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(Pocket-lint) - While most champion the F601’s predecessor, the F6800 Zoom as one of the best selling cameras of 2001, something is just not right about the F601. Yes it takes great pictures, and while this is key to a digital camera, in fact most would say the only point of a digital camera, getting those pictures isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Aesthetics can be the be-all-and-end-all of a product, after all you might have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t present it, how will anyone know. The same is the case with the FinePix F601. Inside it’s a gem with plenty of options for the enthusiastic digital photographer, but on the outside, its clumsy, awkward to use and overall ugly. Harsh words I know, but let me explain why.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this camera must be held vertically rather than horizontally. For most this will be an unfamiliar grip on things, and while most digital manufacturers are trying everything they can to make the transition from film to digital as simply and carefree as possible it seems strange that Fujifilm are still hell-bent on this style.

Yes is makes them stand out from the crowd, but on the usability stakes it makes for an uncomfortable handling. Because of this style, the layout of buttons on the rear of the camera is also affected. The control mechanism is hard to grasp and you find yourself pressing wrong buttons and executing commands on the on-screen menu that you didn’t even realise that existed.

After you’ve got over the vertical positioning of things you’ll then notice that the camera is exceptionally large. Whether it’s because of the use of the SmartMedia card or merely other manufacturing restrictions, it makes for a big beast. Open the pop up flash and the camera gets even bigger. All this only makes the 1.5” LCD display look small in comparison to other camera models using the same size LCD.

Fuji, like Kodak’s EasyShare range, docks into a docking unit, making the need for wires dangling around the desk a thing of the past. This is a nice addition for the newcomer keen to make the transfer of files to the PC as easy as possible.

Inside it’s almost a completely different story. Accessing anything through the menu is a laborious task, but once you’ve got pass the annoying menu system, mostly the fault of the access buttons on the rear of the camera, you have a very nice camera indeed.

Working on the 3rd Generation Super CCD that FujiFilm is renowned for, the 3.1 million pixels can be boosted up to a whooping 6 mega pixel result. Working from the 3x optical zoom lens that has an aperture of f2.8 - f8 the camera can achieve a 36 - 108mm equivalent focal length on a 35mm camera. On top of this the F601 also offers a macro mode and 4.4x digital zoom to boot.

Manual settings offer control of everything. The most impressive feature’s the ability to set the ISO setting to 1600 making this an ideal camera for speed or night work. Combine that with the option to capture 40 frames a second and you’ve got a great camera for sporting events, if only the controls would be simple to use. Other options to keep you entertained include five pre-programmed shooting modes, five flash modes and six white balance settings.


Image quality overall is very good. The camera copes well in both night and daylight settings. The macro mode gets you close but not that close, which can be a bit of a set back if you are looking for this function, but then with a macro mode of 20cm this camera never professes that it is one of its strong points. Colours are well covered and detail strong without too much noise - even when we shot with the 1600 ISO setting.

In the end it’s a shame that the outside spoils what could have been a great camera. They say looks are only skin deep and this is certainly the case with this camera. Usability in a camera, in our minds, is just as important as the end results, if you however are not fussed how you get there, then this is a great camera with lots of potential.

Writing by Stuart Miles. Originally published on 15 December 2003.