The Z1 features the same CCD technology as that found in the FinePix F10, its SuperCCD HR technology providing 5.1-million pixel resolution in an extremely svelte package. The camera is so thin because it incorporates a lens with folded optics that enable a non-extending 3x zoom lens to be crammed within its body. It's similar to the lens technology developed by Konica Minolta for its ‘X' series cameras and also featuring in Sony's ‘T' series models and Nikon's Coolpix S1.
The other design feature of note is the wraparound, swooping, metal body that folds forwards from around the back of the camera (as opposed to the usual front ‘wrapping') leaving the face clean and clear for the slide away front cover that also acts as the on/off switch.
This gives the camera a very attractive look and clean front plate without protuberances: ideal for popping in a pocket. And it is this pocketability that makes the camera so attractive and belies its point and shoot philosophy: the camera has no manual modes. Even in its ‘manual' shooting mode, it actually just provides the user with a more comprehensive set of menus not available in the other ‘auto' shooting modes such as the white balance control or the +/-2EV exposure compensation setting.
However, you do get a very nice 115,000-pixel resolution, 2.5in colour screen that is both crisp and nice to use in all but the brightest of sunlight when it becomes less distinct. It's then the lack of an optical viewfinder becomes more brow-furrowing, you must shade the LCD with one hand and shoot with the other.
The camera is supplied with a neat docking station in which you can charge the camera's Li-ion battery and connect to PC via its USB 2.0 compatible cable. Battery life is mediocre at around 170-shots per full charge and given other, similarly specified cameras, such as Nikon's Coolpix S1 and the Canon Digital IXUS 400 have around 200 and 150-shot capacities respectively for example.
Controls on the Z1 are few, with a top plate shutter button and a switch to activate the camera's very good, 640x480, 30fps (max) movie mode with sound. The aforementioned front plate slides away to activate the camera and reveals the lens; the somewhat underpowered flash unit peeks through a small window in the front plate too. On the screen dominated back plate you have a small rocker-style lens zoom control, a playback button and a ‘F' or FinePix button that activates a separate menu system for setting the shooting options such as resolution and quality (compression) settings. Finally, a four-way control allows scrolling and navigation of menus and its central; Menu/OK button selects the menu choices and activates the chosen menu options.
There are a couple of niggles: The very fiddly cover over the xD Picture Card/battery slot is a big contrast to the tough build elsewhere on the Z1 and getting a storage card in and out is a even more fiddly, particularly if like me you have larger sausage-like fingers. It is the cameras small size that has forced some of these inevitable handling compromises, compromises I'm happy to report that have not been carried over to the image quality.
Image quality is excellent, with exposures generally very good, focusing working well (even in low light and despite the camera lacking an AF assist lamp) although some shots had a very slight fuzziness when the camera was working hard in lower lighting conditions and at higher ISOs. However, the SuperCCD HR works well at those higher ISOs (up to ISO 800) and noise is well controlled indeed, less noise is good and sharpness can be tweaked on a PC later if needed.
While the lack of manual controls may put some off, the Z1 offers an ideal combination of point and shootability with bags of style - despite the handling compromises. And like the F10 before it, Fuji’s Super CCD HR sensor with which the Z1 is equipped works well; the Z1 is capable of producing stunning images and I can recommend it heartily.
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