Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 9/10/07
Featuring a 6.3 megapixel Super CCD HR imager in place of the 5.1 megapixel sensor used in the previous Z3 model, the Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd retains the same Fujinon 3x optical zoom lens and much the same styling as its predecessor.
Another significant change in the Fuji FinePix Z5fd is the addition of the company's Face Detection function, first seen in the FinePix S6000fd model. Achieved with a dedicated LSI chip in the camera, the feature can detect up to 10 faces in the photo simultaneously, with Fujifilm rating the feature as capable of achieving this in just 1/20 of a second. With the feature enabled, the camera indicates the faces detected in the scene by framing them with rectangles in the display -- white for all but the top priority face, which is framed in green. The locations of faces are then used by the Fuji Z5fd to confirm the appropriate location for focus and exposure detection, so as to ensure that your subject is correctly focused even when off center. In Playback mode, the feature can be cleverly used to automatically zoom images to the primary face in an image (for confirmation of pose, focus, etc.), and can also be used to automatically crop a shot for optimum portrait framing. Face detection can be disabled if desired.
On top of the face detection feature, the built-in storage memory in the Fuji FinePix Z5fd is more than doubled as compared to the Z3, from 10MB to 26MB (and is of course still supplemented with optional xD-Picture Card storage). One other slight change is that the minimum ISO sensitivity is now 100, rather than ISO 64 as in the FinePix Z3. The digital zoom has also increased in strength slightly to a maximum of 6.2x (was 5.7x), and a couple of new modes have been added: Blog mode allows creation of a reduced size duplicate image in playback mode, and dual-shot mode captures two images in succession, with and without the built-in flash firing. While camera size is almost identical to the Z3, the Fuji Z5fd is just a few grams heavier than that camera.
The Fujifilm Z5fd ships from March 2007 at a price of $229.
Fujifilm Z5fd User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. I had the Fuji Z5fd for only a few days, squeezing it into the review schedule just after I'd been shooting with Nikon's Wave design S series. The S50 and S50c and Sony's T series all compete directly with the Fuji Z5fd. They offer compact bodies with non-extruding zoom lenses and big LCDs on the back, although the Z5fd has the smallest.
The Fujifilm Z5fd looks very much like its predecessor the Z3, bumping the resolution up to 6.x megapixels from 5.10 and adding Face Detection technology and Intelligent Flash while retaining the 2.5 inch LCD, 3x optical zoom and 1,600 top ISO. There's also a new Blog mode, which is just a fancy way of saying the camera will scale any full resolution image to VGA size.
Like the Sony T-series, the Fuji Z5fd has a sliding lens cover, but you push the Z5fd's barn door sideways, not up or down. You never have to look for a Power button to turn the Fuji Z5fd on, which makes a sliding lens cover a more reliable user experience than a small Power button.
That was just the first thing I found to like about the Fuji Z5fd, which grew on me the more I used it. I'm not alone in my admiration.
The Technical Image Press Association awarded the Fujifilm Z5fd its 2007 Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera award for combining "elegant design with a host of practical features." Those features include a Super CCD HR, ISO sensitivity to 1,600 and low-light bracketing that shoots with and without flash. To that list I'd add the intelligent flash function which reads focus distance to set flash power, and infrared communication. Finally, the Fuji Z5fd also has some of the best face detection available.
All the features in the world can't compensate for a camera you leave at home. The compact size and photo-friendly nature of the Fuji Z5fd made it a pleasure to take with me everywhere for a few days. The more I used it, the more I liked it.
Design. The FinePix Z5fd has an elegant, if angular design. It's small enough for a pocket, but it can also hide in your palm, and it's quick enough on the draw that either place is close enough to avoid missing a shot.
Whether silver or any of the other three colors, each Fuji Z5fd model has chrome accents, and a large barn door lens cover with a slot to expose the flash when the cover is open. You can open the cover without powering on the camera, actually, but it's also the power switch. I'm really getting fond of lens covers that double as Power buttons because Power buttons on compact cameras are very small and hard to find. When you're in a rush to take a picture, you don't want to waste any time looking for a Power button. You don't with a lens cover like this.
