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Quick Review

Fuji FinePix 3800 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 01/31/03
User Level Novice - Amateur
Product Uses Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design Point and Shoot
Picture Quality High, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes Up to 8x10
Availability Now
Suggested Retail Price $449.95
  Click here to check prices on this camera!

 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

Fujifilm produces a wide range of digicam models, from bare-bones entry-level models up to and including a high-end digital SLR. To my mind though, their greatest success has been in creating good-quality midrange cameras that sell at very competitive prices. Their FinePix 2800 Zoom was one of the best deals on the market last year (this review is being written in January, 2003), featuring a 6x zoom lens and two-megapixel CCD for only $399. That was a great bargain for a camera with a nice complement of features, very good photo quality, and a long zoom lens. Now, the FinePix 3800 goes a step further with a 3.2-megapixel CCD for only $50 more. Additionally, the 3800 has an Aperture Priority exposure mode, and a longer exposure time (maximum three seconds), increasing the camera's flexibility. It also accepts the new xD-Picture Card. Just like the 2800 before it, the FinePix 3800 offers excellent value for the money.

Camera Overview

Almost a mirror image of the earlier Fuji FinePix 2800, the FinePix 3800 updates the model with a larger CCD, partial manual exposure control, and a slightly improved user interface. This new model also uses the new xD-Picture Card memory format, rather than the SmartMedia of its predecessor. To accommodate the camera's 6x zoom lens, the 3800's body is slightly bulky, but still compact compared to many long-zoom digicams. Highly portable and lightweight, the 3800 will definitely come along for the ride. Too large for a standard shirt pocket, the 3800 should fit into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a shoulder strap to make carrying it easier. Measuring 3.9 x 3.0 x 2.7 inches (99 x 77 x 69 millimeters), the 3800 weighs 10 ounces (294 grams with batteries and xD-Picture Card) and fits well in one hand. A substantial handgrip provides a very firm hold, nicely balancing out the weight of the lens barrel. The 3800 offers a 3.2-megapixel CCD, which delivers clear, sharp images as large as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches with great detail. (A lower resolution is also available for more email-friendly file sizes.)

The 3800's Fujinon 6x, 6-36mm lens is the equivalent of a 38-228mm zoom on a 35mm camera. A small, plastic lens cap protects the lens when not in use, and tethers to the camera so you don't have to worry about losing it. The telescoping lens extends about an inch from the camera when powered on, and promptly retracts when the camera is shut off. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8.2, and can be manually set through the Record menu (in Manual mode only). Focus remains under automatic control at all times, with a focal range from 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) to infinity in normal mode, and from 3.9 to 31.5 inches (10 to 80 centimeters) in Macro mode. In addition to the 6x optical zoom, the 3800 also offers as much as 2.5x digital enlargement, depending on the image size selected. However, I always point out here that digital zoom compromises image quality in that it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD, resulting in less detail and higher image noise. Packaged with the 3800 is a lens adapter ring, which screws into filter threads on the inside lip of the lens barrel. The ring protects the lens when it's extended and accommodates Fuji's wide angle, telephoto, and macro lens adapters, which extend the camera's zoom capabilities. The 3800 offers both a TTL electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) and a 1.8-inch, D-TFT color LCD monitor. The viewfinder display switches between the EVF and LCD monitor via a button on the rear panel, which means that the complete display is available on the EVF, including the settings menus. The viewfinder's information display reports various camera settings, and an optional framing guide display divides the image into thirds horizontally and vertically for more accurate framing.

Though the camera offers Automatic and Manual exposure modes, exposure control is mainly automatic. The Mode dial on top of the camera puts the camera into Manual, Scene, Auto, or Movie modes. Auto mode determines the entire exposure automatically, with the user able to adjust the zoom, flash mode, and image size and quality settings only. Manual exposure mode expands user options to include white balance, exposure compensation, sharpness, flash power and aperture settings. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to three seconds, but are not reported on the LCD display. The Aperture Priority option under the settings menu offers three apertures and an Auto setting. The 3800 uses a 64-zone metering system to determine exposure, placing the greatest emphasis on the center portion of the image area. Light sensitivity is rated as equivalent to ISO 100, and is not adjustable. When shooting in Manual exposure mode, exposure compensation is adjustable from -2.1 to +1.5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. White Balance offers seven settings, including Auto, Daylight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. The 3800's Scene mode offers four preset "scenes" for shooting in potentially tricky situations, and includes Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Sport, and Night Scene modes.

