Fuji F850EXR Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Are you on the lookout for a travel zoom camera offering a good balance of speed, zoom reach, and portability, but you're willing to sacrifice on a few features to save a little cash? If so, the Fujifilm FinePix F850EXR aims to meet your need. It's closely-related to the company's flagship F900EXR travel zoom, but with a number of key changes. Most notably, the F850EXR lacks its sibling's unusual hybrid phase detection autofocus system, which means that focusing will be rather slower. (But at a manufacturer-rated 0.21 seconds, not unduly so.) The Fuji F850 also drops the built-in Wi-Fi radio of its sibling from the design, so you'll need to use a cable or card reader to get at your photos and movies.
Enthusiasts will find the lack of a raw file format good reason to spend the extra to obtain the F900, but consumers and less-experienced photographers likely won't mind being limited to in-camera JPEGs. There's also a slight reduction in battery life, burst rates, and high-speed movie performance, while the body itself is slightly taller and lighter. For that, you'll save around US$100 over list pricing of the F900EXR, making the Fuji F850 around a quarter cheaper than its sibling.
The Fujifilm FinePix F850EXR couples an EXR-CMOS image sensor and an EXR Processor II CPU. The sensor has a resolution of 16 megapixels, and offers a sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 3,200 equivalents at full resolution. If you're willing to cut the resolution in half, you can shoot eight-megapixel stills at ISO 6,400 equivalent. Half the resolution again, and you reach the peak sensitivity of ISO 12,800 equivalent at four megapixels. Shooting at full resolution, you'll get a burst speed of 9 frames per second for as many as five frames before the buffer fills. In standard shooting, the F850EXR manages a more sedate two frames per second. And rounding out the performance data, Fujifilm claims a startup time of 1.1 seconds.
The Fuji F850EXR's lens, meanwhile, bears the company's Fujinon branding and a healthy 20x optical zoom range. After accounting for the focal length crop of its 1/2-inch type image sensor, 35mm-equivalent focal lengths range from a generous 25mm wide angle to a very powerful 500mm telephoto. The maximum aperture at wide angle is f/3.5, and by the telephoto position this falls to f/5.3. A sensor-shift image stabilization system is included, and should make it rather more feasible to hand-hold exposures, especially towards the telephoto end of the range. Fujfilm rates the F850EXR as able to achieve a focus lock in around 0.21 seconds. While that trails the 0.05 seconds of the F900EXR by quite a distance, it'll likely prove sufficient for many purposes, if the figures are borne out by our own testing. In Macro mode, it's possible to focus as close as two inches (5cm).
You'll need to frame your subject -- and review your results -- on the Fuji F850's rear-panel LCD, as there's no optical or electronic viewfinder on this model. Thankfully, while the screen diagonal of 3.0 inches is the same as used by most cameras these days, the resolution is quite a bit higher than many cameras, with a total of 920,000 dots. That roughly equates to a VGA (640 x 480) pixel array, with each pixel made up of separate red, green, and blue dots. Fujifilm says the screen includes a Sunlight mode that helps with viewing in bright ambient light, and at wider viewing angles.
A popup flash is also built into the camera on the top panel, and since there's no hot shoe, this is your only option for adding some light to your subject. The flash's output is fairly limited, though, with a range of just 12.1 feet (3.7m) at wide angle, and 7.8 feet (2.4m) at telephoto, using automatic ISO sensitivity.
Thankfully, the selection of shooting modes and creative options is quite generous for a travel zoom, and even caters to enthusiasts by providing not only program autoexposure, but also priority and manual shooting. There's also an EXR-Auto mode, which helps you take advantage of the sensor's proprietary color filter array. The camera will analyze your scene, then automatically select the best mode of operation, favoring either the best resolution, dynamic range, or signal/noise ratio. You can also program an Extended Function (E-Fn) button on the camera's rear to provide quick access to specific options you frequently need to access. There's a 360-degree motion panorama function, too, plus a selection of eight filter effects: Pop Color, Toy Camera, Miniature, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key, or Soft Focus.
And in addition to stills, you can also shoot high definition video. The Fuji FinePix F850EXR's video mode allows you to record Full HD (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) video at 60 frames per second. The scene recognition system functions for movie capture, optimizing camera settings based on the detected scene type. Capture is started and stopped with a dedicated Movie button, and sound is captured with a built-in stereo microphone.
Images and movies are saved on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, and the higher-speed UHS-I types. There's also a not-very-generous 21MB of internal memory, enough to save a handful of the most important shots if you accidentally leave home without a flash card.
Connectivity includes an HDMI high-definition video output, and a USB 2.0 High Speed data port. There's no standard-definition video connectivity though, so if you haven't yet upgraded to a modern HDTV, you'll need to do so if you want to be able to view your photos on the big screen.
Power comes from an NP-50A lithium ion rechargeable battery pack. Fujifilm says that the FinePix F850EXR is capable of shooting 250 shots on a charge, to CIPA testing standards.
Available from March 2013, the Fujifilm F850EXR is priced at US$300. The only available body color in the US market is black.