Thursday, February 4, 2010

My new travel megazoom: Fujifilm F70EXR

Fujifilm F70EXR

See also: F70EXR Dynamic Range Samples

I’ve been wanting to buy this little pocket megazoom since it was first introduced middle of last year. Finally bought one last week and now Fuji's just announced the new F80EXR! No regrets whatsoever though as I don't need any of the new features on the F80. Besides, the F80 is slightly larger than the F70 which as far as I know, remains the world’s smallest pocket megazoom (with 10x optical zoom).

The first Fuji digicam I bought was the DX-10 about 12 years ago. That camera is still working fine today except that parts of the brittle plastic on the battery door have broken off.

The DX10 (black camera) was released about 12 or so years ago and featured a fixed lens and 0.8 megapixel sensor. It utilized 4AA batteries for operation. The F70EXR below it, uses a small NP-50 battery that is rated at 230 shots (but I managed to get 420+ from it) and packs a 10x optical zoom and latest technology from Fujifilm, masters of color, all in one small package. Isn’t technology great?

Next was the S6500fd, that died a watery death (slipped down a waterfall)!

This was one of the last images it took:

Then I bought a refurbished F10 which served me a good number of years before it slipped out a hole in a pocket and into a drain! It could still shoot but the lens had water spots in it and the sensor produced "smudged" photos. Its replacement was the F45. Pretty decent camera for my needs. Got it for 49 pounds off ebay, I believe. cheap! Sold it off as it didn't have IS.

Next, got a refurbished F50SE but found its IS and IQ to be wanting. Pictures from it were also very noisy and the IS didn't seem to make any difference. Still, it served me well, no problems whatsoever. In fact, none of my Fuji cameras, refurbished or brand new, have ever given me any major problems.

Fujifilm F70EXR and F50SE
The F70EXR is only just slightly bigger than my F50SE.

I decided to pick up the F70EXR when it first hit the market as I wanted a pocketable travel zoom to complement my Olympus slr. I go hiking a lot so small and light cameras are easier to carry. However, I kept putting off the purchase but finally bought one last week.

So far I like it a lot. I seldom shoot at full res unless I am taking macro photos with the slr. Other times, I often shoot at a lower resolution as I never print anything larger than A4. So I don't mind the 5M images that the F70 produces in certain modes.

I'm one of those people who snap photos of their food since I like sharing and blogging about it (helps other travelers). I've found the pro low light mode quite useful. Here's an example:

Nasi lemak, or savory rice, is very popular in Malaysia.

Full size with EXIF intact: Click here – Pro Low Light mode. Compare that with the full sized photo taken in EXR SN (high ISO and low noise mode): Click here – SN mode.

I think the camera's auto white balance did well as the diner was very dark and had colored lights. Took lots more photos in poor lighting but my line is way too slow to upload more full sized files. Took the cam for a field test last week, shooting mostly in P and EXR auto modes. Managed about 260+ photos before the red batt low icon appeared.

Yesterday, I managed about 420+ shots on a single charge before the battery went flat. I took about 50 flash photos, used the zoom extensively and shot mostly in P mode. I only used the EXR mode when I needed to shoot in EXR DR800. I like the "super intelligent" flash too, coupled with a high ISO, cam exposes for the subject as well as the background, great for indoor shots. To force the brightly lit macro subject with dark background, just set the ISO to 200 or 100.

What I like based on my own casual shooting style:
- noticeable DR advantages, DR400 seems the sweet spot. DR800 is nice to have too.
- flash is quite improved from previous models I've owned, no more overexposed macro subjects.
- usable high ISO images up to ISO1600 (for small prints) especially in SN and Pro low light modes.
- pro low light mode for shooting still life (food!) in dark cafes, restaurants etc.
- 400+ shots from one single charge when not using EXR Auto
- small and compact with a 10x zoom starting at 27mm eq. makes it a perfect travel zoom for me
- ability to use zoom while taking videos
- auto white balance and presets are pretty good
- face recognition works well and is useful when you have to hand the camera to someone to take your photo

And the not so nice:
- so so image quality (compared to other Fuji models I have owned before)
- somewhat plasticky body
- gets pretty warm fast!
- Chromatic aberration or purple fringing is pretty pronounced in some photos/scenes, reminds me of the CA on my F10.
- pro focus is really just a gimmick. More misses than hits. Works sometimes but the images produced are quite funny most other times. Like cut and paste photos.

Here are two examples of when pro focus does a decent job (when it works): Drosera burmannii (a sundew species) - normal focus:

And Pro focus mode:

Nepenthes mirabilis - normal focus:

Pro focus mode:

The DR advantages show in the following photos:

My older cameras (even my Olympus e510) would have blown the sky and I would have had to set exposure compesation and do some PP to get a decent photo but the F70EXR does it all for me! :D

The zinc roof on this hut was so bright I had to squint while looking at it but the F70 managed to retain some detail on the roof instead of blowing it completely. And finally, this shot was taken on a dull cloudy day, I think the camera has tried to make the best of the overcast conditions:

Overall am very happy I bought the camera and am having fun shooting with it. I only hope it is able to cope with living in my lint filled pockets like the older models before it. :D

Updated June 2010
Having used the camera for quite some time now, I must reevaluate my initial assessment. I think it is a really convenient 10x zoom in a small pocketable package but the image quality disappoints. It may be okay as a backup camera but I now wish I had spent money on a new lens for my SLR instead.

See also: F70EXR Dynamic Range Samples

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