The 3800's built-in, pop-up flash operates in one of five modes, which include Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow Synchro modes. Through the settings menu, flash power is adjustable from -0.6 to +0.6 EV values in one-third-step increments. For self-portraits or those times when pressing the shutter button might result in camera movement, the 3800 features a Self-Timer that delays the shutter release until 10 seconds after the shutter button is fully pressed. The 3800 can also capture movies with sound for a maximum of 200 seconds at the smaller resolution setting or 60 seconds at higher resolution, while in Movie capture mode. Movie files are saved in the Motion JPEG format, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels. A Voice Caption option allows you to record as much as 30 seconds of audio to attach to an image, post-capture. For capturing a quick series of shots, the Continuous Shooting mode captures as many as two images at approximately 0.5-second intervals (depending on resolution settings and memory card space).

Images captured by the 3800 are saved to xD-Picture Cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. In addition to the 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution size, the 3800 also offers 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; and 640 x 480-pixel resolutions. Two JPEG compression ratios are available, including Fine and Normal. The Playback menu offers DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings for printing images on a compatible device. A USB cable and software CD accompany the camera, allowing for high-speed connection to a computer. The software CD contains Fuji's FinePix Viewer software, which organizes and displays downloaded images, and provides printing and minor editing capabilities. Windows users can take advantage of PictureHello, which turns the 3800 into a videoconferencing tool.

The 3800 utilizes four AA batteries for power, and a set of alkaline cells accompanies the camera. As always, 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 longtime favorite. An AC adapter is also a separate accessory, but helpful for saving battery power while reviewing and downloading images or when using the 3800 as a webcam. Unless you're taking advantage of the camera's webcam capability though, rechargeable batteries would eliminate the need for the AC adapter.

With its compact and lightweight body, the convenience of full automatic and partial manual exposure control, 3.2-megapixel CCD, and impressive 6x zoom lens, the 3800 is a good choice for consumers looking for a portable, affordable, easy to use digicam that takes good pictures. The 3800 offers a basic level of exposure control when you want it, and a Movie mode for capturing quick bits of action. All in all, one of the better bargains in the digicam market today.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
  • 6x, 6-36mm lens (equivalent to a 38-228mm zoom on a 35mm camera).
  • Digital enlargement to 2.5x, depending on image resolution size.
  • 1.8-inch LCD monitor.
  • Electronic optical viewfinder.
  • Full automatic and partial manual exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to three seconds.
  • Adjustable apertures from f/2.8 to f/8.2.
  • Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 100.
  • Built-in, pop-up flash with five modes and variable intensity.
  • Images saved in JPEG format to xD-Picture Card (16-megabyte card included).
  • Power from four AA batteries or AC adapter (separate accessory).
  • Interface software compatible with both PC and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (with sound) and Voice Captioning function.
  • Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Scene mode with four preset "scenes."
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes.
  • Sharpness adjustment.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation

The FinePix 3800 offers excellent value and a good feature set for photographers interested in more telephoto capability than you normally find in zoom-equipped digicams. Its 6x zoom lens gets you twice as close to distant objects as the typical 3x zoom you find on most digicams, while Fuji's color expertise means the camera delivers excellent color quality. The 3800 would work well as an all-around everyday camera, as well as for shooting distant landscapes or wildlife. Its shutter lag at maximum telephoto is a bit slower than average though, so it might not be your first choice for fast-paced sports. All in all though, a nice camera with a long zoom at a very affordable price.

