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Fujifilm FinePix 4800 Zoom

Fuji updates their SuperCCD pocket camera with improved color and a hot-sync cradle!

Review First Posted: 08/16/2001



Click to Buy Now at Ritz Camera!
MSRP $699 US

 

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2.4-megapixel Super CCD sensor delivers up to 4.3 million pixel images
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3x optical zoom lens
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Creative Multi Exposure layering mode
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USB Hot-sync docking cradle
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Audio recording and videoconferencing capabilities

 

Manufacturer Overview
Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. has made a strong showing in the high-end consumer and prosumer digital photography markets this year (2001), with several new Super CCD cameras designed for the serious digital photographer. Among them are the FinePix 4800, 6800, and 6900 Zoom models. The FinePix 6900 Zoom is designed with the traditional photographer in mind -- looking very much like a "high-tech" SLR film camera, with a 3.3-megapixel Super CCD that generates up to six million pixels, a sharp 6x optical zoom lens, extensive manual and automatic controls, plus some highly advanced features found only on professional quality digital cameras. The other two models -- introduced as the FinePix "Twins" -- are designed more for "point & shoot" users, sporting very compact, stylized bodies, with USB Hot-sync docking cradles, sound recording, and PC-Cam video conferencing capabilities. The FinePix 4800 Zoom is one of the two consumer models designed by sports car legend F.A.Porsche. It features a 2.4 megapixel Super CCD, which is capable of interpolating files up to 4.3-million pixels (2,400 x 1,800 pixels), and a 3x optical zoom lens that provides good framing flexibility and sharply focused images. All of Fuji's latest cameras show really excellent color, thanks to some tweaks applied to the last generation's color management routines.


High Points


Executive Overview
Introduced in conjunction with the FinePix 6800 Zoom, Fujifilm's signature series FinePix 4800 Zoom features a Super CCD sensor for expanded image resolution, a 3x Super EBC Fujinon aspherical glass lens, and a stylish new design conceived by the legendary design firm, F.A.Porsche. The 4800 Zoom's 2.4-megapixel Super CCD features an interwoven pixel pattern (shaped like a honeycomb) and interpolates images to file sizes as large as 2,400 x 1,800 (4.3-million) pixels. Fujifilm's primary color filter and proprietary imaging technology are said to deliver high-definition color, increased dynamic range, and a better signal-to-noise ratio than cameras that are not similarly enhanced.

Like its companion model, the 3.3-megapixel 6800 Zoom, the FinePix 4800 comes with a Fujifilm PictureCradle, or docking station, that performs multiple functions. The DC In and USB jacks on its back side enable the cradle to serve as both a battery charger and a card reader for downloading images. For PC users, the cradle holds the camera in an upright position facing forward, allowing it to be used as a videoconferencing tool (along with the included Windows-only PictureHello software).

The built-in 3x, 8.3-24.9mm lens (equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera) has automatically adjusted aperture settings ranging from f/2.8 to f/10.8 (depending on the zoom setting and lighting conditions). Focus operates in either Manual or Autofocus modes, the latter of which employs a contrast-detection focus system. For image composition, the 4800 Zoom offers a real-image optical viewfinder and a two-inch LCD color monitor. The monitor features a detailed information display, which can be shown with or without framing guidelines, or turned off completely. (The framing guidelines divide the image into thirds horizontally and vertically, to help you line up shots.) We were pleased to see that the LCD monitor also reports aperture and shutter speed information when the Shutter button is halfway depressed, although the photographers has no way of adjusting these settings.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, even in the "Manual" exposure mode (which in this case refers to the ability to adjust white balance, ISO, exposure values, and metering). A Mode dial on top of the camera sets the Exposure mode, with options for Continuous Shooting, Manual, Automatic, Scene Position, Movie, and Audio. The Auto exposure mode takes full charge of settings, allowing the user to control only the File Size / Quality, Flash, Self-Timer, and Macro modes. Switching to Manual mode expands the Photography menu's exposure options to include Auto Bracketing, White Balance, ISO, Manual Focus, Sharpness, Flash level, EV (Exposure Compensation), Multi-Exposure, and Photometry (metering mode). In Scene Position, you have a choice of four preset shooting modes, including Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black and White. When opened, the built-in flash offers Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Slow Synchro operating modes, selected using the right Arrow key. Closing the flash compartment suppresses the flash from firing under any lighting conditions.

By default, the 4800 Zoom employs Multi Metering, which takes readings from 64 zones and assesses the entire scene to determine the best exposure for existing light conditions. Through the Manual Photography menu, you can change the Photometery mode to Spot metering, which bases the exposure on readings from the center of the frame, or Average metering, which averages readings from throughout the frame, without considering the subject or existing conditions. An Auto Bracketing feature takes three consecutive exposures (one at the metered reading, one overexposed, and one underexposed) to ensure optimum results. You can choose one of three exposures variations: +/- 1/3, +/- 2/3, and +/- 1. The Exposure Compensation function allows you to adjust the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Sunny, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings. ISO sensitivity settings include 125, 200, and 400 equivalents. The 4800 Zoom also offers a Sharpness adjustment, a 10-second Self-Timer, and a Flash brightness adjustment (+/- 0.6 EV in one-third-step increments).

Continuous Shooting mode takes as many as three consecutive frames at approximately 0.2-second intervals, depending on the image size and quality settings and the amount of available memory card space. A Multi Exposure menu option (Manual mode only) takes multiple exposures, layering one over another, to produce unique "multi-exposed" images. The 4800 Zoom's Movie mode records 320 x 240-pixel movies with sound, with a maximum recording time of 80 seconds per movie. The Audio Recording mode allows you to record audio files in WAV format for as long as 30 minutes at a time (depending on available memory space). You can also record short sound clips to accompany captured images.

