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Back to Full MX-2700 Review
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(Review first posted 8 June, 1999)
||2.3 Million pixel sensor (!)|
||1800 x 1200 resolution|
||1.2x, 2.5x digital zoom|
||Autofocus lens w/macro|
||Flexible "manual" exposure mode|
Fuji is a longtime player in the digicam marketplace, having produced some excellent units over time, and finding some unique market niches. (For instance, their VGA-resolution DS-220 had an exceptional macro attachment with built-in flash that made it a runaway favorite for oral surgeons documenting patient treatments.) Recently, they've been made significant inroads in the megapixel-plus market, with the petite (may we say "sexy"?) MX-700, and the 1.5 megapixel MX-500, one of the true bargains in the megapixel-plus market.
A consistent innovator, with the MX-2700, Fuji has taken their sleek (may we say "sexy"?) MX-700 form factor, and increased the resolution to a huge 2.3 megapixels. (This ties for the highest sensor resolution among cameras we've tested to date June, 1999.) At the same time, they've added a much-requested automatic lens cover, increased the LCD size, and even shrunk the already-small package slightly. The result is a very capable, very high-resolution digicam that truly deserves the "pocket sized" designation.
High Points Overview
In response to reader requests, we've begun including brief overview sections with all our digital camera reviews, to let people quickly get a sense of what a digicam is like, without having to read the full 15+ page review to do so. Herewith our "executive overview" of the MX-2700: (Click here to go directly to the main review, which will cover all of the information below, but in much greater detail.)
The first thing that strikes you about the MX-2700 is how small it is: At only 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.3 inches (80 x 97.6 x 33 mm), and weighing only 8.1 ounces (230g) without the battery, it fits easily into most shirt pockets. In the large hands of our tester, we found we could almost completely conceal the camera while shooting, making for interesting candid-photography opportunities! Some US reviewers complained that the earlier MX-700 was too small to hold comfortably, but we found little trouble hanging onto the MX-2700 in our own testing. The grip that worked best for us definitely had us grabbing the camera by its edge, but we had no difficulty holding onto it, and its light weight and small size make single-handed shooting easy.
The 2.3 megapixel resolution represents the current (June, 1999) state of the art in consumer-level digicam sensor technology, and the images captured by the MX-2700 can easily be printed at full-page sizes on high-quality inkjet printers. Images can be captured in either the full 1800x1200 format, or in a smaller 640x480 size, and three image-compression levels are provided for each image size. The autofocus lens does a good job from infinity to macro distances. (You manually switch to macro mode for subjects closer than about 20 inches or 0.5m.) With a 35mm equivalent focal length, the lens is a moderate wide-angle, typical of both digital and film-based point & shoot cameras. Two "digital telephoto" settings are provided, the 1.25x level taking the effective focal length to roughly that of a "normal" lens, at a image resolution of 1280x1024 pixels, and the 2.5x setting resulting in a mild telephoto, albeit restricted to the 640x480 image size.
The camera has both optical and LCD viewfinders, and you can turn the LCD off when not needed, to (dramatically) increase battery life. The optical viewfinder is about typically accurate among digicams we've tested, while the LCD finder registers precisely 100% of the final image captured by the CCD.
The camera has an equivalent "ISO" light-sensitivity rating of 120, which combines with the f/3.2 lens and 1/4 second maximum exposure time to result in a unit that's usable in typical indoor lighting situations, but not really suited to night photography outdoors. The onboard flash works well, with a range of roughly 8.2 feet (2.5m). Like the other Fuji digicams we've tested, the MX-2700 has excellent exposure-control abilities, with an exposure-compensation range of +1.5 to 0.9 EV for normal lighting, and even a +/- 0.6EV adjustment on the flash output! All the usual white-balance settings are available, plus a few extra ones: Auto, sunny, cloudy, two types of fluorescent, and incandescent.
As with the other Fuji cameras we've tested, we liked the user controls on the MX-2700: We found them clear and easy to navigate in "manual" capture mode, and the auto mode is pure point & shoot. The large "mode dial" makes selecting various operating modes easy, and keeps the LCD menus simple. In auto mode, the small LCD data readout provides feedback on pictures remaining, flash setup, and image size and compression mode. For most normal operation, you never need to delve into the full-size LCD menu system.
