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Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Digital Camera

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Review Date
8/19/2005
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Subcompact Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
High, 5.1-megapixel Super CCD HR
Print Sizes
Very Good, 11x17s, or 8x10s with heavy cropping
Availability
June, 2005
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$ 449.95

Introduction

FinePix Z1 Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is among Fujifilm's latest ultracompact digital cameras, and offers a great combination of ease of use, style, and image quality (particularly at higher ISO sensitivities). Based on a fifth-generation Super CCD HR chip design, the Fujifilm Z1 offers good resolution in a pocket-friendly body, with a resolution of 5.1 megapixels. With a prism-folded 3x zoom lens that contributes to the camera's compact size, and straightforward user interface, the Fuji Z1 is an excellent take-anywhere point and shoot model that should appeal to novice users and more experienced shooters alike. It has a refined feel that is best experienced to appreciate. Read on for all the details.

 

Camera Overview

The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is aimed at consumers who value style, portability, and ease of use, shielding them from the complexities of shutter speeds and aperture settings (although the camera does let you know what values it has selected for you). Automatic and Scene modes simplify operation for point-and-shoot users, while a manual mode provides slightly more control for creative types, including control of AF and flash modes, white balance, and exposure compensation - but not direct control over the shutter speed or aperture. Small, compact, and light weight, the Z1 offers Fujifilm's fifth generation 5.1-megapixel Super CCD HR, which produces file sizes as large as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels. With smooth body panels and some edges gently rounded off, the FinePix Z1 is an easy fit for most shirt pockets, but weighs enough that it may prove more comfortable in a jacket or pant pocket. The camera body is compact and slim at 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches (90 x 55 x 18.6 millimeters). The mostly metal body (only the battery door is plastic) is quite light at 5.1 ounces (146 grams), with the batteries and memory card loaded. The 3x Fujinon zoom lens is mounted vertically inside the camera behind a prism that folds the optical path. A built-in sliding lens barrier dominates the Fuji Z1's front panel, and doubles as a power control with which to turn the camera on or off.

The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 features a 3x Fujinon lens, equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera, a range from a reasonable wide-angle to a useful telephoto. Aperture can be automatically adjusted from f/3.5 to f/8, with the maximum aperture gradually reduced to f/4.2 as it zooms to the full telephoto zoom setting. Focus is automatically adjusted, and ranges from 2.0 feet (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, or from 3.1 inches to 2.6 feet (8 to 80 centimeters) using the camera's Macro setting. The Fuji Z1 employs a TTL contrast-detection autofocus mechanism, and offers a choice of center or multi AF modes. When in multi AF mode, the camera indicates the AF point that was used on the LCD display.

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the Fuji Z1 offers as much as 5.7x digital zoom, depending on the image quality setting, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it just crops out the center pixels of the CCD's image. For framing shots, the FinePix Z1 offers no true optical viewfinder, only a color LCD monitor - although at 2.5-inches it is fairly generous in size. An information overlay reports camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) on the LCD monitor. There are also two less common record-mode displays. In the first, a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid which divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects. Even more unusual, the post-shot assist display mode shows the last three images captured since switching the camera to record mode alongside a live view, to assist in framing shots with similar composition.

The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 offers a choice of seven Still Image modes: Auto, Manual, and five different Scene Program modes. Only limited control over exposure variables is available in the Manual mode - and aperture or shutter speed are not among these variables. In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for options like zoom, macro, and some flash settings. Manual mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, while the user retains control over certain other variables, including exposure compensation, white balance, and AF mode, as well as all flash modes. Scene Program options include Night, Sport, Landscape, Portrait, and Natural Light, with each scene mode offering a limited subset of the camera's manual controls. Automatically selected shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to four seconds, depending on exposure mode. Metering on the Fuji Z1 is calculated by splitting the image into 64 zones, thus basing the exposure on contrast and brightness values read from the entire scene. 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 Fine, Shade, Fluorescent Light-1, Fluorescent Light-2, Fluorescent Light-3, or Incandescent settings. The Z1 also features an unusually wide-ranging adjustable light sensitivity setting, with Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, and 800 ISO values available.

The Fuji Z1's built-in flash 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.) Flash range is rated as 1 foot (30cm) to 9.8 feet (3.0m) at wide-angle, or 2 feet (60 cm) to 7.6 feet (2.3m ) at telephoto. 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 use a tripod or prop the camera on something when shooting under dim conditions, to avoid blurred photos caused by camera shake.) The Z1 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies with sound at either 640 x 480- or 320 x 240-pixel resolutions, both at 30 frames per second. 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.

