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Quick Review

Fuji FinePix F700 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot, Full Manual Control
Picture Quality
High, 6.2-megapixel Super CCD SR
(Roughly the same spatial resolution as a conventional 3.1 megapixel chip)
Print Sizes
Up to 8x10 with good detail, 11x14 possible
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$ 599.95


Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion

Universally known for great color and performance, Fuji has also made a name for itself in the digicam arena as a technical innovator. Several years ago, they introduced their "SuperCCD" technology, which increases visually apparent resolution in digital images, relative to those captured with conventional CCDs. This year (2003), they've developed the new "SR" SuperCCD technology, which cleverly combines low- and high-sensitivity photo elements to produce an extended tonal range more akin to that of film. The FinePix F700 is the first camera to utilize the Super CCD SR technology, and my experience with it seems to validate Fuji's claims of superior tonal response. Occupying the upper midrange of Fuji's line of cameras, the F700 uses 6.2 megapixel sensors (3.1 million high-sensitivity and 3.1 million low-sensitivity) to produce files with resolution that lies somewhere between that of conventional 3- and 6-megapixel cameras. With a sharp 3x zoom lens, compact size, and straightforward user interface, the F700 is a high-end point & shoot design that should appeal to novice users and more experienced shooters alike. Read on for all the details.



Camera Overview
Rounding out Fuji's offering of midrange digital cameras, the Fuji FinePix F700 offers the best of both worlds in terms of exposure control. Automatic and "Scene" modes simplify operation for point-and-shoot users, while a range of exposure options including a full manual exposure mode provide enough control to satisfy even experienced photo enthusiasts. Small, compact, and light weight, the F700 offers Fuji's fourth generation 6.2-megapixel Super CCD SR, which produces file sizes as large as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels. The Super CCD "SR" combines 3.1 million large, high-sensitivity pixels with 3.1 million smaller, low-sensitivity pixels to create a high resolution CCD with a much greater dynamic range than that found on many digicams, in an effort to mimic the performance of film. (Dynamic range refers to the range of dark to light brightness levels that a device can faithfully capture or reproduce.) The camera's dimensions are small enough for most average shirt pockets, at 4.3 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches (108 x 54 x 28 millimeters), and the metal body is light weight at 6.7 ounces (190 grams), including the battery and memory card. The 3x telescoping lens and built-in lens cover keep the F700's front panel fairly smooth when not in use, allowing the camera to easily slip into a pocket or purse without a hang-up.

The F700 features a 3x Super EBC Fujinon lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera, a range from a moderate wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. Fuji claims that their Super EBC Fujinon lenses have lower distortion than many digicam lenses, a claim that appears to be well supported by my own tests of the F700. Aperture can be automatically or manually adjusted from f/2.8 to f/14, with the extremes of the range depending on the zoom setting. Focus can also be manually or automatically adjusted, and ranges from 2.0 feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, or from 3.5 inches to 2.6 feet (9 to 80 centimeters) using the camera's Macro setting. The F700 employs a contrast-detection autofocus mechanism, and offers an adjustable AF area. You can assign the AF area to the center of the image area, or move it to one of several points around the frame. The F700 also features a continuous autofocus mode, accessed by holding down the C-AF button on the front of the camera. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the F700 offers as much as 2.2x digital zoom, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it just enlarges or "stretches" the center pixels of the CCD's image. An AF-assist lamp on the front panel helps the camera focus in low-lighting (though I found it still had a little trouble focusing during the low-light portion of my testing). For framing shots, the F700 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.8-inch color LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder is "tighter" than most, showing only 85% of the final frame area at the wide-angle lens setting, and only 78% at telephoto. The LCD viewfinder is much more accurate, showing 100% of the final image area. An information overlay reports camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) on the LCD monitor, and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.

The F700 offers a full range of exposure control, with Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes available via the Mode dial. There's also a Scene Program mode, with Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene options. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for options like zoom and drive (single shot or continuous shooting) settings. Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, while the user retains control over all other variables. Within Program AE mode, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings, simply by pressing the up and down arrow keys. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide user control over one exposure variable, while the camera maintains control over the other. Finally, Manual exposure mode lets you control both aperture and shutter speed independently. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to three seconds. Metering options on the F700 include the default 64-zone Multi mode, which bases exposure on contrast and brightness values read from the entire scene, as well as Spot and Average options. The camera's Exposure Compensation setting lets you increase or decrease the automatically-determined exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Custom settings. (The latter lets you set the color balance based on a white card held in front of the lens.) The F700 also features an adjustable light sensitivity setting, with Auto, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 ISO values available. The Auto option actually ranges from 160 to 400 equivalents (providing slightly lower image noise when shooting under brightly-lit conditions), and the 1,600 setting is only available at the 1,280 x 960-pixel resolution. The settings menu also offers adjustments for color and image sharpness, as well as an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode for automatically snapping several shots at slightly different exposure settings.

