There's been no shortage of Fujifilm F-series cameras over the years and we've often been left wanting more from this travel zoom range. Having handled the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR at this year's Focus On Imaging show in Birmingham, it looks as though there are incremental improvements compared to its F800EXR predecessor which help bring the latest compact forward a step or two.
The basis of the F900EXR is much the same as the F800EXR and many other F-series compact cameras before it: the shell is the very same as its predecessor in every way - here shown in a rather fetching midnight blue - which makes for a small, easy to handle compact complete with mode dial and function buttons.
But for the most part it's the changes that can't be seen that make the biggest differences. The lens is still the very same 25-500mm zoom equivalent - and we've had various optical issues with this glass in the past - which, despite claims of "optical image stabilisation" on Fujifilm's website is, in fact, nothing more than CMOS-shift stabilisation as per its predecessors. Now how's that for misleading? And there we were hoping to be shouting, "Yay, finally!" but no such luck.
The sensor is where it's all change. The 16-megapixel 1/2-inch-size EXR-CMOS II includes sensor-level pixels for phase-detection autofocus as well as the usual on-sensor contrast detect method too. This intelligent hybrid AF system automatically switches between the two focus types for quick focus that, while definitely swift, doesn't feel entirely different from its predecessor to us.
At the widest-angle setting focus is super fast. Push the zoom toggle to extend the zoom and the focus speed slows down, but it's certainly faster than some competitor compacts that we've used. We were able to shoot far-away metal beams in Birmingham's NEC and hold the camera nice and steady while watching focus slide gracefully into position.
READ: Fujifilm X-F1 review
There's also a feature nabbed from the likes of the high-end Fujifilm X-F1: the E-Fn button on the rear doubles up the d-pad to deliver a secondary set of quick-access controls. It may at first appear that you're meant to touch the screen - an issue we found with the X-F1 - but it quickly transpires that this isn't the case, not least because the F900EXR doesn't have a touch-capable LCD screen.
However the screen is a higher resolution than its predecessor, now packing in 920k-dots compared to the 460k-dot panel of the F800EXR.
As per its predecessor, the F900EXR also includes wireless image transfer, a feature that enables Wi-Fi transmission of stills and movie clips between camera and computer, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It may or may not be the be all and end all sell, it's not full-blown Wi-Fi connectivity from camera but it can have its uses.
Available from April and priced £280 the FinePix F900EXR may look much the same as its predecessor, and by and large it is, apart for some incremental steps on its inside. We like it, but we're still waiting for that optical image stabilisation system - that's what's missing.