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Fuji FinePix F601 Zoom

A new SuperCCD sensor gives Fuji's latest ultra compact true 3.1 megapixel resolution and great color.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 6/21/2002

Executive Overview
Sleek lines and smooth contours define the distinctive design of Fujifilm's recently released FinePix F601 Zoom camera. Improving on previous FinePix models, the F601 Zoom has sophisticated styling with the benefit of significantly expanded exposure features, including a full manual exposure mode. Despite the extensive features set, the camera's small size keeps it portable and compact enough to fit into larger shirt pockets. Adding to its portable appeal is the F601's light weight, at 8.8 ounces (250 grams), with SmartMedia and battery pack. The F601 Zoom uses Fuji's Super CCD technology, featuring a 3.1-megapixel CCD that interpolates into 6.03-megapixel image files (as large as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels with interpolation). The honeycomb pattern of the CCD, combined with a primary-color filter array, delivers high quality images with great color.

Like the 6800 Zoom before it, the F601 Zoom is designed to fit the cradle or "dock," available as a separate accessory. 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, while a Video Out jack connects to a television set for image viewing. For computer 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).

An 8.3-24.9mm lens (equivalent to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera) gives the F601 Zoom a 3x optical zoom range, with available apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/10.8 (depending on the zoom setting and lighting conditions). Focus options include either manual or automatic control, with the autofocus system employing a contrast-detection focus mechanism. You can also change the autofocus area from its default center position to any other area in the frame. As much as 4.4x digital zoom is available as well, with the actual amount of digital zoom depending on the current resolution setting. (Smaller resolution settings result in higher available digital zoom values.) Remember that digital zoom generally compromises image quality because it only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image. For composing images, the F601 Zoom offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a color LCD monitor. The 1.5-inch LCD monitor features a detailed information overlay display, which can be canceled those times you want an unobstructed view of your subject. The LCD monitor 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 F601 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.

The F601 Zoom's expanded exposure options include Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes. A set of five preset "scene" modes set the camera for specific shooting conditions, and include Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene, and Continuous Shooting modes. The Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main exposure mode, with options of Manual, Scene, Automatic, Movie, and Audio. The Automatic exposure mode takes full charge of the exposure, giving you control of only the flash, self-timer, and macro mode. Switching to Manual mode expands the Record menu options to include white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, flash level, metering, and sharpness, in addition to the other four exposure modes.

By default, the F601 Zoom employs Multi-Metering, which bases the exposure on multiple readings made throughout the image area, but you can also opt for Spot or Average metering modes. 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 one exposure equivalent (EV) increments. Alternatively, 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 160, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 adjustment settings. The F601 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.

The F601 Zoom offers two Continuous Shooting modes, one as a Scene mode and one as a standard drive setting. The Scene Continuous Shooting mode captures 40 consecutive shots (as long as you hold down the Shutter button), though only at the 1,280 x 960-pixel image size. The standard Continuous Shooting mode (accessed through the Record menu) takes as many as four consecutive frames at approximately 0.2-second intervals, depending on the image size and quality settings, and the amount of available memory card space. The F601 Zoom's Movie recording mode captures movies with sound, at either the 640 x 480- or 320 x 240-pixel resolution setting. The Audio mode records audio files for as long as 4.5 hours (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 on SmartMedia memory cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. The F601 Zoom offers four still image resolutions, 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.

For high-speed connection to a computer, the F601 Zoom comes with a USB cable, which can be plugged directly into the camera or into the accessory cradle. A software CD loaded with Fuji's FinePix interface software, as well as USB drivers, and ArcSoft Video Impression facilitates downloading images to a computer and provides minor editing and organization utilities. Most software is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems, with the exception of the web conferencing PictureHello utility, which is for Windows only. (I was impressed to see a copy of FinePix Viewer for Mac OS X included as well.)

An NP-60 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack is included with the F601 Zoom, as well as an AC adapter. The AC adapter doubles as an in-camera battery charger, either by connecting to the camera directly or connecting to the separate cradle accessory.

The F601 Zoom is a well-designed digicam, with a stylish exterior and a surprising variety of exposure options. The compact shape is great for travel, and the range of exposure control makes it suitable for any level user, from novice to advanced amateur. Preset Scene modes and an Automatic setting simplify operation for novices, while the full manual control provides complete control when you need it. The 3.1-megapixel SuperCCD delivers great resolution images with excellent color. Overall, the F601 Zoom is an excellent update to the FinePix line, and should do very well for itself in the marketplace.

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