Recorded images and sound are saved to a SmartMedia memory card; a 16MB card is supplied with the camera. The 4800 Zoom offers four still image resolutions: (4M) 2,400 x 1,800 (interpolated), (2M) 1,600 x 1,200, (1M) 1,280 x 960, and (VGA) 640 x 480 pixels, with Fine, Normal, and Basic JPEG compression levels.

An NTSC A / V cable accompanies the camera, allowing you to review and compose images on a television. (European models come equipped for PAL timing.) The 4800 Zoom also comes with a USB cable, which can be plugged directly into the camera or into the accompanying docking cradle, for high-speed connection to a computer. The included software CD includes Fujifilm's FinePix interface software, as well as USB drivers, ArcSoft VideoImpression, Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE, and Adobe ActiveShare. Most of the software is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems, with the exception of Adobe ActiveShare, which is Windows only. Likewise, the FinePix videoconferencing utility is only compatible with Windows systems.

The 4800 Zoom is powered by an NP-80 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, or an AC adapter that doubles as a battery charger. The AC adapter can be connected directly to the camera or to the Fujifilm PictureCradle.

This slick-looking 2.4-megapixel digicam is solidly built, compact, and easy to use. Its fully automatic exposure mode is perfect for consumers who want to take good pictures without having to worry about complicated camera controls. While the Manual mode offers some basic exposure adjustments, as well as a few creative options, the 4800 Zoom clearly isn't designed for photographers who like to tweak and twiddle camera settings. By combining simple, point-and-shoot photography with movie and audio recording, videoconferencing capability, high-tech features, and excellent image quality,a all in a sleekly stylish all-metal body, the 4800 Zoom should prove to be very popular in the consumer market.


Design
Originally announced in February 2001, the FinePix 4800 Zoom and 6800 Zoom "Twins" were the first digital cameras ever designed by the legendary sports car designer F.A.Porsche. Their sleek, aluminum-magnesium alloy bodies combine the Porsche concept of "aesthetic synthesis of form and function" with Fujifilm's trademark vertical camera orientation, silver-gray surface, and compact, lightweight feel. Measuring just 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.4 inches (80 x 97.5 x 36.3mm) with the lens retracted, the 4800 Zoom should fit comfortably into any large pocket or bag, and its extraordinarily light 10.6 ounces (300 grams) is evenly distributed throughout the camera, even with the SmartMedia and battery pack installed.

Like Fujifilm's other classic upright digicams, the LCD monitor and controls make maximum use of available space, extending almost to edges on all four sides of the back panel. Even the LCD monitor is larger than most, measuring a full two inches from corner to corner. Unfortunately, that leaves little space for the hand grip, so to avoid putting thumbprints on the monitor, you have to hold the camera more with your fingertips than allowing it to nestle in the palm of your hand. We felt more secure holding it with two hands, with the thumb and forefinger gripping the top and bottom of the left side. (It comes with a large, rubber-like wrist strap to enhance portability.) Because of the delicate (and large) LCD monitor, we highly recommend buying a softcase to protect the camera when it's stashed in your pocket or bag.

 



A recessed grip is provided on the lower righthand side of the camera, which led some reviewers to think that the intended grip for the camera was something like what's shown above on the left. You certainly can hold the camera with your thumb in this recess, and doing so does position your finger to operate the (nicely) knurled mode dial control. The problem with this grip is that it makes it almost impossible to actuate the shutter button. Likewise, there's no easy way to actuate the soft keys around the LCD readout. Finally, it leaves you with a fairly precarious grip on the camera, forcing your second and third fingers toward the bottom of the camera on its front.

In actual fact, we discovered that the status LCD display is actually intended to serve as a resting place for your thumb during normal shooting, as shown above right. The evidence for this is that the LCD readout's cover-glass has a nice concave contour to it, making a secure resting/gripping place for your thumb. Those times when you need to read the display and actuate the buttons, your thumb is easily moved aside. (We usually found ourselves holding the camera two-handed whenever we needed to actuate the arrow buttons.) The grip position with your thumb over the LCD readout was actually quite natural and comfortable, particularly surprising given our large hand size. With your hand further up the back of the camera, the color LCD screen is also more visible, nestling into the curve of the shank of your thumb. Finally, this hand position also moves your other fingers up the front of the camera case, providing a much more secure-feeling grip.





Included with the 4800 Zoom is Fujifilm's PictureCradle docking station, which works similarly to the cradle of a cell phone or a palm PC device. (The photo above shows the twin 6800 in its cradle, the 4800 is identical except for the labeling.) A USB cable runs from the cradle to the computer, allowing you to transfer image files, much like you would with a card reader. The cradle also acts as a battery charger, and sets up the camera to work like a "webcam" with the included PictureHello software (Windows only).





The front panel of the 4800 Zoom is a little different from previous upright FinePix models, with a lightly sculpted edge that outlines the lenses and lights along the top. These include (from left to right), the microphone, flash control sensor, self-timer lamp, and optical viewfinder window. The 3x Super EBC Fujinon zoom lens takes up a large portion of the front panel, with a sliding metal cover that retracts when the camera is powered on. When fully extended, the telescoping lens measures approximately one inch long. A short beveled edge along the right side of the camera serves as a finger grip for the front panel. The automatically-retracting lens cover contributes to the camera's great portability.





On the right side of the 4800 Zoom is a single wrist strap attachment eyelet, with no other visible controls.





The left side houses the SmartMedia card compartment and the A / V Out, USB, and DC In connector jacks. A small door covers the SmartMedia slot, and is opened by pushing down a sliding lever just to the right of the door.





On top of the camera are the pop-up flash compartment in the center and the Shutter button on the right side. You can also see the round top of the Mode dial, which has a very roughly knurled surface for easy turning.





