Pros: Stylish design, good set of controls, quality output, and a reasonable price makes the F610 zoom a decent buy. The movie mode is decent, rather than just a novelty extra.
Cons: Thanks to its smooth surface, it can be a little slippery to handle, and the screen is reflective in bright conditions. Only ships with 16MB of storage – more space costs extra.
The FinePix F610 is the latest incarnation of Fuji’s line of flat, square compact cameras, which manages to combine a minimalist stainless steel look with excellent performance. When you switch it off, the lens retracts completely and there are no protruding parts, so it’s easy to carry in a pocket without worrying about breaking it. The triple-decked status lamp on the front is attractive too, glowing electric blue when the battery is charging or the self-timer is counting down.
The smooth shape is a little too slippery though, despite the tiny ridges at the back and front that are supposed to assist grip. The preview monitor doesn’t tilt either, and its highly reflective surface is a problem in bright conditions. Fortunately, the optical viewfinder is clear, so you can use that in most circumstances and steady the camera in the conventional position against your face.
FinePix F610 uses the latest Fuji Super-CCD HR sensor (used in the long-zoom F7000), which gives a high-resolution considering the reasonable price. It captures a true 6.63 million pixels, a significant improvement on last year’s F601, which featured just 3.1mp. Super-CCD sensor cells are arranged in a staggered pattern that allows them to output more pixels than they actually capture, achieving more detail. In this case there’s an option to output 12.3mp (4,048-x-3,040 pixels) as well as 6.3mp (2,848-x-2,146). Although the actual detail only increases a small amount, it makes a difference.
The zoom lens is equivalent to 35-105mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end, or f/4.9 for the telephoto. The aperture can be manually controlled in 1/3 stop steps. The pop-up flash is a bit weedy – unlike many competitors there’s no way to fit a separate external flashgun to boost the light output.
The control set looks good, and works well. Apart from the shutter button on top, everything is arranged on the back next to the twin monitors. The main function selector wheel at the top is semi-recessed and the lettering is a bit small, though you get a repeated readout on the main screen too. It lets you switch between auto, manual, movie and pre-set scene modes. Confusingly, you have to pre-select the scene you actually want on the status monitor. The choice is between Portrait, Sports, Landscape, and Night Scene.
The main monitor is a 1.8-inch colour LCD that’s excellent apart from the reflectance. Below that is a little glowing blue LCD status monitor with contextual control icons that are selected from the four buttons on the camera body below them. For still imaging you get a choice of auto or manual autofocus point, macro focus, flash on/off/redeye and, for ‘manual’ exposure, aperture or shutter priority, and a programmed automatic option.
Fuji’s user interface works well on the whole, though the additional ‘F’ Photomode button seems somewhat superfluous. It lets you select normal or high saturation colour, or black-&-white, plus the ISO sensitivity (160 to 800) or the file size in megapixels (one, two, three, six, or 12). The high saturation mode makes colours more vivid, but at the expense of subtlety of tone.
The movie mode works surprisingly well, with a choice of 320 or 640 lines and smooth 30fps, recording QuickTime files. There’s a microphone, and playback in the camera. You can pre-set the zoom level, but can’t alter it while shooting. Full resolution images can be captured at 3.5fps for up to five frames.
This camera takes the little xD-Picture cards, which are currently available with up to 512MB, though Fuji only supplies a 16MB example.
The camera ships with a docking station that combines a mains adaptor for battery charging with a USB/video port for downloading. Alternatively, you can plug the power (but not the USB) cable into the side of the camera body. The FinePix Viewer previewing and downloading software, as with most cameras, is simplistic, and there’s no editing facilities.
Most important, though, is the image quality, and the FinePix F610 Zoom compares well with more conventionally shaped models, provided you can hold the camera still enough to prevent blur. Unlike many rivals, there’s practically no fringing around fine details. The F610 is an odd mix of functionality and style, but on the whole it works.