Fujifilm FinePix Z3 Zoom digital camera

Fujifilm unabashedly markets the Z3 Zoom squarely at the female market, saying that the technology incorporated into the camera is ideally suited for taking the images that women snap the most – people pictures captured in low-light, presumably on a night out.

It also comes in three women-friendly colours (light pink, metallic blue, and silver), and is the perfect size to slip into a handbag or pocket. Pocket-lint decided to try out the Z3 to see if it’s a case of style over substance, or form and function united.

Unboxing the camera is a joy in itself, as Fujifilm has really gone the extra mile in creating unique packaging for this slim device. The box doesn’t open, but rather offers two trays at either side of the box. In one lies the camera, and underneath, the power cord; Slide the box the other way to find the charging cradle and AV cables. Nicely done.

We got our hands on the silver version, which is a lovely piece of kit indeed, all matte lines and curves. As is becoming standard these days, there’s a 2.5-inch LCD, but no viewfinder, and we have to say that unfortunately, in bright outdoor conditions, it becomes very difficult to view anything on it at all.

The camera powers on and off by sliding the panel at the front to reveal or cover the tiny lens, which doesn’t protrude while zooming. At the top, there’s only the shutter button and a switch to change from still shooting to video capture; all other buttons are at the rear. While the shutter button is ideally placed, the tiny switch is easy to knock or change without realising, leaving you rather confused as to why you’re suddenly shooting video instead of still shots.

This is definitely not a camera for large man-hands, as there’s little room on the back for a big thumb to grip it. The spot for the thumb is over three tiny lights that flash, for example, when writing to the card. Above that are the zoom controls, which are tiny and a bit fiddly, while menu functions are at the bottom.

The camera’s myriad shooting options extend to a Manual mode, which lets you control functions like White Balance, Focus point, and Exposure Compensation, but not Aperture or Shutter Speed directly. However, this camera is aimed at someone who wants quick, one stop Scene modes like Portrait and Landscape and Firework, rather than manual control.

Several standout features on the camera include Anti-Blur, for image stabilisation, and Macro mode, which lets you get just 8cm away from the subject, which is fantastically close for this type of compact.

All that is all very well and good, but what about the images? They offer a rather mixed bag to the trained eye, although to the casual users, we suspect they’d think the 5MP-images are rather good. The main problem is noise. At ISO 64, noise is pretty much invisible, as you would expect, but by ISO 200, problems start to arise.

The issue is less to do with noise than the algorithm that is being used to reduce the noise. Although it successfully removes quite a lot of colour channel noise after the image has been processed in-camera, it also seems to soften the image and possibly resharpen it, creating an odd effect that becomes almost painterly by the time you reach ISO 1600.

However, this shouldn’t put most people off who are interested in this camera. The fact is, most of the images for the average use won’t be printed larger than 4 x 6, except on the odd occasion, and for that, the images will be fine.

Verdict

The Z3 looks good, feels good, and takes decent images. If the images are scrutinised closely, at higher ISO they have issues caused by noise and the in-camera noise reduction. However, the camera has been a joy to use, because it’s so small that we always have it with us, just like a mobile phone.

For the casual user, it’s ideal.


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