Probably in the interests of stretching battery life, the processor in the MX-2700 isn't the fastest we've seen, but neither is it the slowest: It takes about 5-6 seconds for the camera to power-up, and about 12 seconds to digest one full-resolution image and be ready for the next one. This drops to about 5 seconds between shots for low-resolution, maximum-compression images. Despite this battery-saving measure though, we found battery a bit on the short side: We don't have a "scientific" test for battery life, but our distinct impression was that the battery in the MX-2700 ran out more quickly than we're used to. One advantage of the Li-Ion batteries used by the MX-700 though, is that they will retain their full charge more or less indefinitely. Thus, you could buy several, charge them one by one prior to a trip of special occasion, and be well-prepared for extended shooting.
Overall image quality with the MX-2700 was very good, with the resolution you'd expect from a 2.3 million pixel sensor. Color and tonal range were very good, but we did notice a tendency to produce an odd "zipper" artifact in images with strongly-contrasting horizontal lines. This effect was reduced when we decreased the "sharpness" setting in the camera's Setup menu, at some cost to overall image sharpness. Overall though, we were quite pleased with the pictures the MX-2700 captured, and their high resolution means you can obtain "photo quality" prints at much larger sizes than would be the case with lesser digicams.
Read the full review for our detailed conclusions, but we felt the MX-2700 was an excellent camera, and one that's compact enough to make it easy to bring along. (The pocketability further enhanced by an automatic lens cover.) We're big believers in the value of cameras that get brought along, rather than sitting in a drawer at home, and the MX-2700 is clearly one of the former! We invite you to read our full review, and study the sample pictures for yourself. If you're looking for the ultimate in a portable digital camera, the MX-2700 is clearly it!
As we noted in the overview, the first thing that strikes you about the MX-2700 is how small it is: At only 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.3 inches (80 x 97.6 x 33 mm), and weighing only 8.1 ounces (230g) without the battery, it fits easily into most shirt pockets. People with large hands, who are interested in candid photography will find that they can almost completely conceal the camera while shooting, making for interesting opportunities! Some US reviewers complained that the earlier MX-700 was too small to hold comfortably, but we found little trouble hanging onto the MX-2700 in our own testing. (The grip that worked best for us definitely had us grabbing the camera by its edge, but we had no difficulty holding onto it, and its light weight and small size make single-handed shooting easy.) This may ultimately come down to a personal preference item: Certainly there's no problem operating the camera, even if you have rather large hands. Even so, some people prefer big, beefy hunks of technology you can really get a grip on, and the MX-2700 isn't one of those.
Although we've been fooled before by cleverly finished structural plastic, the MX-2700 appears to have an all-aluminum body, a feature many people find attractive. Other nice design details include the automatic lens cover, which snaps open whenever you enter "record" mode, and that snaps back shut again when the camera is turned off. Although we didn't prod it too aggressively, we were pleased to find that the lens cover stays shut pretty well, even in the face of being deliberately poked with fingers. This suggests to us that it will do a good job of protecting the lens as the camera is slipped in and out of pockets.
Another small item, but one that we really appreciate seeing on a digicam is an all-metal tripod socket. While standard tripod threads are fairly coarse, we have seen tripod sockets that were inadvertently cross-threaded and damaged. The metal threads on the MX-2700 should be pretty well immune to this. (Kudos to Fuji for delivering quality even in such small details!)
As with basically every digital camera we've tested, the MX-2700 is "right-handed," with most of the controls set up for use by the thumb and fingers of the right hand. Overall, we found its design, ergonomics, and user interface to be very good: The camera controls and menus are easy to navigate in normal shooting, and even the complexity of "manual" mode was quite easy to maneuver through. As noted above, the camera can fairly easily be operated with one hand, but setting options such as image size and quality level does require the use of two hands, to actuate the "Shift" button.
