Awkward buttons at the back make using the Z30 an interesting experience.
Imagine for just a moment that there was a camera-wielding Pokémon. Have you got that image? Well, the Fujifilm FinePix Z30 would definitely come close to resembling it. Coming in a fine array of colours, from an acrid purple to a peculiar orange, this little baby sits at a dainty 116.5g.
The main point of interest is the sliding front cover that moves to the — yes, that's right — side, rather than the conventional up and down motion that we've seen on other slider cameras such as the Sony Cyber-shot T700.
This is a much cheaper camera than that though, and you can tell from the build quality — all plastic, with a small 2.7-inch screen at the back, and plastic grid buttons. The buttons give a satisfying click when you press them, but they are so squashed together on the back panel that distinguishing between them without looking carefully is a cumbersome task indeed.
For a camera of this price there's nothing surprising in the feature set. It's a 10-megapixel CCD sensor, and inside, all the standard options seem to be present. There's scene recognition that automatically changes the camera's settings in accordance with the shooting situation, plus a 3x optical zoom and a maximum ISO level of 1600.
Ladies and gentlemen, we take no responsibility if you choose to use any other setting in couples mode apart from this one. (Credit: CBSi)
Fujifilm also dubs this camera as "internet friendly". There are a number of options available that automatically resize either an image or a video into a lower resolution, plus there's a dedicated auction mode that makes VGA-sized composite images for use on sites such as eBay. We actually found more use for this in making your own DIY Pop Art-esque montages, but each to their own.
Image stabilisation is present, as well as automatic red-eye removal, plus there's a special feature dedicated for those lovebirds who enjoy snapping themselves at arm's length. The couple self-timer has three curious options — presumably which one you choose depends on how much you like your partner — near, close up or super close, all denoted by an increase in love hearts next to the option.
Performance and image quality
Starting the camera up is done by moving the front cover to the side. The Z30 managed to be up and ready in about 1.7 seconds, a fairly impressive result. Disappointingly, this is as good as the camera got in the performance tests — continuous and high speed shooting were anything but, resulting in some frustrating situations where we weren't sure if the camera had actually recorded any shots at all whilst holding down the shutter button. Adding to the sense of lethargy was the zoom, which took ages to reach from one extreme to the other.
Fortunately, the Z30 redeemed itself a little with its nice, punchy colours, but as for sharpness, it fell off dramatically at the edges of the frame. Noise above ISO 200 was very noticeable, with ISO 1600 being practically unusable. Even reviewing the image on screen showed that it was covered in noise. From the chart below you can see how much this camera struggled as it hit higher sensitivities.
For a camera of its class, the Z30 didn't shock us with its noise performance — except at ISO 1600. Yuck. Click image to enlarge. (Credit: CBSi)
As for other gripes, the screen was reflective and difficult to see in direct sunlight, and it was very grainy in situations where there wasn't a lot of ambient, natural light — even in a fluorescent room, the screen struggled with the refresh rate.
Unless you're a social networking addict and child of the YouTube era, you won't find much use for the FinePix Z30. The novel aspects don't make up for the clunky buttons, slow performance and noisy images at all. For AU$299 we don't think it's worth it, especially when you can pick up a camera like the Canon PowerShot A480 for around AU$100 less and get much better pictures out of it.