Fuji FinePix V10 digital camera

Fuji was once all about its Super CCD technology, resolution juggling, and hexagonal pixels. Now the emphasis is changing as the end users (that’s you and me) realise the chase for ever higher resolution is not what it’s all about.

Photographers, now more aware of the technology that goes into a digital camera and what it does and the realisation that captured detail (thanks more to a good lens than number of pixels) is of more import. That and the control of unwanted image noise at higher sensitivities. Fuji has been making much of its latest camera’s high sensitivity and low noise attributes, including the V10.

So, Fuji’s back room boys have been busy beavering away in, well, the back room, and the V10 benefits from all that extra "beavering". It boasts a broad range of sensitivity settings, from 64 ISO up to 1600 ISO, it’s worth saying now, up front, that noise is very well controlled at that high 1600 setting, producing a level of noise akin to that from some competitors models at ISO 400, so it really does work.

Fuji wants low light or long exposure capability without camera shake or intrusive noise ruining the snaps. In my view, Fuji has followed this tack because it lacks an image stabilising technology, at least on current models. Back room boys...?

What of the other key gear you get on the V10? It includes a 5.1-megapixel, 1/2.5-inch SuperCCD HR sensor to capture the light. Images are stored on tiny xD-Picture Card external storage. These cards slot into a small recess under a flap on the base of the camera where the lithium-ion rechargeable battery also resides. Battery life is very good.

An F2.8 to F5.5, 3.4x optical zoom lens provides a modest focal range of 36-130mm (35mm equiv.) but is crisp and bright, helping provide plenty of light gathering power and importantly, detail. There’s very little in the way of distortion, also a big plus for those wider-angle shots.

Looking at the images on the camera’s big screen is also a pleasure; the V10 is equipped with a very nice 3-inch colour screen that apart from some irksome reflections in brighter conditions is very usable indeed.

You get various display modes including a neat multi-image slide show and there are even some games built into the camera, which seem jarringly out of place to me. More worryingly, the games have created a compromise in the control layout.

The camera’s shooting controls; shutter release, lens zoom control surrounding it and the "F" or FinePix button that accesses the cameras quality, colour and resolution settings are all traditionally placed. However, the other controls are spaced across the bottom of the large screen and are, according to Fuji: "placed in a similar manner to a portable gaming device for easy handling".

That’s all very well but the small controls are too fiddly to use for lots of gaming and not optimally placed for the photography functions. A compromise too far? Perhaps that depends on how the camera fares when recording images. A superbly short 0.01 shutter lag and a start up time of just 1.5-seconds means the V10 is very responsive, but in terms of image quality, luckily, this is where the V10 scores very highly.

Metering - via the V10’s 256-zone set up - and the camera’s focusing are very able indeed; Fuji’s Real Photo Technology (the stuff that gives it that high-sensitivity-low-noise capability) helps here. As does a new, Natural Light with Flash shooting mode that shoots two images in succession, one with and one without flash; you decide which is the best and the one you want to keep.

Other scene modes include the usual array of portrait, landscape and night scene modes, among others and a Chrome (vivid) setting, Black and White mode, a 30-second voice memo feature for annotating your shots and a 3:2 format shooting mode that trims the image size from 2592x1944-pixels to 2736x1824-pixels.

Image noise is kept low as we’ve discussed and apart from a couple of over-exposed shots in macro mode where I was really pushing the camera, it performed flawlessly.

Verdict

The FinePix V10 offers a stylish and well-made compact digital camera to the masses with superb noise control and even better image quality.

Issues surrounding the compromised controls (due to the gaming functions) may be minor to some, more worrying to others, but at least they're confined to the non-shooting controls.

In short, if superb image quality in a lightweight pocketable package is where you're at, the V10 is where you should be.