As with most digital cameras today, Fuji has chosen to provide both optical and LCD viewfinders in the MX-2700. The optical viewfinder on the MX-2700 is clear and bright, but crops the image relative to the CCD's field of view somewhat more than we'd like, showing only about 82% of the area actually captured by the camera. The LCD viewfinder is much better though, showing essentially 100% of the final image area. (Surprisingly, it's common for LCD viewfinders to crop the image as well, even though you'd think they could easily show the full output of the CCD.) One quirk to be aware of though, is that the camera's two resolution modes (1800x1200 and 640x480) have different "aspect ratios" (the ratio of height to width). The optical viewfinder is set up to show the 3x2 ratio of the higher-resolution image, so you'll need to be careful when shooting in 640x480 mode not to lose parts of the subject off the edges off the frame. A small circle in the center off the optical viewfinder indicates the area used by the autofocus system: If your subject is outside this area, you'll need to use the autofocus/exposure lock, as described later.
The optical viewfinder is quite bright, and works reasonably well with eyeglasses, although we found it to have a slightly low "eyepoint," meaning you may need to press your glasses against it to see all of the frame. There also is no diopter adjustment for people who are near- or far-sighted.
The LCD screen is quite bright and very sharp (the 130,000 pixel resolution of the LCD is higher than most cameras), but shares the tendency of all such units to wash out badly in direct sunlight. In truth, the MX-2700's LCD isn't the worst we've seen in this regard, but if you're shooting in direct sun, you'd still better plan on using the optical viewfinder to frame your shots. You can adjust the LCD brightness by pressing the Shift and Disp buttons simultaneously, and then using the < > keys on the 4-way rocker control to adjust the brightness up or down. The LCD brightness adjustment actually covers quite a range of variation, and the brightest setting helps a fair bit with daylight washout. Pay attention to battery life though, as we suspect that the highest brightness setting draws a lot more power
The MX-2700 sports an autofocus lens with a focal length roughly equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. This is a moderate wide-angle, typical of most non-zoom point & shoot cameras, whether film or digital. Normal focusing distance is from 19.7 inches (0.5m) to infinity, while the macro mode covers from 3.5 to 19.7 inches (9 to 50cm). The lens apparently has a dual aperture, switching between f/3.2 and f/8.0 under control of the exposure system. No filter threads are provided for accessory filters or lenses, although some third-party companies developed filter adapters for the MX-700, and we expect the same will be the case for the MX-2700. A very nice touch is the automatic lens cover, that snaps shut when the camera is turned off: No more lost lens caps, nor smudged/scratched lenses!
In our testing, we found the MX-2700's lens to be surprisingly free of distortion, having only 0.4% barrel distortion, and virtually no chromatic aberration. Overall, this appears to be an excellent lens!
The MX-2700 carries an official ISO rating of 120, which combined with the F/3.2-f/8 aperture range and 1/4 1/1000 second shutter speeds should result in a usable exposure range of EV10 to EV20.5. This corresponds to light levels from fairly dim residential interiors to full sun outdoors. The lower end of this range agrees fairly well with our own testing, although we felt we could get usable pictures at slightly lower light levels, perhaps down to EV9.
The autoexposure system was quite accurate in our tests, most likely thanks to its 64-segment evaluation system. It still can be fooled by subjects with unusual overall tonal balances though, such as our "high key" outdoor portrait shot, or backlit subjects. To accommodate such situations, an exposure-adjustment control is provide when in "manual" capture mode, that lets you adjust the exposure up by 1.5 EV units or down by 0.9 EV units to compensate for unusual lighting conditions. (An EV unit corresponds to one f-stop of exposure difference.) Only the 64-segment autoexposure is offered (that is, there is no option for spot metering), but the MX-2700 does support an exposure/focus lock capability, to handle off-center subjects in difficult lighting situations. Whenever you half-press the shutter release, the exposure and focus systems are triggered, but the shutter itself doesn't release until the button is pressed all the way down. Thus, you can handle an off-center subject by turning so the subject is centered in the viewfinder, half-pressing the shutter release, and then turning back to re-frame the image, all the while holding the shutter button halfway down. Once you've got the shot properly framed, pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down will trip the shutter, exposing the image based on the settings computed when you first half-pressed the shutter button. (That sounds more complicated than it is: In practice, this is quite easy, and is a common digicam feature.)