Design

Small and lightweight, the Fuji FinePix 3800 adds to Fuji's growing line of very portable digicams, and updates the previous 2800 Zoom model with a larger CCD and partial manual exposure control. The 3800 easily fits into one hand, but is a little too chubby for most shirt pockets. Still, the 3800 could easily find its way into larger coat pockets and purses, and the accompanying neck/shoulder strap is a convenient carrying option. Measuring 3.9 x 3.0 x 2.7 inches (99 x 77 x 69 millimeters), the camera's all-plastic body keeps it fairly lightweight at just 10 ounces (294 grams with batteries and xD-Picture Card). The 3800's silver exterior is very curvy, with smoothly sculpted protrusions for the handgrip and optical viewfinder mechanism. Camera controls are somewhat sparse, as most features are automatically controlled by the camera. This keeps the user interface uncluttered and clean, as well as simple to operate, but doesn't present the sophisticated exposure controls "enthusiasts" look for. With that in mind, let's take our virtual walk around the camera.

The front of the 3800 is sleek and stylish, with shiny silver highlights on a matte silver body. The lens barrel protrudes from the camera front about an inch or so, and features the same matte silver finish as the rest of the camera body. When the camera is powered on, the lens telescopes another inch from the camera body. A plastic lens cap protects the lens from scratches when not in use, and tethers to the camera body to prevent it from being lost. Just inside the lip of the lens barrel, a set of plastic filter threads hosts the lens adapter ring that comes with the camera. The lens shares the front panel with the microphone and self-timer LED (the small, red LED just above the lens). With the pop-up flash released, the flash itself is visible, as well as the tiny flash sensor. The bulky handgrip on the left side of the front panel ensures a secure hold on the camera, and is bulky enough to be useful without detracting from the camera's portable size.

The right side of the camera (viewed looking from the rear) is pretty empty, showing only a neck strap attachment eyelet.

The DC In and USB connection jacks are on the opposite side of the camera, and lack any protective covering. I generally like to see some type of covering over these terminals, as dust and dirt can easily find their way into these small openings, especially on a highly portable camera such as this one. Also on this side of the camera is the second neck strap attachment eyelet, speaker, pop-up flash release button, and xD-Picture Card slot. The card slot is protected by a hinged, plastic door, which snaps firmly into place.

The 3800 Zoom's top panel features the Mode dial, Shutter button, Power/Mode dial, and pop-up flash.

The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the LCD monitor and TTL viewfinder eyepiece. Positioned on the right side are the zoom controls and arrow buttons, as well as the Display, Menu/OK, and Back buttons. The right and left arrow keys also control flash mode and macro mode, respectively. A sculpted thumb rest on the right side of the back panel facilitates a tight grip on the camera, reinforced by the bulky hand grip on the front. Beneath the optical viewfinder eyepiece is a small LED, which reports the camera's current status (such as when focus is set, flash is charging, etc.).

The 3800's bottom panel is nice and flat, though a series of raised bumps gives your fingers something to grip when opening the battery compartment cover. This sliding cover protects the battery compartment, and moves outward (toward the side of the camera) before opening on a hinge to reveal the compartment. This is a great design for maximizing the camera's space, but bad for tripod work because you have to dismount the camera from the tripod to change batteries. I suspect this won't be much of an issue for users of this camera however, as its designers were clearly intending it for on-the-go use, not studio shooting. The tripod mount features metal threads and is a bit off center from the lens. The off-center mount is awkward for shooting panorama photos (a fairly arcane practice, I suspect), but the position places it close to the camera's center of balance, increasing stability and reducing strain on the tripod threads.

Camera Operation

With only a few controls, the 3800's user interface is very straightforward. Exposure mode, flash, macro mode, and zoom all feature external controls. Settings like exposure compensation and white balance are adjusted through the (likewise uncomplicated) LCD menu. Because the 3800 operates mainly under automatic control, the user need only worry about a few adjustments. Navigating the LCD menu system is no problem, as there's only one page of options for the Record menu, the options depending on whether the camera is in Auto or Manual mode. The Setup menu is accessed as an option on the Record menu, and also offers only one page of options. The camera's small size and few controls also make it easy to operate one-handed. All things considered, I suspect you may not even need to read the manual to operate this one. Following is our standard list of controls and functions, as well as camera modes and menus.