Nearly all of the camera's external controls are on the rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. A status LED light on the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece reports camera status, indicating when exposure and focus are set, when the flash is still charging, and when the camera is writing a file to the SmartMedia card. Opposite the viewfinder is the Mode dial, which offers six operating modes: Audio, Movie, Scene Position, Auto, Manual, and Continuous Shooting. The Power button is surrounded by the Mode switch, which is in Photography (record) mode when in the up position, and in Playback mode when in the down position. A Display button directly below the Mode switch turns the monitor on and off, and alternates between to information displays: One with a framing grid and one without. The Menu and Back buttons, which are used to activate, verify, and back out of menus, sit on opposite ends of a curved, beveled ridge that runs along the left side of the Arrow keys. Above the Back button, the Flash Open control releases the pop-up flash.





On the right side of the back panel, four Arrow keys surround a circular, monochrome status display (a feature we're glad to see return to the upright Fujifilm models). This display shows up to four different actions associated with the "soft key" arrow buttons surrounding it, providing rapid access to the most commonly used functions in each exposure mode. The status display window greets you with a friendly "Hello!" when the camera is turned on and "See You! when it's turned off. Though it's a monochrome display, this window briefly glows orange-red when in Photography mode and green when in Playback mode. As noted above, with the 6800 Zoom model, we discovered that the status display is actually intended to serve as a resting place for your thumb during normal shooting. The LCD readout's glass cover has a concave contour, making a secure resting place. When you need to read the display or operate the surrounding arrow buttons, you can easily move your thumb. (We usually found ourselves holding the camera two-handed though, whenever we needed to actuate the arrow buttons.)

The camera's speaker holes are set into the top of the thumb groove that runs along the right edge of the LCD monitor. Also visible are a series of small bumps around the lower right corner of the back panel. These seem to be a simple design element, as they aren't large enough or well placed for gripping.





The bottom panel is quite flat, with a metal threaded tripod mount located slightly off center and to the right. On the far right side of the panel is the battery compartment door, which slides right to open and springs outward. The tripod mount and battery compartment door are much too close to allow quick battery changes while the 4800 Zoom is mounted on a tripod, but this is probably not an issue with this camera, since it isn't really aimed at studio use anyway. Also on the bottom panel is the cradle connection socket, with a plastic flap that slides out of the way to expose the jack.


Viewfinder
The 4800 Zoom has both a real-image optical viewfinder and a color LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder, which zooms in and out with the telephoto lens, features a black outline circle in the center of the view, indicating the autofocus and autoexposure target area. A set of black crop marks, offset on the right side of the viewfinder display, indicate the framing for Macro (close-up) shooting, which we found to be fairly accurate. Though the 4800 Zoom does not feature a diopter adjustment dial, it does have a reasonably high eyepoint. We were able to see the full viewfinder image at a fair distance from the eyepiece, meaning that even users with fairly thick eyeglasses should be able to view the whole scene comfortably.

A small lamp display on the left side of the optical viewfinder serves as a status indicator, reporting various camera states. For example, a solid green light indicates that focus and exposure are set and the camera is ready to shoot, while a flashing green light warns of slow shutter speed or that the autofocus and autoexposure systems are still processing the scene. The lamp flashes green and orange when the camera is writing information to the SmartMedia card and lights solid orange when an image is being recorded and the camera is unable to perform other operations. Finally, a blinking orange light indicates that the flash is charging or that PC communication is in progress, and a flashing red light reports a problem with the SmartMedia card or lens. For all error warnings, a detailed message appears in the LCD monitor, if activated.

The two-inch, low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor is made up of 130,000 pixels. It's controlled by the Display button just over the top left corner, which is used to turn it on or off in Photography mode, and to change the information display. Pressing the Display button cycles through three viewing options: The image with text, the image with text and a framing guideline, and no display at all. Exposure information and various camera settings are reported in the text display, and the shutter speed and aperture settings appear when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The framing guideline divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically, to help line up shots. The viewfinder display changes to indicate the camera's operating mode as well, with different displays for each setting on the Mode dial.

When you depress the Shutter button halfway to take a picture, the camera settings displayed across the top of the LCD vanish, and are replaced by the aperture and shutter speed at the bottom of the screen. The central autofocus target also shrinks slightly. After the shutter is snapped, you have three options for review (selected through the Set-up menu): No post-capture display, a Postview display that briefly flashes the image on-screen, and a Preview display which shows the photo and gives you the option to either save or discard it. (During image Preview, you can zoom, in as described below, to check minor details before deciding whether or not to keep the image.)

In Playback mode, the Display button also controls the LCD monitor display, showing image information (such as the file name, date and time, etc.) and the Multi-Frame Playback option, which shows as many as nine thumbnail images on the screen at a time. A Fast Forward function, activated by holding down the right Arrow button, displays three thumbnail images at the bottom of the screen (with the last selected image in the background), and enables you to quickly scroll through the saved images along the bottom of the LCD monitor. There's also a Playback Zoom, which enlarges images as much as 15x, depending on the resolution setting. This magnification amounts to a 1:1 pixel ratio between the LCD screen and the captured image. At any zoom level, pressing the Display button switches the four soft keys to panning controls, allowing you to move around within the magnified image. We really like seeing this much playback magnification, as it makes checking critical focus very easy. (Other manufacturers take note!) Enlarged images can also be cropped and saved as smaller files, at either the 2-megapixel, 1-megapixel, or VGA file sizes.

LCD brightness is adjusted through the camera's Set-up menu.

In our testing, the FinePix 4800 Zoom's optical viewfinder was quite "tight", showing only about 80% of the final image area. Most digicam viewfinders show about 85%, and we personally really prefer to see viewfinder coverage closer to 90%. The optical viewfinder on the 4800 does much better though, at 96% coverage. For any critical framing, be sure to use the LCD.