The MX-2700 provides five different white-balance settings, including auto, sunny, cloudy, warm fluorescent, cool fluorescent, and incandescent. The white-balance settings are available in the "Manual" record mode, accessible via the 4-way rocker control on the camera's back panel. We found the MX-2700's automatic white balance operated rather subtly, relative to those of most other cameras we've tested. It would correct for relatively minor color casts fairly well, but wouldn't completely remove the strong yellow cast of our "indoor portrait" test shot. The "incandescent" setting did a little better, but still left a lot of yellow. We discovered though, that a quick "auto levels" operation in Photoshop cleaned up the images beautifully, meaning that the data captured in the camera's three color channels was quite well preserved, but the relative amounts of each weren't properly balanced. This is better than some other (even much more expensive) cameras, which introduce more noise in the blue channel under incandescent lighting conditions than does the MX-2700.
We overall found that the MX-2700 tended to be a bit conservative in its use of the upper end of the tonal range, slightly underexposing all of its shots. This left the images a little flatter than they could have been, but did a good job of preserving highlight detail. There was also a slight yellowish cast to the images, which again was easy to correct in Photoshop.
PhotoGenetics(tm) - a Perfect Match!
As we'll mention again below in the test results summary, we tested the MX-2700 shortly after reviewing a little software program called PhotoGenetics. (A very inexpensive piece of software, at only $30 retail.) One of PhotoGenetics' unique capabilities is to apply sophisticated color corrections (which are also very easily arrived at) to entire folders of images at once. We said in our review of the software that a great use of this would be to correct for the consistent color biases some digital cameras or scanners have. The Fuji MX-2700 and PhotoGenetics look like a match made in heaven! The camera is very consistent in its handling of white balance, and even images shot under incandescent lighting and having fairly strong color casts, have good data preserved in all three color channels. The result is that a $30 program can turn an excellent $700 or so (June, 1999) digital camera into a really exceptional one! The nice thing about this is that PhotoGenetics' automated processing makes the task of adjusting your images almost totally painless & automatic. Check out our review of PhotoGenetics if you're thinking about buying an MX-2700: We feel they're a natural pair, and the combination would make an already excellent camera into a really extraordinary one...
The MX-2700 also incorporates an on-board flash unit, for use in either dim lighting, or when "fill" light is needed. Four operating modes are provided, including always off, always on (fill), red-eye reduction, and automatic. While most digicams these days include an on-board flash unit, the MX-2700's is unique in at least two respects, both of which it shares with other Fuji cameras we've tested. First, it does a surprisingly good job of blending-in with incandescent ambient lighting, avoiding the problems of too-blue highlights we've seen in so many digicams. The second major feature is that Fuji has provided an exposure compensation adjustment for the flash itself, a very unusual feature in prosumer digicams. In "manual" record mode, you can adjust the flash exposure up or down by about 2/3 of an f-stop (0.6 EV units). This ability to adjust the flash output is very welcome, and makes for a lot more creative control over flash exposures.
A final flash-related option on the MX-2700 is the "slow sync" mode. This option leaves the shutter open longer, and throttles-back the flash somewhat. The net effect is that the ambient lighting makes a much greater contribution to the final photo, helping avoid the dark backgrounds that are typical of many digicam flash shots.
The MX-2700's flash is rated to perform at distances ranging from 11.8 inches (0.3m) to 8.2 feet (2.5m). In practice, we found that it did a good job of throttling-back its output, working surprisingly well even in fairly close macro shooting. (The main problem was getting even illumination across the subject when working at very short camera/subject distances.)
Shutter lag and cycle times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture-taking experience, we now routinely measure it, using a little Windows utility developed by Digital Eyes.
We found the MX-2700 to be relatively speedy relative to other cameras we've tested, requiring only 0.65 seconds for a full autofocus cycle before the shutter tripped. Prefocusing by half-pressing the shutter release in advance of the exposure itself reduced the lag time to about 0.2 seconds, fairly typical of the current range of cameras shooting under that condition. Shot-to-shot cycle times range from 7.5 seconds in large/fine mode, to 3.5 seconds in 640x480 mode with "Basic" image quality selected, also fairly fast times. (These timings were done with the LCD off and no post-exposure "review.")