External Controls


Shutter Button
: Located on top of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway. A full press fires the shutter.

Power / Mode Dial: Surrounding the Power button on the top panel, this dial selects the camera's operating mode. Three choices are available:

  • Record: Sets up the camera for recording still images and voice captions.
  • Playback: Allows the user to review captured images, delete them, enlarge them, or set them up for printing.
  • Off: Shuts off the camera, signaling the lens to retract.


Exposure Mode Dial
: Adjacent to the pop-up flash compartment on the top panel, this dial controls the main exposure mode. Choices are:

  • Manual: Offers partial manual control over exposure, with Aperture Priority, White Balance, and Exposure Compensation adjustments available. Shutter speed remains under full automatic control. Options for setting Sharpness and adjust flash power are also only available in Manual mode.
  • Scene: Accesses the camera's four scene shooting modes (Portrait, Scene/Landscape, Sport, and Night Portrait), as well as the Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Auto: Places the camera under full automatic exposure control. The user can adjust zoom, flash mode, and image size and quality settings.
  • Movie: Allows the camera to record moving images with sound.


Zoom Rocker Control
: In the top right corner of the back panel, this rocker control with discreet buttons is flanked by two arrow keys. In Record mode, this button controls the optical and digital zoom. This control also doubles as the up and down arrow keys when navigating the LCD menu system. In Playback mode, the up and down button controls digital enlargement of captured images. Once playback zoom is activated, this button also moves up and down within the enlarged image.


Right and Left Arrow Buttons
: Located on either side of the Zoom Rocker button, these buttons navigate left and right through settings menus. In Record mode, the left button accesses the Macro shooting mode, while the right button controls the flash mode. In playback mode, these buttons scroll left and right within an enlarged image.


EVF/LCD Button
: Tucked away on the left side of the EVF eyepiece, this button alternates the viewfinder display between the eye-level viewfinder and the rear-panel LCD monitor.


Menu / OK Button
: The top button in a series of slim buttons lining the right side of the LCD monitor, the Menu / OK button activates the settings menu in any mode. This button also serves as the OK to confirm menu selections.


Back Button
: Directly below the Menu / OK button, this button backs out of menus and menu selections.


Display Button
: Immediately following the Back button, the Display button cycles through several LCD display modes. The image and information display is on by default. A framing grid is added to that display with the first press of the Display button. A third press displays only the image. In Playback mode, this button toggles between an image information overlay, no image information at all, and an index of images on the storage card. When playback zoom is enabled, this button toggles between zoom and panning modes.

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked on the Power / Mode dial with a red camera symbol, this mode allows you to capture still images. Four exposure modes are available via the Exposure Mode dial, including Manual, Scene, Auto, and Movie. Auto mode is fairly self-explanatory. Manual mode simply increases the menu options under the Record menu, but keeps the shutter speed under automatic control. (An Aperture Priority option lets you set the aperture or leave it under auto control.) Scene mode lets you select between Portrait, Scene / Landscape, Sport, Night Portrait, and Continuous Shooting modes. Finally, Movie mode records short movies with sound. Following is the complete Record menu, though some options are not available in all modes:

