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Quick Review
Fuji FinePix F401 Digital Camera
(by Stephanie Boozer.)

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
10/21/02
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point-and-Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2.1-megapixel Super CCD, interpolates to 4.0-megapixels
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$499.99

 

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

Introduction
Over the last several years, Fuji's design team has developed a strong line of compact, stylish digicams that continue to impress in terms of color performance and image quality. With designs focusing on portability and convenience, Fuji digicams typically feature smooth contours that fit well into typical pockets. At the same time, Fuji continues to offer a nice collection of features, while keeping user interfaces comfortable for the novice. Perhaps their greatest strength lies in the excellent color that's become a hallmark of Fuji's camera lineup. (Many professionals shooting portrait and wedding photography have gravitated toward Fuji's pro SLR cameras for their beautiful handling of skin tones.)

The latest model in this line is the Fuji FinePix F401, featuring the most recent generation of Fuji's Super CCD technology. A 2.1-megapixel Super CCD (producing 4.0-megapixel finished file sizes) and a 3x optical zoom lens offer good image quality, with a handful of exposure options that offer reasonable flexibility without getting too complicated. Though the F401's color performance wasn't quite up to the level I've come to expect from Fuji, it was still pretty good, making the camera an appealing option for the novice looking for a very compact digicam that produces nice images. Read on for all the details!

Camera Overview

Slim and ultra-compact, the Fuji FinePix F401 is a stylish digicam that's ready for travel just about anywhere. The F401 is small enough for shirt pockets and evening bags, and easily fits into one hand. Thanks to its retractable lens, its low-profile front panel lets you quickly slip it into a pocket and go. A shoulder strap comes with the camera, so you can slip it around your neck and have it ready at a moment's notice. The matte-finish, all-silver camera body is sleek and modern, with cobalt blue lights on the front panel. Built into the F401 is Fuji's third-generation, 2.1-megapixel Super CCD, which interpolates to produce a 4.0-megapixel resolution image. The Super CCD technology provides up to 1,600 ISO sensitivity at the one-megapixel resolution with slightly less image noise than you'd expect from a digicam with a conventional sensor. (While a little less so than I'd expect from a conventional CCD, the images at ISO 1600 are still quite noisy though.) Exposure is automatically controlled, but the F401 offers a handful of manual settings to play with.

Equipped with a 5.7-17.1mm lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera), the F401 offers a true, 3x optical zoom. Aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11.6, depending on the zoom setting, and remains under automatic control. The F401's autofocus uses a contrast-detection system, and ranges from two feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting changes the range to 0.3 to 2.6 feet (10 to 80 centimeters). In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the F401 also features as much as 3.6x digital zoom. The amount of digital zoom available depends on the image resolution. I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image, and shouldn't be relied on for sharp details and high image quality. The F401 has both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch polysilicon, TFT, color LCD monitor for composing shots. An information display on the LCD monitor includes basic camera information, such as the shooting mode and image quality setting, as well as the current image capacity of the memory card and the flash mode. A set of focus/exposure brackets in the center of the display helps line up shots.You can also enable a grid display for lining up shots. The grid divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically, making it easier to accurately frame your subject and align vertical or horizontal elements.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the F401, though a "Manual" mode offers a few extended exposure options. A Mode switch on the camera's back panel puts it into Movie, Playback, or Record modes. Through the LCD menu, however, you have a choice between Auto and Manual mode settings, which basically dictate the number of menu options available. Auto mode offers limited user options, including resolution, quality, flash mode, zoom, and camera's drive settings (Continuous Shooting, Self-Timer). Manual expands these to include ISO, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance adjustments. Though not reported on the LCD monitor, the F401's shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1/4 second, the lower end of which limits the camera's low-light shooting capabilities somewhat. It's still sensitive enough to handle average city street lighting at night though. The F401 utilizes a 64-zone metering system, which divides the image area into sections and then determines the best overall exposure. You can adjust the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, through the LCD menu. ISO sensitivity options range from 200 to 1,600. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. A built-in flash operates in either Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Synchro modes. The Flash button cycles through each mode, and an icon appears on the LCD display indicating the selection.

