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Fuji FinePix 1400A sleek design, great 1.3 megapixel picture quality, a 3x zoom lens, and a great price!
Review First Posted: 6/6/2000
||1.3 megapixel CCD, producing 1280x960 pixel images|
||True 3x optical zoom lens with autofocus|
||Good picture control, with white balance and exposure compensation settings|
||USB computer connection for fast image downloads|
Fuji has been producing digicams for several years now, cranking out a wide range of models for both themselves and other companies (Toshiba and Leica). Their product mix has evolved in two directions, with one series that closely resembles conventional point & shoots, plus a compact line that are highly "pocketable", with a small (tiny?) form factor, and retracting lens covers to instill confidence at just dropping them into your pocket. While they're pushing the boundaries of the pro/prosumer space with their high-end S1 Pro digital SLR camera, at the low end, they've established a tradition of offering exceptional value for the money.
Continuing their bang-for-the-buck tradition at the low end, they've just recently introduced their new FinePix 1400 Zoom model, with traditional point & shoot camera styling, a true 3x optical zoom lens (with autofocus), and excellent 1.3 megapixel image quality. At an introductory list price of only $399 and street prices in the low $300s, the 1400 Zoom was a good hundred dollars less than its nearest competitor when it was rolled out to the public in late May of 2000. With its combination of style, features, and price, we predict the 1400 Zoom will find many a happy home!
With the new F1400 Zoom, Fuji's come up with an affordable camera that boasts a compact, portable body and all the basic exposure control necessities plus a nice array of features. The camera's sleek, light weight body design allows it to tag along wherever you go by easily slipping into most shirt and coat pockets. A sliding cover protects the lens, eliminating the hassle of a lens cap. We were glad to see that unlike other digicams of similar design, this sliding cover does not serve as the power switch, which can sometimes be a little tricky. Instead, the camera is turned on through the mode dial on the top panel, which then activates the lens to slide out into its operating position. We also appreciated the very clean look the camera has, thanks to a limited number of external controls. Although this means that the LCD menu system must be used to adjust most of the camera settings (which can put a little extra load on the batteries), it presents a very simple user interface that is easy to figure out.
The F1400 Zoom offers both a real image optical viewfinder and 1.6 inch color LCD monitor for composing images. With the exception of specific exposure variables such as aperture and shutter speed, the LCD screen provides a fair amount of information about the camera, including file size, the number of images recorded, etc. This information display appears in both Record and Playback modes, and can be easily dismissed by pressing the Display button. We were glad to see the inclusion of a playback zoom and a nine image index display mode as well.
The 3x, 6 to 18mm lens (equivalent to a 38 to 114mm lens on a 35mm camera) provides a nice zoom range and automatically controlled aperture settings of f/3.5 or f/8.7. Focus is also automatically controlled (from 31.5 inches or 0.8 meters to infinity) and a macro setting gets as close as 3.9 inches (10 cm). The 2x digital telephoto is enabled by zooming past the optical zoom range, but only when the 640 x 480 image size is selected. Exposure-wise, the F1400 Zoom covers all the basics with options for Automatic or Manual exposure mode. Automatic mode is very straightforward, putting the camera in charge of everything except the flash mode, file size and image quality. Switching to Manual mode allows you to adjust the exposure compensation (from -0.9 to +1.5 EV in 1/3 EV increments) and the white balance (with choices of Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent or Incandescent) in addition to the previously mentioned settings. Something interesting we noticed is that the 10 second self-timer is only available in the Automatic exposure setting, since the option disappears once you switch to Manual mode. Flash is controllable in both modes, with settings for Auto, Redeye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed and Slow-Synchro, all accessed by pressing the Flash button on the back panel.
Images are stored on 3.3v SmartMedia cards and a 4MB card comes with the camera. Images can be saved as 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480, with an option to resize the larger resolution images to 320 x 240 under the Playback menu. Quality settings range from Fine to Normal to Basic in each file size. Four AA alkaline batteries accompany the camera, but you can also use four AA Ni-MH or Ni-Cd rechargeables and/or purchase the AC adapter accessory (both of which we highly recommend). Even with it's reliance on the LCD, the F1400 Zoom actually performs quite well in the power consumption category, being a bit more efficient than most cameras we've tested. Despite the lower-than-normal power consumption though, we still strongly advise purchasing a good charger and a couple of sets of AA NiMH rechargeable batteries: You'll save a huge amount of money in the long run.