Camera startup is fairly fast, at just under 2 seconds if the flash is disabled, or about 6 seconds if it's turned on (the additional time is that required for the flash circuitry to charge), and shutdown occurs almost instantly. Switching from record to playback mode (with a large/fine resolution image to be displayed) requires about 7 seconds, while the change back to record mode requires only about 2 seconds.
Operation and User Interface
Overall, we found navigating through the different options available on the MX-2700 to be quite easy, despite the range of features provided. All of the control buttons are readily accessible on the back side, along with a small grip area that makes it easy to hold the camera snug with your right hand for one-handed operation.
On first usage, it took us only a few minutes to get a handle on the major control functions of the camera by just experimenting with the various dials and buttons. The back of the camera is equipped with both an optical viewfinder and LCD viewfinder, a mode dial to switch between the six different modes that the camera supports, and what Fuji calls a 4-direction button, used to navigate through LCD menu options and to enable digital zooming. (We'll refer to the 4-direction button as just the 4-way control from here on out.) The photo below shows the control area on the back of the camera.
On the back of the camera, you'll also find the Status Display which shows icons for all the different camera settings, if the settings are enabled. It's an easy reminder of which menu options you have enabled, the battery power status, and pictures remaining on the SmartMedia card, among other things. The Shutter button and the Power buttons are also close at hand (close at finger?) on the top side of the camera.
The left side of the camera contains easily-accessible ports
for the AC Adapter, Video Out, an RS-232C port for connecting
to a personal computer, along with the in-camera storage slot
for the SmartMedia card.
The camera operates in one of six different mode settings: Self-Timer, Setup, Manual Record, Normal (Auto) Record, Playback, and PC Mode. You select which mode you want with the Mode Dial on the rear of the camera. Depending on which mode you select, pressing the Menu/Exe button-also on the rear of the camera-displays a set of menu options that are specific to that mode. As mentioned previously, the 4-direction button is used to scroll through the different menus and options. (We've said it before, but it's worth repeating: We really like camera user interfaces that employ mode dials, as their operation tends to be clearer and more intuitive, and the remaining LCD menus are much less cluttered.)
The LCD viewfinder doesn't automatically turn on when in either Manual or Normal (Auto) mode, but does automatically activate whenever you select macro operation. In the normal recording modes, you need to turn it on manually using the Disp button. The LCD does illuminate in Manual record mode, showing the current settings for white balance, exposure compensation, and synchro mode, but doesn't show the image coming from the CCD unless you press the Disp button. (Power consumption is a good bit lower when the LCD is only showing the menu items.) The LCD is always on in Playback mode, even when the external video output is also being used. You can adjust the LCD brightness by pressing the Shift and Disp buttons at the same time to access the LCD brightness control. Then, use the Left/Right arrows on the 4-way control to set the brightness to your liking.
When in Setup mode, you can control a number of persistent camera settings to meet your needs. Settings here include image quality, file size, sharpness, auto power-off, frame number in memory, annunciator tone, and date and time. You can also reset the camera to the factory-default settings.
Manual record mode lets you capture an image and review it before saving it to the SmartMedia card: After you snap each shot, the just-captured image appears on the LCD screen until you either hit the "Cancel/Back" button to discard it, or the "Menu/Exe" button to save it to the memory card. If you don't save the image before the auto power-off occurs, the image will be lost. (We'd commented on this behavior on other Fuji cameras: Overall, we'd prefer for the default to be for the camera to save the image, rather than discarding it, to prevent possible inadvertent loss of a photo.) As noted earlier, manual mode also lets you set the white balance, exposure settings, flash brightness, and slow-synchro mode when capturing night scenes.
Normal (Auto) mode provides basic "point and shoot" functionality. The camera automatically controls the settings needed to provide the best quality capture under the existing conditions. No allowance is made for exposure compensation or white balance adjustment. You can still change image size, resolution, flash mode, and enable the macro mode, however, as well as turn the LCD viewfinder on or off.