The F700's built-in flash is effective from 1.0 to 16.4 feet (0.3 to 5.0 meters), and operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, Slow-Synchro, and Slow-Synchro with Red-Eye Reduction modes. The Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a pre-flash a fraction of a second before the exposure itself, to make the irises of your subjects' eyes contract, avoiding the red-eye effect. Slow-Synchro combines the flash with slower shutter speeds, to allow more of the ambient lighting into your exposure. (Slow-Synchro is handy for getting more natural-looking flash photos at night, with more of the background visible.) An intensity adjustment lets you adjust the strength of the flash output, from -0.6 to +0.6 EV, in one-third-step increments. A Self-Timer mode provides either a two- or 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the time that the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. (The shorter delay is handy for times when you want to prop the camera on something when shooting under dim conditions, to avoid blurred photos caused by camera shake.) Three continuous shooting modes are available through the drive setting, including Top 5 Frame, Final 5 Frame, and Long-Period modes. Top 5 Frame captures a series of images very rapidly (at about four frames per second) and records the first five frames captured, while Final 5 Frame records only the last five frames. Long-Period mode is only available with the 1,280 x 960-pixel resolution, and captures as many as 40 consecutive frames at 0.6-second intervals. (The actual number of images in a series will depend somewhat on the subject, and may be limited by the amount of available memory card space.) The F700 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies with sound at either 320 x 240- or 160 x 120-pixel resolutions. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space. A Voice option in Playback mode lets you record short audio clips to accompany captured images, like "audio captions."

The F700 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. You'll want to purchase a larger size fairly soon, given the F700's maximum 2,832 x 2,128-pixel image sizes and CCD RAW file format setting. For power, the F700 uses a single NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack, which comes with the camera. Worst-case battery life is about an hour and a half, but I'd strongly recommend purchasing a second battery to pack along on extended outings as a spare. An AC adapter is also included, as well as Fuji's Picture Cradle, which serves as both an in-camera battery charger and a connection dock for a computer. Also included with the camera is a USB cable for direct connection to a PC or Macintosh computer, and a software CD loaded with Fuji's FinePix software. An A/V cable connects the camera to a television set for reviewing images in Playback mode.

Basic Features

  • 6.2-megapixel Super CCD SR delivering image resolutions as high as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels. (S-pixel 3.1 million, R-pixel 3.1 million).
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.8-inch color, CG silicon TFT LCD monitor.
  • 3x Super-EBC Fujinon 35-105mm zoom lens, with f/2.8 maximum aperture.
  • Auto and Manual focus options, plus an adjustable AF area.
  • 2.2x digital zoom.
  • Program AE, Auto, Scene Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes.
  • Adjustable white balance with nine settings, including a manual option.
  • Adjustable ISO setting with Auto (160 to 400), 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 equivalents.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to three seconds.
  • Multi, Spot, and Average metering modes.
  • Built-in flash with six modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
  • JPEG and CCD RAW image formats.
  • Power supplied by NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter.
  • Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
  • Picture Cradle included for connecting to a computer and battery charging.

Special Features

  • Movie (with sound) and Voice recording modes.
  • Top 5 Frame, Final 5 Frame, and Long-Period Continuous Shooting modes.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing mode.
  • AF assist lamp.
  • 10- and two-second Self-Timer modes for delayed shutter release.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • Video cable for image playback on a television set.

Recommendation
Light weight, portable, and easy to use, the Fuji's FinePix F700 is an excellent point-and-shoot digicam for novices just getting their feet wet in digital photography, as well as a capable tool for more experienced users looking for more manual control. With exposure modes ranging from full Auto to full Manual, the F700 is easy to use, yet offers room to grow. Four preset Scene modes simplify common shooting situations, and a handful of image adjustment options provide some creativity. The camera's simple, straightforward user interface means little or no downtime for learning, and makes the F700 good for shooting on the fly. The real deciding factors in favor of the F700 though, are its superb tonal rendition, excellent color, and tack-sharp lens. If these characteristics appeal to you, it shouldn't be hard to justify its premium price.

