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Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom

Fuji updates their uniquely-styled "electronic SLR" with a 3.3 megapixel SuperCCD chip and improved color!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 7/19/2001

Executive Overview
Compared to the rest of Fujifilm's extensive line of FinePix digicams, the FinePix 6900 Zoom immediately stands out, both for its larger size and for its rich assortment of user controls. Still, the camera is surprisingly compact, given the necessarily large barrel of its 6x, f/2.8 optical zoom lens, and its sophisticated 3.3-million Super CCD, which uses a proprietary interpolation technology to generate image files with more than 6 million pixels. This next generation camera replaces the FinePix 4900 Zoom, introduced last year, with an updated and more refined user interface, as well as some advanced features borrowed from Fujifilm's professional digital camera, the FinePix S1 Pro. The most notable of these features is a histogram display incorporated into the Info readout of the Playback mode, which graphs the number of pixels recorded at each brightness level, so you can immediately determine whether your exposure settings are delivering the optimum range of tonal values. Fujifilm has also improved the camera's image color and detail for an overall better picture quality that will appeal to the serious photo enthusiast.

As with its predecessor, the FinePix 6900 Zoom has managed to make unusually effective use of the camera body's real estate, providing one-button access to most camera functions, somewhat offsetting its heavy reliance on its LCD displays for camera operation. While clearly not a shirt-pocket digicam, the 6900 Zoom is still quite portable, assisted by the neck strap that ships with it. Another departure for Fujifilm is the use of an eye-level LCD viewfinder rather than a purely optical viewfinder. This approach has the strong advantage of providing a lot of exposure and camera-status information in the viewfinder. Since the electronic viewfinder is essentially a miniaturized version of the larger LCD monitor, all menu screens and information displays remain available (although somewhat small when looking through the eyepiece). This isn't an entirely unmixed blessing, in that it limits the camera's usability in low-light shooting conditions, since the 6900 Zoom can capture images in settings a good bit darker than those in which the LCD viewfinder is usable.

A 6x, 7.8 - 46.8mm zoom (equivalent to a 35-210mm lens on a 35mm camera) automatically telescopes outward when the camera is powered on. Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with an effective range from 1.6 feet (50cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 0.3 to 2.6 feet (10 to 80cm) in Macro mode. We found the manual focus operation on the 6900 far more usable than similar options on competing cameras, thanks to a unique "Picture-on-Picture" option that doubles the size of the image in the very center of the frame on the LCD display. This is one of the few digicams we've found that you can actually focus accurately using the LCD. A digital telephoto function increases the zoom range by up to 4.45x, depending on the image size setting, but also decreases the image quality proportionately with increased image noise and reduced resolution.

The 6900 Zoom offers a great deal of exposure control, with several exposure modes. The full Automatic exposure mode puts the camera in control of everything except the flash and image size and quality settings. Scene Program mode offers four preset shooting modes for specific situations (Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Scene). In Program mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, and you also have control over features like white balance, metering, and ISO. In Aperture Priority mode, you can set the lens aperture from f/2.8 to f/11.0 while the camera sets the shutter speed, and in Shutter Priority mode, you set the shutter speed from 1/1,000 to 3 seconds while the camera sets the aperture. (Shutter speeds can go as fast as 1/2,000 second in the Sports Scene Program and Automatic modes.) Finally, a full Manual exposure mode allows you to select the shutter speed and aperture settings independently.

In the Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, all of the 6900 Zoom's exposure features are available. In Manual mode though, the exposure compensation control switches the Command dial's control between aperture and shutter settings, instead of its usual function of setting exposure adjustment between -2 and +2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Automatic, Custom (manual), Outdoors-Sunny, Outdoors-Cloudy, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent light, to match just about any light source you're likely to encounter. An ISO setting option adjusts the camera's sensitivity to 100, 200, or 400 equivalents, increasing the camera's shooting ability in low-light situations, or reducing image noise in bright conditions. An AE Lock button lets you base the exposure reading on a specific area of the subject, and three metering modes (Average, Multi, Spot) let you choose how the camera judges the exposure. There's also a two- or 10-second Self-Timer, and an adjustable image sharpness setting. The built-in, pop-up flash offers Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Slow-Synchro, Suppressed Flash, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow-Synchro modes, with an adjustable Flash Brightness setting from -0.6 to +0.6 EV in one-third-step increments. An external flash hot shoe on top of the camera accommodates a more powerful external flash, but disables the internal flash when in use.

The Auto-Bracketing feature captures a series of images, at three different exposure settings, to find the optimum exposure value for the current subject. The Continuous Shooting mode captures up to five consecutive images at intervals as short as 0.25 seconds, depending on the SmartMedia space and amount of image information to record. Additionally, a Movie mode allows you to capture up to 160 seconds of moving images at approximately 10 frames per second. (The actual amount of recording time depends on the capacity and available space on the SmartMedia card, and can go as high as 774 seconds on a 128MB memory card.)

The 6900 Zoom stores images on a SmartMedia memory card, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. Still images can be saved at 2,832 x 2,128, 2,048 x 1536, 1,280 x 960, or 640 x 480 resolution sizes, with Hi (uncompressed TIFF), Fine, Normal, and Basic quality settings available. TIFF format is only available for the largest image size. (Note that the largest image size is interpolated up from the roughly 3.3-megapixel Super CCD sensor size.) Movies are saved at the 320 x 240-pixel resolution, with no quality choices. A USB cable and software CD also accompany the camera, for downloading images to a Macintosh or PC. US and Japanese versions of the camera include an NTSC video cable, for viewing and capturing images using a television monitor (European models are set up for PAL timing). For power, the 6900 Zoom uses an NP-80 rechargeable, lithium-ion battery, and comes with an AC adapter that doubles as a battery charger.

The 6900 is a significant extension to Fujifilm's FinePix camera lineup, its full exposure control and 6x optical zoom lens appealing to the true "photo enthusiast," with plenty of manual controls with which to experiment. On the other hand, you can put it into full auto or Scene-Program mode and hand it over to a complete novice photographer and still get great results. This is one camera that can span a full range of photographic abilities and produce great photos in the process.

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