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Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom

A new SuperCCD sensor gives Fuji's latest ultra compact true 3.3 megapixel resolution and great color.

Review First Posted: 4/8/2001



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MSRP $899 US

 

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True 3.3 megapixel SuperCCD, for uninterpolated image size of 2048 x 1536
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Excellent color rendition
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Unique "cradle" design for easy downloads, web cam capability
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Movie and Audio modes make camera a true multimedia tool


Manufacturer Overview
Fujifilm has become one of the major players in the digital camera field, and last year in particular (2000) had a number of major product announcements. This year promises some interesting things too, based on what we know of their product plans, as well as models that have been announced elsewhere in the world, but not yet in the US.

For some time now, Fujifilm has had a very attractive series of sub-compact digital cameras, with a vertical form factor and a telescoping zoom lens design that made them favorites of the pocket-camera crowd. A year ago, Fujifilm announced the FinePix 4700 Zoom, the first camera in their ultra-compact line to use their honeycomb-array SuperCCD sensor design. The 4700 was a notable success, as it offered high-quality images from its 2.4 megapixel sensor (interpolated to 4.3 megapixel image files), in a very compact package. The 4700's color and form factor were big pluses, but higher-than-average image noise kept it from top marks. Fuji's handling of the 4.3/2.4 megapixel issue also caused some confusion amongst consumers, and ill will among the digicam cognoscenti, who felt that their marketing department was being over-agressive in their resolution claims. All in all though, the 4700 was a good and popular camera design that found many happy homes.

This year (2001), Fuji has revisited its ultra-compact line, bringing to light the FinePix 6800 Zoom. This model sports a full 3.3 megapixel SuperCCD sensor, housed in a body crafted by the famed F.A. Porche design firm. Looking at our test pictures, it appears that the new sensor has brought both more vivid color and reduced image noise, noticeably improving the image quality of the earlier 4700 model. This time around, we've also taken Fuji up on their recommendation to form opinions based on printed images, as opposed to viewing them solely on a computer monitor. We confess that we were surprised by the visible differences between the 3 megapixel "sensor resolution" images and the 6 megapixel interpolated ones: The 6 megapixel files showed noticeably reduced artifacts and improved image detail, although we felt the results still fall short of what you'd expect to find from a camera with an actual 6 megapixel sensor. Still, we have to admit that the interpolated images produced by the 6800 do extract additional detail beyond what we'd normally expect to see from a 3 megapixel sensor.

Overall, the FinePix 6800 is a very interesting camera. It offers very high image quality in a compact package, with excellent resolution and color purity. It also offers exceptional ease of use, thanks to a unique "dock" solution that simplifies image transfers to the host computer. Kudos to Fuji for a significant advance in the compact-digicam category!


High Points



Executive Overview
With sleek lines and smooth contours, the Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom is a stylish addition to the FinePix family. The F. A. Porsche design gives the 6800 Zoom a fashionable flair, while the camera's small size makes it a very portable option for consumers on the go. Small enough to fit into larger shirt pockets, the 6800 Zoom is also very light weight at just 10.6 ounces (300 grams). The 6800 Zoom uses Fuji's Super CCD technology, featuring a 3.3-megapixel CCD that interpolates into a six-megapixel CCD (producing as high as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels with interpolation). The honeycomb pattern of the CCD, combined with a primary color filter, is designed to deliver high quality images with great color.

An interesting design feature of the 6800 Zoom is the cradle or "dock" that accompanies it. With DC In and USB jacks on its back side, the cradle serves as both a battery charger and a card reader for downloading images. For PC users, the cradle keeps 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).

A 3x, 8.3-24.9mm lens (equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera) is built into the 6800 Zoom, with automatically adjusted apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/10.8 (depending on the zoom setting and lighting conditions). Focus offers manual and automatic control, with the autofocus system employing a contrast-detection focus mechanism. For composing images, the 6800 Zoom offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a color LCD monitor. The two-inch LCD monitor features a detailed information display, which can be canceled for a full screen view. We were pleased to see that the LCD monitor also reports the aperture and shutter speed information, when the Shutter button is halfway pressed, a useful feature when you're trying for special exposure effects. The 6800 Zoom's LCD also offers an optional framing guideline feature, which divides the image into thirds horizontally and vertically, to help you line up shots.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times on the 6800 Zoom, even in the so-called "Manual" exposure mode (which in this case refers to the ability to manually adjust other variables such as white balance, ISO, etc.). An Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera controls the exposure mode, with options of Continuous Shooting, Manual, Automatic, Scene Position, Movie, and Audio. The Automatic exposure mode takes full charge of the exposure, allowing the user to control the flash, self-timer, and macro mode only. Switching to Manual mode expands the Record menu's options to include white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, flash level, metering, and sharpness. In Scene Position, you have a choice of four preset scene shooting modes, including Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black & White.