 

Design
Measuring 4.3 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches (108 x 54 x 28 millimeters), the F700's long and thin body is small enough for most shirt pockets and should fit easily into most purses. The smooth camera front makes pocket retrieval hassle-free, and the sleek, all-metal silver body is attractive, fashionable, and rugged. Though compact, the F700 fits the hand well, and the included wrist strap provides some extra security. With batteries and memory card, the F700 weighs a mere 6.7 ounces (190 grams).

The F700's front panel is nearly flat with the lens retracted, without any large protrusions to hang up on pockets. Turning the camera on extends the lens about an inch from the camera body. A shutterlike lens cover protects the front of the lens when closed, and quickly retracts when the camera is powered on. Also on the front panel are the flash, flash sensor, self-timer lamp, autofocus-assist lamp, optical viewfinder window, and the CAF (continuous autofocus) button. A slight, sculpted ridge provides a finger grip on the far side of the front panel, with a two-toned, shiny and matte silver finish. There's also a tiny microphone on the front of the camera.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera features the USB/AV Out and DC In connector terminals, both uncovered. (I'd really like to see some sort of protective flap covering these, particularly on such a portable, go-anywhere camera design.)

On the F700's top panel are the Shutter and Drive buttons, Mode dial, and Power/Mode switch.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. The Function, Metering, and Exposure Compensation buttons line the left side of the LCD monitor, while the Display button rests at the top right corner of the display. An indented thumb rest is just below the zoom buttons, helping balance your grip when holding the camera right-handed. A Four-Way Arrow pad next to the lower left corner controls macro and flash modes, and provides navigation controls for the LCD menu system, with a Menu/OK button at its center. Just above this is the Back button, for backing out of menu screens. Finally a small speaker is located in the top left corner of the rear panel, next to the optical viewfinder eyepiece.

The F700's bottom panel is nice and flat, with the threaded metal tripod mount off to the left. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. The distance between the battery compartment and tripod mount is more than enough to allow quick battery or card changes while shooting with a tripod, a feature I'm always pleased to see, given the extensive amount of studio work I do with each camera. This isn't likely to be a consideration for most users of the F700 though, given its highly portable nature. A downside of the F700's tripod socket location is that the camera may not sit level on some tripod heads.

The Picture Cradle that comes with the F700 provides instant connection to a computer, as well as in-camera battery charging. A connector terminal inside the dock connects to the camera's USB/AV Out terminal, so the camera sits on-end in the cradle. (This doubtless explains the lack of a protective flap over the USB/AV socket.)

 

Camera Operation
Although the F700 offers a varied range of exposure control modes and a healthy feature set, its user interface is pretty straightforward. The Power/Mode switch controls camera power and main operating mode, while the Mode dial quickly sets the exposure mode. Metering, Exposure Compensation, Continuous Autofocus, and Drive settings all feature external controls, meaning less reliance on the LCD menu system. When you do need to access the LCD menus, screens are short and sweet, and require little navigation. Users familiar with typical digicam features and nomenclature should be able to operate the camera straight out of the box, referring to the manual only for more specific details. Even novice users should need less than an hour of studying the manual and playing with the camera to become familiar with its main features.

Record Mode LCD
In Record mode, the F700's LCD monitor reports the basic exposure settings, as well as other exposure settings such as flash mode, focus mode, etc. The number of images available and resolution also appear. Pressing the Display button enables an alignment grid, or turns the LCD display off.

Playback Mode LCD
In Playback mode, the information display includes the image number and date of capture, but this information disappears after a few seconds. The Display button enables an index display mode as well, to more quickly see what images are on the memory card.


External Controls


CAF Button
: On the front of the camera, just to the right of the lens, this button enables the Continuous AF mode while held down. If the focus mode has been set to AF Area, holding down this button lets you manually adjust the AF area using the arrow keys.


Shutter Button
: Located on the camera's top panel, this elongated button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power/Mode Switch
: Directly behind the Shutter button, this sliding switch turns the camera on and off, and places the camera into either Playback or Record mode.


Mode Dial
: To the left of the Shutter button, this dial controls the camera's exposure mode, offering the following options:

  • Auto: Places the camera in control of all exposure settings, including aperture and shutter speed. The user has control over zoom, drive mode, and macro mode.

