Styled to look like a baby S602, the S304 doesn’t offer that much to the digital camera user apart from a 6x optical zoom and a large 1.8” LCD. That said, as a 3mp with a street price under £300 this offers an alternative to the Ultra Zoom range from Olympus.
Like the Nikon Coolpix 3100 and 2100, the on/off switch can be easily be mistaken for a zoom toggle, and to some this might come across as being a tad annoying if you are used to a zoom switch on the front.
Elsewhere on the rear of the camera, the lack of buttons can be slightly worrying, and where most manufacturers are adding as many as possible, Fujifilm has scaled it down to only a few, mainly one to access the menu and another to change the display. This is a good think though as for the beginner - where this camera is aimed at - the less buttons to press the less can go wrong.
In addition to the 1.8” LCD display on the rear of the camera the S304 also has an electronic viewfinder and this probably accounts for the four AA batteries that you need to power it.
Images are saved onto a 16Mb xd-Picture Card that comes in the box and this can store up to 12 images (2048 x 1536) on the fine setting and 26 on the normal setting (2048 x 1536).
The pop-up flash offers over five different settings and when in manual mode the S304 offers six white balance settings to give you a bit more control. However that is about as far it is gets.
Fujifilm hasn’t included many pre-programmed settings either with-in the camera, but the usual array is ever present: night scene, sport, landscape and portrait.
Picture quality is fairly standard, however the s304 does struggle with contrasting colours (see red brick house chimney’s right) The zoom copes well and with it being optical rather than digital the results are fairly good. Test shots were taken on a rainy day with the odd burst of sun, yet the sky with all its clouds still gave the camera trouble and picking out tree branches also caused some problems.
While the lack of options can be considered a bad think, to the beginner it will be welcomed. This is a camera that won’t confuse, but still give a user the benefit of a long optical zoom.
Get past that though, and reasons for wanting this camera soon start to disappear. The ultra zoom market, is growing at a rapid rate in this country and you have to wonder whether Fujifilm has produced this camera merely to get a piece of that pie. Yes it does what it sets out to do - offer a digital camera for the beginner with a long zoom thrown in, but beyond that, it doesn’t offer much else.