By default, the 6800 Zoom employs Multi-Metering, which bases the exposure on multiple readings made throughout the image area. Through the Manual exposure Record menu, you can change the metering system to either Spot or Average. An Auto Bracketing feature takes three consecutive exposures (one at the metered reading, one overexposed, and one underexposed), with exposures varying by 1/2, 1/3, or 1 exposure equivalent (EV) increments. Or, you can manually adjust the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. White balance options include Automatic, Sunny, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings, and ISO equivalents include 100, 200, and 400 adjustment settings. The 6800 Zoom also offers a sharpness adjustment and a 10-second self-timer. The built-in flash offers Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow Synchro operating modes, as well as an intensity adjustment to control brightness.

Continuous Shooting mode takes as many as five 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 Multiple Exposure menu option (Manual mode only) takes multiple exposures, one over another, to produce unique "double exposed" images. The 6800 Zoom's Movie recording mode captures movies with sound, with a maximum recording time of 160 seconds per movie. Movies are saved at the 320 x 240 pixel resolution size. The Audio mode allows you to record audio files for as long as one hour at a time (depending on available memory space), useful for recording lectures and speeches. You can also record short sound clips to accompany captured images.

Images are saved to SmartMedia memory cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. The 6800 Zoom offers four still image resolution sizes, including 2,832 x 2,128 (interpolated), 2,048 x 1,536, 1,280 x 960, and 640 x 480 pixels, with Fine, Normal, and Basic JPEG compression levels.

An NTSC A/V cable accompanies the 6800 Zoom, allowing you to review and compose images on a television set. (European models come equipped for PAL timing.) For high-speed connection to a computer, the 6800 Zoom also comes with a USB cable, which can be plugged directly into the camera or into the accompanying cradle. A software CD holds Fuji's FinePix interface software, as well as USB drivers, ArcSoft Video Impression, Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE, and Adobe ActiveShare. Most software is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems, with the exception of Adobe ActiveShare, which is for Windows only. Likewise, the videoconferencing utility of the FinePix software is only compatible with Windows systems.

An NP-80 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack accompanies the 6800 Zoom for power, and an AC adapter is included as well. The AC adapter doubles as an in-camera battery charger, either by connecting to the camera directly or connecting to the cradle.

Overall, the 6800 Zoom is a fun, compact, and well designed digicam. Its all metal body is sturdy, yet lightweight, and it's very pocket-friendly. Our testing showed that the 6800 Zoom handles a variety of exposure conditions well, with good color and image quality. (Although it has a little trouble with incandescent light sources.) The full automatic exposure control is perfect for consumers who simply want to take good pictures without fooling around with camera settings. While you do get the bonus of several exposure options when shooting in Manual mode, and the creativity of a Multiple Exposure mode, the camera clearly isn't aimed at people who want to experiment extensively with exposure parameters. With its videoconferencing capability, 3.3-megapixel CCD, tiny size, variety of features, and very good image quality, we think the 6800 Zoom will find a warm reception with many consumers.


Design
Smooth and chic with its distinctive F. A. Porsche design, the Fuji FinePix 6800 Zoom's aluminum-magnesium alloy body is both attractive and sturdy. Compact and very light weight, the 6800 Zoom's small dimensions of 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.4 inches (80 x 97.5 x 36.3 millimeters) should fit into most larger shirt pockets with no trouble. Weighing only 10.6 ounces (300 grams) with SmartMedia and battery pack, the 6800 Zoom is very portable, qualifying for the "ultra compact" class of digital cameras. The 6800 Zoom's sleek design fits into your hand pretty well, although we found the grip and controls a little cramped, requiring that we hold the camera more in our fingers than our hand proper. This led us to feel that our grip was a bit more precarious than we'd have liked, but the included wrist strap provides a little extra security.



The 6800 Zoom's 3.3-megapixel Super CCD can be interpolated to produce a six-megapixel image (2,832 x 2,128 pixel resolution size). Without interpolation, the highest resolution size is 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. The Super CCD features an interwoven pixel pattern (shaped like a honeycomb) and a primary color filter for accurate, high-definition color. Unique to the 6800 Zoom is its cradle, which works similarly to the cradle of a cell phone or palm PC device. A USB cable runs from the cradle to the computer, allowing you to simply drop the camera into the cradle and transfer image files, working somewhat like a card reader. The cradle also allows the camera to work like a "webcam" (with the included software and for Windows only), as it positions the camera at a stationary angle during Internet videoconferencing. The cradle also connects to the AC adapter, and acts as a battery charger.