The Fuji FinePix Z5fd is a very lightweight camera, too. But the boxy shape and prominent Shutter button seemed to help me steady and shoot with it, so I didn't blur any shots with camera movement. I even found it comfortable to shoot with a one-handed grip. The camera felt balanced even when I pressed the Shutter button.
You do have to remember the lens is in the corner, though. It's very easy to leave a finger in the picture if you grab the camera with two hands. But that's true of all ultra compacts with a lens in the corner.
The Shutter button protrudes from the top panel in a comfortable curve. Just to its left is the Face Detection button (which works in Playback mode, too). And to the right is the small Mode switch to select between still and video capture.
The rest of the controls are on the back panel, which seems rather roomy in comparison to some ultra compacts. Most of the back panel is occupied by the 2.5 inch LCD, which is really large enough even if the Z5fd's competitors use those gorgeous 3.0 inch LCDs. On the right side, the Zoom lever is on top above a series of three white opaque ovals that function together as an indicator lamp. Below that is the Four-way Controller with an OK button in the middle. That's surrounded by four buttons: Playback mode, Photo mode, Display/Back, and Anti-blur/Natural and Flash.
Not your standard buttons. But that's the way to assign buttons -- to features you wouldn't know where to find in the menu system.
Display/Viewfinder. While the Fuji Z5fd's LCD may be just 2.5 inches, it has 230,000 pixels, offering fine resolution and detail. There is no optical viewfinder, so this is the way you compose your shots.
I was able to see it in bright sunlight, although the shiny surface does pick up fingerprints. They do come off easy with a little buffing, unlike some screen surfaces that seem to think your fingerprints are its own.
Luke Smith, who took the test shots, observed that the LCD shows a bit more than 100 percent of what the sensor captures, a rather unusual finding. "This seems to be because of distortion correction during processing," he noted.
A quick press of the Up arrow key brightens the screen, very handy for outdoor shooting with the sun peering over your shoulder.
Performance. The FinePix Z5fd racks up above average ratings for most of our performance criteria, including Shutdown, autofocus lag, pre-focus lag, cycle time, weight and download speed. The worst it does is an average rating for LCD size, optical zoom, flash cycling and startup. That's more than pretty good.
The Fujifilm Z5 fired up quickly and shut down right away using the lens cover switch. Waiting at a stop light in the passenger seat, I noticed a colorful corner shop perfect for a Gallery shot. Could I take the picture before the light turned green? I reached into my pocket, slipped the lens cover back and raised the Fuji Z5, lining up the shot and pressing the shutter button just as the light turned green. Bingo!
If I wanted to speed up focusing, the Fuji Z5fd offers a High-Speed Shooting option in the menu system, which limits focus from 3.3 feet to infinity, skipping near focus. It also apparently focuses continuously; the manual warns you'll run down the battery more quickly in this mode.
Continuous shooting options are rich on the Fuji Z5fd. For really quick shooting at about 2.2 frames per second use either Top 3 or Final 3. The first saves the first three shots in the sequence and the second saves the last three. If you want to save all of them, use Long Period, which is slower, adjusting exposure for each image, but which works as long as you hold down the Shutter button and have room on your memory card.
Rob Murray, who goes over the cameras with a fine-toothed comb at headquarters, observed that if you are in Continuous mode and switch to Playback mode, when you return to Record mode, Continuous will be off. I think of that as a precaution, but it may surprise you if you don't know about it.
Something similar happens with the Fuji Z5fd's ISO, he noted. Set it to 1,600, turn the camera off and when you turn it back on it reverts to ISO Auto. Again, I think of that as a precaution, resetting to a known state, to the camera's reasonable defaults. But in both cases, it would be nice if the camera let you decide what settings it remembers.
The Fuji Z5fd's Zoom was smooth through the optical range and even smoother through the digital zoom range. It was also pretty quick and I didn't have to lead it to end up where I wanted to be. That makes composition easier. And easier composition is always more fun.
