Fuji FinePix F11 digital camera review

Fuji's F11 steps into the company's line-up alongside the F10, its predecessor. The F11 addresses a few elements of the F10 that were not exactly problems, more just missing, such as manual shooting control for example. So, the camera boasts more or less the same design and control layout of the F10 but with a smorgasbord of options and a new control switch that surrounds the shutter release on the top plate. It gives you the entrée to the new camera's manual control options. These "options" include aperture and shutter priority, manual control of white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, and the like.

An auto-shooting mode is still in there (the control switch must be flipped round to the required setting) as is an option allowing a fast route to a selection of subject program (or scene) modes. These include the "usual" options of portrait, landscape, and a sports mode with the latter, in conjunction with the continuous shooting mode, allowing up to 2.2fps for up to three frames.

You also get a 40-frame burst mode and "top" or "bottom three" modes where after a series of images are shot either the first three or last three images are saved to the camera's xD storage, the rest are not.

A high quality 640x480 movie mode (also selected via the same, shutter release surrounding switch) with sound provides video at a resolution enough for (almost) TV-screen filling video with mono sound to the limit of the storage card in use.

Talking of storage the camera comes complete with a 64Mb xD card (so better than many manufacturers more modest supplied cards) that gives enough space for around 21 high quality JPEG shots or about 2 minutes of 640-pixel video.

Just like other Fujis equipped with the same 5th Generation SuperCCD HR sensor, noise issues with images are held in check very well indeed, even at the maximum 1600 ISO sensitivity setting. There's some processing artifacts floating about on my shots, particularly in shadow areas in low light (using the Auto ISO mode), these can be cleared using the lower ISO 80 or ISO 100 settings and on balance, I'd rather have those than boat loads of noise.

Overall, image quality is good and with various image parameters (such as vivid "Chrome" setting Standard and black and white modes) on offer, you can tailor your shots to a degree. Using the vivid setting on the particularly grey days, I've had to contend with on this shoot helped boost colours and contrast. But there's still no substitute for sunshine!

Metering and AF work well, the former uses a 256-zone set up that works well and is complemented by centre-weighted and spot modes, while the latter has single and continuous settings plus a low-light emitter for darker situations. The F11's flash is underpowered for my liking (but what small compact cameras flash units are not?) but makes for a good fill-in in daylight or dusk.

Handling is quite accomplished for a small camera; with my one niggle here, reserved for the menus, which I'll deal with shortly. The shooting controls we've already discussed, so the back plate is reserved for the large, bright LCD, the zoom, playback, Photo "F" menu control and a four way jog button with central "OK/Menu" button, used to confirm menu selections for example.

All fairly standard fair; the "F" button has a separate shooting menu (common to all Fuji compacts) providing resolution, quality, ISO, and other image parameter control. The OK/Menu button provides access to the main menu's innards; now to my gripe.

Many of the menus just require a selection using the jog button while other require a press of the OK button. But frustratingly the latter also brings you out of the menu system, even if you're not finished setting up. As well as meaning you have to go back into menus once again if you're not finished this wastes valuable shooting time.

Good examples of this niggle are the selection of, say, aperture or shutter priority, and exposure compensation. You can't adjust them both and then come out of menus, each must be done one at a time. Obviously the thinking is you can get back to shooting as quickly as possible from a given menu, but in practice, the down side is you actually waste more time if you have to constantly flip in and out of shooting menus in order to get the required setting.

However, on the plus side, the superb power management means the battery lasts for a claimed 500-shots per charge, a stand out feature. On my test, even in some sub-zero temperatures, I had a "full" battery indicator even after around 200 images had been shot and saved and including reviewing most on the large 2.5-inch screen and then finally offloading the images to my PC.

Verdict

Menu niggles aside then, the F11 is definite improvement over the F10 thanks to the new manual control and the good image quality and handling. Battery life is superb so if it's a compact, stylish high-resolution digital camera your after, at £299.99, the F11 is one that should be very high on your hit list indeed.