Fujifilm Finepix V10 Overview
by Dan Havlik
Review posted: 06/27/2006
Fujifilm V10 User Report
The Fujifilm V10 appears to be an entirely new direction for Fujifilm, not really a replacement for any previous model but an attempt to create a new category that mixes a cool design and fun features -- the four video games -- that might appeal to younger users; with new technology, including Real Photo and high ISOs, with the potential to attract a broad spectrum of users. And, for the most part, Fujifilm seems to hit its marks with this model. Loading it with games is one thing, but Fuji has created an elegant picture-taking machine that's as fun to hold and look at as it is to shoot with. Image quality, which I'll address later in this review, is another story. The camera doesn't always live up to some of its "low-noise" claims.
At 3.3 x 2.55 x 0.9 inches, the Fujifilm V10 is not quite an ultra-slim camera, but close enough. Most importantly, it passes the jeans test with flying colors, fitting smoothly into the front pocket of a pair of Levis without accidentally turning on in the process (we do recommend against pocketing cameras, regardless of their pocketable size; more cameras are ruined this way when the camera powers on to damage the lens mechanism, or users simply sit on them or lean against something in tight jeans). Though it's a blend of metal and polycarbonate, the V10 feels solid and sports an attractive gun-metal grey faceplate that has panache. The camera weighs 5.5 ounces (without battery and card) and though it's basically a square with rounded edges, it is easy to hold with your thumb resting on the huge 3-inch LCD on the back. Speaking of the LCD, it pretty much takes up the entirety of the back side of the camera with just a wee bit of room on the bottom for the various controls. Since those buttons are so tiny, using them takes some getting used to but that's the price of getting such a huge screen. One control that I overlooked at first was the dedicated camera/movie mode switch on the right side of the Fujifilm V10. The switch is tiny and the pale white icons for camera and movie are hard to read, so it's easy to miss. A dedicated switch for just those two modes makes logical sense though, and once I found it, changing between the two settings was simple and quick. Overall, for a market of possible young shooters, Fuji's created a design winner with the Fujifilm V10 -- simple, elegant and snazzy.
LCD is AOK
The LCD on the Fujifilm V10 is a fine piece of work. Usually I'm not impressed with huge LCDs on slim cameras because, nine times out of ten, they are not backed up with anything close to decent resolution. The 3-inch screen on the V10 camera, though, is packed with 230,400 pixels, which is excellent for framing live shots and reviewing pictures. Since the LCD is so big, there's no optical viewfinder -- not a surprise, really -- so you're totally dependent on the screen for focusing and framing your shots, even in bright outdoor conditions. Thankfully, the Fujifilm V10 has an automatic "gain up" feature on the screen that raises brightness to cut down on glare. If that's not enough, the Trash button on the back of the camera doubles as a brightness feature which considerably increases the the screen's brightness when in shooting mode.
In addition to providing good resolution in playback, the info display on the screen is easier to read than most cameras, offering clear info on pictures you've shot including ISO, and exposure and white balance adjustments. In multi-frame playback, the Fujifilm V10's screen can display as many as 30 images, with the right and left and up/down toggle switch allowing you to scroll through pictures quickly. Hitting the display button again will let you sort through images by date. In auto playback on the LCD, there's a cool Multiple setting which slowly fades in groups of images you shot in a random split screen and multiple image slideshow.
I've always been a fan of the menu system on Fujifilm's cameras, finding it easy to read and use - but this was the first time I was hoping to see a revamp. Most likely that's because the extra large screen begs for more animation and flair when switching between modes. Overall, though, it's still pretty efficient. In other reviews I've read, some reviewers aren't thrilled with the special F Photo Mode that's accessible through the button with the blue F on top of the Fujifilm V10, but I love it. Pressing the button gives you quick access to imaging functions like size, ISO, and Finepix Color options. I just wish they would give you more options with this button including access to some of the scene modes. Also, I'm not much of a fan of the F-Chrome color option which is supposed to mimic traditional Fujichrome film. Colors looked too saturated and "paint-like" in the Chrome mode for my tastes, and didn't resemble film at all.