  • Program AE: The camera maintains control over the aperture and shutter speed, though the user now has control over all other exposure variables. Pressing the up and down arrow keys lets the user select between a range of equivalent exposure settings.
  • Shutter Priority: In this mode, the user can adjust the shutter speed from 1/2,000 to three seconds, while the camera controls the aperture setting.
  • Aperture Priority: Here, the user controls the aperture (from f/2.8 to f/14 depending on zoom), while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.
  • Manual: This mode provides the user with total exposure control, including aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Scene Program: Accesses four preset "scene" modes, which include Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene. (Note that the individual options in Scene Program mode are selected via an LCD menu option, not through the mode dial itself.)
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels.


Drive Button
: Located on the far left side of the camera's top panel, this button accesses the available drive settings. Choices are Off (single frame), Top 5 Frame, Auto Exposure Bracketing, Final 5 Frame, and Long-Period modes.


Zoom Buttons
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, these buttons control the 3x optical and 2.2x digital zoom. In Playback mode, these buttons let you zoom in on captured images, for closer viewing.


Display Button
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD display mode. In Record mode, pressing the button toggles the image and information display on and off, and activates an alignment grid display for setting up shots. In Playback mode, this button turns the image information display on and off, and activates the index display mode.


Back Button
: Below the Display button, this button backs out of menu screens without making any changes.


Four-Way Arrow Pad and Menu/OK Button
: In the lower right corner of the back panel, this large rocker button features four arrows, for navigating through menu screens and captured images. The central Menu/OK button activates the menu system in any camera mode, and subsequently confirms menu selections. In Record mode, the up and down arrows control exposure parameters: In Program AE, the up/down arrows select from among a range of equivalent exposure settings, while they control aperture or shutter settings in aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes. In Manual exposure mode, the up/down keys normally control shutter speed, but switch to controlling aperture when the +/- button is held down. The left arrow turns Macro mode on or off in all non-Scene exposure modes, while the right arrow controls the flash mode. In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images. All four arrow keys pan the view of an enlarged image.


Function Button
: Located on the left side of the LCD monitor, this button displays the Function menu when pressed in Record or Playback modes. The following options are available:

 

Record Mode

  • Quality: Sets the image resolution to 6M (2,832 x 2,128 pixels), 3M (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), or 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels) for still images. In Movie mode, resolution options are 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels. (A lossless "RAW" file format can be enabled separately, via the Setup menu.)

  • ISO: Adjusts the camera's sensitivity to Auto (ISO 160 to 400), 200, 400, 800, or 1,600 ISO equivalents. (The 1,600 option automatically sets the resolution to 1,280 x 960 pixels.)
  • Color: Adjusts the color to Black and White, Chrome (high saturation and contrast), or Standard.

Playback Mode

  • DPOF: Accesses the camera's DPOF settings, with options to print the image with or without a date stamp.
  • DPOF Reset: Resets the DPOF settings to their defaults.


Metering Button
: Directly below the Function button, this button controls the camera's metering mode. Pressing it repeatedly cycles between Multi, Spot, and Average modes.


Exposure Compensation Button
: Beneath the Metering button, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments when held down while pressing the right and left arrow keys. In Manual mode, however, this button adjusts the aperture setting instead.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Marked with a red camera icon on the Power/Mode switch, this mode allows the camera to capture still images. Exposure modes include Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Scene Program, and Movie. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options (not all options are available in all modes):

  • Self-Timer: Activates the two- or 10-second Self-Timer, or turns it off.

  • White Balance: Sets the white balance to Auto, Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, or Custom (manual setting).
  • Focusing: Controls the AF mode and AF area mode. Options are Manual Focus, AF Area, AF (Center), and Auto.
  • Bracketing: Designates the step-size for the exposure variation between shots, when shooting in Auto Exposure Bracketing mode.
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening to Hard, Normal, or Soft.
  • Flash Brightness: Adjusts the flash power from -0.6 to +0.6 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.


