Fuji FinePix F50fd digital camera review

The Fuji FinePix F50fd sits at the top of Fuji’s advanced compact range and with its undoubtedly impressive 12-megapixel resolution Super CCD HR VII sensor and Fuji’s already reliable Real Photo Processor II image engine.

This combination of technology combined with the very good F2.8 to F5.1 36-108mm 3x optical zoom lens provides a stunning level of detail within the images. That and the camera’s nice but rather understated design make the package a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The slightly lopsided top plate houses the shutter release, on/off and dual image stabilisation (IS) buttons; the zoom control surrounds the release but is quite small and fiddly to use. The IS button activates the dual IS set up so that both the sensitivity is boosted the CCD shift image stabilisation work together to reduce both subject blur and camera shake.

In either auto or when using the excellent array of manual shooting options, of which you get a full compliment, both IS modes work together all the time, which is both boon and bain. I’d prefer and option to turn off the ISO boost system that is used to stop subject blur, bumping the ISO can introduce unwanted noise after all. Nevertheless, the IS works well providing around two stops of extra “handhold-ability” and reducing subject blur if required by boosting ISO and shutter speeds accordingly.

However, one of the great powers of Fuji’s recent compacts has been the control they have over noise issues, offering (as Carlsberg might say, “probably”) the best performance on that front of any digital compact manufacturer. Fuji eschewed optical image stabilisation until recently having made real advances in noise control and this camera features the companies Real Photo Processor II.

And to be fair, the F50fd does do very well in terms of noise suppression while retaining detail in the images. Noise reduction processing can be enhanced from within the excellent, easy to use menu systems for low light shots for example, but here to, the level of detail is well tended.

Metering and exposure control is typically excellent for the F50fd with the only slight demerit being the focus set up, which boasts the second iteration of Fuji’s frisky Face Detection AF system. That works fine and can recognise profiles and faces at odd angles very well but, for “normal” AF things are less frisky in performance terms and using the Face Detection AF set up on subjects other than faces can confuse it with subjects that are similar but not faces.

Other performance factors such as start up and shutter lag are very good but the flash recycle time seems very slow when compared with the performance of the rest of the machine, so it rather lets the side down for what will undoubtedly be the majority of the shots the camera will be used for: people pictures indoors.

Other neat kit includes IR communication with other similarly equipped IrSimple functionality where you can send and receive images, the camera has a slightly gimmicky Blog mode for optimised “blog-sized” images and you get 16 scene modes via two specific modes from the camera’s neat mode dial on the back.

These include the usual modes plus some rather more novel stuff such as Portrait Enhance, which adjust the sharpness, colour and contrast to make a more flattering portrait and a text mode for clear lettering. However, the Portrait Enhancer might be a little too soft for some.

The mode dial is however rather slim and small making it quite awkward to use with your thumb when snapping as its knurled edge does not meet with your thumb properly because it’s mounted so close to the body. Here you access the main shooting options (including manual aperture and shutter priority modes) and two subject program preselect positions (SP1 and SP2). Each SP position on the mode dial can be tailored to default to any one of the scene modes further enhancing this camera’s usability and it’s ease of use.

However, the other controls are standard fair; four-way jog buttons (for scrolling images or menus) a playback button, display toggle and a button to activate Face Detection. Fuji’s “F” button brings into play the key photo modes such as ISO, white balance, colour parameters and image quality it also (surprisingly) has a power management option as well, so you get good control and plenty of features to play with as well as ease of use and great image quality.

Some of the other new bits from the F31fd include redeye correction that uses the Face Detection to either remove redeye at the time of shooting or in playback (and it works, no, it really does!) and the 2.7-inch colour screen has 230k-pixel colour screen and is slightly bigger than that on the F31fd before it.

In terms of final image quality, if you keep the ISO below 800, image noise is not really an issue, which is no mean feat. However, it is noticeable and at ISO 3200 and 6400 it becomes significant but not as significant as it would be on non-Super CCD’d cameras. Metering is good and the Face AF is much better but the sheer amount of detail this camera can capture is its strongest suit.

Overall, the F50fd provides a great combination of image quality and manual control with some neat auto features that make life easier for all round snapping scenarios. My dislike of not being able to isolate the two IS modes (to choose not to use higher ISOs if you don’t want to for example) is probably the one area that I would change on an otherwise exceptional little digital compact.

Verdict

Good image quality, good design good price and a good set of features combine overall to make an excellent digital compact. ‘Nuff said.