Optics
The 4800 Zoom features a Super EBC Fujinon 3x, 8.3-24.9mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera), with low-dispersion glass and six aspherical elements in six groups to improve sharpness and reduce optical distortion. The telescoping lens extends from the front of the camera about one inch when the camera is powered on, and retracts when the camera is shut off. Instead of a lens cap, a sliding metal plate automatically covers the lens when not in use. (The lens telescopes into place fairly quickly when the camera is turned on, but does so in two steps.)

Lens apertures are automatically controlled and range from f/2.8 to f/10.8, depending on the lens zoom setting and existing light conditions. Wide-angle settings are from f/2.8 to f/7.0, while telephoto settings are f/4.5 to f/10.8. (Note that while the effective maximum aperture actually ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5 as the lens zooms from wide angle to telephoto, the camera always reports it as f/2.8.) Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 3 seconds, giving the camera some low-light shooting capabilities. Both shutter speed and aperture are reported on the LCD monitor when the Shutter button is halfway pressed.

Focus ranges from 2.0 feet (60cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 0.6 to 2.6 feet (20 to 80cm) in Macro mode. In macro mode, the minimum area that can be photographed is 2.4 x 1.8 inches (60.9 x 45.7 mm), about average. The 4800 Zoom's autofocus system uses a contrast-detection system to determine focus, based on the central portion of the image. A Manual focus option is available in Manual, Night, and Continuous Shooting modes, but doesn't report the distance on either the LCD monitor or smaller LCD status window. Despite the lack of a distance scale or readout, we found that the Manual focus worked very well, and the sharp LCD monitor made it surprisingly clear when the scene was in focus. An interesting side note is that the Macro and Flash settings cannot be changed after Manual focus is activated, therefore you have to set both of these before switching to Manual focus. (This is because the two arrow buttons that control Manual focus also control the Macro and Flash modes.)

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the 4800 Zoom also offers a digital zoom that enlarges the image as much as 3.75x, depending on the file quality setting. Zooming past the normal optical zoom range enables the digital zoom, with a zoom bar display on the LCD monitor to indicate the amount of digital zoom in use. Digital telephoto is not available in the 2,400 x 1,800-pixel image size; 1,600 x 1,200 pixel images can be digitally enlarged as much as 1.5x; and 1,280 x 960 pixel images can be enlarged to 1.88x. The smallest image size, 640 x 480 pixels, offers the maximum digital enlargement, 3.75x. (Movie files can be digitally enlarged to 1.875x.) As always, we like to remind readers that digital zoom is no substitute for true optical zoom, as it merely crops out and enlarges the central portion of the CCD image. Digital telephoto images typically suffer a loss of resolution and may have increased noise levels as well.

Resolution on the 4800 is quite good for a 2 megapixel camera: We saw very faint artifacts in our resolution test target as low as 500 lines, but the image was quite clean out to 650 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions. Stronger artifacts set in after about 850 lines, but we'd still characterize it as having strong detail out to 950 lines per picture height, and "extinction" didn't occur until about 1100 lines. Overall, a very good performance. Optical distortion in the lens is fairly high at the wide angle end though, where we found 1.1 percent barrel distortion in our test images. At telephoto, this changes over to a very slight 0.12% pincushion distortion. We'd like to see less distortion at the wide angle end, but the figure for the telephoto setting is better than average.


Exposure
Exposure control is pretty straightforward on the 4800 Zoom. Basic exposure decisions such as shutter speed and aperture are always under automatic control, though Manual mode offers a number of exposure adjustment options. A Mode switch on the back panel controls whether the camera is in Photography (record) or Playback mode, while a Mode dial at the top of the camera allows you to choose between Manual, Automatic, and Scene Position modes. Auto Exposure mode puts the camera in charge of all exposure decisions, giving you the option to control the Flash, Self-Timer, and Voice Caption features. Manual mode expands the exposure options to include Auto Bracketing, White Balance, ISO, Manual Focus, Sharpness, Flash level, EV (Exposure Compensation), Multi-Exposure, and Photometry (metering).

In Scene Position, you have a choice of four preset shooting modes, including Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black and White. In Portrait mode, the camera employs a larger aperture setting to decrease the depth of field, capturing a sharply focused subject in front of a slightly blurred background. The Scene (Landscape) mode uses a smaller lens aperture and sets focus at infinity to capture broad vistas of scenery. Because of the small aperture setting, landscapes typically have both the foreground and background in focus (flash is not available). Night Scene uses slow shutter speeds for shooting at low light levels, allowing more ambient light into the image. Finally, Black and White mode captures monochromatic black-and-white images.

Three metering options are available on the 4800 Zoom: Average, Spot, and Multi (default). The Average metering system reads the entire scene and averages the exposure, without putting any emphasis on the subject or background. Spot metering bases the exposure on a single spot reading from the center of the frame, a method that works best with high-contrast or backlit subjects. The third option, Multi, takes a series of exposure readings from 64 zones throughout the image area to determine the best overall exposure. In Multi mode, the camera uses automatic scene recognition to analyze the subject and provide the best exposure for each shooting situation. You can manually lock exposure and focus by framing the most important portion of the subject in the center of the frame, halfway pressing the Shutter button, and then recomposing the shot while keeping the Shutter button halfway pressed. If you preset focus using the Manual Focus mode, you can lock exposure only using the same procedure.

Most exposure adjustments are made in Manual mode, through the Photography settings menus. Exposure Compensation, which is used to lighten or darken an image, ranges from -1.5 to +1.5 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. Light sensitivity is adjustable to 125, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents. White balance options include Auto, Sunny, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. There's also a sharpness adjustment that softens or sharpens the outlines in the image, with settings of Hard, Normal, and Soft.