The camera connects via a USB cable to a PC or Mac and comes with a nice complement of software on one CD. The Exif Viewer, DP Editor and Adobe PhotoDeluxe programs allow you to not only view and organize images, but also set them up for printing, make minor corrections, apply filters for more creative results and take advantage of templates for making greeting cards, calendars, etc.
We have to say that we were pretty impressed with the F1400 Zoom. In a compact, sleek package, you get a 1.3 megapixel camera, a zoom lens, all the necessary exposure control, advanced playback features and very nice image quality, all at a very reasonable price. This camera is perfectly matched for the consumer who wants to take great pictures without worrying about a lot of exposure settings or spending too much money. Given its compact size, we think the F1400 Zoom will prove an excellent companion for just about any destination.
The front of the camera is very smooth, featuring a sliding lens cover that retracts to expose the lens. (No worries about keeping track of a lens cap!). However, unlike some digicams with similar lens cover designs, the lens doesn't telescope into action until the camera is turned on via the mode dial. Even then, it only protrudes about three quarters of an inch from the body, maintaining the camera's sleek physique. The only other components on the camera front are the built-in flash, which is always exposed, and the front of the optical viewfinder.
The right side of the camera (looking at the front) simply holds the USB and DC input jacks. Both are uncovered and easily accessible.
The SmartMedia card slot is located on the opposite side of the camera, beneath a hinged, plastic flap that locks securely into place when shut. We always appreciate it when digicam manufacturers make card slots uncomplicated and easy to operate.
The majority of the camera controls are on the back panel: Display button, Flash control, Cancel and Menu buttons, zoom control and two arrow keys. Because most of the camera settings are controlled by the LCD based menu system, the back panel of the camera isn't overly crowded with buttons and switches. Also on the back panel are the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder. A small, textured thumb grip gives you a pretty secure hold.
The remaining camera controls are on the top panel, namely the mode dial and shutter button. Both are accessible with your right hand, and it's conceivable that most people can operate the camera one-handed, based on the positioning of the other controls. A nice feature on the mode dial is the small tab that sticks out and provides a nice little grip for your finger. The dial clicks firmly into each position so that you don't have to worry about turning it too far and missing the stop.
Finally, the bottom of the camera houses the battery compartment and tripod mount. We're glad to report that the battery compartment is very simple to operate, without any complicated locks or tricky doors. You just slide the door outwards and flip it open to access the batteries. The battery compartment and tripod mount are too close to each other to allow battery changes while using a tripod, but this is only a minor concern as this camera was definitely meant for more spontaneous applications than studio work. (We tend to be picky about this, given the amount of studio shooting we do).
The F1400 Zoom is equipped with a real image optical viewfinder that zooms along with the lens (except in digital telephoto, which relies on the LCD). A central autofocus target helps line up shots while an external LED lights green or orange to let you know the status of the autofocus or flash, if activated. Fuji estimates the frame coverage at about 80 percent, but we found the framing accuracy to be only 74 percent at wide angle and about 81 percent at telephoto. We also noticed that framing with the optical viewfinder results in an image shifted slightly towards the upper right corner. Additionally, the image seemed to slant ever so slightly towards the left in our test unit. Inaccurate optical viewfinders are a pet peeve of ours on digital cameras, to the point that we're going to start making more noise about it. In the case of the F 1400 Zoom, the viewfinder isn't much worse than many others we've seen, but we see no reason why it shouldn't be much better. (Expect to hear more of this from us in the future: We promise to pick on all the manufacturers equally!)
The 1.6 inch, D-TFT, color LCD monitor is activated by the Display button just above it after the camera is switched on. When not being used as a viewfinder, the LCD monitor continuously displays camera information, which remains on the screen when the viewfinder is activated, but can be canceled by hitting the Display button a second time. As with the optical viewfinder, a central autofocus target accompanies the information display. In Playback mode, the LCD can display up to nine thumbnail images at a time in the index display mode and a zoom feature allows you to scroll around an enlarged view of a captured image for closer review. (You can zoom in on images in playback mode like this up to 4.0x, in 0.2x increments, a very handy feature.)
