Fujifilm FinePix F600EXR Overview
Fujifilm bills its FinePix F600EXR digital camera as being the "ultimate travel companion". With a generous 15x optical zoom lens and a built-in GPS receiver, it looks well-suited to the jetsetter who wants to pack light, leaving their bulks SLR and lenses at home. (It would take at least a couple of lenses for a system camera to match the full range of the F600EXR's zoom.) The GPS capabilities not only let you see where your photos were captured once you get back home, but also acts as a guide book of sorts, overlaying point-of-interest names on the LCD display as you pan across a scene, and indicating the distance and direction to POIs within approximately one mile (1.5 km) of your current location if the camera's lens is pointed towards the ground. Another feature of the Fuji F600's that's likely to prove handy for travel photographers is the ability to create 360-degree panoramas in-camera.
The Fuji F600 boasts a 16 megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor featuring the company's exclusive EXR technology, identical to that seen previously in the F550 EXR. Sensors featuring backside illumination place their circuitry on the rear of the chip, and hence are typically more sensitive than standard types, since more of their front surface can be given over to light-gathering. Fuji's EXR sensors, meanwhile, use a different pixel and color filter layout that provides several benefits, including the ability to trade off resolution for improved sensitivity, or to increase dynamic range by reading out half the pixels while the remainder of the sensor continues the image exposure.
As well as selecting which mode to use for any given photo manually, the F600 EXR can be set to make that decision for you in EXR Auto mode, which has been upgraded with respect to the same mode in past Fuji cameras. EXR Auto mode now recognizes subject motion, and can recognize a larger selection of scene types. In addition, a Premium EXR Auto mode enables the camera to automatically select multi-shot features such as an anti blur mode that captures four sequential frames, then combines them into a single image with less blur and noise than you'd be able to manage with a single low-light shot.
The Fuji F600 EXR's CMOS chip is mounted on a sensor shift mechanism that allows the camera to provide true mechanical image stabilization--a must for reducing the effects of camera shake at longer focal lengths, or in low ambient light. That's a good thing, because with focal lengths reaching out to the equivalent of a 360mm telephoto on a 35mm camera, even the steadiest hand would otherwise struggle to handhold shots at less than 1/360th second. At the other end of the zoom range, the Fuji F600 offers a generous 24mm wide angle, useful for shooting indoors when you can't simply take a few more steps back from your subject to fit everything within the frame.
The F600 doesn't include an optical or electronic viewfinder, so you'll be framing your images at arm's length. Thankfully, with a reasonably high resolution of around 153,000 pixels, the three-inch LCD screen on the rear panel of the F600 is reasonably well specified, and should provide a sharp image with which to judge focus and facial expressions. Like most fixed-lens digital cameras, the Fujifilm F600 EXR relies on a contrast detection autofocus system, and as is the norm these days, this includes a face detection feature that can automatically located human subjects, then ensure that the dominant subject is correctly focused. Unlike some cameras, the F600 goes a step further in that you can teach it to recognize the faces of a few specific individuals, allowing the camera to automatically prioritize them over other subjects whenever they appear in the image frame.
Thanks to the choice of a CMOS image sensor--typically much faster than the more common CCD chips--the F600 EXR is capable of shooting a rapid eight photos in one second, at full resolution. By dropping the resolution to eight megapixels, this can be increased to an even swifter 11 frames per second for as many as 16 frames. This kind of speed would make the F600EXR great for analyzing a golf swing, but it can also be useful in more typical situations, saving you from relying on your reflexes to capture a decisive moment. Simply rattle off a burst of photos at roughly the right time, then delete all but the frame that captured the action best -- easy!
The Fuji F600 is rare among fixed-lens cameras in being able to record images not only in compressed JPEG format, but also as .RAF-format raw files, the closest thing to a "negative" in digital photography. As well as stills, the F600 EXR can capture high definition video clips, with a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, commonly known as Full HD or 1,080p. Movies are recorded using H.264 compression, a format that's friendly in terms of storage space, but which can require a recent computer for smooth viewing, and will certainly demand a powerful machine if you're planning to do significant movie editing.
The F600 EXR stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. It's also compatible with UHS-I cards, which allow significantly greater write speeds than standard types. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-50 lithium ion battery pack, and the corresponding BC-45W battery charger is included in the product bundle. Two connectivity options are provided--USB 2.0 High-Speed data for getting images and movies onto your computer, and Mini HDMI for viewing them on a high-definition display. (Note that there's no standard-definition connectivity, though, so if you've not upgraded from an older TV, you'll not be able to connect it to the F600).
In the US market, Fujifilm has set pricing for its F600 EXR digital camera at around US$350. Retail sales are set to commence from October 2011.