Auto Bracketing captures three consecutive shots at three different exposure settings (one at the suggested meter reading, one underexposed, and one overexposed). Shots can vary by 1/3, 2/3, or 1 exposure value (EV), depending on what you select in the Photography menu. Auto Bracketing is available in the Continuous Shooting exposure mode only. A preview screen appears on the LCD monitor after the series is shot, allowing you to select which image you want to be recorded (you can also record all three images or delete them).

When the Self-Timer is activated through the Photography menu, the camera counts down 10 seconds before triggering the shutter. A small red light on the front of the camera glows for the first five seconds and then flashes for another five seconds. A numerical countdown is also displayed on the circular LCD status window on the back panel.

In most recording modes, the slowest Shutter Speed is 1/4 second. Switching to "Night" scene mode extends the exposure times to up to three seconds, but disables the ISO settings.


Flash
A Flash Open button at the top of the back panel releases the flash from its compartment. Four flash modes can be selected by pressing the right arrow key: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Slow Synchro. In Auto mode, the camera fires the flash based on the current light level. Red-Eye Reduction works in a similar manner, except that the flash fires a small pre-flash before the full flash, to reduce the occurrence of red-eye. Forced flash mode fires the flash with every exposure, regardless of light level. For night or twilight exposures, the Slow Synchro flash mode works with a slower shutter speed to allow more ambient background light into the scene to balance with the flash exposure. The Suppressed flash mode is engaged by returning the flash to its compartment, which prevents it from firing at all. The 4800 Zoom also allows you to adjust the intensity of the flash from -0.6 to +0.6 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. (We like this feature a lot, most digicams don't let you adjust the flash intensity at all.) Fujifilm rates the 4800 Zoom's flash as effective from 0.6 to 11.5 feet (0.2 to 3.5 meters) at the wide-angle setting and from 0.6 to 6.6 feet (0.2 to 2.0 meters) at the telephoto setting. These numbers seem to agree well with our own test results. Like most highly compact digicams, the F4800 is a little weak in the flash department.

Continuous Shooting
In Continuous Shooting mode, the 4800 Zoom records up to three continuous frames at intervals as short as 0.2 seconds. After the series is captured, a preview screen displays all three images at thumbnail size, allowing you to review the series and pick the images you want to record or delete. The camera may capture less than three shots if the SmartMedia card is out of memory space, but it does not record more than three images if additional memory is available. (Apparently, the camera captures the raw data to a buffer memory, so that lower resolution settings don't result in a longer capture series.)

Movie Mode
Marked on the Mode dial by a tiny movie camera symbol, Movie mode captures moving images with sound for as long as 80 seconds at a time (depending on available SmartMedia space). Movies are recorded at 320 x 240-pixel resolution, at approximately 10 frames per second. The LCD monitor must be activated in Movie mode and the flash is not available. Although the lens is automatically fixed at the wide-angle setting upon entering Movie mode, digital zoom is available to 1.875x. Recording starts and stops with a full press of the Shutter button, and a timer appears in the upper right corner of the LCD monitor to count down the remaining seconds of recording time.

Audio Recording
In addition to recording sound with movies, the 4800 Zoom also records up to 30 minutes of audio without images -- the length of the recording time dependent on the available SmartMedia space. While this feature could be very useful for recording lectures or presentations, the sound quality leaves a fair bit to be desired. We found it to be rather muffled, with some additional background hiss. As with Movie mode, the available recording time appears on the LCD screen, and a full press of the Shutter button starts and stops recording. To prevent the lens from extending when you use the Audio mode, turn the Mode dial to the Audio position (the microphone icon) before powering on the camera.

When shooting in the Auto exposure mode, you can record voice captions to accompany your still images. This is accomplished by accessing the Voice Caption submenu in the Photography menu and choosing the On option. Once you record an image, a "Rec Standby" message appears in the LCD monitor. Press the Menu / OK button to begin recording a voice annotation, which can last as long as 30 seconds. The remaining recording time counts down on the LCD monitor. Once the recording is finished, pressing the Menu button stores the sound clip on the SmartMedia card.

For both types of audio recording, Fujifilm recommends placing the microphone (on the front panel) at least 7.8 inches (20cm) from the subject.

Multi-Exposure
Available in the Manual exposure mode only, the Multi-Exposure feature is accessed through the camera's Photography menu. Multi-Exposure combines images by overlaying one exposure over another, similar to exposing the same frame of film multiple times. After each exposure, a Preview screen appears with a preview of how the combined images will look. At that time, you can press the right arrow button to continue recording images, press the Menu / OK button to record the current image, press the left Arrow button to return to the previous image, or press Back to cancel the action altogether.


Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it.

 

FinePix 4800 Zoom Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
 3.81
Time from power on to first shot captured. Average to a bit faster than average.
Shutdown
 2.81
Time for lens to retract. Average to a bit faster than average.
Play to Record, first shot
1.66
Time from playback mode to first shot. Fairly fast.
Record to play
2.61
Time from shutter snapped to viewing image in playback mode. About average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.58 - 0.64 
At wide angle & far focus, about average. Slower for closeups and tele lens setting. Noticeably faster than average.
Shutter lag, manual focus
 0.30
About average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
 0.16
Somewhat faster than average.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
 2.46/2.11
A bit faster than average
Cycle Time, Continuous Mode
0.2 - 0.3
Camera only allows three shots, then you must confirm images. Spec is for 0.2 seconds, we found the third shot took 0.3 seconds.

 


Overall, the FinePix 4800 is a fairly fast camera, with better than average shutter lag in full autofocus mode, and good shot to shot cycle times. Startup and shutdown times are also good. Given that both autofocus and prefocus shutter lag times are better than average, this camera would be better than most at capturing action sports, etc. (Although prefocusing the lens by half-pressing the shutter button prior to the exposure is still strongly recommended to get the fastest response.)