The F401's Movie mode records as long as 480 seconds of moving images (with sound) per clip, at the 160 x 120-pixel resolution. (It can record as long as 120 seconds at the 320 x 240-pixel setting.) Note that the actual amount of recording time may be limited by available memory card space, if the card is nearly full. A Voice Memo option in Playback mode records short sound clips to accompany previously-captured images. For self-portraits or timed shots, the F401's Self-Timer counts down for 10 seconds after the Shutter button is fully pressed, before it fires the shutter. Finally, the F401 also features two Continuous Shooting modes: Top 4-Frame and Final 4-Frame. Top 4-Frame mode shoots up to four frames at intervals as fast as 0.3-seconds. All four images appear on the LCD monitor while being recorded. Final 4-Frame mode captures as many as 25 consecutive images at approximately the same frame rate, but records only the last four frames. (This mode is handy for catching just the right moment - Press the shutter button well before the key moment arrives, then release it just after it's passed. Chances are one of the last four frames captured will be perfectly timed.)

The F401 stores images on SmartMedia memory cards, and ships with a 16MB card in the box. I highly recommend picking up a larger card, given the F401's 2,304 x 1,728-pixel maximum images size. For power, the camera uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or an AC adapter, both of which are included with the camera. The AC adapter acts as an in-camera battery charger as well. Since the F401 doesn't have any AA-type battery capacity (making spares easy to come by), I strongly advise purchasing an additional battery pack, and keeping it freshly-charged and on-hand. The F401 will automatically shut itself down after a short period of inactivity, which can be set through the Set-up menu to two or five minutes. (You can also turn the power save function off, in which case the F401 will remain powered-up until the battery pack runs down.) The F401 connects to a host computer via a USB jack, and comes with the appropriate cable, as well as drivers and Fuji FinePix Viewer software on CD (compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems). VideoImpression is also included, for editing movies. The F401 is also DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with a handful of print settings available in Playback mode.

Basic Features

  • 2.1-megapixel Super CCD, interpolates to 4.0-megapixels and maximum 2,304 x 1,728-pixel resolution.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • Glass, 3x 38-114mm lens, with apertures from f/2.8 to f/11.6.
  • 3.6x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Shutter speed range from 1/1,000 to 1/4 second.
  • 64-zone Multi metering mode.
  • ISO values from 200 to 1,600.
  • Built-in flash with five operating modes.
  • Adjustable white balance with seven modes.
  • SmartMedia card image storage.
  • Power supplied by rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or AC adapter, both included.

Special Features

  • Movie (with sound) recording mode.
  • Voice Memo mode for short sound clips.
  • 10-second Self-Timer.
  • Macro focus mode.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer.
  • Software CD with interface software and USB drivers.

Recommendation

Tiny, compact, and uncomplicated, the FinePix F401 is a good choice for busy novices who want to take good pictures on the go. Fully automatic exposure control makes for true point & shoot operation most of the time, although the camera does offer at least a few options for users who want to dabble with extended control. The ability to choose white balance settings, ISO sensitivity, and adjust the overall exposure makes the camera more flexible for unusual shooting conditions. The 2.1-megapixel Super CCD captures a fair amount of detail, good for prints as large as 8x10 inches. With a user-friendly interface, small size, and good overall performance, the F401 is a good option for anyone just starting out in digital photography and looking for a compact, portable camera.

Design

Small dimensions and light weight make Fuji's FinePix F401 digital camera an attractive option for anyone needing a travel-worthy digicam. Measuring a mere 3.3 x 2.7 x 1.1 inches (85.0 x 69.4 x 27.5 millimeters), the F401 easily fits into most shirt pockets and even small purses. The telescoping lens retracts flush with the camera front, keeping a smooth profile that won't catch on pockets. The included neck strap is great for keeping the camera securely around your neck, but I'd recommend a small camera bag for better protection when traveling. The F401 is light on the scales, at just 7.6 ounces (215 grams), including the battery and memory card.