Controls. I've mentioned that the four Fuji Z5fd buttons are unusual. The Display button may not seem too strange and it doesn't behave strangely either, toggling through the various display modes available in Record or Playback mode. Playback mode isn't too unusual either, switching from Record to Playback or powering up the camera in Playback mode with the Fuji Z5fd's lens cover closed.
But then things get interesting.
The button marked with an F is much like the Function button on other digicams, providing access to shooting menu options like ISO, Image Quality, and Color options. The Fuji Z5fd's Anti-blur button toggles between enabling a faster shutter speed (the Fuji Z5fd has no optical image stabilization) and the Natural & Flash setting. Natural & Flash shoots two shots every time you press the Shutter button: one without and one with flash.
On top, the Fuji Z5fd's Face Detection button enables that technology in Record mode or in Playback, where it is used to zoom in on any face in the picture. That's a great use of the technology, something you'll definitely miss on other cameras.
The arrow keys on the Fuji Z5fd's controller are more standard (although the Down arrow rather than OK is used to playback movies for some reason). The Up arrow toggles screen brightness up momentarily for sunlit situations in Record mode or deletes the displayed image in Playback mode.
The Left arrow toggles Macro mode, which may not sound like a big deal, but I found it very well done. Many cameras just display a menu. The Fuji Z5fd knows if the camera is in Macro mode or not and switches. I'm always conscious of whether or not I have to be in Macro mode, so when I press the Macro button, I want the camera to either enable Macro or disable it. The Fuji Z5fd does that.
Finally, the Right arrow cycles through the Fuji Z5fd's Flash modes.
If you want to change the camera's general behavior, you press the Menu/OK button to see all the settings you can change. But if you want to change how one or another image is captured, you press the Fuji Z5fd's Photo button -- or one of the dedicated feature buttons. It's simple enough that it can become second nature in very little time.
I did miss having an EV button on the Fuji Z5fd. To get to EV, you have to be in Manual mode (which is just an Auto mode that gives you more automatic options; there's no full manual control on this camera). Press the Menu button, scroll down to EV, press the Right button and a small scale appears on the LCD to adjust exposure. Way too much work, really. At least the Menu button remembers what option you were on, so the next time you press it, you just have to press the Right arrow key to bring up the scale again.
Image Quality. So what about image quality?
Good color. Natural and not oversaturated. There are a few grocery store shots in the Gallery to show off how well the Fuji Z5fd's auto white balance did. But our sunlit shots were vibrant without appearing unnatural.
Detail was a little disappointing, especially when using the Fuji Z5fd's digital zoom. I say that about all ultracompacts, though. The shots of the Transamerica Pyramid are the best demonstration of that. On the other hand, the basket of flowers hanging from the street pole at Church and 24 Street is also a digital zoom image and the detail there (at much closer distance) is quite good.
There are some high contrast images in the Gallery, too. The basilica doorway shows some purple fringing where the bright light comes through the dark leaves and also where it hits the stone. But it's a pleasant rendering of the scene, with good detail in the midtones while holding detail in the dark door.
Special Features. There's face detection and then there's face detection. Fujifilm's version is very fast (as fast as 0.05 second, the company claims), can find 10 faces at the same time and even works in the Fuji Z5fd's Playback mode so you can zoom in on the faces in your picture using the same button. Now that's face detection.
It really was quick in practice, noticeably faster than other cameras featuring face detection, and it didn't require you to shift into Portrait mode. Just press the Fuji Z5fd's Face Detection button and it's active. Nice.
Intelligent flash is pretty much the right name for it. Rather than blowing out faces that are too close to the camera, the Z5fd reads the focus distance and adjusts the flash power to that. It doesn't quite manage to throttle down enough for macro shots, though, as our Test Page shows.
The only down side to this approach is if you're shooting in a large room and have some innocuous object close to the camera. That can throw off the flash, which will try to expose for the near object, rather than cover the room. Otherwise the flash is powerful enough to handle a rather large room.