  • Aperture Priority: Places the aperture under automatic control, or offers f/2.8, f/4.8, and f/8.2 settings.
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening to Hard, Normal, or Soft.
  • Flash Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases flash power from -0.6 to +0.6 in one-third-step increments.
  • Quality: Sets the image resolution and quality. Choices are 3M Fine (2,048 x 1,536), 3M Normal (2,048 x 1,536), 2M (1,600 x 1,200), 1M (1,280 x 960), and 0.3M (640 x 480). In Movie mode, options are 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels.
  • Self-Timer: Activates the 10-second Self-Timer mode.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 EV in one-third-step increments.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance. Choices are Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Daylight Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, and Incandescent.
  • Scene: (Scene mode only.) Places the camera into Portrait, Scene, Sport, Night Portrait, or Continuous modes.
  • Option/LCD Brightness: Lets you adjust the brightness of the LCD display.
  • Option/Set-Up: Accesses the following Setup submenu, as well as the LCD Brightness adjustment.
    • Postview: Turns on an instant image review, which displays the image immediately after capture.
    • Power Save: Turns the Power Save function on or off.
    • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to DSC (Digital Still Camera) or PC Cam.
    • Date Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
    • Sound: Turns the camera's beep sounds off, or sets the volume to low or high.
    • Language: Designates the menu language as English, French, or German.
    • Reset All: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: The traditional playback symbol (a green arrow within a rectangular outline) designates this mode on the Power / Mode dial. Here, the user can review captured images, enlarge them, delete them, or set them up for printing on a DPOF-compatible output device. Pressing the Menu button pulls up the following options:

  • Erase: Deletes the selected frame, all frames, or formats the xD-Picture Card.
  • Protect: Adds or removes write protection for individual frames or all frames.
  • DPOF: Marks the current frame for printing, and allows you to establish whether the date is imprinted over the image.
  • Voice Memo: Records a short voice caption to accompany a captured image.
  • Set: Allows you to adjust the LCD brightness, change the playback volume, or pulls up the same Setup menu as in Record mode.

Test Images
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

"Gallery" Photos
For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the P10, here are some thumbnails of more random shots snapped with it. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Gibbs Frazeur or Stephanie Boozer. Thanks Gibbs and Stephanie!)

NOTE: that these are big files, so be aware that (a) they'll take a while to download, and (b) they'll chew up a pretty good chunk of bandwidth on us. (Read the "support this site" blurb at the top the carrier pages, and think about it while you're waiting for the images to download.

NOTE TOO: Some browsers have difficult with very wide images, and distort them a lot when they display them. (I don't know about others, but IE 5.0 on the Mac definitely does this. If the full-sized images appear to be stretched horizontally, you may need to just download them to your hard drive and view them in an imaging application, or possibly try another browser.)

Click to see YDSCF0001.JPG
YDSCF0001.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 300
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 14.3
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0002.JPG
YDSCF0002.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 240
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0003.JPG
YDSCF0003.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 400
Aperture: F4.8
Exposure EV: 13.1
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0004.JPG
YDSCF0004.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 220
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 13.8
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0005.JPG
YDSCF0005.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 400
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 14.7
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0006.JPG
YDSCF0006.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 140
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 13.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0007.JPG
YDSCF0007.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 160
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 13.3
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0008.JPG
YDSCF0008.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 180
Aperture: F8.2
Exposure EV: 13.5
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0009.JPG
YDSCF0009.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 280
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 11.1
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0010.JPG
YDSCF0010.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 280
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 11.1
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0011.JPG
YDSCF0011.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 150
Aperture: F4.8
Exposure EV: 11.7
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0012.JPG
YDSCF0012.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 350
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 11.4
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0013.JPG
YDSCF0013.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 4
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 4.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSCF0014.JPG
YDSCF0014.JPG
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Shutter: 1/ 9
Aperture: F2.8
Exposure EV: 6.1
ISO Speed: 100
 


Specifications

See camera specifications here.

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

Test Results
The FinePix 3800 turned in a pretty good performance overall, particularly for such an affordably-priced model with a long-ratio zoom lens. White balance and color were really excellent under all conditions except for household incandescent lighting, and resolution was very good as well. Macro performance was only average, and low light performance was a bit lower than average, but for everyday picture taking, the 3800 looks like a great choice. See the FinePix 3800's sample pictures page for the full results of my testing, but meanwhile, here's a summary of my findings:

  • Color: The FinePix 3800 showed excellent color in my testing, something that's become a hallmark of Fuji digicams. Like many Fuji cameras, its white balance system struggled with the strong yellowish cast of the household incandescent lighting in my "Indoor Portrait" test, leaving more of a color cast in the final images than I'd personally prefer. Apart from the minor problem with incandescent lighting though, the 3800's color was really excellent.

