For an entry level 2 million pixel camera, the Fujifilm A204 professes to offer a lot. It's got a 3x optical zoom, a 2.5 digital zoom, a 1.5” LCD display, boasts using the new xd-Picture Card and has the capability to record movies. All this for a camera with a street price of about £160 all in a compact device.
In reality the camera is very large, gives little choice in setting up the camera, has no pre programmed settings and offers little to the user.
While the camera weights no more than your average digital camera, it's the size that you notice and like seeing old phone adverts, looking at this camera is reminiscent of what digital cameras used to look like. The size of a two cigarette packets stacked on top of one another, this camera wins no prizes for size, nor does it win any for style with little effort being paid to actually making this a camera, one that you would won't to be seen with.
It's strange that this is the case as the camera uses the new xd-Picture Card format. The card introduced by Olympus and Fujifilm last year, it is the size of a postage stamp, and supposed to be able to make it possible to create smaller cameras.
Yet size doesn't seem to be the only downfall in the cameras design. To operate the camera you have to slide back the lens cover, and then activate a different switch to turn the camera on. Failure to pull the lens cover back the entire way causes error messages to appear and the camera not to function - something which is easily done. Why Fujifilm couldn't just join these two functions together like other manufacturers is beyond us.
Inside and users have the chance to choose from five different image quality settings: 1600x1200, 1280x960, 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120 giving anywhere from 25 to 122 images on the 16Mb card that is provided in the box. With four flash settings and seven white balance options this camera does offer some manual adjustment, but nothing more.
It came as a surprise then to learn that the images we took were e very sharp, crisp and clear for a 2 mega pixel camera. Skin tones coped well, and even when we tried to confuse (see car mirror right) the focus was still very good. Contrasting colours such as the white frames on the red brick wall and the white fence on in the garden didn't blur like some of the 3 mega pixel cameras we have looked at in recent weeks and overall we were very impressed with the quality the camera passes on to the images.
This camera has shocked us. They say beauty is only skin deep and for this camera that has to be true to some extent. Forgetting the fact that this camera looks ugly, has issues with its control and a serious lack of options, the pictures were surprisingly very good.
Yes there is the argument of not giving the beginner too much to confuse, but with a lack of pre-programmed options this camera doesn't even try to addresses any needs of the beginners that it is so clearly aiming for.
That said, judging by the images it appears that A204 doesn't need to. Those wanting more options and more control will have to spend another £100. If you're on a tight budget though, want good picture quality at an afford price and don't really care that your not going to look the bees-knees, then this is a good starting point.