The front of the 6800 Zoom is sleek and smooth, with very few protrusions and lightly sculpted design elements. The 3x lens shares the camera front with the optical viewfinder window, self-timer lamp, flash control sensor, and microphone. Similar to several other FinePix designs, the 6800 Zoom's lens is protected by a sliding metal cover that retracts instantly when the camera is powered on. The lens then telescopes outward about 1.5 inches or so into its operating position. Likewise, the lens retracts and the cover slides closed when the camera is powered off. A very slight hand grip is sculpted onto the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back), providing a tiny, beveled edge for your fingers to cling to.



On the right side of the camera is little other than the wrist strap attachment eyelet. Also visible are a series of small bumps arranged vertically in the lower left corner. We're not sure what the bumps are for, as they really don't appear to serve any purpose other than decoration.



The opposite side of the 6800 Zoom holds the SmartMedia slot and the A/V Out, USB, and DC In connector jacks. A small, plastic door covers the SmartMedia slot, released by sliding down the lever just to the right of it.



On top of the camera are the pop-up flash compartment and the shiny, silver Shutter button. You can also see the rough texture of the Mode dial, which curves upwards behind the Shutter button.



Nearly all of the camera's external controls are on the rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder and (surprisingly large) LCD monitor. A status LED on the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece reports camera status, indicating when exposure and focus are set, when the flash is still charging, etc. Opposite the viewfinder is the Mode dial, which selects from among 6 different operating modes. The remaining controls include the Power button, Mode switch, Back and Menu buttons, Arrow keys, and the Display and Flash Open buttons. The camera's speaker is tucked away in the thumb rest near the lower right corner. A feature we greatly appreciated on the 6800 Zoom is the circular, monochrome LCD status display located in the center of the arrow keys. This status display associates up to four different actions with the "soft keys" surrounding it, providing rapid access to the most commonly-used functions in each exposure mode. The status display window glows an orange/red when the camera is in Record mode and glows green in Playback mode.



The large LCD monitor on the rear panel restricts your fingers to the extreme righthand edge of the camera. 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 feel grip.



Completing the 6800 Zoom's smoothly contoured design is a very flat bottom panel. A metal threaded tripod mount is located slightly off center and too close to the nearby battery compartment to allow quick battery changes while mounted to a tripod. (Probably not an issue on this camera, which isn't really aimed at studio use anyway.) The battery compartment itself is protected by a sliding plastic cover, that slides to the right and then opens outwards to expose the battery. 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 6800 Zoom features both a real-image optical viewfinder and a color LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder display features a black outline circle in the center of the view, indicating the autofocus and autoexposure target area. An offset set of black crop marks in the viewfinder display indicate the framing for macro shooting, and seem to do a good job, based on an informal test. The overall accuracy of the optical viewfinder in normal shooting mode is rather low however, as our tests showed a frame coverage of a bit less than 80 percent. The LCD viewfinder does much better, at 96 percent coverage. Though the optical viewfinder does not feature a diopter adjustment, it does have a reasonably high eyepoint. We were able to see the full view at a fair distance from the eyepiece, meaning even fairly thick eyeglasses should be accommodated.

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

Viewfinder Modes
Other Capture Modes


The two-inch, low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor features 130,000 pixels. The Display button just over the top left corner of the monitor controls the information and image display, cycling through options of image with text, the framing guideline, and no display at all. Exposure information and various camera settings are reported in the information display, and the shutter speed and aperture settings display when the shutter button is halfway pressed. The framing guideline function divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically, to help you line up shots. The viewfinder display changes to indicate the camera's operating mode as well, with different displays for each setting of the mode dial.

When you actually press the shutter button, the camera mode information displayed across the top of the LCD vanishes, replaced at the bottom by the aperture and shutter speed. The central autofocus target also shrinks slightly. After the shutter is snapped, you have three options: No post-capture display, a "Postview" display that briefly flashes the just-captured image on the LCD screen, and a "Preview" display which shows the photo and gives you the option to either save or discard it. (The Postview option is shown in the screenshot above.)

In Playback mode, the Display button also controls the LCD monitor display, showing image information (such as filename, the number of captured images, 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 displays three thumbnail images at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to quickly scroll through the images saved on the memory card.

There's also a playback zoom which enlarges images as much as 18x (!), 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 Disp button switches the four soft keys to panning controls, allowing you to move the magnified view around the image. We really like seeing this much playback magnification, as it makes checking critical focus very easy. (Other manufacturers take note!) In another unusual (but potentially very useful) option, enlarged images can be cropped and saved as smaller files, at either the 1 megapixel or VGA file sizes.

LCD brightness is adjustable through the camera's Setup menu. Also through the Setup menu are a few preview options for the LCD monitor. With Postview, the captured image displays on the LCD screen for about two seconds before being recorded. The Preview option also displays the captured image, but with an option to delete it. During the image preview, you can also "zoom in" to check on minor details before deciding whether or not to keep the image.


