Fuji F900EXR Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Tired of aiming your camera, pressing the shutter button, and then finding out that your subject has already left the building before you got their photo? That's the problem Fuji aims to tackle with its latest compact travel zoom, the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR. Thanks to the pairing of an EXR-CMOS II image sensor and an EXR Processor II CPU, the Fuji F900 is, says its maker, capable of providing the world's fastest autofocus speed. And once your subject's in focus, the F900 is said to be able to rattle off a quick burst of images at a swift 11 frames per second, improving your chances of finding a good shot in the mix.
If that pairing sounds familiar, you're likely remember the recently-announced Fuji HS50EXR, which shares the same sensor and processor. But where that camera has an SLR-like body, and a size and weight to match, the Fuji F900EXR has a body that's easily coat-pocket or purse-friendly. And while it's only got half the zoom reach of that camera, and its lens isn't as bright, there's definitely something to be said for the fact that a smaller camera is more likely to be with you when you most need it.
So... why is the Fuji F900EXR so fast-focusing? That speed comes thanks to the inclusion of phase detection pixels on the image sensor. Fujifilm claims a focus time of just 0.05 seconds to CIPA testing standards in the F900EXR's fastest focus mode, as compared to a full 0.21 seconds for the closely-related F850EXR, which has the same processor but lacks on-chip phase detect. Of course, we've yet to confirm these numbers in our lab, but they make for impressive reading nonetheless. And these figures will apply only when the camera is able to use phase detection AF; when it reverts to contrast-detection AF we'd expect speeds similar to those of the F850EXR.
The EXR-CMOS II image 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. We've already mentioned the impressive full-res burst speed of 11 frames per second; you can shoot as many as five frames at this rate before the buffer fills. In standard shooting, the F900EXR 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 F900EXR'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. 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 F900'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 F900EXR's video mode allows you to record Full HD (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) video at 60 frames per second, and the camera's phase detection autofocus operates during video capture, helping keep your subject in focus. The scene recognition system also 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. And again showing a focus on enthusiast shooters, Fujifilm has also included a raw file format (including a raw+JPEG mode), so you can access your unmodified digital "negative" for the best possible image quality.
The Fuji FinePix F900 also includes a built-in Wi-Fi radio, allowing you to connect to wireless networks or the hotspot of your Apple or Android smart device, and transfer images and movies. Once they're off the camera, you can use the data connectivity of the smart device to share images on social networking sites. Fuji offers a free application for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android that lets you transfer batches of up to 30 images at a time from the camera. The Fujifilm PC AutoSave app for Windows, meanwhile, automatically backs the camera up to your PC whenever Wi-Fi is connected.
Other 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 F900EXR is capable of shooting 260 shots on a charge, to CIPA testing standards.
Available from March 2013, the Fujifilm F900EXR is priced at US$400. Available body colors in the US market include black and indigo blue.