Fuji Finepix F100fd Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The Fuji Finepix F100fd shows good color accuracy with moderate oversaturation of red hues in standard color mode. It also has a chrome color mode which boosts saturation for more punchy results. The white-balance system of the F100fd is excellent and shows neutral colors even under artificial lighting. This is one of the best white-balance results we have seen from any camera, although we managed to trick it by taking pictures with brightly colored backgrounds. In such cases, use of preset white-balance corrected the problem cleanly.
The metering system is quite good and manages to balance shadows and highlights very well. This is certainly helped by this camera's exceptional dynamic range. One thing that users will need to know is that the dynamic range captured by the Fuji F100 is much greater than what can be shown on the camera's LCD screen. As such, wide dynamic range shots may appear to be overexposed while they are not. Back to metering, this digital camera also supports average and spot-metering which behave exactly as expected.
One key characteristic of Fuji cameras is their excellent dynamic range. The Fuji Finepix F100 does even better than its predecessor by providing user-control of dynamic range. There are 4 options: Auto, 100%, 200% and 400%. Auto works extremely well, and it should, since the camera's metering system should be aware of scene tonalities. The other settings are dependent on the current ISO setting, with all options available from ISO 400 to 1600. Remember that since all JPEG files have the same bit-depth, increasing the dynamic range reduces scene-contrast since more tonalities are squeezed into the same range of RGB values. This is why it is good that the user has choice. As expected, expanding ISO range increases details in image highlights by up to 2 stops.
The Fuji F100 is equipped with an exceptional lens as well as an exceptional sensor. Throughout its 5X zoom range, the F100's lens shows excellent image sharpness and very little optical distortion except for macro focusing at near wide-angle.
Image noise is well controlled by the Fuji F100. From ISO 100 to 400, noise is barely perceptible and large prints are easily possible. This is great news since ISO 400 is the lowest setting which can be used with 400% dynamic range. ISO 800 and 1600 evidently show more image noise but good looking medium size prints are possible. Note that at these settings, noise still shows on medium-size prints but is very subtle. ISO 3200 can make a relatively good small print but higher ISO settings are excessively noise. Add to that a reduced image resolution and what we have are settings which show visible noise even on small prints. Still, pictures taken at ISO 6400 and 12800 do produce recognizable images which is quite good for any camera, all fine details are lost though.
The Fuji Finepix F100 does everything fast. Startup is quick, focusing is incredibly quick, zooming is fast, shutter-lag is very short and shot-to-shot speeds are good. This is another area where the F100 improves considerably over the F50. Focusing in particular is quick down to very low light levels. Playback mode is also extremely fast. With the control-wheel, one can scroll through images blazingly fast.
The Fuji Finepix F100 has image stabilization which proved reasonably effective at all focal lengths. Even in macro mode, the stabilization helped by about 2 stops compared to normal hand-holding. 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 users select which is the maximum ISO acceptable to them.
There are 5 continuous drive modes on the Fuji F100: Top-3, Final-3, Long-Period, High-Speed Top-12 and High-Speed Final-12. The Long-Period mode is pretty useless. It shoots at less than 1 FPS and the LCD remains mostly blank while shooting, showing only a brief preview while the image is being focused. The Top-3 shoots continuously at 2 FPS a maximum of 3 images, which is not very continuous. Top-12 mode works similarly but shoots at 5 FPS up to a maximum of 12 images. The catch is that the image resolution is lowered to 3 megapixels and it only takes 10 seconds to write the images.
Final-3 and Final-12 modes perform similarly to their Top-3/Top-12 counterparts except that they shoot continuously but only save the last 3 or 12 images shot, respectively. These modes are designed for action photography where it is difficult to anticipate the action. Unfortunately, in the Top-3 and Final-3 modes, there is a significant lag between what the LCD displays and the photographs being taken. Like with the F50, entering playback mode strangely cancels the continuous shooting mode. Finally, Fuji states the battery life of the F100 to be 230-shots per-charge. This is clearly below average but seems like a general tendency as cameras are being built with brighter-larger LCDs and higher resolution sensors.
The Fuji Finepix F100fd now replaces the F50 as the best performing ultra-compact digital camera. Not only does it improve in terms of image quality and speed of operation upon an already exceptional performer, it manages to do that and add a true wide-angle lens.
While image quality is at its best, with exceptionally low image noise, excellent dynamic-range, accurate colors and good image sharpness, the user-interface is frustrating at times. Particularly, access to exposure-compensation and white-balance takes too long because the menu-button is overloaded to invoke the virtual mode-dial and menu system. Across the board, speed is excellent, even shot-to-shot speeds and low-light focusing. All in all, an excellent performance for an ultra-compact.
Competition-wise, the F100fd is in a league of its own. Given a 12 megapixels sensor with expanded dynamic range and a wide-angle lens with image stabilization, no ultra-compact currently matches this. Loosing the wide-angle, the Canon Powershot SD950 IS can be considered, but it most likely cannot compete in terms of image noise and dynamic range. The Panasonic FX100 is similarly specified but we have no word on its image quality or performance.
Fuji F100fd Facts
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