Optics
A 3x, 8.3-24.9mm lens is built into the 6800 Zoom, equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera. Fujifilm used low dispersion glass and aspherical elements in the lens design to improve sharpness and reduce distortion. The telescoping lens design extends from front of the camera about 1.5 inches when the camera is powered on, and retracts when the camera is shut off. Instead of a lens cap, a sliding metal cover 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. The total time to first shot is thus a bit longer than in some designs we've tested.

Apertures are automatically controlled on the 6800 Zoom, but range from f/2.8 to f/10.8, depending on the lighting conditions and lens zoom setting. (Note that while the effective aperture actually ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5 as the lens zooms, the camera always reports it as f/2.8.) The lens actually has two aperture settings, which the camera switches between as needed. The wide aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5 as the lens zooms from wide angle to telephoto. (One aperture setting, but the effective aperture changes with the focal length.) The smaller aperture ranges from f/7.0 to f/10.8.

Focus ranges from 2.0 feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, and from 0.6 to 2.6 feet (20 to 80 centimeters) in macro mode. The 6800 Zoom's autofocus system uses a contrast-detection method to determine focus, based on the central portion of the image. A manual focus option is available in Manual and Night exposure 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, the manual focus option does work well, and the sharp LCD monitor made it surprisingly clear when the view was in focus. An interesting side note with the manual focus is that the macro and flash settings cannot be changed after manual focus has been activated, meaning you need to specify both before switching to manual focus. (This is because the two arrow buttons that control manual focus normally control macro and flash modes.)

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the 6800 Zoom also offers a digital telephoto that enlarges the image as much as 4.4x, depending on the file quality setting. Zooming past the normal optical zoom range enables the digital zoom, with a zoom bar display in the LCD monitor indicating the amount of digital zoom in use. Digital telephoto is unavailable with the interpolated, 2,832 x 2,128 pixel resolution size. 2,048 x 1,536 pixel images can be digitally enlarged as much as 1.4x, while 1,280 x 960 pixel images can be enlarged to 2.2x. The smallest image size, 640 x 480 pixels, offers the maximum digital enlargement of 4.4x. (Movie files can be digitally enlarged to 2x.) As always, keep in mind that digital telephoto is no substitute for true optical zoom, as digital zoom is merely cropping out and enlarging the central portion of the CCD image. Digital telephoto images therefore suffer a loss of resolution and sometimes increased noise as well.


Exposure
Exposure control is pretty uncomplicated on the 6800 Zoom. Basic exposure decisions such as shutter speed and aperture are always under automatic control, though there are several other exposure options to play with. 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, giving you an idea of what the exposure will be. A Mode switch on the back panel controls whether the camera is in Record or Playback mode, and an Exposure Mode dial controls the exposure mode. Basic exposure modes are Manual, Automatic, and Scene Position. "Manual" mode on the 6800 Zoom isn't the full manual exposure mode that you might expect. Instead, Manual mode allows you to control all the available exposure settings with the exception of shutter speed and aperture. Alternatively, the Automatic mode puts the camera in charge of all exposure decisions, leaving you in control of the flash, self-timer, and the Voice Caption feature.

Under the Scene Position mode, you have four preset "scene" options to choose from: Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black & 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. Alternatively, the Scene (Landscape) mode uses a smaller lens aperture and sets focus at infinity to capture broad vistas of scenery. Landscape shots typically have both the foreground and background in sharp focus, and the flash is unavailable. Night Scene uses slower shutter speeds for shooting at lower light levels, allowing more ambient light into the image. Night Scene is good for sunsets and city night shots (such as neon lights), as the increased amount of ambient light allowed into the image preserves color in darker shots. Finally, Black & White mode simply captures monochromatic images.

Three metering options are available on the 6800 Zoom (Average, Spot, and Multi). The Average metering system reads the entire scene and averages the exposure. Spot metering instead takes one exposure reading from the center of the subject, and works best with high contrast subjects. The third option, Multi, takes a series of exposure readings throughout the image to determine the best overall exposure. Multi is the default metering system in most exposure modes. Instead of offering an AE / AF lock button, the 6800 Zoom allows you to manually lock exposure and focus by framing a 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. You can also use this method to lock exposure only, after setting the manual focus. An exposure compensation adjustment is only available in Manual exposure mode, and "tweaks" the exposure from -1.5 to +1.5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, through the Record menu. An Auto Bracketing option captures three consecutive shots at 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 equivalent (EV), depending on what you set in the Record 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 an image to be recorded (you can also record all three images or delete them).