Our tests showed the LCD monitor to be quite a bit more accurate than the optical viewfinder, showing about 87 percent accuracy at wide angle and about 95 percent at telephoto. Interestingly enough, we noticed that for both the optical viewfinder and the LCD monitor, the frame accuracy stayed the same for both high and low resolutions. However, on the smaller image size in the wide angle test for the LCD, we measured its accuracy at 92 percent, a noticeable difference from the 87 percent of the larger format.
The F1400 Zoom features a 3x, 6 to 18mm glass lens (equivalent to a 38 to 114mm lens on a 35mm camera). As we mentioned earlier, the lens is protected by a sliding lens cover that retracts to expose the lens (a nice way to solve the problem of a lens cap). Once the camera is turned to Record mode via the mode dial, the lens slides out of its hiding place about three quarters of an inch, still maintaining a relatively smooth camera front. We like this method of activating the lens more than that of using the sliding cover to turn the camera on, which can be a little sticky at times. Focus is automatically controlled, with a normal working range from 31.5 inches (0.8m) to infinity. A macro mode is accessible through the Record menu and changes the focus range to 3.9 to 31.5 inches (10 to 80 cm). Aperture is also automatically chosen to be either f/3.5 or f/8.7 and unfortunately, the camera doesn't report the setting it's currently using. (Low end cameras almost never provide this information, probably to avoid confusing the user.) A 2x digital telephoto increases the camera's zoom capabilities to 6x (only in the 640 x 480 image size), but results in slightly lesser quality images with higher noise and softer resolution.
We found moderately high barrel distortion at the full wide angle setting (about 1.0 percent) and a lesser pincushion distortion at the telephoto end (0.5 percent). We also saw about two pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines, so chromatic aberration is low. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target).
Operation & User Interface
We found the user interface on the F1400 Zoom pretty self-explanatory and uncomplicated. Only the flash, camera mode and LCD information display are operated by external controls, leaving the majority of the camera settings to be controlled through the LCD menu system. This greatly simplifies the operation, although the heavy usage of the LCD monitor tends to shorten battery life. The LCD menu is in itself very straightforward, occupying only two menu screens which are quickly navigated with the arrow buttons. Additionally, most of the buttons are within reach of one hand (the Display button is just barely out of reach), so you could conceivably operate the camera one-handed. The camera's very sensible design means that you don't have to spend a lot of time learning how to use it -- and that's always a plus.
Shutter Button: Located on the very top right of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Power/Mode Dial: Also located on the top panel of the camera, this dial puts the camera into Record or Playback Mode and also turns the camera off. When the dial is turned to the Record position, the lens slides out into its operating position. Likewise, when turned to the Off position, the lens retracts back into the camera.
Display Button: Located on the back panel of the camera, next to the optical viewfinder, this button controls the LCD information display and the viewfinder screen. One press turns on the information display, the second turns on the viewfinder screen and the third cancels both. In Playback mode, this button cancels the information display and brings up the nine image index display mode. Also in Playback mode, after zooming into an image, pressing the Display button allows you to scroll around the enlarged image using the arrow keys.
Flash Button: Located to the right of the Display button, this button cycles through the flash modes: Auto, Redeye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed and Slow Synchro.
Cancel/Back Button: Located to the right of the Flash button, this button cancels menu options and backs out of menu screens. In the quick review after each exposure, this button also cancels the recording of the image.
Menu/Exe Button: Located to the right of the Cancel button, this button calls up the LCD menu screen when pressed. It also confirms menu selections. In the quick review after each exposure, this button confirms saving the image to the SmartMedia card.
Left and Right Arrow Buttons: Located on the right side of the back panel, these buttons scroll through menu options in Record and Playback menus. In Playback mode, these buttons scroll through captured images. Also in Playback mode, once zoomed into an image, these buttons let you scroll around the enlarged image.
