Fuji FinePix Z5fd digital camera review

4.5 out of 5
£189

For

Great build and very compact design, lightweight, fast operation, good image quality, simple to use

Against

No optical viewfinder, Oversaturated "F-Chrome" setting images, noisy images at ISO 400

The Fuji FinePix Z5fd is a sleek slice of metal that has a slide-open front plate that also turns the camera on and off and protects the lens and flash when shut. The Z5 logo lights up when activated as well and this adds an extra sparkle to an already gleaming design.

The Raspberry Pink liveried model I had to test is an all metal bodied machine with nice ergonomics barring the lens position; it sits right in the top left corner (viewed from above) and means stray fingers can accidentally cover the lens.

A window in the slide-away fascia allows the flash to shine through when needed and the top plate houses the usual array of buttons including the shutter release, an “intelligent” face detection AF control and the movie/stills switch.

These sit upon the lightweight aluminium body along with a set of back plate controls that include the lens zoom (rocker-style) switch and the large 2.5-inch 230k-pixel screen. You also get a four-way jog control and four satellite buttons, which I’ll go into in a moment.

First, the four-way jog buttons provide navigation through menus and scrolling of images in playback, it also provides the switches for image deletion, flash modes, close up/macro shooting and the two or 10-second self-timer functions.

The four satellite controls activate the playback mode, display toggle button, which allows you to turn on or off the shooting information, grid-framing display and turn the display off completely. The third satellite button changes the shooting modes of natural with flash and anti-blur, which bumps the ISO up to reduce camera shake and motion blur by using faster shutter speeds.

Sensitivity settings run from ISO 100 to ISO 1600 and Fuji’ SuperCCD HR sensor technology and the good image processing employed in its camera make high ISO and low noise images a real possibility and as we’ll see later, the Z5fd is also good in this department.

The fourth button is the “F” F-Mode menu that delves into the image quality (Fine, Normal, etc.) options, colour options and ISO selection and as such provides a separate and fast to use system that’s common across the consumer Fuji digital camera range.

As the Z5fd is basically a point’n’shoot model, it’s main feature set reflects this with a slimmed down rather misleadingly named “manual” mode providing control of ISO, white balance and its usual array of presets such sunny daylight, fluorescent and tungsten modes but, disappointingly, there is no custom setting. Finally, you have exposure compensation to +/- 2EV.

And you get an Auto mode, where the camera does the thinking for you or you can use one of the twelve subject program modes that include familiar landscape, portrait, sports and night scene modes to name a few. The camera’s “fd” denomination in the name indicates it also sports face detection auto focus and as with most such AF systems, while handy to have, it can is unreliable for people wearing large hats, sunglasses or if they’re to far from the camera or not looking directly at the camera.

Overall, performance is good with fast start up (around) 1.7-seconds and with responsive focus and shutter control it feels very capable indeed; shutdown is pretty much instant however.

As for the image quality side of things, the metering, a very good 256-segment set up, is both reliable and never less than accurate. Colour capture is also excellent although the Chrome setting in the F-Mode menu is a tad oversaturated. Focusing is accurate most of the time but no AF assist lamp means that focusing in the dark is problematic. Having said that, the Z5fd does better in lower light than most cameras I’ve used with an AF assist.

Incidentally, battery life is a tad suspect with the small 750mAh lithium ion rechargeable cell providing enough juice for around 200-shots but fewer with heavy flash use and reviewing. White balance control is good but as mentioned earlier, the lack of custom setting is a tad disappointing at this price point but not surprising given the target market.

Although the camera’s gross resolution looks limited at 6.3-megapixels, the larger pixels this lower pixel ratio affords means that detail is good, there’s very low noise up to ISO 400, more than acceptable at ISO 800 and images are more than usable at ISO 1600. And so, while it may lack resolution to some competitors such as the Samsung Digimax i70, Casio’s Exilim EX-V7 or Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-T50 all of which are 7-megapixel models. In short, image quality is simply superb.

Verdict

The Fuji Z5fd provides the sort of image quality that other digital compacts with higher resolution sensors can only dream of.

The good lens performance also helps and while this is, strictly speaking, a trendy, nice-looking snapping camera, probably to be found in clubs or pubs, it deserves a wider audience but particularly for those looking for a simple to use, ultra-compact digital camera that takes excellent pictures.