  • Exposure: The 3800's exposure was generally pretty accurate, requiring only the usual amount of exposure compensation on both the Outdoor and Indoor Portrait tests. Other than these two shots, the default exposure was generally pretty accurate, across all my test subjects. The camera's default contrast was rather high though, causing it to lose detail pretty quickly in strong highlights under contrasty lighting conditions. Flash exposure was a little variable, low in the indoor portrait setup, but good otherwise, with an effective range of about 11 feet. (Note that the exposure compensation adjustment doesn't affect flash exposures.)

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The FinePix 3800 performed well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically, and as low as 600 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,050 lines horizontally, and about 1,000 lines vertically, reasonable numbers for a three megapixel camera. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,250 lines.

  • Night Shots: The FinePix 3800's Night Scene mode extends its shutter-speed range to a maximum of three seconds, vs the 1/2 second of normal shooting mode. This allows the camera to capture clear,bright images at light levels as low as 1 foot-candle, and marginally usable ones at half that brightness. (The camera's autofocus system also seemed to work acceptably at these light levels, a happy surprise.) Given that average city street lighting at night is equivalent to about one foot-candle (11 lux), the 3800 should be usable for most outdoor nighttime photography. Color balance in this test was slightly warm, but noise was quite low.

  • Closeups: The FinePix 3800 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, capturing a slightly large minimum area of 4.06 x 3.04 inches (103 x 77 millimeters). Resolution was high, with strong, well-defined detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. There was only a little softness in the corners, but barrel distortion was a bit high.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The FinePix 3800's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) was a little tight, showing approximately 90 percent of the frame at wide angle, and about 93 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor turned in the same numbers, since it shows essentially the same view. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accurate as possible, the FinePix 3800's LCD monitor falls a little short, but does provide better accuracy than typical optical viewfinders do.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the FinePix 3800 was quite high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.15 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, as I measured a 0.62 percent pincushion distortion, but that's still a good bit higher than average among digicams I've tested. (Although long-ratio zoom lenses tend to have more distortion at the ends of their range, so the 3800 perhaps deserves a little grace, given its long zoom ratio.) Chromatic aberration was low, showing only about three or four faint pixels of 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.) The only other distortion I noticed throughout testing was some slight corner softness, but it did not extend far into the image area.

  • Battery Life: The FinePix 3800 showed really excellent battery life, among the best I've seen among cameras powered by four AA cells. Worst-case runtime (in capture mode with the LCD lit) was nearly four hours with a set of AA cells with true 1600 mAh capacity. I always recommend buying at least two sets of high-capacity AA batteries and a charger, but the 3800 is so thrifty in its power usage that you may seldom need to break out the second set of batteries. (See my battery shootout page for the latest info on the best-performing rechargeable AA batteries, and my review of the Maha C-204F charger to read about my favorite charger.)


In the Box

Packaged in the box are the following items:

  • Fuji FinePix 3800 digital camera
  • Neck / shoulder strap
  • Lens cap with strap
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • USB cable
  • Four AA-type alkaline batteries
  • Lens adapter ring
  • Software CD-ROM containing USB drivers, FinePix Viewer, QuickTime, and ImageMixer VCD
  • Instruction manual and registration information

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity xD-Picture Card
  • Two sets of rechargeable batteries and charger
  • AC adapter kit

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...

 

Conclusion

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The previous Fuji FinePix 2800 turned out to be an exceptional value for the money, and the updated FinePix 3800 sweetens the deal. The 3800's 3.2-megapixel CCD is a welcome improvement, providing great image quality for a budget-priced digicam, and its 6x optical zoom is excellent for distant subjects. Though it lacks "enthusiast" features such as full manual exposure options, the 3800 does feature an adjustable aperture setting, flash intensity, and a selection of preset "scene" modes. For everyday outdoor shooting, the 3800 does very well and really sets the benchmark for an affordable long-zoom digicam. All in all, a nice feature set, a long lens, and very good picture quality at a bargain price.

 

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