The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 stores image files on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB starter card. I have to say, I would much prefer for Fujifilm to reduce the cost of the camera by $10 and include no card at all rather than cripple the user with such a tiny card. At the full 5.1 megapixel file size of this camera, you'll only fit a handful of shots on the card. It goes without saying that before you leave the camera store or click on the checkout button, you'll want to add at least a 256MB xD card to the mix. For power, the Fuji Z1 uses a proprietary NP-40 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, one of which is included with the camera, along with a cradle that allows the battery to be charged in the camera body. Battery life was reasonable, though not terrific, with a worst-case run time (capture mode with the LCD turned on) of ninety minutes with the included battery. Not bad, but I recommend that you purchase a second NP-40 cell as a spare. Also included with the camera is a USB cable for direct connection to a PC or Macintosh computer, and an A/V cable to connect the camera to a television set for reviewing images in Playback mode - both of which must be connected through the bundled cradle. A software CD loaded with Fujifilm's FinePix software is also included. Installation of software is not required on most Macs or PCs, however, because the camera supports PTP mode, which allows the camera to appear on the computer as a hard drive.

Basic Features

  • 5.1-megapixel Super CCD HR delivering image resolutions as high as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels (Slightly, but not dramatically, more detail than from a conventional 5.1 megapixel sensor).
  • 2.5-inch color, low temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor.
  • 3x Fujinon 36-108mm zoom lens, with f/3.5 to f/4.2 maximum aperture.
  • Autofocus with adjustable AF area.
  • Digital zoom of up to 5.7x.
  • Auto, Manual, and five Scene Program exposure modes (Manual mode does not allow user control of shutter speed or aperture).
  • Adjustable white balance with seven settings.
  • Adjustable ISO setting with Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, and 800 equivalents.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds.
  • 64-zone Multi metering.
  • Built-in flash with six modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
  • JPEG image format.
  • Power supplied by proprietary rechargeable NiMH battery.
  • Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.

Special Features

  • Movie (with sound) and Voice recording modes.
  • High-speed shooting mode for increased focusing speed.
  • 10- and two-second Self-Timer modes for delayed shutter release.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • PictureCradle included for connecting to a computer via USB, for connecting to a television set for image playback, and for in-camera battery charging.

Recommendation
Stylish, compact, light-weight, and easy to use, the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is a good point-and-shoot digicam for novices and more experienced users alike, and unlike larger feature-rich cameras is more likely to be there when that surprise photo opportunity arrives. With fully automatic control over shutter and aperture, the Z1 proves very approachable for beginners. Five preset Scene modes simplify common shooting situations, and a handful of image adjustment options provide some creativity. The camera's relatively straightforward user interface means little time is spent learning how to operate the camera, making the Fuji Z1 good for shooting on the fly. Thanks to surprisingly good high ISO performance for a compact camera, the Z1 should prove useful in the poor lighting conditions many users will encounter (birthday parties, evening shots, etc.) With pricing about average for a quality 5.1 megapixel ultracompact digicam, the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 offers good value and feature-set in a very attractive and portable body.

 

Design

Measuring 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches (90 x 55 x 18.6 millimeters) the Z1's body should be an easy fit for most shirt pockets, although at 5.3 ounces (150 grams) with the batteries and memory card loaded you may be more comfortable with the camera in your coat or pants pocket. The smooth front and rear panels, along with the numerous gently rounded edges, make pocket retrieval hassle-free. The sleek black and silver body is constructed mostly of metal with some plastic panels, and is very attractive, fashionable, and fairly rugged as well. Though compact, the Fuji Z1 is fairly comfortable to hold. The rounded top and bottom edges on the front of the camera stop it uncomfortably digging into your fingers, while the right front and bottom rear edges are more angled, giving a little purchase for a reasonably secure hold. Still, since there's nothing for your fingers to really grip on the front of the camera, you'll want to use the included wrist strap for a little extra peace of mind. Sliding the front cover open is either easy or difficult depending on how oily or dry your fingers are on a given day.