The camera's sensitivity is automatically controlled in all modes except for Manual, where it is adjustable to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents. Likewise, the white balance setting is automatically controlled in all modes except for Manual. White balance options there include Auto, Sunny, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent. When the self-timer is activated (through the Record mode), the camera counts down from five seconds by lighting a small LED on the front of the camera, and then flashing it for another five seconds. A numerical countdown also displays on the circular LCD status window on the back panel. There's also a sharpness adjustment that softens or sharpens the outlines in the image, with settings of Hard, Normal, and Soft.

Shutter speeds in the normal exposure modes extend only as far down as 1/4 of a second. Switching to "Night" mode extends the exposure range out to 3 seconds, but removes the ability to select ISO settings. In our testing, the FinePix 6800 Zoom did well down to about 1 foot-candle (11 lux) of illumination in Night mode. This is about equivalent to typical illumination levels for city night scenes, shot under normal streetlighting. The F6800 is thus a decent, but not spectacular low-light performer. (We'd very much like to see an option for variable ISO combined with the longer exposure times of Night mode.)


Flash
Fuji rates the 6800 Zoom's flash as effective from 0.6 to 11.5 feet (0.2 to 3.5 meters) at wide angle and from 0.6 to 6.6 feet (0.2 to 2.0 meters) at the telephoto lens setting. In our testing, we found the 6800 Zoom's flash brightest at eight feet from the target, with brightness falling off steadily after that distance. Since we were shooting at maximum telephoto for most of these images, our results were in line with Fuji's stated range ratings. Overall, the F6800's flash isn't terribly powerful, a trait it shares with other ultra-compact digicams we've tested.

A Flash Open button at the top of the back panel releases the flash from its compartment. Four flash modes are controlled by the right arrow key: Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Slow Synchro. In Automatic mode, the camera fires the flash depending on the current light level. Red-Eye Reduction works in a similar manner, although the camera now fires a small pre-flash before the full flash, to reduce the occurrence of Red-Eye. Forced flash mode means that the flash fires 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 light in to balance the flash exposure. A fifth flash mode, Suppressed, is accessed simply by returning the flash to its compartment, preventing the flash from firing at all. The 6800 Zoom also allows you to adjust the intensity of the flash from -0.6 to +0.6 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third increments.

Continuous Shooting
The 6800 Zoom can capture as many as five continuous frames at intervals as fast as 0.2 seconds in the Continuous Shooting exposure mode. (At least, per Fuji's specs: In our own testing, the minimum interval in Continuous mode was 0.25 seconds.) After the series is captured, a preview screen displays all five images at thumbnail size, allowing you to review the series and pick the images to be recorded or deleted. The camera may capture less than five consecutive shots if the SmartMedia card is out of memory space. Interval times may vary as well, depending on the image size and quality settings, and the amount of image information to record. The camera apparently captures the raw CCD data to a buffer memory in continuous mode, meaning that lower resolution settings don't result in longer capture series.

Movie Mode
Indicated on the Exposure Mode dial by a tiny movie camera symbol, Movie mode captures movies with sound for as long as 160 seconds at a time (depending on available SmartMedia space, of course). Movies are recorded at the 320 x 240 pixel resolution size, at approximately 10 frames per second. The LCD monitor must be activated in Movie mode, and the flash is unavailable. The lens is automatically fixed at the wide angle setting upon entering the mode, but digital zoom is available to as much as 2x. 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 the sound recorded with movie files, the 6800 Zoom allows you to record as much as one hour of sound per audio recording, depending on the amount of available SmartMedia space. This could be useful for recording lectures or presentations, but the sound quality leaves a fair bit to be desired: We found it rather muffled, with some 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 from the camera, turn the Mode dial to the Audio position (small microphone icon) before powering on the camera.

You can also record voice captions to accompany captured still images, though this time in Automatic exposure mode. To record captions, simply turn on the Voice Caption menu option in the Record menu. Once you capture an image, a "Rec Standby" message appears in the LCD monitor. Pressing the Menu/OK button begins the recording, which can last as long as 30 seconds. The amount of remaining recording time appears in the LCD monitor. Pressing the Menu button again records the sound clip.

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

Multi-Exposure
Available in the Manual exposure mode only, the Multi-Exposure feature is accessible through the Record menu. Multi-Exposure works by overlaying one exposure on top of another, similar to exposing the same frame of film multiple times. A preview screen appears after each successive image is captured, giving you an idea of the effect. With the preview screen, you have the ability to continue recording images, stop with the current image, return to the previous image, or 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 6800 Zoom Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.46
Time from power on to first shot captured - about average.
Shutdown
3.3
Time for lens to retract, also about average.
Play to Record, first shot
3.5
Time until first shot is captured, a little slow.
Record to play (max/min res)
9.0-3.1 (hi)
4.9-2.2 (low)
Higher numbers are for immediate switch to play after shutter release. Shorter times are for rec/play switch after image is stored.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.8-1.2
At wide angle & far focus, about average. Slower for closeups and tele lens setting.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.32
Somewhat faster than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.20
Faster than average
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
1.8 secs for first 4 shots, then 4-6 seconds.
A bit faster than average for first 4 shots, then about average.
Cycle time, continuous mode
0.25/4.0 fps
Very fast: Captures up to 4 shots, then you have to wait for the memory buffer to clear.


