Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR digital camera review

Joining Fujifilm's current F200EXR and S200EXR models comes an attractive, largely metal build, pocket compact incorporating the same innovative "switchable" Super CCD EXR sensor and, for the first time in the series, marrying it to a 10x optical zoom (27-270mm equivalent in 35mm terms). It does this whilst maintaining a depth of a relatively slender-for-the-spec 22.7mm, and all for a price that, on initial inspection, suggests very good value.

Aimed, apparently, at "the gadget lover who likes to be in control", as we noted in our review of the DSLR-styled S200EXR, Fujifilm's unique EXR sensor technology allows the user to utilise the F70EXR's chip in three different ways. To kick off, photographers can shoot maximum resolution JPEGs - here 10 effective megapixels - or, secondly, capture images with increased dynamic range. The camera does this by taking two shots in quick succession - one at a high ISO (light sensitivity) setting, the other at a low ISO setting - combining them as a single 5 megapixel image.

The third user-selectable EXR option aims for high sensitivity but low noise; achieved by coupling together same colour pixels to achieve larger light gathering pixels. Again final resolution is 5 megapixels.

Can't decide which setting best suits? Well, in addition there's an auto EXR option that allows for point-and-shoot operation, the camera comparing the scene before it with six pre-programmed settings and deciding which EXR mode fits. Like rival intelligent auto modes, Fujifilm's offering gets it right most of the time, allowing the user to concentrate on subject rather than settings if so desired. Anti-shake is offered in the form of CCD shift to cancel out any effects of hand wobble shooting in low light or maximum zoom.

With the camera powering up in 2 seconds, in the main, the F70EXR's buttons and controls are of a decent size and similarly responsive, though we found the zoom lever a tad loose. Images are composed via an adequate 2.7-inch, 230k dot resolution LCD monitor at the rear, while EXR and regular auto shooting modes are selected via a dime-sized mode wheel set into the top right hand corner of the camera's back plate, where it naturally falls under the thumb.

Other options include the more regular program AE and manual modes, plus video capture (disappointingly at a standard definition 640 x 480 pixels, whereas HD would have really helped this camera to shine), scene modes (including pro focus and pro low light modes alongside the regular pre-optimised beach, snow and firework settings), along with Fujifilm's separate natural light and natural light with flash modes. Take a shot and the camera commits a full resolution image to memory - here a 47MB internal cache or removable SH/SDHC media - in less than 2 seconds.

Worth singling out for further attention are those pro focus and pro light options, as Fujifilm is claiming the F70EXR can deliver a "DSLR-like" performance in these modes. The first is, effectively, a focus bracketing mode that takes several images and combines them into a single shot to deliver a shallow depth of field effect, blurring distracting background detail and therefore making it best suited to portraits.

To get it to work properly you need both subject and camera to stay completely still, therefore use of a steady surface or tripod is a must. Ditto when selecting pro low light mode, which itself combines four frames taken at high ISO.

As on the S200EXR, helping the F70EXR to stand further apart from the pack - and make the most of its manufacturer's analogue heritage - are additional eccentricities such a trio of film simulation modes located by pressing the quick-access "F" (for "Foto") at the rear, as are the essentials of image quality and ISO settings - here up to a whopping ISO 12800 equivalent on offer.

With an identical range of offerings to its sibling, F70EXR photographers can aim to match the look of shooting with the naturalistic Provia (the camera's default setting), the warmer, flattering Velvia, or smoother, softer Astia film (Slightly wishy-washy for our tastes), plus more commonly found black and white or sepia colour effect options.

Use of the F70EXR will be intuitive for anyone who has previously handled a Fujifilm compact - there are many common family traits - whilst, for new converts, point and shoot operation will ease them in gently.

To our eyes, images straight out of the camera were naturally coloured if a little flat looking when left on default Provia setting. We welcomed the in-camera Velvia setting therefore for capturing the first colours of autumn. If, inevitably, the lower resolution shots look a little soft and almost painterly in comparison when downloaded and viewed on the desktop, a subtle application of Unsharp Mask in Photoshop can add the missing crispness.

Shooting at top ISO 12800 equivalent setting similarly delivers results more closely resembling a watercolour than photograph, but that said cheaper digital compacts deliver comparable results at a much lower ISO 1600. On this Fujifilm, users can shoot up to that ISO 1600 setting with surprisingly minimal amounts of noise. Plus you have all the additional features to tailor your images in camera we've already outlined.

Verdict

More than most of its ilk, the F70EXR suggests itself as an ideal travel companion best suited to spur of the moment snaps. That said the broad focal range and EXR and film simulation modes do provide a wealth of creative possibilities, ably allowing the photographer to take in everything from landscapes to candid close ups. With the F70EXR suggesting excellent value even at its top UK recommended price of £260, the ultimate winner here is the consumer.