The Fuji Z5fd's Natural Light mode is a blessing, too. Taking full advantage of the Fujifilm HR sensor, this mode cranks up the ISO sensitivity while turning off the flash to get natural light shots. Your image depicts the scene the way your eyes saw it rather than flashing a bright light at it. Use it in museums or just in ordinary room light instead of flash.
It's the other half of the Natural & Flash mode, too, so you can hedge your bets. I think of this as something of a training mode, convincing you the Fuji Z5fd can handle natural light at higher ISOs while providing the insurance of a flash shot. I'll bet you always prefer the Natural Light version to the Flash version of the scene. But the Z5fd can do both, shooting the natural shot first and right after -- motordrive quick -- the flash version.
The wireless communication capability of the Fuji Z5fd is strictly infrared using the IrSimple protocol. Not having another device with that protocol, I wasn't able to test it. Fujifilm shows two cameras communicating with each other, but it really isn't designed for transferring images to your computer or the Web. It made me wonder how much less the camera would have cost without it.
The Fuji Z5fd's Blog mode feature is really just a cute name for resizing any full resolution image to 640 x 480. Most cameras have such an option, they just don't call it Blog mode. It has nothing to do with blogging at all.
One feature that I did miss was a widescreen aspect ratio. Shooting 16:9 instead of 4:3 is a fun way to shoot and looks great on HDTVs (unless you use portrait orientation). The Z5fd offers a 3:2 aspect ratio, but otherwise it's a 4:3 camera whether you're shooting stills or video.
Power. The 750 mAh lithium-ion battery is CIPA-rated for 200 shots. I didn't have to recharge it during the brief time I had the camera and it maintained a full charge indicator over the weekend shoot.
Appraisal. Quibbles aside, I had fun shooting with the Fuji Z5fd. It was easy to bring along and quick to get in on the action. The pictures I brought home were very good, although they do exhibit the same ultracompact detail I always find a little disappointing. But I also found myself taking shots with the Fuji Z5fd's special features, which are indeed practical and unique.
- 6.3 megapixel Super CCD HR sensor
- 3x Fujinon non-extending optical zoom (36-108 35mm equivalent)
- Maximum aperture of f/3.5 to f/4.2 depending on focal length
- Macro focusing from 3.1 inches at wide-angle
- Shutter speed from 4 seconds to 1/1,000 second
- 256-zone TTL metering
- White Balance: Automatic Manual (Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light
- Flash modes: Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction with Slow Synchro
- Self-timer with 2 or 10 second delay
- USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
- 26MB internal memory
- Hardware-based Face Detection Technology
- Available in Silver, Pink, Raspberry Red, and Mocha Brown bodies
- Intelligent Flash
- ISO sensitivity to 1,600
- Natural Light shooting mode
- Natural Light/Flash bracketing
- RP Processor II
- Voice memo up to 30-second in WAV format
- Infrared communication
In the Box
The FinePix Z5fd ships with the following items in the box:
- The FinePix Z5fd digital camera
- Rechargeable battery NP-40
- Wrist strap
- AC power adapter AC-5Vz
- AV cable
- USB cable
- Software CD
- Owner's Manual
- Large capacity xD memory card. These days, 1GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips get the largest card you can afford.
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
- Lens cloth for polishing the LCD
Fujifilm packed the compact, elegant FinePix Z5fd with practical features that help it stand out from the crowd. It may not have the biggest LCD, but the Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd has face detection that's quicker than most, and it shows up right after capture to verify that you got the people you really wanted in focus. The Fujifilm Z5fd not only offers high ISO capability, it's a no-brainer to use with both a Natural Light Scene mode and a unique Natural Light & Flash mode that quickly takes one shot without flash and one with it. iFlash, the intelligent flash function that includes focus distance in its calculation, is -- like the other features -- something you'll miss on other cameras. The controls on this delightful digital camera were easy to use and activated useful functions. Zoom was smooth and fun to compose with. Printed quality was very impressive, making sharp 11x14 inch prints between ISO 100 and 400, and good 5x7s at ISO 1,600. That's impressive from a pocket camera. You don't have to be a photographer to enjoy shooting with the Fuji Z5fd: It's an easy Dave's Pick in the ultracompact category.