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Fujifilm FinePix E900 Overview

By: Tracey Capen and
Shawn Barnett
Review Date: 03/06/2006

Nine megapixels in a point-and-shoot camera might seem like overkill, but that's what the $499 Fujifilm FinePix E900 offers; as a result it delivers some pretty impressive prints, even at ISO 800. It's also quite a jump up from the next model down in the FinePix E-series, 6.3-megapixel E550, which sells for around $250.

Equipped with a fully-automatic, point-and-click mode, the Fujifilm FinePix E900 is suitable for neophyte snapshooters. But it also comes with semi-automatic and manual exposure controls, which would appeal to intermediate photographers--those who want control over their photography, but are not ready for the size and cost of a digital SLR. A quick look at shutter lag numbers also reveals a camera that is good at capturing children if you learn to prefocus. It's also attractive as a travel camera; large enough to take telephoto and wide-angle conversion lenses, but small enough to drop easily in a small bag. It's use of AA batteries adds to its travel credentials. Experienced photographers will want to review this camera's features list carefully before buying. While it offers such desirable extras as automatic exposure bracketing and RAW image format, it has almost no color-management and no custom user settings.

 

Fujifilm FinePix E900 User Report

What I immediately noticed about the FinePix E900 is its clean fit and finish. It has a more sophisticated look than earlier Fujifilm point-and-shoots I've reviewed. Part of this may be the black body, which I confess I am partial to. But the camera also has a nice feel to it: All of the controls are well-placed, and the large patch of rubber on both sides of the hand grip is a nice touch. What gripes I have about the E900 are fairly minor.

The Fujifilm FinePix E900 was quick to start up and shut down--about a second. There was, however, a fair amount of lag between when I pressed the shutter and when the camera took the shot--mostly due to the auto-focus system. It was more pronounced when shooting in low light or when there was a lot of contrast to the scene (e.g., a dark window frame and a bright outdoors scene). However, as long as I prefocused, the camera was great at getting shots of active subjects, like kids. AF shutter lag is common, so it's best to learn to prefocus by half-pressing the shutter.

The E900 has a decent-sized 2.0-inch color LCD for both a viewfinder and playback monitor. I found it easy to view in low light and in all but the brightest sunlight. The menus are also easy to read and navigate in bright light. For my tastes, the FinePix E900's dedicated exposure control buttons are a bit too limited. Fortunately, one of them is for exposure compensation (EV) which I use often. Another is the continuous shoot mode, which many point-and-shoots put down in the menus. One of the options under this button is automatic bracketing, which I almost always use for outdoor scenics. In playback, deleting shots is quick enough--three simple button-presses, per image.

I was unimpressed with the "F" or Photo Mode button. It's a small menu that contains the resolution, ISO, and color-type settings. I can think of other setting that would be more valuable here: white-balance, metering, or focus settings, for example. It would have been even better if you could select your own custom set of controls for this menu.

I found the menu system workable, but not as neatly designed or as flexible as those I've seen in Canon and Olympus cameras. To its credit, I found the system is relatively easy to decipher and generally quick to roll through. Novice users might find it intimidating at first, but if they use the fully-automatic mode, almost all of the menu options are disabled. In the other modes, you can end up doing a lot of button presses with the four-way selector to change a single setting. In SET mode, you are booted out of the menus after selecting many of the settings. Which meant I had to laboriously go back through the menus to make another change.

My informal shooting with the Fujifilm FinePix E900 produced pleasing images--sharp, with accurate exposure and color. Viewed at 100%, close-up shots taken at maximum resolution and ISO had a noticeable softness, but there was little obvious pixillation or noise.

The manual focus mode is fairly useless. You do not get any distance scale in the display, nor a magnified center area. It's also very slow. Since I rarely use manual focus on a camera of this sort, it would not be a major problem.

There is one design aspect I found somewhat annoying. The xD-Picture Card slot is located in the battery compartment. If you are swapping out a full card for an empty one, you have to be careful not to let the batteries slide out. Also, the Fujifilm E900's support for RAW image isn't that useful. My copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2 could not read the files, and the Fujifilm RAW converter only converts the RAW image to TIFF--there are no pre-conversion image editing controls. In general, the software bundled with the E900 seems lacking. It's okay for organizing your photos and emailing or printing, but aside from cropping and rotating, there are no true image editing tools.

Documentation is not as well organized as I've seen in other brands, such as Canon's. There is no index at end, and it could use more internal page references. Fortunately, a fairly comprehensive TOC at beginning of the user manual helps.

For those seeking a moderately powerful point-and-shoot, the Fujifilm FinePix E900 is worthy of consideration.

 

Basic Features

 

Special Features

 

In the Box

The FinePix E900 kit includes the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent high-ISO performance
  • Excellent detail, very little subject detail lost to anti-noise processing at low ISO
  • Fairly wide angle 4x zoom
  • Manual white balance option handles incandescent lighting very well
  • Excellent print quality
  • Very fast pre-focus shutter lag of 0.01 seconds
  • Blazing fast USB file transfer time, excellent for the large images this camera makes
  • Good battery life with only 2 AA batteries
  • Full manual controls or full auto for a wide range of photographic skill
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Barrel distortion somewhat pronounced at wide angle
  • Moderately high chromatic aberration at wide angle
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm
  • Lens has good sharpness, but lots chromatic aberration in the corners
  • Mediocre flash range: Spec is a range of 13.1 feet at telephoto, but we found a range of less than 8 feet at ISO 100.
  • No AF-assist light
  • Slow startup time
  • Scant memory included for a 9 megapixel camera: 16MB, enough to hold 3 images

 

The 9.0 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix E900 is an impressive follow on to last year's 6.3 megapixel FinePix E550, which was good enough to earn a Dave's Pick. Its color is very good (if somewhat subdued), resolution excellent, and noise levels at even high ISOs are tamed very well. The FinePix E900 isn't the fastest in terms of AF speed, but it's right there in the respectable department. If you prefocus, it's a great family camera, with its f/2.8 lens handling wide angle indoor scenes very well. Its lens comes out quickly, AF points are picked quickly, and it switches between modes and menus with snap. The Fujifilm FinePix E900 is pretty good with battery power, with a worst-case run time of just over two hours with the provided rechargeable NiMH batteries. From a usability standpoint, the FinePix E900 spans a range from rank beginner (in full Auto mode) to sophisticated photographer (in full manual exposure mode). This makes it a great choice for dual- or multiple-user households, and also a good choice for someone looking for a camera that's easy to use to get started but that has additional features to offer as you become more experienced. I was impressed with the camera's performance in many dimensions, but most impressed with the print quality. For a point & shooter in such a small package to deliver acceptable 13x19 images even at ISO 800--well, that's something to write about. If you're looking for a fast, high-resolution digicam that works well in low light, the Fujifilm FinePix E900 would make a great choice. - Another "Dave's Pick" for an E-series from Fujifilm.