Hits and Misses
As far as responsiveness and usability, the Fujifilm V10 scored high in my book, powering on quickly though a little sluggish in getting to first shot. This mostly has to do with the autofocus system which seemed to labor to find focus in some situations, particularly in low-light or at the end of the 3.4x zoom. When it has trouble, the camera's focus will flutter and whir -- a sound that made me think of an insect flapping its wings -- until it eventually locks in. Under ideal circumstances the Fujifilm V10 was quite swift, especially in continuous mode which can capture up to two frames per second at the maximum image size. Shot-to-shot in non-continuous mode -- under the ideal circumstances mentioned earlier -- the camera's a monster (in a good way), quickly gobbling up image after image. In more changeable lighting and zoom conditions, however, the focus would occasionally get tied up. When zooming, the camera extends to its full 3.4x fairly quickly and fairly quietly.
Image quality on the Fujifilm V10 is something of a mixed bag. When shooting under outdoor daylight and well-lit indoor conditions, the camera performed well, capturing crisp color and decent sharpness with some softness at the edges. Shots I took at a fish store in Manhattan were rendered beautifully by the V10 with the reds of fresh tuna and the oranges of salmon steaks looking luscious with the fish's texture and moistness almost palpable on the screen. The camera's vaunted low-light capabilities and high ISO sensitivity ratings were a bit of a disappointment, though. Photographing a pair of cats indoors in mixed to low lighting at ISO 800 rendered slightly splotchy images leaving the cats' fur a bit blurry. Fine subjects like fur and hair are the first to go when the anti-noise images try to tame the high-ISO noise. Shooting at ISO 1,600 in a darkly lit restaurant was a disaster with the Fujifilm V10, with skin tones looking oversaturated in the red channel and much noise and chromatic aberrations. At 400, things noticeably improved, which doesn't say a lot for a camera that touts its ISO 1,600 capabilities, but is better than not getting the shot at all.
One of the best features of the Fujifilm V10 is a "Natural Light & With Flash" mode which takes two shots in succession, the first without flash and the second with flash. When shooting in moderate to good light, this feature is fabulous, offering a telling side-by-side comparison of what you gain and lose by using flash. In lower light situations, however, the flashless shot will boost to the higher end of the ISO scale (800 & 1,600) producing a naturally lit image that's often full of noise, versus one that looks blown out with flash. Having said that, the feature is extremely easy to use and I look forward to seeing it on future Fuji models (when noise levels are tamped down further with advancing technology). The same goes for the "Natural Light" setting which takes one flashless image at higher ISOs. Other scene modes are pretty basic -- Portrait, Landscape, Sport, and Night.
The Fujifilm V10's 3.4x Fujinon lens which ranges automatically from f/2.8 to f/5.5 was also inconsistent, providing good focus from corner to corner under adequate lighting (at f/2.8) but struggling under lower lighting in shots with heavier contrast (at f/5.5). Digital zoom on the V10 extends an additional 5.7x but is not recommended, because as with all digital zooms, the image is basically electronically cropped and thus degraded.
Games People Play
|Number Puzzle||Block Buster|
While the addition of video games to a digital camera might seem to be a novelty I wouldn't be surprised to see them turning up on more cameras in the future. The four games that come with the Fujifilm V10 -- Number Puzzle, Block Buster, Maze, and Shooting Game -- are pretty basic and only do an okay job of showing off the capabilities of the camera's 3-inch, high-res screen. In Number Puzzle, one of the images you've captured is cut up and mixed into grids. By moving the cursor with the left and right and up/down toggle switch you can rearrange the grids to restore the image. I found this game rather tedious and not a great use of the screen's capabilities. For fans of spacial logic games like the Rubick's Cube though, the Fujifilm V10's Number Puzzle might appeal to you.
In Block Buster, you move a smiley faced paddle left and right to bounce a ball against a grid of blocks. Underneath the blocks is one of your pictures. This game is just a souped up version of the classic Pong game from my youth and is only marginally more fun than Number Puzzle. The Maze game was a bit better though, offering a Pac Man-like experience of moving a baby chick through a maze to get to the mother hen. Along the way you see some of your images scattered about. Shooting Game, probably the most sophisticated of the four, lets you pilot a spaceship by using the left/right and up/down keys while blasting oncoming enemy ships with an exotic weapon. While it won't likely give Playstation 2 a run for its money, Shooting Game had the best graphics of the four and showed off the potential of the screen. Though, of course, digital cameras should always make their imaging capabilities the first priority, why not add video games, if possible? They're not a bad way to kill an hour or two during layovers between flights. Be forewarned though, battery life on the Fujifilm V10 -- rated at 170 shots on the fully charged proprietary Lithium-Ion battery that comes with the camera -- takes a big hit when playing the games.
