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Quick Review

Fuji FinePix A205 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 03/09/04
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family, entry-level camera
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Decent prints to 8x10
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$199


Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
Universally known for great color and performance, Fuji has also carved out a niche for itself by consistently providing, good-quality consumer digicams at rock-bottom prices. The latest in Fuji's line of bargain-priced cameras is the FinePix A205, the 2-megapixel twin to the three-megapixel FinePix A210. The FinePix A205 carries on the value-leading tradition of Fuji digital cameras by offering a 2.0 megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens at a price lower than those of many competing two megapixel models. As you'd expect, the FinePix A205 trades off a few features and capabilities to achieve its remarkably low cost, but the camera still takes good-looking pictures in daylight conditions, and is simple enough for even rank beginners to get started with. Read on for all the details, or check out my review of the Fuji FinePix A210 to see a three-megapixel Fuji digital camera with essentially the same feature set.

(If you've already read the A210's review, you may want to just skip to the conclusions section here, as the features and operation of the A205 are virtually identical to its higher-resolution sibling.)

 

Camera Overview

Increasing the point-and-shoot options of Fuji's FinePix line of digicams, the FinePix A205 is an affordable entry-level digicam that offers good quality and value. Small, compact, and very lightweight, the A205 offers the same, 2.0-megapixel CCD as its predecessor, along with a Fujinon 3x optical zoom lens, but a few more features. Exposure control, however, remains automatic, with the convenience of point-and-shoot control. The A205's CCD captures high enough resolution for printing images with decent detail as large as 8x10 inches, and offers a lower-resolution setting for email attachments. Like its "big brother" the A210, the A205 sports a 3x optical zoom lens that increases the camera's flexibility. The camera's dimensions are just a little too large for most shirt pockets at 3.9 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches (99 x 65 x 53 millimeters), although you could feasibly stow the camera in a larger coat pocket or an average-sized purse. Despite its size, the all-plastic body is extremely lightweight at just 7.9 ounces (225 grams), including batteries and memory card. A sliding, built-in lens cover keeps the A205's front panel nearly flat when closed, allowing the camera to easily slip into a pocket or purse without snagging.

The A205 is equipped with a 3x, Fujinon 5.5-16.5mm lens, equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera. Aperture is automatically controlled from f/3 to f/10.8, with actual values depending on the zoom position of the lens. Focus also remains under automatic control, ranging from 2.6 feet (80 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, with a Macro setting ranging from 3.9 inches to 3.3 feet (10 centimeters to 1 meter). The camera also offers as much as 3.2x digital zoom, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it only enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. For framing shots, the A205 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor reports some camera settings, and can overlay an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, despite the A205's selection of Auto and Manual exposure modes. (The "Manual" setting simply expands the Record menu to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance options.) Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 1/2 second, but the LCD display doesn't report it or the lens aperture setting. To determine the best exposure, the A205 employs a TTL (through-the-lens), 64-zone metering system, which averages readings taken throughout the frame for the best overall exposure. The camera's Exposure Compensation setting lets you increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 in one-third-step increments. White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent presets, to match most common light sources. Although it's not adjustable, the A205's sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100, good for most average shooting conditions.

The A205's built-in flash is effective from 2.6 to 11.5 feet (0.8 to 3.5 meters) depending on the zoom setting, and operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow-Synchro modes. In Manual mode, the flash also offers a Red-Eye Reduction with Slow-Synchro combination mode. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the time that the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. The A205 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies without sound at either 320 x 240- or 160 x 120-pixel resolutions. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space, with a maximum of 60 seconds per clip at 320 x 240 pixels, and a maximum of 240 seconds at 160 x 120 pixels (although actual movie lengths will depend on the available memory card space).

The A205 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. You'll want to purchase a larger size fairly soon, given the A205's maximum 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution. (The xD-Picture Card itself is very tiny, rivaling the popular SD memory cards in size.) The A205 uses two AA-type batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH, and an optional AC adapter is available. A set of single-use AA alkaline batteries comes with the camera, but I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my long-time favorite. The A205 also comes with an adaptor for use with the separate accessory PictureCradle, which allows quick image downloading when connected to a computer. (The camera actually fits into the cradle sideways, lining up the USB/Digital jack with the cradle's jack.)

Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Fujinon 3x, 36-108mm (35mm equivalent) lens.
  • 3.2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Adjustable white balance with seven settings.
  • Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 100.
  • Apertures from f/3 to f/10.8.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1/2 second.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
  • Power supplied by two AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
  • Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (without sound).
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation
Lightweight, portable, and easy to use, the Fuji's FinePix A205 offers the point-and-shoot convenience that novices enjoy, with the benefit of a 3.2-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens. Although exposure remains under automatic control, you can adjust Exposure Compensation and White Balance if needed. A simple, straightforward user interface means little or no downtime spent learning, and makes the A205 adept at shooting on the fly. For under $300, you get the color and clarity on which Fuji has built such a strong reputation, with the convenience of a very user-friendly camera design.

 

Design
Measuring 3.9 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches (99 x 65 x 53 millimeters), the A205 is better-suited for average coat pockets than most shirt pockets, but fits easily into most average purses and comes with a wrist strap for a little extra security. Loaded with batteries and memory card, the A205 weighs a mere 7.9 ounces (225 grams), thanks in part to the all-plastic camera body. Because of the A205's straightforward design, external controls are limited and the LCD menu system is short and quick to navigate.

The A205's front panel curves gently from top to bottom without any large protrusions to snag on pockets. A sliding lens cover protects the lens when not in use, and keeps the front panel fairly smooth when the camera is off. When powered on, the lens extends about three-quarters of an inch from the front panel, and likewise retracts when the camera is turned off. Also on the front panel are the flash, flash sensor, self-timer lamp, and the optical viewfinder window. The sculpted surface of the lens cover provides a very slight finger grip, reinforced by a series of raised bumps on the rear panel which serve as a thumb grip.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap. At the very bottom of the right panel, the edge of the memory card and battery compartment door is visible.

The opposite side of the camera features the USB, DC In, and Video Out connector terminals, all uncovered.

On the A205's top panel are the Shutter button, Power switch, and a small Mode dial.

The few remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The Display button crowns the top of the LCD monitor, while the Menu/OK and Back buttons line the right side. The Zoom rocker button in the top right corner controls optical and digital zoom and navigates up and down through the LCD menu. On either side of the Zoom rocker button are two arrow keys, which also navigate menu options. The left arrow toggles Macro mode on or off while the right arrow steps through the flash modes.

Finally, the A205's bottom panel is nice and flat, with the plastic, threaded tripod mount right about center. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. Although I typically prefer to have access to the battery and memory card compartments while a camera is mounted to a tripod, I doubt this issue will come into play much on the A205, given its portable nature and point-and-shoot design.

 

Camera Operation
With full automatic exposure control and only a couple of manual adjustments available, the A205's user interface is very straightforward and quick to grasp. The Mode dial instantly sets the camera mode, and remaining external controls are limited to optical/digital zoom, macro and self-timer modes, and the menu display. Although you'll have to get into the LCD menu system for basic adjustments, the menu screens are simply laid out, and feature only a handful of options each. Thus, you should be able to start shooting with the camera right out of the box.

Record Mode Display: The LCD monitor reports very basic information in Record mode, including the shooting mode, resolution setting, number of available images, and a central focus target. It also reports the flash mode, and macro and self-timer settings. Pressing the Display button enables an alignment grid, which divides the image area into thirds vertically and horizontally. A third press disables the LCD monitor entirely.

Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the main LCD display shows the file number and capture date for a few seconds. Pressing the Display button pulls up the nine-image index display. The Zoom rocker button enlarges the captured image as much as 10x, depending on the resolution size.

 

External Controls


Mode Dial
: Surrounding the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this dial sets the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Record, Playback, and Movie.

Shutter Button: Located on the camera's top panel and encircled by the Mode dial, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power Switch
: To the left of the Shutter button, this sliding switch turns the camera on and off.


Zoom Rocker Button
: This two-way rocker button is in the top right corner of the rear panel, and controls the optical and digital zoom. In any settings menu, this button navigates up and down through menu selections. In Playback mode, this button controls the Playback Zoom feature, which enlarges captured images as much as 10x.

Right and Left Arrow Keys: Flanking the Zoom rocker button in the top right corner of the rear panel, these arrow keys navigate through captured images in Playback mode, as well as through menu selections in any settings menu. When an image has been enlarged, these keys also move around within the view.