Playback mode lets you review captured images, and offers a series of operations that you can perform on images stored on the camera's SmartMedia card. The MX-2700 is a bit unusual, in offering several "special effects" that can be applied to images when in playback mode, without having to resort to an external computer. These effects include either rainbow or white-only ("silver") cross patterns applied to highlights in the image and sepia or black & white color effects. Another useful function is the ability to resize images in-camera, from the large 1800x1200 size down to either 1280x1024 or 640x480. (Note that the smaller image sizes have different aspect ratios, so the MX-2700 has to crop some of the original image from either side, to make it fit the shape of the new file size.)
PC mode enables the serial port on the camera, to transfer images to a host PC under control of the Mac or Windows software provided by Fuji.
Displays menu options on the LCD and confirm menu selections. The menu options vary depending on the mode to which the camera is set.
Cancels selections and return to the previous menu.
Turns on the LCD for viewing when capturing images, and to switch between viewing thumbnail or full-screen images when viewing pictures in playback mode.
Selects one of three different flash options for individual picture-taking needs:
Disables the optical zoom capability of the camera and sets the lens to focus between 3.5 and 19.7 inches (9 and 50 cm). In Macro mode, the LCD is automatically turned on to help you frame your image, since the optical viewfinder isn't accurate that close.
In combination with other buttons, provides rapid access to several camera functions. (Quality and Image Size are also available in the Setup menu this is a faster way to make changes in these settings than switching to setup mode and then back to record again):
The Self-Timer mode provides a 10 second delay between when you press the Shutter button and when the camera fires. You can use Self-Timer mode in conjunction with other camera settings, including file size and image quality, as well as macro mode, but not with the special exposure settings available in Manual mode. (We welcome the ability to use the self-timer for macro shots, as this is frequently useful in conjunction with a tripod or copy stand, to eliminate camera movement from a manual shutter release. It would be nice though, to be able to also have access to the sophisticated exposure controls of Manual mode when using the self-timer.) It also appears that focus and exposure settings are made in self-timer mode when the shutter button is first pressed, as opposed to when the shutter actually fires. At first this seemed odd, but we subsequently realized it would be important for handling off-center subjects, since the half-press autoexposure/focus lock wouldn't be an option if the photographer were trying to get into the picture him/herself.
With the Mode Dial on the rear of the camera set to Setup, eight customizable options appear on the LCD display. You can use the Up/Down arrows on the 4-Direction button to scroll through these options, and the Left/Right arrows to change the settings for each option:
As mentioned earlier, Manual mode lets you control a number of camera exposure settings, as well as review captured images on the LCD before storing them to the SmartMedia card. This is in contrast to Normal mode, in which the images are stored automatically. You can change the following camera settings in Manual mode:
Normal (Auto) Mode
With the Mode Dial on the rear of the camera set to Normal Mode, the camera becomes a true digital "point-and-shoot" camera. The camera automatically chooses all exposure settings, and automatic white balance is used.
Playback mode lets you review images you've already captured. When you change from Normal or Manual mode to Playback mode, the LCD automatically activates and displays your images. Use the left/right arrows on the 4-way control to scroll through and view all the images currently stored to the SmartMedia card.
In playback mode, pressing the Disp button changes what is displayed on the LCD. You can change from "full-screen" viewing of individual images on the LCD to smaller, thumbnail versions of the images that you have captured (if there's more than 1, of course). In Thumbnail mode, the left-right arrows on the 4-way control move a cursor over the small images, letting you quickly select the photo you're interested in. Once you've chosen a particular image, pressing Disp again will bring it up full-screen.
When in Playback mode, pressing the Menu/Exe button provides access to the following features, arranged in an iconic menu across the bottom of the screen:
When you want to connect the camera to a PC for downloading of images, you first need to place the camera in PC mode. PC mode enables the serial port on the side of the camera for image transfer. The MX-2700 package comes equipped with a software CD ROM that includes TWAIN drivers for accessing the images on your camera, and Adobe PhotoDeluxe software for you to use to edit your images once transferred to your PC.
