Price: £595 plus VAT
This is the first of Fuji’s consumer-level digital cameras to use its new high resolution Super-CCD technology. It outputs 4.3 million pixel files – remarkable for the price. Despite the apparently towering size of the upright body in the publicity pics, it’s actually tiny – the height is about the same as an Iomega Zip cartridge or floppy disk, and the width is the same as a Palm PDA. The lens retracts completely into the body when you switch off, and a metal flap swings up to protect it. Actually, it’s a bit too small for my medium-sized hands to grip properly while pressing the buttons. There’s not much room for batteries either: two AA NiMH rechargeables are supplied (with an external charger), but lifetime between charges is very limited. There’s a socket for an external power adaptor, but this isn’t supplied as standard. The camera is easy to use, with a sensible set of buttons plus a main function dial linked to a stylish round light-up LCD status monitor. There’s a manual mode as well as full-auto, and you can set a burst mode that captures groups of three pics at 0.2 second intervals. Pre-programmed modes are available for portraits, landscapes and night scenes. The two-inch LCD is clear and not as badly affected by sunlight as some rivals, but there’s a tiny optical viewfinder just in case. More controversial is whether the camera is a true 4.3 megapixel model. Certainly it outputs 2,400-x-1,800 pixels (4.32 million), but it actually captures around 2.16 million. Most digital cameras output a different number of pixels than they capture because they interpolate a single-channel original image, shot through a mosaic of colour filters, into three channels of RGB colour data. Normally the output figure is slightly above or below the input. With the FinePix 4700, output is twice the input. Fuji claims that this is justifiable because its Super-CCD’s hexagonal sensing cells are arranged to capture more vertical and horizontal image information than a conventional CCD. I found the images marginally softer, and more blurred than a true 4.3 megapixel CCD would give, but still with good detail. It’s noticeably better than the conventional-CCD 2.3 megapixel Fuji MX-2900 camera I used for comparison. There are two other pixel ratio options: 1,280-x-960 and 640-x-480. I’d have also liked the option to output something around two megapixels. A 4.3 megapixel image occupies 12.4MB, so compression is obviously necessary as the standard SmartMedia memory card only holds 16MB. The FinePix 4700 offers three levels of JPEG compression: Fine, Normal and Basic. Fine produces files of about 1.2MB, Normal is about 750K, and Basic is 316K. The quality difference between Fine and Normal isn’t noticeable, so Normal should suit most purposes. There’s also the option to shoot continuous video sequences of 320-x-240 pixels at 10fps and output them as AVI/M-JPEG movies. You can shoot about 5.5 seconds per megabyte of storage. Sound is captured through a built-in microphone. Movies can be downloaded, or played back on the camera’s built-in LCD monitor and its tiny speaker, or through a PAL television. The FinePix 4700 has a tiny pop-up flash but no facility to plug in an external unit. The standard CCD sensitivity is 200 ISO, with 400 and 800 as options at the expense of more noise. The programmed automatic exposure gives you a readout of lens aperture and shutter speed, with a manual override of +/- 1.5x shutter speed. There’s a choice of spot, averaged or multi-zone metering. The retracting zoom lens is equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm film camera. Focusing is automatic, with a manual override. There’s also a macro setting for close-ups. Macro and manual focusing is difficult in bright sunlight as the 2-inch LCD preview isn’t detailed enough. You can, however, view captured images on the LCD and zoom in to check focus before deciding whether or not to write them to the card. Images are downloaded in a flash via the supplied USB cable, but if you don’t have a USB-equipped computer the only alternative is to buy a SmartMedia card reader. Fuji supplies downloading software and a very basic editing utility, and also bundles a copy of Adobe PhotoDeluxe editing software. The image quality of the FinePix 4700 is mostly very good, although I found a disappointing amount of multi-coloured noise (graininess) in neutral mid and shadow tones (the silver-grey car pictured here), and greens were somewhat over-saturated. Overall the Fuji FinePix is remarkably good value, given its output resolution, video capture and compactness.