The FinePix digital camera range from FujiFilm heralded the combination of snazzy compact style with superb functionality, not forgetting good digital photography for a reasonable price and a total out-of-the-box solution. FujiFilm introduces another FinePix contender and this time the manufacturer is aiming its new camera at novice users on a budget.
The FinePix F401 Zoom combines all the features you’d expect from FujiFilm and, after putting it through its paces in our Test Centre, we can safely say this is one of the best all-round starter digital cameras on the market at the moment. That’s not to say that the F401 is not without its faults -- it doesn’t offer the amazing true megapixel-per-pound ratio found in the ultra-cheap $599 Nikon Coolpix 2000, but it’s still a worthy buy.
The FinePix F401 Zoom has an effective range of 2.1Mp (megapixels) but the third-generation Super CCD manages to extract 4Mp from the sensor. It’s worth noting that this is without the aid of interpolation, which means that the photography retains a natural look rather than ending up suffused with unnatural colours. The picture quality is, without a doubt, better than that of other 2Mp cameras in this category with fine detail shining through on high resolution shots. With this quality on show it’s a shame FujiFilm doesn’t offer a TIF option to complement the JPG shots.
The 3x optical zoom is standard fare on beginner cameras these days, but the 3.6x digital zoom is a better offer than you’ll find on most low-end devices. That said, every magnification on a digital zoom degrades and pixellates the shot so we recommend sticking with the optical zoom and simply moving closer to the object or person you wish to photograph.
Other specifications that impressed us are the ISO equivalent settings. If you’re taking photographs reaching a resolution of 1280x960 you can set the camera up to an equivalent film sensitivity setting of ISO 1600 -- an impressive feat even on high-end digital cameras. This means you can shoot low-light conditions without flooding the frame with a glaring flash. The backlash for digital cameras with high sensitivity is electronic noise interference -- that is, noise produces a grainy, dirty effect on the image. However, FujiFilm compensates for this by including noise reduction technology on the FinePix. We took some shots at the ISO 1600 speed equivalent and were impressed with the lack of noise interference, so the technology is obviously doing a good job.
The movie capability now comes with sound but, of course, if you want to truly take advantage of this feature it’ll require the largest SmartMedia storage card money can buy and not the 16MB card that is bundled with the F401 Zoom.
To be fair, the 16MB SmartMedia card is a generous bundle at this price point. In fact, the whole bundle is generous because this version contains the Premium kit -- it includes an adapter for the rechargeable lithium battery, docking station with USB connection, good software and a useful case. Our only complaint is that the small lithium battery doesn’t have the life span of larger models so it’s worth investing in a spare battery.
While the FinePix F401 Zoom lacks the stylistic grace of its more expensive sibling, the F601, it retains the brushed steel finish and the autoslide lens cap for protection. The compact chassis is almost square and weighs a mere 185g -- if you like to feel you’ve got an expensive piece of kit in your hand then the F401 may disappoint. For anyone looking for a shirt pocket or handbag camera, though, this is a great choice.
The flash is built in rather than pop up and FujiFilm has kept the navigation buttons down to a bare minimum to appease first-time users. That isn’t to say that the F401 doesn’t cover some good configuration options for various photographic conditions -- it just means that the camera has been carefully designed not to frighten off people used to point-and-click photography.
FujiFilm FinePix F401 Zoom
4 ½ stars
As a Beginner digital camera, the FujiFilm FinePix F401 zoom is at the expensive end of the scale so it’s not the best value-for-money device out there. However, FujiFilm packs in a lot of decent features and enthusiasts looking for a bit more from their first digital camera won’t be disappointed.
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