  • Setup Menu: Adjusts the LCD brightness, and offers the following setup menu options:
    • Image Display: Turns the post-capture image review screen on or off. If set to Preview, this function lets you delete the just-captured photo before it is recorded.
    • Power Save: Turns the power save option on or off, which shuts down the camera after two or five minutes of inactivity.
    • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, which erases all files, regardless of whether they've been "protected" via the Playback menu.
    • Beep: Controls the volume for the camera's operating sounds.
    • Shutter: Adjusts the volume of the shutter noise.
    • Date & Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
    • LCD: Turns the LCD monitor on or off. If on, the LCD monitor automatically comes on whenever the Power/Mode switch is set to the Record position. If off, you must enable the display via the Display button.
    • Frame Number: Renews frame numbering with each new memory card, or continues numbering from card to card.
    • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to DSC or PC Cam. PC Cam mode lets Windows users use the F700 as a webcam.
    • CCD RAW: Sets the image quality to RAW, which captures and stores the full image information from the CCD without any processing. (CCD RAW-format files can be converted to standard JPEGs via Fuji's provided software.)
    • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese.
    • Video System: Specifies the video output signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • Reset All: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: The traditional green playback symbol marks this mode on the Power/Mode switch. Here, you can review captured images and movies, as well as manage files and set up images for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Erase: Deletes the current frame or all frames.
  • Protect: Write-protects the displayed image, preventing it from being accidentally erased or manipulated (except via card formatting). Also removes protection, and offers options to protect or unprotect all images on the card.
  • Playback: Enables an automated slideshow of captured images on the memory card, with options for different image transitions.
  • Voice Memo: Allows you to record a short audio clip to accompany a captured image, with a maximum duration of 30 seconds.
  • Setup Menu: Displays the same settings as under the Record menu, with the addition of a playback volume adjustment.

 

In the Box
In the box with the F700 digital camera are the following items:

  • Picture Cradle camera dock.
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card.
  • NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack.
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap.
  • USB cable.
  • Software CD-ROM.
  • A/V cable.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories


Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

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

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy


Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


User Reviews

 

Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the tests, see the FinePix F700's "Pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the F700's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Throughout my testing, the F700 delivered pleasing, accurate color, under a wide variety of shooting conditions. Caucasian skin tones were very good, perhaps just slightly pink, but I've found that most people respond more favorably to skin tones in photos that are a bit more colorful than in real life. Color accuracy was excellent, with the camera handling even the very difficult blue hues of the flowers in my "Outdoor Portrait" test shot with aplomb. Indoors, the auto white balance system had a little trouble with the very warm-toned color of the incandescent lighting in my "Indoor Portrait" test, but overall did better with it than most Fuji cameras. The Manual white balance option produced a very accurate rendering of that scene, though. On the Davebox test, I felt that the subtractive primary colors of cyan, magenta, and yellow were a bit undersaturated, but overall color was still really excellent.

  • Exposure: Exposure was generally accurate with the F700, and (perhaps more importantly) very consistent and predictable. It tended to need a bit more positive exposure compensation than most cameras I've tested when dealing with high-key subjects (subjects that are overall fairly light-colored), but the amount of compensation required was quite consistent and therefore easy to predict. The real strength of the F700 was in its handling of harsh highlights and overexposed subjects. (Exactly where you'd expect/hope it would do well, given its use of Fuji's unique "SR" SuperCCD technology.) The F700 consistently held more highlight detail in harshly-lit conditions (like the Outdoor Portrait test) than any other digicam I've tested to date. As a side benefit, it also responded more favorably to inadvertent overexposure than have competing models. Overall, it appears that Fuji's SuperCCD "SR" technology does indeed bring digital imaging devices closer to the sort of tonal range offered by film.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Resolution is the area in which we see the tradeoff that was made to achieve the exceptional dynamic range of the F700. While is sensor has 6.2 million active sensors in it, they're combined in pairs to produce the final image, so the effective resolution could be expected to look more like that of a 3.1 megapixel camera. In practice though, there's at least a little benefit gained here from Fuji's SuperCCD technology, so the net result is that the apparent resolution of the F700 lies somewhere between that of 3.1 and 6.2 megapixel cameras. Overall, the F700 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,400 lines horizontally, and perhaps 1,300 lines vertically, although you could perhaps argue for as much as another 50-100 lines higher in each direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600-1,650 lines.

  • Closeups: The F700 performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.66 x 2.00 inches (68 x 51 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with strong detail in the printing of the dollar bill. The coins and brooch were soft due to the shallow depth of field at such short shooting distances, but still showed a lot of detail. Unlike shots of more distant subjects, this test produced fairly pronounced softness in all four corners of the frame. (This is a very common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, most likely caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field.") The F700's flash throttled down for the macro area quite well, but its location on the camera resulted in a shadow in the lower right corner and bottom portion of the screen. (Plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots.)