In Record mode, the left arrow accesses the Macro shooting mode, and the right arrow key cycles through the available flash modes.


Display Button
: Directly above the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD monitor display, and activates the framing grid. It also disables the LCD monitor, so you can save battery power by framing images with the optical viewfinder. In Playback mode, this button also controls the information overlay, as well as enables a nine-image index display mode.


Menu/OK Button
: Next to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button pulls up the settings menu in Playback, Record, or Movie modes. It also serves as the "OK" button, to confirm any menu selections.

In Playback mode, when an image has been enlarged, pressing this button saves a cropped copy of the image.


Back Button
: Beneath the Menu/OK button, this button backs out of camera menus without making changes.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Still Image Record Mode: Marked with a red camera icon on the Mode dial, this mode allows the camera to capture still images. Exposure is automatically controlled, although a "Manual" option in the settings menu increases the menu selections to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Quality: Sets the image resolution and quality to 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels), or 0.3M (640 x 480 pixels).
  • Self-Timer: Activates the 10-second Self-Timer.
  • Shooting Mode: Puts the camera into Auto or Manual shooting modes.
  • Set-Up: Adjusts the LCD brightness, and offers the a variety of setup menu options (see below).
  • Exposure Compensation: (Manual mode only) Adjusts the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
  • White Balance: (Manual mode only) Sets the white balance to Auto, Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, or Incandescent.

 

 

 

 

Set-Up Menu: Accessible from either the record or playback menus, the Setup menu offers the following options:

  • Image Display: Turns the post-image capture review screen on or off.
  • Power Save: Turns the power save option on or off. If on, the camera will shut down after 30 seconds of inactivity.
  • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
  • Beep: Enables the camera's beep sounds, with options for Low, High, or Off.
  • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
  • LCD: Turns the LCD monitor on or off. If on, the LCD monitor automatically comes on whenever the Mode dial is set to the Still Image Record position. If off, you must enable the display via the Display button.
  • Frame Number: Sets the camera to number each successive image continuously from memory card to memory card, or to reset numbering with each new memory card.
  • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to DSC or PC Cam. PC Cam mode lets Windows users use the A205 as a webcam.
  • Language: Sets the menu language to one of five languages.
  • Video System: Assigns the video signal as PAL or NTSC.
  • Discharge: Discharges rechargeable batteries fully, so that they can be recharged from the base level. (Not recommended for alkaline batteries, as this will eliminate the charge entirely.)
  • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

 

 

 

 

Playback Mode: The traditional green playback symbol marks this mode on the Mode dial. Here, you can review captured images and movies, as well as manage files and set up images for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Erase: Deletes the current frame, or all frames on the memory card.
  • DPOF: Marks/unmarks frames for printing on DPOF devices, with an option to include a date and time overlay.
  • Protect: Write-protects the displayed image, preventing it from being accidentally erased or manipulated (except via card formatting). Also removes protection, and offers options to protect or unprotect all images on the card.
  • Set-Up: Displays the same settings as under the Record menu.
  • Playback: Enables an automated slide show of all the captured images on the memory card, with options for transition styles.

 

 

Movie Mode: Noted by a red movie camera icon on the Mode dial, Movie mode records movies without sound. Pressing the Menu button lets you adjust the resolution setting (either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels), and provides access to the camera's main Setup menu.

 

In the Box
In the box are the following items:

  • Fuji FinePix A205 digital camera.
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Two single-use, AA-type alkaline batteries.
  • Wrist strap.
  • USB cable.
  • Video cable.
  • Cradle adapter.
  • Software CD-ROM.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

Recommended Accessories
  • (I recommend 32MB as a bare minimum, 64MB would be nice.)
  • Two sets NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger.
  • Soft camera case.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

User Reviews

 

Sample Pictures
See our sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 


Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the A205's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how A205's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the A205 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Pretty good color, but a little trouble with incandescent lighting. While the two cameras are very similar, I felt that the A205 actually delivered slightly better color than its "big brother" the A205, with accurate hue and good saturation levels in most instances. I typically chose the Auto white balance setting as the most accurate, though it often produced similar results to those of the Daylight option, with both typically resulting in pictures with a slight warm cast to them. Outdoors, skin tones were the area where I felt that it improved upon the A205 slightly, and it did a good job with the always-difficult blue flowers as well. Indoors, the camera had a little difficulty with incandescent lighting, leaving more of a color cast in the image than I'd have liked, with both the auto and incandescent white balance settings.

