The 8-megapixel FinePix J50 was first announced during PMA in January and it belongs to a new line-up in the FinePix family. Seen alongside it was the FinePix J10, a scaled-down version of its sibling. Targeted at first-time digital camera users or those who are looking for a no-frills shooter, don't expect the J50 to come with fancy features or avant-garde image quality. But it does have a handy 5x optical zoom and delivers best at what it is expected to do — snap shots with minimal fuss.
The ridged mode dial allows for easy access to beginner-friendly features. Click here to enlarge image
The aesthetics of the J50 is nothing to shout about. In fact, we consider it rather bland. On the front is a small ledge to improve the grip, and we found it did help a bit due to the protruded end that our finger could hook on to.
The four-way navigation button on the rear showed that Fujifilm put in some thought when designing it. Unlike most point-and-shoots whose buttons are flat, the navigation tool on the J50 concaves to the middle where the Menu/OK button pops up. This decreased the number of times we hit the wrong button when sifting through the menus.
The mode dial has ridged edges to prevent fingers from slipping off when turning the dial. Also, it has ample resistance so we would not overshoot the intended mode.
The battery flap is situated at the side of the shooter instead of at the bottom. Click here to enlarge image
Most shooters have the battery/memory card compartment at the bottom, but for the J50 this is found on the side. Which makes it kind of interesting because the flap opens up sideways, giving a bit of character to an otherwise plain-Jane snapper.
Being a no-frills shooter, the J50 doesn't have face detection or hardware-based image stabilisation. This is a bit of a let-down because most budget snappers now already tout face detection. However, it does have some beginner-friendly features, most of which can be found on the mode dial. Besides the full auto mode, there is Baby, Picture Stabilisation, Red-Eye Reduction, Digital Zoom, Portrait, Scene Position, and Movie. We will look at a few of them below.
The Picture Stabilisation mode is the J50's answer for sharper images without optical or sensor-shift image stabilisers. By increasing the ISO and matching a suitable shutter speed, it is possible to achieve decent shots. The only trade-off is the noise level which gets bumped up with a higher ISO sensitivity.
In Scene Position, there are more scene modes to choose from, such as Fireworks, Beach, Natural Light, etc. There is also a Manual mode, which is slightly misleading as it allows only allows you to adjust the ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation and changing the white balance. The Portrait mode optimises skin tone colours and the soft effect hides wrinkles. It worked well when we tested it, but don't expect the J50 to make you look 20 years younger than you are.
The meter tends to underexpose shots, so it is advisable to manually compensate the exposure. Click here to enlarge image
Although high ISO is one of Fujifilm's trump cards in the point-and-shoot field, this shooter's sensitivity measures from only 100 to 800. While this may seem lacking, we guess anything higher may create severe noise as the camera doesn't have Super CCD or a dedicated image-processing engine.
We liked the 5x optical zoom, which totals the focal length of the J50 from 37-185mm. This was good for close-up shots but the lack of a wide-angle lens meant we had to take a few steps back when snapping landscapes or group portraits. One thing to note is that when the zoom lens is extending, the mechanical action is louder than most conventional shooters. But this doesn't affect the performance of the camera.
The 2.7-inch LCD is the typical size of most shooter's displays these days. We liked it because Fujifilm didn't scrimp on the screen's size despite the fact that the J50 is a budget point-and-shoot. Also, it was easy to view under sunlight as well, and this earned a few brownie points from us.
The J50 is powered by a Lithium-ion battery and storage comes in the form of either SD memory media or the lesser-used xD-Picture Card. This is great because the former is more affordable and comes in higher capacities, too. However, there is only one expansion slot, so don't expect to put two cards in this snapper.
In this department, the J50 did better than expected for an entry-level point-and-shoot. The start-up time at 2.5 seconds and the 0.1-second shutter lag were on-par with mid-range shooters. Time-to-first-shot clocked in at 3.4 seconds, which was pretty reasonable.
The autofocus system for the J50 had varying performance, depending on the lighting condition. While it was quick to hunt and lock on to the subject in daylight, it struggled to give a clear picture when shooting in dim environments. More often than not, the point-and-shoot tended to focus on something else other than what we intended to. But this is quite common for budget compact shooters.
The battery life was quite impressive, too. On a full charge, we managed to snap 200 shots and the battery gauge still displayed two out of three bars remaining. As the J50 didn't come with an optical viewfinder, we had to shoot with the LCD on most of the time, with power-saving set to shut the camera off after three minutes of non-usage.
An ISO comparison chart for the J50. Click here to enlarge image
At ISO 100 sensitivity, the image was relatively clean although the edges did appear to be slightly soft. The 8-megapixel sensor rendered most of the details accurately, but we could detect hints of noise in the shadow regions. This was as good as it got, because at ISO 200 and above, the noise suppression kicked in hard and started smearing away details. This was quite disappointing because Fujifilm is well-known for its high ISO performance and we thought a portion of it was implemented in this budget shooter.
The meter tended to underexpose our shots (which gave very deep, saturated colours) and we had to manually compensate the exposure for more shadow details. This may be a hindrance if you are looking to do a quick snapshot.
Night photography can be a bit tricky on the J50 because we wanted to use the lowest possible ISO, but the shutter speed maxed out at four seconds. This meant we had to increase the ISO which created undesirable digital artefacts in the darker regions.
The J50's price tag of AU$249 may be its strongest point, but other than that this shooter has a lot to improve on. Fujifilm told us it is planning a feature-packed J-series shooter with better performance. Until that arrives, we found some alternatives with more features such as the Kodak EasyShare M1033 (AU$349) and Nikon Coolpix S210 (AU$299). But if you are intimidated by new features and prefer to ease into digital photography at a slower pace, the J50 should fit the bill.