Operation and User Interface
The 4800 Zoom's user interface might appear a little challenging at first, as some features are controlled by the LCD menu system, and others are selected by using a combination of arrow keys and the small LCD display. However, a quick read of the Owner's Manual and a few minutes spent learning the camera should easily clear up any questions. The Mode dial at the top of the camera's back panel controls the camera's exposure modes, while a separate Mode switch differentiates between Photography (Record) and Playback modes. While the majority of exposure adjustments are made through the camera's LCD menu system, many basic settings are controlled using the four-way arrow keys and the small, circular display they border. We like the "soft key" approach, which reports the changing function of the four-way arrow keys on the small display, allowing them to serve a multitude of functions. Our only complaint is that the LCD menu system requires a fair amount of button pushing to change settings, especially in Manual mode, which requires three screens to fit all the menu items. The all-important Set-up menu is also a bit difficult to locate, as it is presented as a submenu in the Photography menu, instead of being a Mode dial option, as is the case with many competing digicams.


Control Enumeration


Shutter Button: Located on a sloping edge of the camera's top panel (right side), this shiny silver button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully depressed. When in Self-Timer mode, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the 10-second countdown before the shutter is released.


Mode Dial: Just behind the Shutter button, this thick metal dial controls the camera's recording modes, with six options: Continuous Shooting, Manual, Automatic, Scene Position, Movie, or Audio modes. (We like the knurled edge of the dial, as it provides a very sure grip on the control.)


Open Flash Button: Located in the center of the top portion of the back panel, this button releases the pop-up flash from its compartment.



Four-Way Arrow Keys: Arranged around the small round status display panel, these four arrow keys control a variety of settings, depending on the current recording mode. When the LCD menu system is displayed in either Record or Playback modes, all four arrows navigate through menu settings and options.

In Record mode, the up and down arrows control the optical and digital zooms. The left arrow button activates and deactivates Macro mode, and the right arrow controls the flash operating mode. When Manual focus is activated, the right and left buttons control focus. If an image preview is displayed on the monitor, the up and down arrows control the preview zoom function.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images and movies on the SmartMedia card. The up and down arrows control the amount of playback zoom. During movie playback, the down arrow starts and pauses movie playback, while the up arrow stops playback entirely. The left and right arrows control the Forward and Rewind movie functions, allowing you to skip sections. If the movie is paused, pressing the right and left arrows scrolls frame-by-frame through the movie file.


Back Button: Just below and to the left of the Open Flash button, the Back button backs out of menu selections and preview screens, serving as the "Cancel" key.


Menu / OK Button: Directly below the Back button (and linked by a short curved ridge), this button activates the LCD menu system when pressed once, and turns it off again when you press it a second time (as long as you aren't in a menu option). If the LCD monitor is off when you activate the menu, pressing the Menu button brings up both the on-screen menu and the image display. (We noticed that the image display remains on-screen after the menu is turned off.) This button also serves as the "OK" button for verifying menu selections when you're inside the menus.


Power Button: Nested in the center of the Mode switch, this button turns the camera on and off.


Mode Switch: Surrounding the Power button at its base, this lever switches between Photography (Record) and Playback modes.


Display Button: Located just above the top left corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD image and information display in both Record and Playback modes.


SmartMedia Compartment Latch: Located on the left side of the camera (when viewed from the back), this knurled sliding switch opens the SmartMedia compartment cover when pushed downward.


Camera Modes and Menus

Continuous Shooting: (Multiple frame icon) This mode allows the camera to capture a series of three consecutive images at approximately 0.2-second intervals. Exposure is automatically controlled, and the flash is unavailable. Pressing the Menu button offers the following options:



Manual Mode: (Camera icon with an "M") Manual exposure mode expands the exposure adjustment options (with the exception of shutter speed and aperture settings, which remain under automatic control). The Manual mode Photography menu (accessed by pressing the Menu button) is composed of three screens, with the following options:



Automatic Exposure: (Auto) In Automatic exposure mode, the camera controls all exposure decisions, with the exception of image quality and flash. Pressing the Menu button pulls up the following options:



Scene Position: (SP icon) In this mode, you can choose between a variety of preset "Scene" shooting modes, including Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black and White. Exposure is automatically controlled, and the flash may or may not be available, depending on the scene selected. The Record menu offers the following selections:



Movie Mode: (Movie camera icon) This mode records moving images with sound for as long as 80 seconds at 320 x 240-pixel resolution. Digital zoom is the only available function. The menu options are limited to Set-up Menu and LCD Brightness.

Audio Mode: (Microphone icon) In Audio mode, the 4800 Zoom allows you to record audio for as long as 30 minutes per recording (depending on SmartMedia space). As with Movie mode, the menu options are limited to Set-up Menu and LCD Brightness.

Playback Mode: Accessed by pushing the Mode switch (under the eye-level viewfinder) to the green Playback symbol, this mode allows you to review captured images and movies. Files can be erased, played back in an automated slide show, write-protected, or set up for printing on DPOF-compatible devices. Still images can be enlarged and cropped, or viewed in an index display. The Playback Menu offers the following options:



Set-Up Menu: This menu is accessible in all exposure modes, as well as in Playback mode, by pressing the Menu button and scrolling to the Set option:



Image Storage and Interface
The 4800 Zoom stores images and movies onto 3.3v SmartMedia memory cards. A 16MB card is supplied with the camera, but higher capacity cards are available in sizes as large as 128MB. The LED lamp next to the optical viewfinder eyepiece flashes orange and green when the camera is recording a file to the memory card, and glows orange steadily when no other camera operation can take place while the image is written. The SmartMedia card slot is located on the left side of the camera, and the card inserts with the gold electrodes going in first, facing the front of the camera. To release the card, give it a quick press, which pops it up slightly, then remove it from the slot.

