Fujifilm F300EXR Review
|Dimensions:||4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
(104 x 59 x 33 mm)
|Weight:||7.6 oz (215 g)
Fujifilm FinePix F300EXR Overview
The Fujifilm FinePix F300EXR, like the simultaneously announced Z800EXR, is based around a newly developed 12.0 effective megapixel, 1/2-inch Super CCD EXR image sensor. This chip is coupled to a Fujinon-branded 15x optical zoom lens. The latest generation of Super CCD EXR chip retains the 45-degree octagonal pixel array that's the hallmark of Super CCD sensors, as well as the rearranged Color Filter Array from past EXR sensors, but with one significant addition that promises significantly improved autofocus speed. Previous Super CCD sensors offered benefits in terms of resolution on the horizontal and vertical axes, while EXR sensors improved green channel resolution (to which the human eye is most sensitive), albeit at the expense of red and blue channel resolution, and also offered more effective pixel binning (for improved sensitivity at reduced resolution), plus the ability to read out half the pixels during exposure (for increased dynamic range). The camera can automatically select the best mode of operation -- favoring the best resolution, dynamic range, or signal/noise ratio -- via its EXR Auto mode. The new generation Super CCD EXR chip retains all of these advantages, but also adds on-sensor phase detection autofocus pixels, allowing the same speedy focusing technique that's prevelant in the world of digital SLRs, rather than the typically slower contrast detection autofocus that's been used in compact digital cameras to date.
Phase detection is faster because it allows the camera to determine not only whether the image is in focus, but if not, to immediately determine the direction and amount of focus adjustment that is needed. Contrast detection requires the camera to repeatedly make small adustments to the focus, followed by measurements to see if the focus area has gained or lost sharpness since the previous measurement -- a much slower process even in the latest cameras, albeit noticeably swifter than in compact cameras from a few years back. The Fuji F300EXR can still fall back to using contrast detection autofocus in certain situations such as low-light shooting, where the reduced speed is worthwhile for increased accuracy, and this decision is made automatically depending on the subject. When phase detection AF is in use, the FinePix F300EXR is said to offer the ability to lock focus in just 0.158 seconds (manufacturer spec), which if accurate is respectable even by DSLR standards, and extremely fast for a compact camera, where autofocus shutter lag is often in the region of half a second or more (although the best current contrast detection cameras can manage sub-quarter second times). The F300EXR's contrast detection autofocusing system offers single point or multi-point modes, and includes both a tracking function and AF assist illuminator. (We're not currently clear on specifics of the phase detection system as regards focus points, nor specific details on the design and how it's been achieved.)
Maximum image resolution is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels in the camera's native 4:3 aspect ratio, and both 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio modes are also available. The F300's lens is also newly developed for the F300EXR, and offers actual focal lengths ranging from 4.4 to 66mm, equivalent to 24 to 360mm on a 35mm camera - a generous wide angle to a powerful telephoto. The lens design incorporates 12 low-dispersion glass aspherical elements, and uses Fuji's electron beam coating (dubbed Super EBC) for better light transmission, improving overall image quality. A dual sliding mechanism has been used to allow the slimmest possible lens profile when powered off, with the F300EXR's body impressively slim for a 15x zoom camera, at just 23mm thick.
Importantly for a lens with this kind of reach, the FinePix F300EXR includes true mechanical (CCD shift-type) image stabilization to combat blur from camera shake, and this is another area in which the camera has been upgraded when compared to past models. The F300EXR design now includes a new gyroscope which allows a couple of improvements. Firstly, the camera can now detect and correct for not only short, quick vibrations, but also for the bigger, slower movements that typically prove challenging for many image stabilization mechanisms. The sensor-shift stabilization also now works during movie capture, rather than falling back to a less effective digital image stabilization technique for videos.
The Fuji F300EXR has a three-step aperture, offering F3.5, F7.1, or F10 at wide angle, and F5.3, F11, or F16 (with an ND filter) at telephoto. Minimum focusing distance is ordinarily 1.5 feet at wide angle or 8.2 feet at telephoto, but drops to just 2.0 inches in Macro mode at wide angle, or 3.9 feet at telephoto. There's no true optical viewfinder on this model, with all interaction taking place on a 3.0-inch high-contrast LCD display with 460,000 dot resolution, and the display provides 100% frame coverage.
The FinePix F300 offers ISO-equivalent sensitivity ranging from 100 to 1,600 ordinarily, but can raise the maximum to 12,800 equivalent at a reduced resolution. Exposures are determined using 256-zone metering, with multi, center-weighted and spot options available. Shooting modes include Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual and a generous selection of 18 scene modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to eight seconds. Burst shooting is possible at up to 1.5 frames per second, with a burst depth of five shots. . A two- or ten-second self timer is available to allow the photographer to get into the photo, or to reduce blur when shooting on a tripod. Other unusual features include a Pro Focus mode which combines several images of a static scene into a single image with simulated shallow depth of field, face recognition capable of identifying up to eight specific individuals, and a motion panorama function (also called sweep panorama by some manufacturers), which captures 180, 240, or 360-degree panoramas by pressing the shutter button while panning across the subject.
As well as JPEG-format still images, the FinePix F300 can capture Motion JPEG-compressed AVI video with monaural audio. Movie resolutions include high-definition 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) at 24 frames per second, and VGA (640 x 480 pixels) at 30 frames per second. The Fuji FinePix F300 stores its data in a useful 40MB of built-in memory, or on Secure Digital cards, including SDHC types -- but not the latest SDXC types.. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High Speed data, HDMI Micro high definition video output, and NTSC / PAL standard definition video output. Power comes from a proprietary NP-50 lithium ion battery, and battery life is rated at around 250 frames.
The Fuji FinePix F300EXR is slated for late August 2010 availability, priced at around US$330.
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