Zoom Rocker Button: Located in between the left and right arrow keys, this rocker button features up and down arrows. In Record mode, this button controls the optical and digital zoom. In the Record and Playback menus, it assists with menu navigation. In Playback mode, the up and down arrows zoom in and out of captured images. Once zoomed into an image, you can use the left and right arrow buttons and the zoom rocker control to scroll around in the enlarged image.
Camera Modes & Menus
Manual Exposure Mode: This mode leaves the camera in control of aperture and shutter speed, while you control other exposure variables such as white balance and exposure compensation. Pressing the Menu button calls up the following menu options:
Playback Mode: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the green playback symbol, this mode allows you to review captured images, delete or protect them, or set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button in this mode activates the Playback menu with the following options:
The F1400 Zoom utilizes the tiny, removable SmartMedia cards for image storage and comes packaged with a 4MB card. Extra cards are available in capacities up to 64MB, and we strongly recommend purchasing one or two higher capacity cards. (The included 4 megabyte card holds only 6 images at the highest resolution/quality setting of the camera.) The SmartMedia card itself can be write protected by placing a small sticker in the designated spot on the card. This prevents anyone from writing to or deleting images from the card. Because each sticker must be clean to be effective, write protection stickers can only be used once.
Individual images can be protected from accidental erasure through the Playback menu. This does not protect images from being deleted through card formatting, however. The F1400 Zoom is setup to comply with the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) printing standards, and images can be set up for printing through the Playback menu.
Through the setup option of the Record menu, you can choose between 1280 x 960 and 640 x 480 image sizes. Image quality choices include Fine, Normal and Economy compression levels and all files are saved as Exif Ver.2.1 JPEGs. Included in the Playback menu is a Resize option, which allows you to shrink 1280 x 960 images down to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolution sizes, helpful when trying to conserve SmartMedia space.
Following are the approximate number of images and their compression ratios for a 4MB SmartMedia card:
|Resolution/Quality Vs Image Capacity||
In our transfer time tests, the FinePix 1400 Zoom's USB interface once again showed why USB connections are so great on digital cameras: We clocked a transfer of 2,101 KBytes of files in just 4.77 seconds, a rate of 440 Kbytes per second. (That's fast: A full 4 megabyte memory card would empty to the computer in just about 9 seconds!)
The F1400 Zoom does not have a video-out capability.
The F1400 Zoom is powered by four AA alkaline, NiMH or NiCd batteries. An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory, and we definitely recommend picking one up to save battery power during mundane tasks like downloading or reviewing images. As we do in virtually every digicam review we write, we strongly recommend new camera buyers also purchase a couple of sets of NiMH rechargeable batteries and a decent charger: You'll save more than the cost of the camera in the long run, just by not having to buy dozens of alkaline cells! We also recommend keeping a spare set of batteries charged, although the F1400 Zoom does a pretty good job with power consumption (a fair bit lower than average). As always, the LCD display is the big power hog, but even it isn't nearly as bad as some we've seen, probably due to its smaller size. In our own shooting, we got through almost all of our tests on a single set of AA NiMH cells, which is a very rare occurrence. We also noticed that with the LCD turned off, you should be able to leave the camera on for hours at a time without serious battery drain. Here's what we found in our measurements:
|Capture Mode, w/LCD||
|Capture Mode, no LCD||
|Half-pressed shutter w/LCD||
|Half-pressed w/o LCD||
|Memory Write (transient)||
|Flash Recharge (transient)||
Packaged with the F1400 Zoom is a software CD loaded with a USB driver, Exif Viewer, DP Editor and Adobe PhotoDeluxe, as well as a couple of other drivers and launchers necessary for Windows. A USB cable comes with the camera for quick connection to a PC or Mac. All software is compatible with Windows 98 and Macintosh OS 8.5.1 to 9.0. The Exif Viewer software lets you list the images on the camera or computer, print indexes of images as well as view and print individual images. The DP Editor package works with the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) setup to print images on DPOF compliant printers. Finally, Adobe PhotoDeluxe allows you to get a little creative with your images through a variety of filters and manipulation tools. You can also correct minor image problems and work with templates to create greeting cards, calendars, brochures, and many others.
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the FinePix 1400 Zoom's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the F1400 Zoom performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.