The F401's front panel is nearly smooth with the lens retracted, leaving just a small protrusion around the outside ring of the lens barrel and a slight bump on the left side (as viewed from the front) for the finger grip / power switch. A protective lens cover automatically slides open when the camera is powered on, letting the lens telescope outward (thus eliminating the need for a lens cap). The entire handgrip bulge on the left side (as viewed from the front) serves as a power switch, sliding open to power the camera on. The three blue LED lamps illuminate briefly when the camera is turned on, and the center LED lamp also acts as the Self-Timer LED, blinking to count down the self-timer interval. The sculpted power switch also serves as a finger grip when holding the camera in shooting position. Also on the front panel are the flash, optical viewfinder window, and flash sensor.

The right side of the F401 (as viewed from the rear) features only the wrist strap attachment eyelet.

On the left side of the F401 is the camera's speaker, as well as the USB and DC-In jacks.

The Shutter button and tiny microphone are the only features on the F401's top panel.

The few available camera controls all reside on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. A Mode switch just below the optical viewfinder controls the camera's operating mode, and a series of buttons in the top right corner adjust focus, flash mode, and macro mode. Arranged down the right-hand side of the LCD monitor are the Menu / OK, Back, and Display buttons.

The F401 has a fairly smooth bottom panel, holding the combined battery/memory card slot, as well as the plastic, threaded tripod mount. The small amount of space on the bottom panel keeps the battery and memory card compartment too close to the tripod mount for quick changes of either while the camera is mounted on a tripod. I doubt this will be much of an issue, however, as the F401 is clearly intended for on the go shooting, as opposed to studio work.

 

 

Camera Operation

The F401 operates under automatic exposure control, and a straightforward LCD menu system offers a handful of exposure options to choose from. The F401 has few external controls, the primary adjustments being flash, Macro mode, zoom, and the main camera mode options. That said, the LCD menu system itself is simple to navigate, with a selection of menu options along the bottom edge of the display. The arrow keys navigate the choices, and the Menu/OK button confirms settings. Though an instruction manual accompanies the camera, I doubt you'll need it for anything other than reference, as you should be able to start shooting with the camera right away.

External Controls


Shutter Button
: A silver button on the top panel, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power Switch
: Occupying the entire right side of the front panel (as viewed from the rear), this gently-sculpted sliding switch turns the camera on or off. It also serves as a finger grip.


Mode Switch
: Beneath the optical viewfinder on the back panel, this sliding switch controls the camera's operating mode, placing it into Movie, Playback, or Record modes.


Macro / Left Arrow Button
: Directly to the right of the Mode switch on the camera's back panel, this button alternates between the normal AF and Macro modes. In any settings menu, this button serves as the left arrow key. In Playback mode, this button scrolls backward through captured images.


Zoom Rocker Button
: To the right of the Macro button, this rocker button has a raised tab for your thumb to bear against. Rocking the button up and down controls the optical and digital zoom in Record mode. In any settings menu, this button toggles up and down to adjust settings. In Playback mode, this button controls Playback zoom, which enlarges the view of the captured image as much as 14.4x (depending on the image's resolution - lower-resolution images can't be enlarged as much as higher-resolution ones).


Flash / Right Arrow Button
: Adjacent to the Zoom rocker button on the right, this button cycles through the available flash modes:

  • Auto: Lets the camera decide when to fire the flash, based on the existing lighting conditions and whether or not the subject is backlit.
  • Red-Eye Reduction: The camera decides when to fire the flash, but now pops a small pre-flash before firing the flash at full power, to eliminate the Red-Eye effect in the subject's pupils.
  • Forced: Fires the flash with every exposure, regardless of lighting conditions.
  • Suppressed: Completely disables the flash.
  • Slow Synchro: Combines the flash with a slower exposure, to allow more ambient light into the shot.

In any settings menu, this button serves as the right arrow key. In Playback mode, this button scrolls forward through captured images.


Menu / OK Button
: Just off the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button displays the settings menu in any mode. While making menu selections, pressing this button confirms the selection and returns the LCD to its normal display.


Back Button
: Directly below the Menu / OK button, this button backs out of menu options without saving changes.