The Fujifilm FinePix Z1's metal front panel is almost perfectly flat and dominated by the large sliding panel that serves dual purpose as protection for the lens, and the power switch that turns the camera on in Record mode. The panel moves about half an inch from side to side with a reassuring spring-loaded feel, and has a small transparent window at the top through which the camera's flash and self-timer lamp can be seen when the camera is powered on. The lens window is located at the very top left corner of the camera (as viewed from the rear), and behind this lies a prism which refracts light downwards into the lens itself, which is actually mounted vertically down the camera's side. Courtesy of this design, which we've also seen in digital cameras from several other manufacturers, there is no need for the lens to extend outside the camera body when powered on. This offers potential advantages in startup time, and can also potentially offer improved reliability and battery life, since there is less need for moving parts.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only two small holes connected below the silver metal skin of the camera, which serve as the mount for the wrist strap. The shiny black plastic area above these two holes looks at first glance like it might house a sensor or LED of some kind, but actually appears to serve no function other than to help define the camera's visual styling.

The opposite side of the camera is smooth and featureless, except for the four-hole grille for the camera's speaker.

On the Fuji Z1's top panel is the Mode switch, located at the very right-hand end of the panel. Just to the left of this is the Shutter button, which has a good feel with a distinct difference between a half and full press, although the relatively long "travel" before the half-press is detected takes a little getting used to. Finally, a three-hole grille near the left end of the top panel marks the location of the Z1's microphone.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the LCD monitor. Note that the Fuji Z1 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder, in favor of a larger 2.5" LCD display, which dominates the left side of the camera's rear. The LCD does seem fairly easy to view in most lighting conditions, so many users likely won't even miss the optical viewfinder. The small zoom rocker is at the very top right of the rear panel. Directly below this are three white plastic circles, the left of which is the camera's indicator lamp. You might expect the two adjacent plastic circles to also serve as indicators of some kind, but as with the black plastic panel on the camera's right side, they actually serve no purpose except as styling cues to make the camera more attractive. The light does bleed over from the indicator lamp to the other two plastic circles, particularly the middle one, but not enough that it is particularly noticeable.

The Playback and Photo Mode buttons (the latter marked with a stylized 'F' character in Fujifilm's FinePix logo font) are side by side, centered vertically on the camera's right rear. The Playback button doubles as a second power switch, allowing you to turn the camera on directly in Playback mode (without the lens extending) if you hold it in briefly. A Four-way arrow pad next to the lower right corner controls macro and flash modes, the self-timer, and the LCD brightness, and also provides navigation controls for the LCD menu system. In record mode, the left arrow doubles as a Macro button, and the right arrow cycles through Flash settings, while the up arrow boosts the LCD's backlight for better visibility, and the down arrow cycles the camera's self-timer modes. Located in the center of the Four-way arrow pad, a Menu/OK button calls up the camera's Record or Playback-mode menu system, and acknowledges changes to menu items.

Directly to the lower left of the Arrow pad is the Back/Display button, for backing out of menu screens, or cycling through the available LCD display modes. In Record mode, the display modes options are text overlay, image only, framing guidelines with text, or post-shot assist (which shows the last three images captured since switching the camera to record mode alongside a live view, to assist in framing shots with similar composition).

The Fuji Z1's bottom panel is flat, with the small connector for the included camera cradle located near its center. The connector is not covered by any kind of door - which doubtless makes it easier to quickly place the camera in its cradle, but does make it possible that dust, debris or moisture could get into the contacts. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is to the right of the cradle connector (as viewed from the rear), with a spring-loaded hinged door that slides forward before opening downward. The door doesn't lock, but latches closed fairly firmly. Behind this door is the xD-Picture Card slot and battery bay, with a small spring-loaded latch that holds the battery in place to prevent the battery accidentally falling out when the compartment door is opened.

Note that the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 does not feature a tripod mount anywhere on the camera body. Instead, the camera must be placed in its cradle, which has a threaded plastic tripod socket on its base. While this approach will allow quick battery or card changes while shooting with a tripod, since you can simply lift the camera off the cradle, it is far from ideal. For one thing, the design means that you'll have to take the cradle everywhere with you - hardly convenient, since it is almost the same size as the camera itself. Also, the support provided by the cradle is tenuous at best - the camera can rock back and forth or side to side significantly when mounted in the cradle, likely negating any benefit provided by the tripod in the first place. The camera is also designed to tilt forwards slightly when docked in the cradle, and you have to remember to power the camera on or off by using the button on the cradle, since the sliding lens barrier and playback buttons cease to function as power controls when the camera is docked. Turning the camera into vertical mode is also too risky in this cradle, because it can fall free from gravity's influence. In fairness though, the Fuji Z1 is not a camera you're going to use for shooting in the studio, nor one you're likely to want to use on a tripod very often anyway. Also, the cradle does include a small mount on its rear panel, allowing you to attach a wrist or shoulder strap if you've decided to bring it with you for a tripod shot. The camera cradle also serves as a base station for charging the camera's battery, as well as viewing images on a TV or transferring them to a computer. The bundled power, video and USB cables cannot be directly connected to the camera body; instead you plug them into the rear of the cradle, and dock the camera to use the functionality provided by each cable.