  • Exposure: Accurate exposure, but high contrast limits highlight and shadow detail under harsh lighting. Exposure-wise, the A205 did a very good job overall. The high-key outdoor portrait needed very little positive exposure compensation (0.3 EV vs the 0.7 to 1.0 EV that most cameras require for that shot), though I had to sacrifice highlight detail to get even reasonably bright midtones. Indoors, the camera had a little more trouble, requiring average to slightly more than average exposure compensation, and producing the warm color casts mentioned above. The Davebox target looked pretty good, the camera differentiating subtle tonal differences quite well there. Under harsh sunlit conditions outside though, the camera's high native contrast caused it to lose both highlight and shadow detail.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Decent resolution for an entry-level two-megapixel camera, 800 lines of "strong detail." Less than average barrel distortion. he A205 turned in about an average performance for an entry-level two megapixel camera on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height vertically, and around 500 lines horizontally, and artifacts were quite strong in the vertical direction. I found "strong detail" out to at least 800 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 950 lines.

  • Image Noise: Somewhat higher than average image noise for a two-megapixel camera. The A205 showed somewhat higher than average image noise in the shadow areas of its images for a two-megapixel camera. Probably acceptable for an entry-level camera, (particularly since image noise didn't extend into the midtones or highlights), but still more than I'd like to see.


  • Closeups: About average macro area, but great detail and resolution. The A205 turned in an average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.83 x 2.87 inches (97 x 73 millimeters). Color balance was a little warm, but resolution was high for an inexpensive two-megapixel model, with good detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Details are also sharp, with good definition. There was just a hint of the corner softness I'm accustomed to seeing in digicam macro shots, in the lower corners of the frame. The A205's flash throttled down a little too well for the macro area, resulting in a moderate underexposure. (For the best results, plan on using external illumination for your macro pictures.) Overall, a decent macro performer with average coverage.

  • Night Shots: Very limited low-light capabilities, plan on using the flash for night exposures. The A205 operates under automatic exposure control at all times, and has a very limited shutter speed range. Thus, the camera has fairly poor low-light shooting capabilities. In my testing, the A205 produced a barely usable image at the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level. The color balance was also rather warm. Noise is somewhat higher than average for a two-megapixel camera.

  • Optical Distortion: Better than average optical distortion. Optical distortion on the A205 is a little less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured between 0.5 and 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only half a pixel of barrel distortion there (about 0.03 percent). Chromatic aberration was also low, showing only about two or three pixels of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but a more accurate view in the LCD. The A205's optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing about 85 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, but only 74 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved more accurate, showing approximately 98 percent accuracy at telephoto. (I couldn't measure the wide angle shot, as the lines of measurement were cut off in the final frame, showing the LCD monitor a bit "loose" here, but it was obviously very close to 100% coverage.) Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A205's LCD monitor did pretty well, but its optical viewfinder really needs some improvement, particularly at telephoto focal lengths.

  • Battery Life: Surprisingly good battery life for a 2-cell camera. With a worst-case runtime of 2 hours and 34 minutes on a pair of 1600 mAh NiMH AA cells, the A205 offers better than average battery life. I still strongly recommend purchasing at least two sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good-quality charger though. You can find test results of high-capacity NiMH AA cells on my Battery Shootout page, or see this article for a review of my favorite charger.

 

Conclusion
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Fuji FinePix digicams have always been associated with good image quality and color, with solid performance even at the lower-end of the line. With a 2.0-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens, the A205 offers the same great point-and-shoot convenience as its "big brother" the A210, but with a little less resolution. There's still plenty of image here to make good-looking 8x10 prints though, so the A205 is great for people looking to really pinch their pennies yet still get good picture quality. Overall, a solid entry-level model, with enough resolution for most consumers and an optical zoom lens at an exceptional price. I wrestled with making this a "Dave's Pick," due to the difficulty it has with incandescent lighting and its limited low-light capability, but for the money it's hard to beat. If you're looking for a rock-bottom price on a camera that'll mainly be used for daytime shooting, the A205 would be an excellent choice.

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Fuji FinePix A205, or add comments of your own!


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