The F30 is just on the chunky side of being very compact indeed, as if it’s been affected by a little middle age spread. A slight portliness across its belly, just round the lens housing gives it the look of a well dressed gent having had one good dinner to many.
The styling is really fairly standard however, it’s all metal body remaining one of clean lines and giving the impression of durability thanks to the all-metal construction and it follows on from Fuji’s predecessor the F11.
Handling is good thanks to thoughtful placement of the controls and the addition of both shutter and aperture priority shooting as well as the usual and some not so usual shooting modes, as we’ll see.
Three buttons grace the top plate, while five reside on the back. On the top, a small on/off control, the shutter release and a mode dial provides the route into the entirety of the shooting modes. The back plate houses the zoom control for the 36-108mm (35mm film equiv.), 3x optical zoom lens, which hovers above a neat, stippled grip pad and four buttons. There’s one for playback, one for the “F” for Photo mode button, a display toggle control and the exposure compensation button that also switches the settings when in aperture or shutter priority modes. Within this quartet of controls, you find the four way jog control and a menu/ok button.
Alongside these controls is the 2.5-inch colour screen, which is one of the best examples of such a screen I’ve used, it’s bright and its anti-reflective coating makes it usable in most lighting conditions. Display options include a framing grid, screen off, no display of shot details (the file and camera settings don’t show for example) and a neat multi-shot display that shows the last three images you’ve taken and the live view.
My grumbles here include the screen appears to make shadow areas of a shot look too dark. Brightness can be quickly increased (a function added to the four-way jog control in shooting mode) but it can make you unsure of the exposures.
Moreover, the lack of a histogram display, which would have been a great addition to the F30 feature set and is common on similar cameras by other makers, makes exposure assessment a little trickier. But these grumbles should not deflect from the overall package, as you’ll see.
The 6.1-megapixel sensor is a 1/1.7-inch (6th Generation) Super CCD HR chip renowned for its noise control capabilities. That and the image processing power of the new model makes the F30 the Worlds first digital compact with an ISO 3200 setting usable at its full resolution. Sensitivity runs from ISO 100 through 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 plus two auto presets of ISO 400 and 1600 for reducing subject and camera shake.
True to form, Fuji has rejected the use of optical or CCD shift anti shake mechanisms in favour of boosting sensitivity with well-controlled image noise at higher ISOs. This has the benefit of allowing faster shutter speeds to freeze both subject movement and movement caused by camera shake and it makes the effective flash range that much better as well.
Thankfully, the noise is very well controlled, up to ISO 400, noise is all but negligible, and at ISO 800, the F30 performs like many cameras at ISO 200 and some at ISO 400. At ISO 1600 and 3200 the F30 makes the most of it’s noise control providing images easily usable at smaller print sizes and not because noise is the issue – there is a modicum of noise but it’s not intrusive – but because the camera’s processing has removed detail.
Making images comes courtesy of nice dollops of control with both aperture and shutter priority in the manual mode, you have exposure compensation to +/-2EV as well and a Natural Light mode that can be combined with flash to create two shots one with and one without flash each time you press the shutter button. Here you’ll also find the 13 other scene modes such as portrait, landscape and night scene modes for example.
A full auto mode is there too (as you’d expect) as is the camera’s great movie recording mode that allows 640 x 480 movies at up to 30fps with sound. Overall image quality is great, the focusing is fast and accurate, the 256-segment metering works a treat and the white balance control is also accomplished and apart from the detail loss at higher ISOs and a some purple fringing of high--contrast areas in shots, the F30 really does provide a remarkable performance. Check out the low (natural) light ISO 3200 portrait of “she who must be obeyed” and the ISO 100 portrait of my youngest, you’ll see what I mean.
The F30 won TIPA’s Best Compact Digital Camera in Europe award and on this performance I can see why. Neat handling, design and specification further enhance a World first in terms of that high ISO capability. Yes, there are a couple of omissions; no RAW capture and the lack of a histogram display for example. But…
The Fuji FinePix F30 is then a camera with great flexibility. But that alone does not do it justice. At its £279.99 price, it provides an almost perfect balance of control and automation, sensitivity without noise problems and image quality yet retaining pocketability that make it a real “stunna”, and you’ll be hard pressed to find better on the market today.