 

Camera Operation

Given that the Fuji Z1 offers a fair range of control over functions like ISO sensitivity, white balance, autofocus area, exposure compensation, and more, its user interface is pretty straightforward. The sliding lens barrier switches the camera's power on or off, and the Mode switch sets it to one of two exposure modes - Still Image or Movie. As well as the camera's optical zoom, the flash, macro mode, self-timer, and LCD backlight strength can all be adjusted in Record mode without entering the menu system. The Photo Mode button accesses a simplified menu for quickly adjusting Quality (image size / compression), ISO equivalent, and Color (choices are Standard, B&W, and a Chrome setting for vivid color and contrast). Menus are accessed through the Menu/OK button. When you need to access these 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 Screens
In Record mode, the Z1's LCD monitor reports the basic exposure settings, as well as other exposure settings such as flash mode, macro mode, etc. The number of images available and resolution also appear. Pressing the Display button enables an alignment grid with the information overlay, turns the information overlay off, or enables the post-shot assist (which shows the last three images captured since switching the camera to record mode alongside a live view, to assist in framing shots with similar composition). The LCD display cannot be switched off without powering the camera off altogether. Although the user has no control over either variable, the camera does report the shutter speed and aperture that will be used when the shutter button is half-pressed.


Playback Mode LCD Screens
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 cycles through several other options, where you can turn the information overlay off, enable a nine-image index display for seeing quickly what images are on the memory card, or sort images by date. This last is really a rather unusual feature, and could be quite useful if you have a large flash card and tend to keep images on it for weeks at a time. Up to 11 thumbnails are shown at once, alongside a bar which allows you to see the dates of all images on the flash card; you can then use the Four-way controller to select which day you want to see images from. When in playback mode, the zoom toggle lets you zoom in on the image to check small details, and the Four-way controller lets you pan around the image when zoomed in.


External Controls


Mode Switch
: At the right hand side of the camera's top panel, this switch controls the camera's exposure modes. Options are Still Image, or Movie (Movie records moving images with sound, at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels, both at 30fps.)


Shutter Button
: Located to the left of the Mode switch, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed. When in Playback mode, half-pressing this button quickly returns the camera to Record mode.


Lens Barrier
: As well as providing protection for the lens window when closed, the sliding lens barrier on the front of the camera also acts as a power switch. If the camera is not seated in the bundled cradle, sliding the barrier open turns the camera on, and closing it again switches the camera off.


Zoom Rocker
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, this rocker controls the 3x optical and the up-to-5.7x digital zoom. In Playback mode, these buttons let you zoom in on captured images, for closer viewing.


Playback Button: Below the zoom rocker and immediately to the right of the LCD display, this button that toggles the camera between Record and Playback mode. If the camera is powered off and not seated in the bundled cradle, holding this button in briefly will power the camera on in Playback mode, and pressing it a second time powers the camera back off.


Photo Mode Button: Located to the right of the Playback button, this button displays the Function menu when pressed in Record mode, or the DPOF menu when pressed in Playback mode. The following options are available (not all options are available in all modes):

Record Mode

  • Quality: Sets the image resolution to 5M F(fine) (2,592 x 1,944 pixels), 5M N(normal) (2,592 x 1,944 pixels), 3:2 (2,736 x 1,824 pixels), 3M (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), or 03M (640 x 480 pixels) for still images. In Movie mode, resolution options are 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels.
  • ISO: Adjusts the camera's sensitivity to Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, or 800 equivalents.
  • Color: Adjusts the color to Black and White, Chrome (high saturation and contrast), or Standard.

 

Playback Mode

  • DPOF: Accesses the camera's DPOF menu, where you can browse images and set the number of copies of each image to be printed.