Overall, the FinePix 6800 was a fairly fast camera to use. It's shot to shot times were quite good, at 1.8 seconds until the buffer memory filled, then 4-6 seconds after that. Interestingly, shot to shot times were the same, regardless of the image size: Only the buffer-clearing time varied (from about 20, down to about 9 seconds) as we moved from the 6 megapixel interpolated image size down to the VGA resolution level. Shutter lag was pretty good for distant subjects (beyond several feet), and about average for macro shots. Shutter lag in manual focus and prefocus modes was quite a bit faster than usual. (Times of 0.3 and 0.2 seconds respectively, whereas the average among cameras we've tested has been 0.5 and 0.3 seconds.)


Operation and User Interface
The 6800 Zoom's user interface appeared a little challenging at first, as some features are controlled by the LCD menu system and others by a combination of the arrow keys and smaller LCD display. It didn't take long to get the hang of it though, and a quick read of the manual kept us on the right track. The Exposure Mode dial controls the camera's exposure mode, while a separate Mode switch differentiates between Record and Playback modes. Though several settings are controlled via the arrow keys and smaller, circular LCD display, the 6800 Zoom does rely quite a bit on its LCD menu system. That said, we do like the combination of arrow keys and the LCD status display, as the display reports the changing function of the arrow keys, allowing them to serve a multitude of functions. Our only complaint is that the LCD menu system can require a fair amount of button pushing to change settings. For example, to change the image size and quality, you have to scroll through several menu options, activate the Setup screen, and then change the setting.

Control Enumeration


Shutter Button: Sloping downwards to the right on the camera's top panel, this shiny, silver button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed. A full press fires the shutter.


Exposure Mode Dial: Just behind the Shutter button, this knurled dial controls the camera's exposure mode, placing it in either Continuous Shooting, Manual, Automatic, Scene Position, Movie, or Audio modes. (We like the knurling, 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.


Arrow Keys: Arranged around the small LCD status display panel, these four arrow keys control a variety of settings. 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 zoom. The left arrow button activates and deactivates Macro mode, and the right arrow controls the flash operating mode. When manual focus has been activated, the right and left buttons control focus. If an image preview has been enabled, the up and down arrows control the preview zoom feature.

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. 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 moves frame by frame through the movie file.


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


Menu / OK Button: Directly below the Back button, this button calls up the LCD menu system when pressed (and also dismisses it). If the LCD monitor has been disabled, pressing the Menu button activates it. (We noticed that the LCD monitor remains active after the menu is dismissed in this situation.) This button also serves as the "OK" button for making menu selections.


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


Mode Switch: Surrounding the Power button, this lever switches between Record and Playback modes.


Display Button: Located just above the upper 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 (viewed from the back), this textured slide switch opens the SmartMedia compartment cover when slid downward.


Camera Modes and Menus

Continuous Shooting: (Multiple frame icon.) This mode allows the camera to capture a series of as many as five 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.") Contrary to its name, manual exposure mode still leaves the shutter speed and aperture settings under automatic control. However, options such as white balance, ISO, metering, etc. are adjustable by the user. The Manual Mode record menu is composed of three screens of options, as shown below. The following Record menu options are available by pressing the Menu button:


Automatic Exposure: In Automatic exposure mode, the camera controls all exposure decisions, with the exception of the flash mode. Pressing the Menu button pulls up a limited selection of options:


Scene Postion: In this mode, you can choose between a variety of preset "scene" shooting modes, including Portrait, Scene (Landscape), Night Scene, and Black & 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 160 seconds at the 320 x 240 resolution size. Digital zoom is the only available function. The only menu option available is the Set Menu and LCD brightness adjustment.

Audio Mode: (Microphone icon.) In Audio mode, the 6800 Zoom allows you to record audio only for as long as one hour per recording (depending on SmartMedia space). As with Movie mode, the only menu option is the Set Menu and LCD brightness adjustment.