We were quite impressed with the 1400 Zoom's pictures, particularly given its low selling price and the fact that it includes an autofocus 3x optical zoom lens in the bargain. Colors were clean, bright and generally accurate, particularly when compared against cameras competing in the same price/resolution bracket. We saw a slight bias toward greenish hues under sunlight, and a mild yellowish bias under our "daylight" studio lighting, but these were both relatively minor. (We've seen greater color bias on cameras costing twice what the 1400 Zoom does.) Detail was very good as well, with crisp sharp edges and fine detail, without the over-sharpening so many cameras apply to their images in an attempt to fool you into thinking they have higher resolution than they really do.
In our laboratory resolution test, the FinePix 1400 Zoom scored about in the middle of the 1280x960 pixel pack, with a visual resolution that we called at 600 lines per picture height horizontally, and 550-600 vertically. Only slight color aliasing was observed, but gently sloping horizontal lines appeared somewhat prone to showing "jaggies." We felt this was quite a good performance in light of the rich set of features the 1400 offers at a low price point.
The F1400 Zoom also did pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.56 x 2.67 inches (90.31 x 67.73 mm). Resolution, detail and color all look great, although we noticed quite a bit of barrel distortion from the lens' wide angle setting.
As excellent as the FinePix 1400 Zoom's overall performance was, and as low as its selling price is, we guess it's reasonable to expect there'd be some area where it didn't match the performance of more expensive digicams. It looks like low light shooting is that area, as the 1400 really doesn't get down very dark relative to some of the higher-priced cameras in its resolution category. In our tests, it produced bright pictures down to a light level of about 4 foot-candles (44 lux), and usable but dark ones at levels of 2 foot-candles (22 lux). For comparison, a well-lit city night scene under typical street lighting corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle (11 lux). Thus, if you need to shoot pictures by moonlight, the FinePix 1400 Zoom wouldn't be your first choice. It should handle reasonably well-lit residential and office interiors just fine though.
We found the F1400 Zoom's optical viewfinder to be quite "tight", showing only about 74 percent of the final image area captured at wide angle and about 81 percent at the telephoto end. (Note that we've changed our terminology slightly in this area: Previously we would have a viewfinder showing this behavior as "loose.") Framing accuracy results were identical for both the 1280 x 960 and 640 x 480 resolution sizes. We also noticed that the framing seems to be shifted towards the upper right corner and slanted ever so slightly towards the lower left corner (this slant is possibly due to a shifted CCD on our test model). Frame accuracy was a little better with the LCD monitor, which showed approximately 87 percent at the wide angle end and about 95 percent at the telephoto end. These numbers are for the 1280 x 960 image size, which differed slightly from the 640 x 480 resolution size only on the wide angle setting, where it produced about 92 percent accuracy. (We usually like to see as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible with the LCD monitor).
Geometric distortion on the F1400 Zoom was a bit high at the wide angle end, as we measured the barrel distortion at 1.0 percent. Distortion was somewhat less at the telephoto end, with a 0.5 percent pincushion distortion. ("Barrel distortion" refers to a tendency for lines parallel to the edges of the frame to bow outward, while "pincushion" distortion is the opposite effect, with lines bowing inward in the middle.) Chromatic aberration is present but low, we caught about two pixels of faint coloration on each side of the black lines of our test target in wide angle mode, virtually none at the telephoto end of the lens' range. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash uniformity is quite good across the lens' range, with just a small amount of falloff in the corners at wide angle.
Again, as we stated at the outset, we were very impressed with the FinePix 1400 Zoom's overall image quality, particularly given its excellent feature set and aggressive pricing.
With its light, portable body and nice selection of exposure control, the F1400 Zoom looks like a perfect option for the consumer who doesn't want to spend a lot of money but still wants a camera that takes great pictures without too much hassle. At a very affordable price you get a 1.3 megapixel CCD, a true 3x optical zoom lens, detailed control over white balance and exposure compensation, extra features like playback zoom and three compression levels, and above all, very nice image quality. It's a smart little camera, perfectly suited for most standard shooting situations. We think Fuji has a real winner in this unit: Highly recommended!
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