SmartMedia cards come with a set of write-protection stickers that, when applied to the card, prevent it from being erased or written to. Each sticker can only be used once and must be clean to be effective. You can write-protect individual images, or all images on the card, through the 4800 Zoom's Playback menu. Write-protection prevents images from being altered in any way, except by card formatting, which erases all the images, even write-protected ones. A trimming function allows you to crop images in Playback mode. The crop area is designated by enlarging the image with the Playback Zoom function, then pressing the Menu / OK button to crop and record the image.

The 4800 Zoom offers a variety of image size and JPEG quality settings. The largest is the interpolated (4M) 2,400 x 1,800 pixel size, which offers quality settings of Fine, Normal, and Basic. The remaining image sizes are (2M) 1,600 x 1,200, (1M) 1,280 x 960, and (VGA) 640 x 480 pixels, with Fine and Normal quality settings available in the 1M and 2M modes, and Basic only available in VGA mode. Movie files are always recorded in the 320 x 240 pixel resolution, with no quality settings available.

Following are the number of images and approximate compression levels for a 16MB SmartMedia card:

 

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality

Fine
Normal
Basic
Highest Resolution
(2400 x 1800)
Images 8 19
46
Approx.
Compression
6.5:1 15:1
37:1
High Resolution
(1600 x 1200)
Images
20
39
-
Approx.
Compression
7:1
14:1
-
Standard Resolution
(1280 x 960)
Images
25
49
-
Approx.
Compression
6:1
11:1
-
Low Resolution
(640 x 480)
Images
-
163
-
Approx.
Compression
-
9:1
-

 


The following shows the approximate amount of movie and audio recording time for a 16MB SmartMedia card:


File Type
Time
320 x 240 Movie
94 secs
Audio file
33 min

 


The 4800 Zoom comes with a USB cable, PC connector cradle, and a software CD for downloading images to a computer. Placing the FinePix 4800 Zoom in its cradle immediately begins charging the battery. Pressing the Power button at the bottom front of the cradle turns on the camera and automatically launches Fujifilm's EXIF viewer program. (Essentially a rudimentary thumbnail-organizer for photo files.) When the viewer launches, it immediately opens to show thumbnails of all the images currently on the camera's memory card, which is great for quickly checking and downloading your files.

The USB connection provides for fast downloads from the camera, we clocked it at about 11 seconds to download a 4.3 meg movie file to our Mac G4, a transfer rate of 389 KBytes/second. This is average to a bit faster than average for USB cameras we've tested. One plus: The FinePix 4800 Zoom is a "storage class" USB device, which means that Mac users running OS 8.6 or later, or Windows Me or 2000 users can connect and download files from the camera with no additional software - their computers should recognize the 4800 as a USB-connected disk drive.

One of the first things any new digicam owner will need is a larger memory card for their camera: The cards shipped with the units by the manufacturers should really be considered only "starter" cards, you'll definitely want a higher capacity card immediately. - Probably at least a 32 megabyte card for a 1.3 or 2 megapixel camera, 64 megabytes or more for a 3, 4, or 5 megapixel one. (The nice thing about memory cards is you'll be able to use whatever you buy now with your next camera too, whenever you upgrade.) To help you shop for a good deal on memory cards that fit the FinePix 4800, we've put together a little memory locater, with links to our price-comparison engine: Just click on the "Memory Wizard" button above to go to the FujiFilm memory finder, select your camera model , and click the shopping cart icon next to the card size you're interested in. You'll see a list of matching entries from the price-comparison database. Pick a vendor & order away! (Pretty cool, huh?)

Video Out
US and Japanese models of the 4800 Zoom come with an NTSC A / V cable for connecting to a television set. (European models come equipped for PAL timing.) Once connected to the 4800 Zoom, the television set can be used to review captured images and movies, or for composing shots -- an interesting option for making portraits. Images and movies can also be recorded to video tape. The video output is active in all camera operating modes, so it can be used as both a viewfinder and playback device.


Power
The 4800 Zoom is powered by an NP-80 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, or by the accompanying AC adapter. The AC adapter also serves as a direct in-camera battery charger, or you can use it to charge the battery through the cradle accessory. The Self-Timer lamp on the front of the camera glows red whenever the battery is charging. Fujifilm estimates that a fully charged NP-80 battery pack should provide about 120 shots with the LCD monitor on, and 250 shots with it switched off (or one hour of video / audio recording with the LCD monitor on and three hours of audio recording with the LCD off). A battery icon flashes in the circular status panel when the battery power is getting low.

 

Operating Mode
Power Drain
Est. Runtime
Capture Mode, w/LCD
680 mA
85 min
Capture Mode, no LCD
240 mA
240 min
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
670 mA
86 min
Half-pressed w/o LCD
390 mA
148 min
Memory Write (transient)
860 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
1030 mA
n/a
Image Playback
480 mA
120 min

 


Battery life for the FinePix 4800 Zoom is about average, quite a feat considering the tiny battery it uses. Even though battery life is fairly good, we still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery and bringing along a fully-charged spare at all times.

Like many cameras today using the same compact LiIon batteries, the 4800 has a 5 volt external-power connection. This means it can't be used with conventional external battery packs to achieve longer run times, because most such packs put out too high a voltage. Maha's NiMH PowerBank (shown above) can be combined with a special "step-down" cable though, which drops the pack's voltage to the level required by the camera. This makes it feasible to use an external power pack with the 4800. With the generally good power consumption of the 4800, a PowerBank should give you 4-5 hours of continuous operation, when combined with the internal battery. One note - Maha makes both NiMH and LiIon versions of the PowerBank, make sure you get the NiMH model for the 4800. (Model number MH-DPB180M.) And, don't forget the step-down cable! Click here to order, or for more info.


