constantly. Auto-EXR is as close to magic as any digital camera ever was but it comes at a cost of extremely short battery-life. Other modes allow the camera to capture a wide-range of subjects but when light gets too low, one has to do a lot of trial-and-error to get the best results.
This 12 megapixels ultra-zoom with a 10X wide-angle optical zoom lens and manual exposure in an ultra-compact body simply has no competition. To compete with this feature set, you need to get compact camera like the Canon Powershot SX210. That one has more advanced and complete features including full-manual controls with a variable aperture but it does not stand much of a chance compared to the F80EXR in terms of image noise and dynamic range.
Fuji F80 EXR Facts
|12 Megapixels Ultra Compact||ISO 100-1600|
|10X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-8s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|1.6 FPS Drive, 5 Images||Custom white-balance|
|1280x720 @ 24 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 230K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital High Capacity|
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