Image Storage and Interface
The MX-2700 uses the tiny SmartMedia memory cards for its image storage, and comes with an 8 MB unit. (These cards are currently available in sizes up to 32 megabytes, with 64 megabyte capacities scheduled for availability in early 2000.) The table below shows the MX-2700's memory card capacities for the 8 MB card with various combinations of image size and quality setting. (PAGE 88 of the manual)
8 MB Card
As noted earlier, the MX-2700 connects to host computers via
a standard "RS-232" serial connection. While entirely
functional, like all such interfaces, it's SLOW. We clocked a
data-transfer time of about three minutes for a 823K maximum-resolution
file, a transfer rate of roughly 4 KBytes/second. This is rather
slow, even for a serial port, and the large file sizes the MX-2700
captures only further aggravate the problem. The optional FlashPath
floppy-disk adapter (typically available for about $80 or so,
as of this writing in June of 1999) can move the same file in
only ~30 seconds. Even better, Fuji is offering a coupon for a
free FlashPath with all their cameras through July 31, 1999. (Given
that this review will be on the 'net for at least the next year,
most of you will be reading this after the end of this particular
promotion. We suspect that there may be other similar offers in
the future though...) Card readers that attach to your PC's parallel
or USB port work much faster yet, and are often less expensive
to boot. The free FlashPath is a great offer, but if you fall
outside its time-frame, we'd recommend investing the $40-70 needed
for an external card reader.
Like many digicams, the MX-2700 has a video-out port for viewing your images on a standard TV equipped with a direct-video input. When plugged in, it leaves the internal LCD monitor functional (some cameras turn off the internal LCD when driving external video), and mirrors the signal through the video port. We've found this a very handy function for grabbing screen shots of whatever would normally appear on the LCD screen, and it makes for a great way to share images with friends or colleagues. US and Canadian models of the MX-2700 support the NTSC standard, while European models presumably support PAL.
The MX-2700 is a bit different than most digital cameras, in that it uses a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, rather than the much more common AA cells. The advantages of the LiIon battery pack are that it's very compact for the amount of power it delivers (1100 mAh), has no "memory effect" as do NiCd batteries, and no self-discharge tendency, as do NiMH cells. The only drawback we see is that you can't get replacement batteries in a pinch at the corner drugstore. Besides the battery pack, the MX-2700 includes an AC adapter, which will both power the camera and recharge the battery pack. Fuji gives an official charge time for a fully-discharged battery as 7 hours. An optional external battery charger is available that cuts this time to 2.5 hours. (NOTE: Because the AC adapter for the MX-2700 also functions as an in-camera battery charger, we STRONGLY advise against using any power source other than the official AC adapter. Adapters not designed to charge the particular LiIon batteries used by the MX-2700 could cause severe damage and even a fire hazard!)
The MX-2700 is fairly conservative of battery power, particularly with the LCD turned off. As we write this review, we've just begun directly measuring digicam power consumption, and the MX-2700 seems better than many. Like most digicams though, its LCD draws a significant amount of power, and the total energy delivered by the 3.6v/1100mAh battery pack is a fair bit lower than what a set of high-capacity NiMH AA cells can provide (4.8v/1300mAh). Thus, in our own shooting, which used the LCD screen pretty heavily, we found that the battery tended to run down more quickly than we were accustomed to. We recommend using the supplied AC adapter (big kudos to Fuji for including this, normally a $40 option with most digicams) whenever possible, certainly during image downloads to the PC. We'd also suggest buying one or two extra batteries, and keeping them charged and ready. As noted above, the LiIon cells don't lose their charge in storage, so you can charge them in advance, and have them ready when you need them.
The MX-2700 ships with a basic software package, allowing image acquisition and manipulation, on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Software on both platforms includes an application called "Picture Shuttle" that handles communications with the camera, for downloading images. Picture Shuttle maintains a "desktop" metaphor, showing the camera and any "albums" it knows about as icons in a desktop-looking window, as seen in the screen shot below. (Screen shots here are borrowed from our MX-600 review, since that camera ships with the same software.) We say "desktop-looking" because it actually is a separate window, and not part of your computer's normal desktop.
When the camera is "opened" in Picture Shuttle, you see an index display of the pictures it contains, as shown below. (You can choose to see thumbnails of the pictures as shown, or turn the thumbnails off to speed up the initial display of the camera's contents.)
When a picture is selected and downloaded, PictureShuttle automatically opens the "EZtouch" application, which provides for rudimentary image manipulation. The EZtouch screen is shown below.