Display Button
: Adjacent to the lower right corner of the LCD display, this button controls the LCD image and information display. In Record mode, pressing this button cycles through the following displays: image with information, image with grid lines, and no display at all. In Playback mode, this button displays the image only, the image with text, or activates the nine-image index display.

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Designated by a small, red camera symbol above the Mode switch, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still images. Pressing the Menu/OK button in this mode calls up the menu options shown here. (These menus are normally superimposed over the top of the "live" viewfinder display. - We've shown them here over a black background, to make them easier to read.)

  • White Balance: Offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent white balance settings.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 EV in one-third-step increments.
  • Sensitivity: Sets the camera's ISO sensitivity to 200, 400, 800, or 1,600. (Selecting 1600 automatically sets resolution to 1.0-megapixel.)
  • Quality: Adjusts the image resolution and quality settings. Choices are 4M Fine (2,304 x 1,728 pixels), 4M Normal (2,304 x 1,728 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels), and 0.3M (640 x 480 pixels). The 4-megapixel settings represent interpolated resolutions, upsampled from the 401's 2.1 megapixel Super CCD sensor chip. (The resulting images show slightly more detail when printed than do images from conventional 2-megapixel cameras, but the level of detail is still nowhere near that achieved by cameras having true 4-megapixel sensors.)
  • Self-Timer: Turns the 10-second Self-Timer mode on or off.
  • Continuous Shooting: Enables Top 4-Frame or Final 4-Frame continuous shooting modes.


  • Set: Enables Auto or Manual exposure modes (which controls the available menu options), activates the LCD Brightness adjustment, or displays the following Option menu:
    • PostView: Turns on the post-capture review screen, which lets you view an image immediately after capture.
    • Power Save: Turns off the automatic power save option, or sets the delay to two or five seconds.
    • USB Mode: Specifies DSC or PC Cam USB modes. DSC is the Mass Storage Device mode, letting you transfer images from the camera to a computer. PC Cam mode turns the camera into a videoconferencing tool, for use with PCs only.
    • Date / Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
    • LCD: If set to "On," the LCD monitor automatically comes on when the Mode switch is put into the Record position. If "Off," the LCD monitor must be manually switched on.
    • Sound: Controls the camera's playback volume. Options are Low, High, and Off.
    • Language: Changes the camera's menu language to English, French, or German.
    • Reset All: Returns all camera settings to their defaults.


Playback Mode
: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, write-protect them, or set them up for printing on a DPOF device. Menu options in this mode include:

  • Erase: Lets you erase a single frame or all frames. A Format option formats the SmartMedia card, erasing all images on the card, even protected ones.
  • Protect: Write-protects the currently-displayed image or all images, preventing accidental erasure (except via card formatting). This option can also remove protection.
  • DPOF: Sets up images on the memory card for printing on a DPOF compatible device. You can set the number of copies, whether or not to print the date, or remove DPOF settings.
  • Voice Memo: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image. Records for 30 seconds or less.
  • Set: Displays the same Option menu described above.


Movie Mode
: A small, red movie camera icon denotes this mode above the Mode switch. Here, the camera captures moving images with sound, with actual recording times depending on the available memory card space. The following menu options are available:

  • Quality: Sets the resolution to 160 x 120 pixels or 320 x 240 pixels.
  • Set: Displays the LCD Brightness adjustment and same Setup menu as in Record mode.


Test Images
See our test images and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our standard test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the corresponding full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

Specifications

Click here for detailed specifications for the F401.

Picky Details

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

Test Results

  • Color: The F401's showed pretty good color, albeit not quite as good as I've come to expect from Fuji cameras. Its white balance system produced slightly warm, greenish color balances, both in the studio and outdoors, and color saturation was a little low, particularly for the "subtractive primary" colors of yellow, cyan, and magenta. Both the Incandescent and Auto white balance settings had trouble with standard room lighting, producing pink and yellow color casts. The blue flowers of the Outdoor and Indoor portraits were dark, although only slightly purplish. (Many digicams render these flowers as almost pure purples, so the 401 did better than average in this area.) Skin tones looked about right indoors and out, though just slightly flat in the Outdoor Portrait shot.