Despite some shortcomings, the V10 is an extremely fun camera with a stylish, portable design and a huge 3-inch LCD. Though it doesn't live up to its vaunted low-noise, high ISO capabilities, the camera performs well in outdoor daytime and well-lit indoor conditions and is perfect for bringing to a party or on a trip. The four games on the Fujifilm V10, while a bit or a novelty, are an added bonus and should attract younger users to this snazzy and svelte snapshooter. Its biggest feature is the large screen that delivers surprisingly crisp detail.
- 5-megapixel Super CCD HR delivering image resolutions as high as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels
- 3-inch color, low temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor with 230,400 pixels.
- 3.4x Fujinon 6.3-21.6mm (38-130mm equivalent) zoom lens, with f/2.8 to f/5.5 maximum aperture.
- Autofocus with adjustable AF area.
- Digital zoom of up to 5.7x.
- Auto, Manual, and six Scene Program exposure modes (Manual mode does not allow user control of shutter speed or aperture).
- Adjustable white balance with seven settings.
- Adjustable ISO setting with Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 equivalents.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to four seconds.
- Multi and Center autofocus modes.
- Built-in flash with six modes.
- xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
- JPEG image format.
- Power supplied by proprietary rechargeable NiMH battery.
- Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
- Four built-in video games -- Number Puzzle, Blockbuster, Maze and Shooting Game.
- Fuji's Real Photo Technology designed to reduce noise.
- Natural Light and Natural Light & With Flash scene modes.
- 30-frame multi-frame playback mode.
- Movie (with sound) and Voice recording modes.
- High-speed shooting mode for increased focusing speed.
- Top 3 Frame, Final 3 Frame, and Long-period continuous shooting modes.
- 10- and two-second Self-Timer modes for delayed shutter release.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
- Video cable for image playback on a television set.
In the Box
In the box with the Fujifilm V10 digital camera are the following items:
- 16 MB xD-Picture Card.
- Proprietary NP-40 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.
- Wrist strap.
- Terminal adapter
- AC power adapter
- USB cable.
- A/V cable.
- Software CD-ROM.
- Instruction manual, Quick Start guide, and registration card.
Fujifilm V10 Recommended Accessories
- Larger capacity xD-Picture Card. (I'd recommend 128MB as a minimum.)
- Additional Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.
- Soft camera case.
There's a lot to like on the Fujifilm FinePix V10. It's a sleek and snazzy snapshooter with a huge 3-inch LCD with very good resolution that makes composing shots on the live screen and image playback a joy. The Fujifilm V10 is also reasonably responsive, powering on quickly and moving briskly from shot to shot so you're always ready to take pictures. Under adequate lighting, this photo monster gobbles up images in standard mode almost as fast as in its "high-speed" Continuous mode. Images captured in outdoor daylight and well-lit indoor conditions had crisp color and sharpness. In particular, pictures I took of tuna and salmon steaks at a fish store were so life-like it made me hungry.
Under low light and more contrasty conditions, however, the Fujifilm V10 fared less well despite its vaunted "low-noise" high ISO settings of 800 and 1,600: a disappointment. Many of the shots I took at 800 and 1,600 were riddled with noise and chromatic aberration. Similarly, while I loved the concept of the "Natural Light & With Flash" mode which takes two shots in succession, under lower lighting, the Natural Light shots with boosted ISOs of 800 or 1,600 came out splotchy while the flash shots looked blown out. Under decent lighting though, the mode produced better results.
And what can I say about a camera that lists four video games as one of its selling points? Well, two of the four games are kind of fun to play, but if you're looking for this sort of portable entertainment get a Sony PSP instead. What the games do provide is a way to show off the Fujifilm V10's fabulous screen, which, along with camera's great design and excellent usability, warrant a recommendation, but just miss out on a Dave's Pick.