Besides the PictureShuttle application, two TWAIN drivers are
provided, which allow image acquisition directly into applications
supporting the TWAIN interface (which include most applications
on the Windows platform, and a few on the Mac). The normal TWAIN
driver functions much like Picture Shuttle, allowing downloading
of already-captured images. In addition to this, the SNAP TWAIN
driver allows you to "snap" (capture) pictures with
the camera while it is tethered to the computer. In our own testing,
our Windows machine had reached a rather delicate state of too-many-drivers,
and so we weren't able to successfully test the TWAIN software.
(For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with Windows, it periodically
is necessary to completely "wipe" the hard drive and
re-install Windows, if you're in the habit of installing and removing
software applications on a regular basis. - We really needed to
do this on our main Windows box, but couldn't afford the time
out of our schedule to do so in time for this review.) We did
however, find Picture Shuttle to be a very functional downloading
application, although it was rather slow, as reported earlier.
(We strongly recommend the optional FlashPath adapter for any
serious users of the MX-2700: The difference in speed relative
to the serial port is dramatic, and ultimately makes the camera
much more usable.)
The final software package included with the MX-2700 is Adobe's ever-popular PhotoDeluxe. This program provides a broad range of image-manipulation and "project"-oriented capabilities, and has versions for both the Mac and Windows platforms.
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the MX-2700's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the MX-2700 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.
Overall, we felt the MX-2700 turned in an excellent performance. Resolution and detail was exceptional, and color rendition very good, although the camera had a tendency to produce images with a slight yellowish cast to them. (Having just reviewed a software package called PhotoGenetics, which will automatically process files to remove consistent casts of this sort, we concluded that it would make an ideal software companion to the MX-2700: For $24.95 (limited special to IR readers), it painlessly transforms the "very good" photos of this camera into "great" ones!) We found the MX-2700's in-camera image sharpening algorithm a little problematic, as it tended to produce an odd "zipper" artifact along high-contrast horizontal edges in the images. Turning the sharpening down to the lowest level produced softer images, but with virtually no sign of the artifact. Sharpening in Photoshop or other host software produced very detailed images, with little evidence of the artifact. (We may be being a little overly-critical in this respect, as we suspect that an artifact like this that is obvious blown up pixel-for-pixel on the CRT may be almost invisible when output at normal sizes from an inkjet printer.)
Flash exposure on the MX-2700 is very good: The onboard flash does an excellent job of matching the color balance of incandescent lighting, making for very naturally-colored images shot in typical indoor settings. Almost as significant is that the flash power can be adjusted up or down by +/- 0.6 EV units, giving an unusual amount of control over the exposure process.
Resolution is extremely high, at about 750 lines per picture height horizontally, and nearly 800 lines per picture height vertically. (This is as good or better than anything we've measured to date! - June, 1999) The MX-2700's lens is also very good, producing very little geometric distortion, only about 0.4% barrel distortion, and virtually no chromatic aberration.
The MX-2700's optical viewfinder is a little "looser" than most, in that it only shows about 82% of the final image area, meaning you'd tend to end up with the subject filling less of the image than you'd expected. By contract, the LCD viewfinder is exceptionally accurate, showing fully 100% of the final image.
Macro capability is quite good, but limited somewhat by the wide-angle lens. Minimum area captured is 4.38 x 2.92 inches (11.1 x 7.4mm).
See for Yourself!
Take a look at the test images from the MX-2700 (with extensive comments), or jump to the Comparometer(tm) page to compare its reference images with those from other digital cameras.
The MX-2700 is probably the ultimate portable digicam, at least as of this writing in June of 1999. It easily fits into a pocket and has a nice automatic lens cover that zips up tight to prevent the lens from being scratched. It provides great exposure control in manual mode, yet exposes & focuses reliably and accurately in auto mode, making it a true "point & shoot." (In auto mode, you really can't find a camera that's any simpler to use.) Best of all, it takes giant-sized 2.3 megapixel photos that hold up well even at very large print sizes. If you want a camera that you can truly take anywhere, pull out and snap pictures at a moment's notice, and get great shots from, the MX-2700 could be what you've been looking for...
See what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about the MX-2700, or add comments of your own. (Read what's here, then add your own! - If you buy an MX-2700, come back and tell the rest of us what you thought!)