  • Night Shots: The F700 offers a maximum shutter time of three seconds, but a sensitivity setting as high as 1,600. In my testing, the F700 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at the 800 and 1,600 ISO settings. At ISO 400, images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (1.3 lux), though you could arguably use the image at the 1/16 foot-candle setting (though color was much warmer from the dim exposure). At ISO 200, images were bright as low as 1/2 foot-candle (2.7 lux). Since average city street lighting at night corresponds to about one foot-candle (11 lux), the F700 is quite capable of capturing bright images in slightly darker conditions. Color balance was pretty good in the brighter shots, but became quite warm as the light level decreased. The camera's AF system had a little trouble accurately gauging focus in the darker shots, despite the assistance of the AF-assist lamp on the front of the camera. As a result, shots were just slightly blurry at 1/8 and 1/16 foot-candles, but sharply focused at higher light levels. Noise remained under control at ISO 200 and 400, but became high at the 800 and 1,600 settings. (As noted earlier though, the F700's ability to average-together the data from groups of 4 sensor pixels at a time means that the 1.2 megapixel images shot at ISO 1600 are actually fairly acceptable, in terms of their image noise levels.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The F700's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing only about 85 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 78 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing close to 100 percent frame accuracy at both lens settings. (At telephoto, the LCD monitor actually shows slightly less than the framed area, though this could be the result of a very slight framing glitch on my part.) Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the F700's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in that regard, but it could really use a more accurate optical viewfinder.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the F700 is a little less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, as I found only 0.1 percent barrel distortion there. There's only very slight blurring in the corners from coma, and chromatic aberration is very low, since there's very little color to be found around the res target elements in the corners of the frame. (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.) Overall, the F700's lens appears to be of unusually high quality


  • Shutter Lag/Cycle Time: I have to say that the F700's remarkable shooting speed was one it the biggest surprises when I tested it. Shutter delay was only 0.55-0.61 seconds in full autofocus mode, and 0.121 seconds when prefocused. Cycle times were also blazingly fast, at only 1.0 seconds, with either no buffer to fill, or one that holds more than a dozen large/fine shots. Overall, it's one if the fastest consumer cameras I've tested to date, in virtually every aspect of operation. (Startup/shutdown, shutter lag, and cycle time.) Also, its unique "First 5" and "Last 5" continuous modes offer a blazing frame rate of four frames/second, and the "Last 5" mode in particular will be very useful for people shooting sports and other fast-paced action. (Since the camera effectively captures up to 5 frames immediately before you tell it to, neatly compensating for any sluggishness in your own reflexes.) All in all, an excellent performance, likely to be reason enough for many people to decide in favor of it.

  • Battery Life: While the F700's battery life is surprisingly good, considering the tiny size of its battery, it's very much on the short side of average. I always recommend purchasing an extra battery along with your digicam, but in the case of the F700, that recommendation applies doubly. (Battery life is actually quite good when the LCD is left off in Record mode, but the F700's poor optical viewfinder accuracy means that you're likely to find yourself resorting to the LCD to frame your shots more often than not.)


Conclusion
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As the first camera to use one of the new "SR" SuperCCD chips, the F700 is cast as the standard-bearer for Fuji's innovative sensor technology. Fortunately, it appears well up to the task: Its tonal range and to a lesser extent, exposure latitude, do indeed lead the field, and its color is excellent as well. Optically, the "Super EBC" Fujinon zoom lens is sharp from corner to corner, and shows much lower than average chromatic aberration as well. Functionally, the F700 is easy enough for complete novices to operate, yet offers enough advanced exposure modes to interest advanced users as well. With an attractive yet rugged all-metal body, and compact, trim form factor, the F700 is likely to satisfy a wide range of users. It's also an unusually fast camera, both in terms of autofocus speed/shutter lag and cycle time. Its four frame/second "First/Last 5" continuous modes are icing on the cake. About the only strike I can find against the F700 is its rather high selling price. With an introductory retail price of $599, there are an awful lot of cameras available with similar features, but selling for much less. Ultimately, a decision for or against the F700 will come down to image quality. If best-in-class tonal range, excellent color, a tack-sharp lens, and quick response times are important to you, the F700 will be an easy choice. If you're less swayed by such niceties though, there are a lot of options available for less money. The bottom line? Highly recommended (and a Dave's Pick, to boot), but I wish it were priced a hundred dollars or so lower.

 

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