Four-way Arrow Pad and Menu/OK Button
: Directly below the Playback and Photo Mode buttons, 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 playback mode, if a movie is playing the Menu button calls up the Playback volume menu. In Record mode, the left arrow turns Macro mode on or off, while the right arrow controls the flash mode. The up arrow brightens the LCD display's backlight, and the down arrow cycles through the self-timer options. In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images. All four arrow keys pan the view of an enlarged image.


Display/Back Button
: Directly below the Four-way controller near the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD display in Record mode. Pressing the button cycles through the available display modes. In Record mode, these are text overlay, image only, framing guidelines with text, or post-shot assist (which shows the last three images captured since switching the camera to record mode alongside a live view, to assist in framing shots with similar composition). In Playback mode, they are text overlay, image only, nine-image index, or 11-image index by date. When menus are activated, the Display / Back button backs out of menu screens without making any changes.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Indicated by an icon on a red background at the top left of the LCD display (unless the display is in image only mode), this mode allows the camera to capture images. Exposure modes include Still Image and Movie. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options (only the Set-Up option is available when in Movie mode):

  • Shooting Mode : Selects from the available Still Image Record modes: Auto, Manual, Night, Sport, Landscape, Portrait, or Natural Light. Note that Manual mode does not allow user control of shutter speed or aperture. The different Still Image modes affect the camera's setup in varying ways:
    • Manual: This mode provides the user with increased control, including exposure compensation, white balance, and AF mode, as well as all flash modes, but does not allow the user to directly set the shutter speed or aperture.
    • Auto: Places the camera in control of all basic exposure settings. The user has control over zoom, ISO sensitivity, macro mode, high-speed shooting, color mode, and some flash settings.
    • Natural Light: Locks ISO sensitivity to Auto, white balance to Auto, and AF mode to Center. Exposure compensation is not available. The flash is disabled.
    • Portrait: Locks white balance to Auto, and AF mode to Center. Exposure compensation is not available.
    • Landscape: Locks white balance to Auto, and AF mode to Center. Exposure compensation is not available. The flash is disabled.
    • Sport: Locks white balance to Auto, and AF mode to Center. Exposure compensation is not available. Only the Auto and Forced flash modes are available. The camera gives priority to faster shutter speeds to freeze the action.
    • Night: Locks ISO sensitivity to Auto, white balance to Auto, and AF mode to Center. Exposure compensation is not available, and shutter speeds as long as four seconds are favored (so a tripod is recommended). Only the slow sync and red-eye reduction slow-sync flash modes are available, unless the camera is in long exposure mode, in which case only the forced and red-eye reduction flash modes are available.
  • Exposure Compensation: Allows for +/- 2.0EV of exposure compensation from the metered exposure, in steps of 1/3EV.
  • White Balance: Sets the white balance to Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent Light-1, Fluorescent Light-2, Fluorescent Light-3, or Incandescent.
  • High-Speed Shooting: Increases autofocus speed (cuts full-autofocus shutter lag to about 0.3 second.) Battery life will be reduced when this is set to On.
  • AF Mode: Sets the autofocus mode to Center or Multi.
  • Set-Up: Allows user to activate Setup Menu (see below).

  • Setup Menu: Accessed from the Set-Up option in all Record or Playback menus (but not the Photo Mode, DPOF, Playback Volume, or LCD Brightness menus), the Setup menu offers the following options:
    • Image Display: Turns the post-capture image review screen off, or sets it to a duration of 1.5 or 3 seconds.
    • Shutter Volume: Adjusts the volume of the shutter noise in three steps, or disables it altogether.
    • Beep Volume: Adjusts the volume of the camera's operating sounds in three steps, or disables it altogether.
    • Playback Volume: Calls up the Playback volume menu, where you can disable playback sound altogether, or set the volume in ten arbitrary steps from 1 to 10.
    • Frame Number: Renews frame numbering with each new memory card, or continues numbering from card to card.
    • LCD Brightness: Calls up the LCD Brightness menu, where you can set LCD brightness to the default, or adjust it in arbitrary steps from -5 to +5. This adjustment is separate from the Record-mode LCD brightness adjustment option, so the effect of the two is added together.

