Fujifilm FinePix F40fd digital camera review

4 out of 5
£170

For

Great metal build, compact, fast operation, good image quality, low noise up to ISO 800, simple to use, power management

Against

No optical viewfinder, detail loss at highest ISO 2000 settings from noise reduction processing, no manual control (manual mode is actually a simple Program AE mode)

The F40fd, here in its gunmetal grey metal-bodied guise, is a stylish high-tech compact that offers a tempting level of specification and performance at a good price. The new model has a boosted resolution over the 6.3-megapixel F30/F31fd siblings with a new 8.3-megapixel-resolution sensor and Fuji’s new face detection AF system built into the camera’s processor thus making the AF very fast and surprisingly accurate in use.

This system then helps make the most of the F40fd’s lens; a very sharp 3x optical zoom of 36-108mm (35mm equiv.) focal length with a F2.8 to F5.1 maximum aperture range, making it usefully bright.

The bright lens aids the camera’s sensitivity range that runs from ISO 100 to 1600 with a ISO 2000 setting provided for the camera’s “anti-blur” mode. And it is in this area that Fuji has stolen a march on competitors favouring the higher ISO approach to “image stabilisation” rather than either of active lens elements or sensor systems to help keep camera shake to a minimum.

Fuji’s unique SuperCCD HR VI technology gives Fuji a platform to utilise the low noise high sensitivity properties to the maximum and as with the F30 before it (the first camera to feature a full resolution ISO 3200 setting) it works a treat here. The sensor combines with Fuji’s latest image engine, the Real Photo Processor II that chews through the image data quickly, reducing noise issues but managing to retain reasonable detail at the higher settings.

The F40fd’s ISO performance is good with low noise up to ISO 800 (it’s akin to other maker’s ISO 400 but with detail retained), ISO 1600 starts to suffer but not to the extent it makes the images unusable while the ISO 2000 setting seems a tad superfluous given the extra oomph it provides adds noise but not much in the way of greater control.

Metering and focusing are both very good a reliable in most situations, though backlit subjects did tend to suffer and also revealed some slight noise in shadows at the lower ISOs, which was a surprise given the camera’s higher ISO abilities and is attributable in the final analysis to the extra pixels housed on the f40fd’s sensor when compared to, say, the F30 and F31fd.

The focus system works a treat with the Face Recognition system working rather well, it allows the camera (held vertically or horizontally) to focus on any faces and track them in the frame excluding anything else. Multiple faces will be detected and highlighted on-screen but importantly; the camera will focus on the face nearest to the centre of the frame if there is more than one.

At first this mode seems an unnecessary feature given you can focus on a face a recompose without it, using the “normal” AF set up but where it works best is getting sharp images of people if you have more than one person in a shot. It effectively ensures a sharply focused face or faces and not the flock wallpaper behind them.

In terms of handling, the camera has the usual array of top plate shutter button and surrounding zoom level with a neat slightly recessed on/off button. Back plate controls include a small mode dial for accessing the various shooting modes that includes an auto setting, 640 x 480-pixel video capture and a disappointing, so called “manual” capture mode that is really a simple program AE mode: you cannot control the shutter speeds, nor the apertures, you don’t even get an exposure compensation option.

What you do get as a bit of a bonus here is dual storage, or rather triple storage options with both SD/MMC, xD Picture Card and 25MB of internal storage on offer, which is a bit of change for Fuji which, along with Olympus has pioneered the xD storage system.

A Natural Light with Flash mode allows two images to be captured the first using natural light without flash the second with flash and you can keep the better of the two images. A Picture Stabilisation mode increases the sensitivity to the top ISO 2000 setting.

Other controls include the “F” button brings into play the FinePix menu that gives four settings for power management, which it must be said is superb on the F40fd, ISO selection, image quality and the colour modes that include standard, black and white and “Chrome” modes, the latter providing boosted slide film-like results.

The adjacent playback button, which incidentally, can be used to turn the camera on and off in playback – but without activating the zoom lens – is joined by the Display and the Intelligent Face Recognition buttons. The former toggles through the display options (including framing grid, shooting/settings information on and off, or just the image is displayed) the latter as the name suggests, activates the face AF system.

The camera’s four-way control allows flash activation, macro focus setting, self-timer and delete options and is joined by a central Menu/OK button that fires up the camera’s neat menu systems. The camera is neat and fits in the hand nicely, the swooping styling accents on the right face aiding grip with the rest of the controls falling neatly to the fingers.

Overall, image quality is good for the resolution, with particular emphasis on the higher ISO shots where noise is controlled well up to ISO 800 and detail retained well, thanks to sensitive image-noise processing. White balance is excellent in all but some mixed indoor lighting, colour rendition is, in a word, accurate and while there is some mild purple fringing issues and slight barrel distortion on the lenses wide end, the F40fd is as accomplished an 8-megapixel model as you’ll find on the market today.

Verdict

The extra resolution offered on the F40fd might make it a better marketing proposition but means there are a few extra niggles in terms of noise over it’s lower resolution Fuji counterparts and with some slight shadow noise issues when viewed closely at lower ISOs.

Ultimately however, the Fuji F40fd provides stunning results particularly compared with similar non-Fuji competition. So, for the price the Fuji FinePix F40fd is a little corker.