Fujifilm has announced its first compact long-zoom camera, the FinePix F70EXR, which uses the same sensor that we found especially good when we reviewed the F200EXR. The design of the F70EXR is a tad uninspired as it doesn't deviate much from most other Fujifilm's offerings. Also, when we compared the specifications of the F70EXR against its rivals, the lack of HD video recording puts the FinePix at a slight disadvantage. But, you can't go wrong with the F70EXR which makes taking night shots and portrait pictures easier with the new Pro Low-Light and Pro-Focus modes.
The F70EXR's design is nothing to write home about. In fact, we found its aesthetics to be similar to the F200EXR. However, it is interesting to note that the compact long-zoom camera is slightly slimmer than the older shooter, measuring just 22.7mm compared with 23.4mm on the F200EXR. Fujifilm also claims the F70EXR is the world's slimmest 10x optical zoom compact camera.
One gripe we had with the F200EXR was the location of the on-board flash, which was situated too near the hand grip, causing us to accidentally cover it with our fingers while shooting. Unfortunately, the F70EXR's design does not rectify this issue. Granted the large lens barrel takes up almost half the front of the point-and-shoot, but perhaps a pop-up flash implementation could have been better.
If you've been using Fujifilm's compact cameras, you'll be familiar with the buttons layout on the rear. The mode dial sits near the thumb rest and can be comfortably operated with your thumb. Four buttons flank the navigation control which is a four-way directional pad. The F100fd has a clickable scroll wheel which we really like, and we wish the F70EXR had the same.
The battery cover on the F70EXR slides forward instead of sideways to reveal the Lithium-Ion cell and memory card. This makes the cover less susceptible to being damaged by rough handling as the height is reduced.
Compared with other compact long-zoom cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 and the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, the F70EXR's shooting specifications are pretty standard. That said, the F70EXR makes up for the lack with innovative features that help users take better-quality shots, as discussed in a later section of this review.
Slight chromatic aberrations were detected in some shots. (Credit: CNET Asia)
Turn the mode dial to SP, and besides the usual scene settings there are also two new additions: Pro Low-Light and Pro-Focus. These two modes work by taking several consecutive shots and combining them as one sharp picture at a lower 5-megapixel resolution when using the EXR mode. However, Fujifilm is facing stiff competition from Sony with its TX1 and WX1 as these two shooters feature a similar low-light shooting function.
Pro-Focus mode compared with a picture taken at normal settings. (Credit: CNET Asia)
Typical of point-and-shoots, you cannot get very blurred backgrounds when you take portrait shots. But with the Pro-Focus mode, the F70EXR takes two to three shots with different focusing points, and then combines them to achieve that effect. But there has to be sufficient distance between the subject and the background for this feature to function properly, and the subject has to remain still. If not, you will get multiple images being overlaid on top of each other.
As with the F200EXR, the F70EXR's sensor works in three modes. There is the usual Resolution Priority, High ISO/Low Noise and D-Range Priority modes. Unlike the TZ7, the F70EXR has manual exposure control. Though, there are only two aperture settings to choose from, and depending on which focal length you are shooting in, this can range from f/3.3-5.6 to f/5.6-11.
The F70EXR took about 2.5 seconds to start up from power off, and shutter lag measured 0.1 second. These timings are reasonable for a compact long-zoom camera. As for time-to-first-shot, the FinePix shooter clocked 4.3 seconds, which we found to be a tad too long.
When we shot in Pro Low-Light or Pro-Focus modes, the point-and-shoot required approximately two seconds to process the images after we pressed the shutter. But since these settings are more suited for sceneries, the lag time is negligible.
Focusing-wise, the F70EXR was snappy enough to accurately lock focus on our subjects. There is a multi-point autofocus mode available, but we found this setting tended to focus on the nearest subject. Hence, we relied more on the centre autofocus point, half pressing the shutter and then holding it down while we recomposed our shots.
100 per cent crops of Pro Low-Light vs. High ISO/Low Noise EXR mode. (Credit: CNET Asia)
Fujifilm is renowned for its good low-light picture quality, and the F70EXR excels in this department, although we did find some interesting differences between the Pro Low-Light and the High ISO/Low Noise EXR mode. We took two shots of the same scene using the above-mentioned settings, and found that noise control was better with the Pro Low-Light mode, but the picture shot with High ISO/Low Noise EXR mode was definitely sharper-looking.
ISO comparison table for the F70EXR. (Credit: CNET Asia)
The F70EXR did well in our ISO test. At the shooter's lowest sensitivity of ISO 100, the picture looked clean and we did not detect any hints of digital artefacts. At ISO 200, there were some minor speckles in the darker regions of the shot, but you won't notice them unless you scrutinise them at full magnification. Pictures taken at ISO 400 were acceptable and we were satisfied with shots snapped at ISO 800, too. Although the photograph was speckled, there were no coloured artefacts dotting it. Also, the image was still sharp by our standards, but some fussy shutterbugs may find the fine details looking a bit smeared.
We also compared ISO 400 samples from the F70EXR with an equivalent from the Lumix DMC-TZ7. We found the picture taken with the FinePix looked slightly better as it had less noise, but the TZ7's reproduction appeared sharper.
ISO 400 comparison shots between the F70EXR and the TZ7. (Credit: CNET Asia)
As for colour rendition, the F70EXR did a pretty good job in churning out vivid hues without over-saturating them. Skin tones were natural even with the flash turned on for the shots. We detected slight chromatic aberrations around the bright edges, but they seemed to be well-suppressed as not to affect the image quality too much.
It's hard not to like the image quality of the FinePix F70EXR, but the shooter has several quips which some shutterbugs may find annoying. Sure, the look of the camera is subjective, but you can't deny that the TZ7 does look more appealing with a variety of colour choices and a larger LCD. That said, the F70EXR has its charms, too. The Pro Low-Light and Pro-Focus modes were easy to use and delivered snaps that exceeded our expectations of a point-and-shoot. It can be safe to say that if you want a good shooter for snapping shots in dim lighting conditions, the F70EXR shouldn't be far off your choice of cameras.