  • Exposure: The F401 had just a little trouble with some of the studio shots, overexposing the Davebox, House poster, and Musicians shots. That said, the camera captured good midtones in the harsh lighting of the Outdoor portrait, and did a good job with the Indoor Portrait (without flash) as well.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: As we've seen in the past, SuperCCD cameras produce interpolated images that look soft onscreen, although they tend to look sharper when printed and compared to prints from cameras with conventional CCDs of the same basic resolution. The F401 was typical in this respect, capturing a fair amount of detail, but producing images that looked rather soft onscreen. Details that weren't aligned either vertically or horizontally (such as the fine foliage in the House and Far-Field Tests) were very soft, as were the rounded details in the Macro and Musicians targets. Textured details tended to have a somewhat "pixelated" appearance. Optical distortion was higher than average at the wide-angle lens setting, but chromatic aberration in the corners of the image was pretty low. The most obvious distortion was in the form of corner softness, with the most visible instances found in the Macro test shot and House poster.

  • Closeups: The F401 turned in about an average performance here, capturing a minimum area of 3.7 x 2.8 inches (94.0 x 70.5 millimeters). Detail was good, though soft, on the coins, brooch, and dollar bill. The F401's flash throttled down quite well when shooting up close, but produced a dark shadow on the left side of the frame at closest approach.

  • Night Shots: The F401's maximum shutter time of only 1/4 second limits the camera's low-light shooting capabilities. At the 1,600 ISO setting (one-megapixel resolution), the F401 captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux). At 800 and 400 ISO, the camera captured bright images at the one foot-candle (11 lux) setting. Images were bright only as low as two foot-candles (22 lux) at the 200 ISO setting. Color was warm from the Auto white balance. Noise was moderately high at the 200 ISO setting, slowly increasing to a very high level at 1,600 ISO. The F401 should therefore be able to handle average city street lighting at night (which corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle), but will require the flash for anything darker.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The F401's optical viewfinder was rather tight, showing approximately 83 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle, and approximately 81 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor was a bit more accurate, showing approximately 91 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle, and approximately 90 percent at telephoto. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the F401 has some room for improvement here.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the F401 is a bit higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an 0.89 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, with only about one pixel of pincushion distortion present. Chromatic aberration is low, showing about three or four pixels of very light 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 most noticeable distortion I saw was pronounced corner softness in a few shots, such as the House poster and Macro shot.

  • Battery Life: The F401 operates from an NP60-style rechargeable LiIon battery. Battery life is pretty good for a compact camera, on the order of 2+ hours in its worst-case power consumption mode. (Record mode with the LCD on.) With the LCD off, run times stretch to almost 7.4 hours, a very good performance. I still strongly recommend purchasing an extra battery along with the camera, as digicam batteries fully obey Murphy's Law, always running out of juice at the worst possible moment.

In the Box

Included in the box are the following items:

  • Fuji FinePix F401 digital camera.
  • Shoulder strap.
  • AC adapter.
  • Lithium-ion battery pack.
  • 16MB SmartMedia card.
  • USB cable.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manuals and registration kit.

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SmartMedia card.
  • Additional lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Soft case for travel.

Conclusion

Tiny, compact, and very light weight, the streamlined FinePix F401 makes a ready travel companion. Exposure control is fully automatic, good for novices, though a few limited exposure controls provide some flexibility. With a 3x zoom lens, the F401 is a versatile camera, and the interpolated 4.0-megapixel Super CCD (effective 2.1-megapixel CCD) captures good-quality images (though not without a few artifacts). The F401's adjustable ISO settings and maximum 1,600 ISO sensitivity extend the camera's low-light shooting capabilities somewhat, enabling good exposures in relatively low light. I was a little disappointed with the F401's color rendering, at least when compared to other Fuji cameras I've reviewed in the past. Image noise also seemed a little high. Given its combination of size, price and features though, the F401 is an attractive package for novice users with active lifestyles.

 

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