Playback Mode: Accessed by pushing the Mode switch to the playback symbol (as opposed to the Exposure Mode dial for the modes described above), Playback 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 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, simply by pressing the Menu button and scrolling to the Set option:



Image Storage and Interface
The 6800 Zoom stores images and movies to 3.3v SmartMedia memory cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. Larger capacity cards are available, in sizes as large as 128MB. The LED next to the optical viewfinder eyepiece flashes orange and green when the camera is accessing the memory card, and glows orange when recording to the card. The SmartMedia slot is 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, used one at a time, prevent the card 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 6800 Zoom's Playback menu. Write-protection prevents images from being altered in any way, except from card formatting, which erases the entire card. 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 6800 Zoom offers a variety of image size and JPEG quality settings. The largest is the interpolated 2,832 x 2,128 pixel size, which offers quality settings of Fine, Normal, and Basic. The remaining image sizes are 2,048 x 1,536, 1,280 x 960, and 640 x 480 pixels, with Fine and Normal quality settings available. Movie files are always recorded in the 320 x 240 pixel size, with no available quality settings.

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 2832x2128 Images 6 13
33
Approx.
Compression
7:1 15:1
37:1
High Resolution 2048x1536 Images
12
26
N/A
Approx.
Compression
7:1
15:1
N/A
Standard Resolution 1280x960 Images
25
49
N/A
Approx.
Compression
6:1
11:1
N/A
Low Resolution 640x480 Images
163
N/A
N/A
Approx.
Compression
9:1
N/A
N/A


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

File Type
Seconds
320 x 240 Movie
94
Audio file
33 minutes


The 6800 Zoom comes with a USB cable, PC connector cradle, and a software CD for downloading images to a computer. We confess to having had a bit of a hard time with Fuji's driver software, weathering a long afternoon of miscellaneous Windows problems when we tried to install it. In fairness to Fuji though, our PC was long overdue for a general housecleaning, as it had USB drivers installed for a card reader, and no fewer than three different manufacturer's digicams. Once we got the software loaded though, it worked quite nicely. Placing the FinePix 6800 Zoom into 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 Fuji's very handy EXIF viewer program. (Essentially a rudimentary thumbnail-organizer for photo files.) When the viewer launches, it immediately opens to a view of thumbnails of all the images currently on the camera's memory card. Very handy for quickly checking and downloading your files! Data transfers to the host PC are very fast, as we clocked the camera at 457 KBytes/second. This is a fair bit faster than most USB-connected digicams we've tested.

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 6800, 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 6800 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 6800 Zoom, the television set can be used to review captured images and movies, or used for composing shots, providing interesting options for 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 6800 Zoom is powered by an NP-80 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. An AC adapter also accompanies the camera. The AC adapter also acts as an in-camera battery charger (you can also charge the battery through the cradle accessory). The self-timer LED lights solid on the front of the camera whenever the battery is charging. Fuji 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 LCD status panel when the battery power is getting low.


Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
710 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
200 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
710 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
430 mA
Memory Write (transient)
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
1040 mA
Image Playback
450 mA


The FinePix 6800's power consumption is about average. Based on our power measurements, we'd estimate operating times of about an hour to hour and a half in capture mode with the LCD turned on, 5 hours in capture mode without the LCD, and 2-3 hours in playback mode. Pretty good overall, but we still strongly advise purchasing a second battery to bring along on your shooting expeditions.

Like many cameras today using the same compact LiIon batteries, the 6800 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. There is a solution however: Maha's NiMH PowerBank (sold under the PowerEx brand name, as shown above) can be combined with a special "step-down" cable, 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 6800. With the generally good power consumption of the 6800, 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 6800. (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 6800 Zoom. What's interesting about the cradle is that it 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, allowing you to quickly download images straight from the SmartMedia card. Windows users can take advantage of the 6800 Zoom's "webcam" functionality, with the included PictureHello utility that is part of the FinePix Viewer software, making the 6800 Zoom an effective Internet videoconferencing tool.

A software CD packaged with the camera holds USB drivers, FinePix Viewer, Exif Launcher, ArcSoft VideoImpression, Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE, and Adobe ActiveShare. All software (except for Adobe ActiveShare, which is for Windows users only) is compatible with Windows 98/2000/ME and Macintosh OS 8.6 to 9.1. Fuji'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 also includes the PictureHello software utility that allows Windows users to set up the 6800 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, etc. We're definitely pleased with Fuji'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 to crop, rotate, lighten, darken, etc.


In the Box
Packaged with the FinePix 6800 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 FinePix 6800 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 6800 Zoom performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

(NOTE: The following information is incomplete, as we haven't had a chance to complete our outdoor tests with the camera in the short time we've had it. We'll update this section and the "Pictures" page as soon as the weather cooperates and gives us a sunny day!)

Overall, the 6800 Zoom produced nice images throughout our somewhat limited testing. We observed good color and detail for the most part, though the camera's automatic white balance system had a tiny bit of trouble with a couple of our targets, and left a very strong color cast in our indoor shots, taken under incandescent lighting. Color accuracy was good throughout our testing, with the large color blocks on our Davebox target appearing well saturated and quite accurate (although the yellow block was a tad weak). We chose the automatic white balance setting for most of our test shots, as it produced the most accurate results. We did notice a tendency for the camera to produce a slight magenta cast in some areas, particularly in the bricks of the House poster and in the skin tones of the Musicians shot. Still, the 6800 Zoom does well in most instances, with good color accuracy overall.