Included Software
A USB cable and PC connector cradle accompany the 4800 Zoom. The cradle serves multiple functions. With just the AC adapter connected, it charges the NP-80 battery pack in the camera. You can also connect the cradle to your computer via the USB cable and quickly download images directly from the SmartMedia card. Windows users can take advantage of the 4800 Zoom's "webcam" functionality, with the PictureHello utility included with the FinePix Viewer software, making the 4800 Zoom an effective Internet videoconferencing tool.

A software CD packaged with the camera includes USB drivers for both Mac and Windows computers, FinePix Viewer, Exif Launcher, ArcSoft VideoImpression, Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE, and Adobe ActiveShare. All software is compatible with Windows 98/2000/ME and Macintosh OS 8.6 to 9.1., except Adobe ActiveShare, which is for Windows users only. Fujifilm's FinePix Viewer software allows you to view and categorize thumbnail images and set them up for printing. You can also view images at full size and perform minor corrections. Exif Launcher is the utility that launches FinePix Viewer whenever a camera is connected. FinePix Viewer includes the PictureHello software utility that allows Windows users to set up the 4800 Zoom as a videoconference tool, providing limited remote control of the camera. Adobe ActiveShare is a web-sharing utility that enables Windows users to share digital images over the Internet.

ArcSoft's VideoImpression software provides minor video editing capabilities, allowing you to add or delete frames, add music, and do other minor editing. We're definitely pleased with Fujifilm's inclusion of Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE, which provides a wealth of image manipulation tools for correction and enhancement. Creative filters and effects provide more artistic control, and correction tools allow you do minor editing, such as crop, rotate, lighten, and darken images.


In the Box
Packaged with the FinePix 4800 Zoom are the following items:



Test Results
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 4800 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 4800 Zoom performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the 4800 Zoom produced very pleasing color in most of our tests. The camera's White Balance system handled most of our test lighting well, though it produced a slight warm cast in response to our studio lighting, particularly noticeable in the House poster and Davebox target. Likewise, both the Auto and Incandescent white balance settings resulted in very warm images in our Indoor Portrait (without flash). Still, overall color was accurate most of the time. The 4800 Zoom distinguished the tough tonal variations of our Davebox target well, and reproduced the large color blocks with good accuracy (despite the warm color cast). Skin tones often had a magenta tint, particularly in our Outdoor and Indoor portraits. In general, while we felt color accuracy wasn't spot-on, the manner in which it was off produced prints that we think most consumers will find attractive.

The 4800 Zoom did pretty well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. However, we found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 - 1,400 lines.

Optical distortion on the 4800 Zoom is quite low at the wide-angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.21 percent barrel distortion. Unfortunately, the telephoto end fared much worse, as we measured a 1.1 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only about one or two faint pixels in the far corners.

The 4800 Zoom offers full automatic exposure control only, which reduces its performance in the low-light category. The camera produced usable images down to about one foot-candle (or 11 lux, comparable to a well-lit city street at night) with good color, at ISO 400. At ISO 125 and 200, images were only usable as low as two foot-candles (22 lux). At all three ISO settings, the target remained visible as low as one-half foot-candle (5.5 lux), but images were too dim for use. Noise remained fairly low at ISO 125, increasing to a moderately high level at ISO 400, which is still pretty good. Thus, night photography will require the use of the flash in most cases.

The 4800 Zoom's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing approximately 80 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor fares much better, showing approximately 96 percent of the image area at all focal lengths. Given that we generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 4800 Zoom's LCD monitor does a great job here.

The 4800 Zoom did a good job in the macro category, capturing a smaller-than-average minimum area of only 2.39 x 1.79 inches (60.70 x 45.52 millimeters). Resolution is high, with a lot of distinct detail visible in the dollar bill. The brooch and coin details are very soft due to the limited depth of field when shooting this close, as well as a significant amount of corner softness. We also noticed a magenta tint to the gray background, probably resulting from the auto white balance attempting to compensate for the green of the bill. The 4800 Zoom's flash did a suprisingly good job of throttling down for the macro area, although it ended up fairly dim, producing a pinkish color cast.

Overall, the 4800 Zoom did pretty well. Despite a warm color cast in some of our test images, the 4800 Zoom handles most light sources well. We'd like to see the Incandescent white balance come out a bit more neutral, but Fuji has made big strides in this area, and the 4800 is pretty comparable to other cameras in this respect. Image quality and color are good, with the 4800 Zoom capturing a lot of detail. Caucasian skin tones are a little "hot", but the overall effect of its color is to produce very pleasing prints. Though its low-light capabilities are somewhat limited, the 4800 Zoom should be able to handle typical consumer-level shooting conditions quite well.


Conclusion
The FinePix 4800 Zoom is a compact, portable digicam with a sleek, sophisticated body design courtesy of sports car designer F.A.Porsche. The 4800 Zoom's high-tech, stylized look, and its broad range of camera functions (still, movie, audio, and videoconferencing) will likely appeal to the digitally savvy consumer market more than it will to the serious photographer. Users have a choice of fully automatic exposure control, which is great for people who don't want to hassle with complicated camera settings, or they can use the camera's manual mode, which provides limited exposure adjustments and a few simple creative options. Fuji's interpolation scheme, which turns 2.4 million sensor pixels into 4.3 million pixels in the image files has generated a lot of controversy, but does in our opinion create slightly more detailed files a straight 2 megapixel rendering. (Still, at the Imaging Resource, Marti's camera is a FinePix 6800, and we usually find ourselves running it in its "uninterpolated" 3 megapixel mode, rather than the 6 megapixel interpolated one.) While we make much of the sleek styling of the 4800 Zoom though, its most salient characteristic is the beautiful, vibrant color of its images. With its ease of use, rugged yet sleek portability, and excellent picture quality, we think it's a perfect choice for point & shoot users looking for a really portable digicam.




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