    • Digital Zoom: Enables or disables the camera's 5.7x digital zoom. If enabled, the camera will pause when crossing the boundary at which the optical zoom is at full telephoto and the digital zoom is enabled. You must let go of the zoom rocker briefly and then press it again to continue from the optical to digital zoom, or vice versa.
    • Auto Power Off: Turns the power save option off, or sets it to shut down the camera after two or five minutes of inactivity.
    • LCD Power Save: When enabled, dims the camera's backlights after ten seconds of inactivity, to save power.
    • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, which erases all files, regardless of whether they've been "protected" via the Playback menu.
    • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
    • Time Difference: Allows a second date/time setting for another time zone.

    • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, or Japanese.
    • Background Color: Lets you select the color scheme for the camera's menus, with options being light / dark blue, light / dark purple, light / dark pink, light / dark orange, light / dark green, and grey / black.
    • USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to Pictbridge (Direct Printing) or DSC (Storage device).
    • Video System: Sets the video output signal timing to match either the NTSC or PAL standard. (NTSC for the US and Japan, PAL for Europe.)
    • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: Indicated by an icon on a blue/green background at the top left of the LCD display (unless the display is in image only or thumbnail mode). 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.
  • Image Rotate: Calls up the Image Rotate menu, where you can rotate the image clockwise (Down arrow) or anti-clockwise (Up arrow) in 90-degree increments. The OK button saves the change, or the Back button cancels.
  • Print Order (DPOF): Sets the current DPOF order for printing, with or without dates, or resets the current DPOF order.
  • 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 durations and transitions.
  • Set-Up: Allows you to access the Setup Menu.

  • Voice Memo: Allows you to record a 30 second audio clip to accompany the current image. The OK button starts and stops recording; the Back button restarts recording when it is under way, and cancels recording if you have not yet started it.
  • Trimming: Allows you to crop a portion from the current image using the same controls as the Playback zoom function, and save it as a new file.

In the Box

In the box with the FinePix Z1 digital camera are the following items:

  • 16 MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Proprietary NP-40 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.
  • Wrist strap.
  • Picture Cradle
  • AC power adapter AC-5VW
  • USB cable.
  • A/V cable.
  • Software CD-ROM.
  • Instruction manual, Quick Start guide, and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories



Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
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.

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

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.

 

"Gallery" Photos

For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the Fujifilm Z1, we've put together a "photo gallery" of more pictorial shots captured with the Z1.

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 "pictures" page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Pretty good overall color, a slight tendency toward a warm cast. Oversaturated reds though. Despite a slight warm cast, the FinePix Z1 produced pretty good color and saturation throughout my testing, but it did tend to significantly oversaturate red hues. This produced slightly ruddy-looking skin tones in the "Sunlit" portrait, but they were probably still within the range that most users would consider acceptable. The camera's Auto white balance setting typically did the best job, and it did a better than average job handling the very difficult household incandescent lighting of my "Indoor Portrait" test.

  • Exposure: Pretty good exposure, but high contrast. The FinePix Z1 performed well under my test lighting, though the camera produced very high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting of the "Sunlit" Portrait and the outdoor house shot. Dynamic range was slightly limited, but still showed pretty good detail in the highlights and shadows, though the highlight end of the range was typically more limited. Indoors, the camera required less than average positive exposure compensation, though the standard flash exposure was very dark. (As is the case with most subcompact cameras, the Z1's flash is rather underpowered.) Exposure was about right on the Davebox as well, as the Z1 easily distinguished the subtle tonal variations.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution, 1,250 lines of "strong detail." The Z1 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,250 lines. (You could argue for as high as1,400 lines, but there were too many artifacts at that point for my tastes.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,900 lines.

  • Image Noise: Moderate to high noise. The Z1's noise levels ranged from low-moderate to high, depending on the exposure conditions and sensitivity settings. At ISO 64, noise was fairly low, but increased to a high level at ISOs 400 and 800. At the higher sensitivity settings, the anti-noise processing cut detail in areas of subtle contrast, creating almost a posterized effect. Still, the overall effect was better than most compact digital cameras manage to achieve, and ISO 400 shots made 8x10 prints that most consumers would probably find acceptable.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with good detail, though details are very soft throughout the frame. Flash performs well. The Z1 captured a very small macro area, measuring 1.41 x 1.06 inches (36 x 27 millimeters). Resolution was high, but details were soft throughout the frame, even more so in the corners. The Z1's flash did a good job of throttling down for the macro area, though the image was slightly bright on the right side.