The FinePix 6800 Zoom performed very well in our laboratory resolution target test, but was prone to producing some odd artifacts at spatial frequencies well down from its maximum resolving power. We did find that Fuji's interpolation scheme for the "SuperCCD" sensor produced measurably more detail in the 6 megapixel interpolated images than in the 3 megapixel uninterpolated ones. In the 6 megapixel files, artifacts begin at around 800 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, but are much more subdued in the vertical direction. Detail is clearly visible as far out as 1200 lines per picture height in both directions, but strong moire patterns begin at around 1050 lines, leading us to "call" the resolution at that level. (In the slightly slanted (5 degree slant) lines, we'd call the resolution at 900 lines before strong moire sets in.)

In the uninterpolated images, more ordinary moire patterns become strongly apparent about 100-150 lines earlier than they do in the interpolated files, producing visual resolutions of roughly 900 lines vertically and horizontally, and leading us to call the resolution in the slanted target elements at roughly 800 lines.

Overall, the F6800 does very well in the resolution department, but its lens lets it down a little in the corners of the targets, particularly at the wide angle setting: The strongest effect is limited to the extreme corners, but the corner 5% or so of the image area is quite blurred. The effect is still visible in the telephoto shots, but is significantly reduced.

Optical distortion on the 6800 Zoom is quite high at the wide angle end of the lens' range, where we measured approximately 1.3 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, though we noticed about three pixels of barrel distortion here as well (this is unusual, since we normally expect to find some pincushion distortion at the telephoto setting). Chromatic aberration is low, showing about three or four pixels of coloration on either side of the black target lines. The coloration is very faint, and the extra pixels may have been caused by the corner softness from the lens. (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.)

As you might expect (given the all-automatic exposure system and maximum shutter time of three seconds), the 6800 Zoom had a few limitations in the low-light category. In our testing, using the Night Scene photography mode, we were only able to obtain bright, usable images at light levels as low as one foot-candle (11 lux). The target is still visible as low as 1/16 of a foot-candle (0.67 lux), though images are very dim. A warm color cast appeared in images taken from the four foot-candle (44 lux) light level on down to 1/16 of a foot-candle (0.67 lux). Noise is moderately low in all of the images, though we noticed a fair number of red, blue, and green pixels from the CCD. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program, for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) To put the 6800 Zoom's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should handle most average, lit, night scenes. Anything darker will require use of the flash.

We found the 6800 Zoom's optical viewfinder to be quite tight, showing approximately 78.25 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 79.01 percent at telephoto (at the 2,048 x 1,536 pixel image size). The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 95.96 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 96.7 percent at telephoto (also at the 2,048 x 1,536 pixel image size). Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 6800 Zoom performs well in this respect.

The 6800 Zoom performed quite well in the macro category, capturing a very small minimum area of just 2.45 x 1.84 inches (62.35 x 46.76 millimeters). Detail and resolution both look great, with reasonably sharp details throughout the image (though with a hint of softness). Details on the brooch and larger coin appear slightly soft, possibly from the limited depth of field when focusing this close. We again noticed some loss of corner sharpness from the lens, in all four corners. Color balance appears slightly warm, but overall color looks pretty good. A moderate amount of noise is visible in the gray background, but isn't too distracting from the image. The 6800 Zoom's built-in flash does a good job of throttling down for the macro area, cooling the color balance slightly.

Overall, the 6800 Zoom performed quite well in our testing, with excellent color accuracy and nice image quality in most shooting conditions. Though exposure control is somewhat limited, which in turn limits low-light shooting, the 6800 Zoom does a very nice job in normal to dim daylight. It didn't handle household incandescent lighting well, which we viewed as it's most critical limitation. (This is a perfect example though, of where our favorite image-adjusting program PhotoGenetics would come in handy: A little time spent creating a "genotype" for indoor lighting, and you'd have a 100% improvement in the camera's performance.)


Conclusion
With the FinePix 6800 Zoom, Fuji has taken their signature vertical-format compact digicam design to the next level. The new 3.3 megapixel SuperCCD offers better resolution, better color, and reduced noise levels relative to the chips used in earlier models. The newly-added audio and movie features further extend the camera's utility, as does the slick "cradle" design that facilitates connection to a host computer for file transfers and even webcam use. It lacks extensive exposure controls and is only average in its low light and incandescent-lighting performance, but the compact size, great color, and great resolution will find it many happy homes. Definitely "Recommended!"

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