  • Night Shots: Slightly limited low-light performance, though good color. (Plenty good enough for typical city night scenes though.) The Z1 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, at ISO 800. Images were bright to about 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) at ISOs 200 and 400, to about 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) at ISO 100, and to one foot-candle (11 lux) at ISO 64. However, the camera's autofocus system was only effective to a little below 1/2 foot-candle. Noise was moderate at the lower sensitivity settings, but high at 400 and 800. Overall color was pretty good with the Auto white balance. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the Z1 should do fine in well-lit outdoor settings at night.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: An accurate LCD monitor. The Z1's LCD monitor was close to 100 percent accurate at both wide angle and telephoto lens settings. The actual measurement lines I use were just a hair out of frame, so the LCD should prove very accurate.

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide angle, and high pincushion at telephoto. Low chromatic aberration, but soft corners in its images. I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion at wide angle on the Z1. The telephoto end fared only slightly better, as I measured approximately 0.5 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration was low at both zoom settings. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The strongest distortion I noticed was significant blurring in the corners of the frame, at both wide angle and telephoto lens positions. (Unfortunately, blurred corners are rather common with subcompact digital cameras.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Surprising speed, particularly for a subcompact camera. The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is a surprisingly fast little camera. It lacks a continuous or "burst" mode, but it starts up and shuts down quickly, has faster than average shutter response (and exceptionally fast response in "High Speed" mode), and does better than average from shot to shot, at least when compared to other compact digital camera models. All in all, good performance from a camera of any size, particularly surprising in a subcompact model.

  • Battery Life: Typically short battery life for a subcompact model. When cameras get small, one of the tradeoffs is that there just isn't a lot of room for a large battery. The FinePix Z1 is no exception in this respect, so you'll definitely want to think about buying a second battery if you plan on any extended outings with the camera.

  • Print Quality: Good prints to 11x14 inches, usable at 13x19. Better than average high ISO performance, decent-looking 8x10 inch prints at ISO 400. Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See our Canon i9900 review for details on that model.) The Fuji FinePix Z1 produced good-looking prints as large as 13x19 inches, although they were slightly soft-looking at that level: 11x14s were more crisp. ISO 800 prints were very rough at 8x11 inches, but ISO 400 ones would probably be acceptable to most consumers at that size, at least for wall display. ISO 800 prints would probably be acceptable to many users at 5x7 inches. - This high-ISO capability is above average for cameras of its price/performance class.

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Compact and stylish, silver/black design is very attractive
  • Very impressive shutter response, speed overall is quite good, especially for a compact model
  • Generally good image quality
  • Large 2.5 inch LCD display, good visibility both outdoors and in dim indoor lighting
  • Good handling of incandescent lighting
  • Better than average high-ISO performance
  • Low light capabilities fine for typical city night scenes
  • "Natural Light" mode for better photos in dim lighting without the flash. (High image noise levels though.)
  • Very good movie mode
  • Extremely fast USB connection
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Red hues are rather oversaturated
  • While better than average, noise reduction processing loses significant subtle subject detail at ISO 400 and above
  • High contrast makes for snappy-looking images, but loses highlight detail very quickly under high contrast lighting conditions
  • No AF-assist lamp
  • No continuous shooting mode
  • Very weak flash, very short flash range (typical of subcompact models though)
  • Rather short battery life
  • Must use provided dock to access camera I/O ports (USB, Video)
  • No manual controls (not unusual in this sort of camera)

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The compact, oh-so-stylish Fujifilm FinePix Z1 follows in the footsteps of their excellent medium-sized F10 model, although it doesn't quite match that model's exceptional low-light performance. It does well in that regard though when compared against the other compact and subcompact digital cameras with which it competes. Photo quality is generally good, but it does tend to oversaturate reds, and other colors come out a bit less saturated than they do with many competing cameras. Like most compact digital cameras, the Z1's battery life is also on the short side. Arguably, the Z1's greatest strength is its great responsiveness, with very short startup and shutdown times, and shutter response that would be the envy of many full-sized cameras. The Z1's VGA-resolution movie mode is also quite impressive for such a small camera. Bottom line, the Fuji Z1 is a fine little camera, worthy of consideration if you're in the market for a compact digicam that will just slip in your pocket. I'd have liked it a bit better if its reds were a little more subdued and its other colors a bit brighter, but check out its test and gallery shots using the links above, as I suspect that many people will find its color entirely to their liking. - And it's easily one of the fastest-shooting subcompact models on the market.

 

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