Review: Fujifilm F300EXR

 
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Published: October 13, 2010 11:00 PM
By Renaud Labracherie / Morgane Alzieu
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
As the latest addition to Fujifilm's reputed F-series cameras, the F300EXR and its 15x zoom is clearly eyeing up heavyweight competitors such as the Panasonic TZ10, Canon SX210 and Sony HX5V. To stand out from the crowd, the F300EXR features a Super CCD sensor that we've already seen manage high sensitivities very well. The F300EXR also has a new phase-detection autofocus, as found in most SLRs. So has it been worth the wait?  

Handling

The Fujifilm F300EXR is new on the inside and on the outside, as its design is very different to that of the previous model. The good news is that it's changed for the better. The camera is generally well-made and the smooth, flowing lines of its design are easy on the eye. We liked the slight bulge on the front face with a rubber grip that helps you keep hold of the camera. At the back, another bulge allows you to rest your thumb comfortably on the camera while also controlling the interestingly angled mode-selection dial. As well as making an original design feature, the new jaunty-angled dial is actually very practical to use. The rear face has a typical set of shortcut buttons for accessing the video mode and playback mode, plus a click-round wheel for fast navigation in the internal menus and a quick way to change settings. There's still an F button too for fast-access to ISO settings, colour settings (35mm film effect) and image size.

The Fujifilm F300EXR has a new 3-inch screen that can display 460,000 dots. Definition is therefore good and the viewing angles are very wide. As in most digital cameras, the on-screen image becomes less smooth as the light starts to fade, and there's a slight lag in the display. In low light, the on-screen image does have a little more noise than in certain competitors' models.

Fujifilm F300EXR dos

Only a few very slight modifications have been made to the graphic interface and, on the whole, the menus are still not particularly engaging. Unfortunately, one of the things that has changed is the removal of the white balance setting from the F menu. You can still adjust the image size in the F menu though, even if exposure metering or EXR modes could have been more useful additions. To simplify things, the AutoEXR mode has been removed from the selection dial and transferred into the EXR menu. The mode selection dial also offers P,S,M and A modes (the A mode has three aperture settings).

Responsiveness

With its brand new phase-detection autofocus system (outlined here), we had high hopes for the F300EXR. The tests in our lab didn't show any significant gain in autofocus speed compared with the F200EXR. However, this compact is still pretty responsive. Note that the phase-detection system only works in good light conditions, and a more classic system based on contrast detection takes over in other situations.
In our practical tests, the F300EXR was very fast to focus in bright, sunny conditions. In ideal lighting, the phase-detection autofocus is very effective. 

Fujifilm F300EXR réactivité

Picture Quality

We were keen to test the 12-Megapixel Super CCD against a 10-Megapixel backlit CMOS, particularly on noise handling. First of all, let's have a look at how details are reproduced. Given that the photodiodes are arranged in staggered rows, JPeg photos suffer from digital artefacts in the finer areas of details. These can be seen with the photo displayed at 100% size on a computer screen.

Fujifilm F300EXR face au Panasonic TZ10

The F300EXR has a little more trouble with finer details: the edges of the processor and the letters look blurred by digital artefacts.
 
In standard mode (12 Mpix), the F300EXR handles noise in a fairly typical manner and actually behaves quite similarly to the Canon SX210. At 800 ISO, detail is still present in the scene but it's speckled with noise. At this sensitivity setting, the Sony HX5V and its inverted sensor does a better job, as even with smoothing that's a little more noticeable the image is of a better overall quality. However, the F300EXR does have a secret weapon: EXR SN mode. This mode takes a picture in a reduced size of just 6 Megapixels, but the impact of digital noise is greatly reduced.

comparaison bruit Sony HX5V et Fujifilm F300EXR

By resizing the image to 6 Megapixels, the F300EXR comes out on top. You won't be able to blow the image up to poster size, but for a 4" x 6" print it's certainly sufficient.

Another advantage of the F300EXR is a DR mode that increases the dynamic range to bring out more detail in both high and low light. The effect is noticeable, but ISO sensitivity is pushed up at the same time as the dynamic range. In practice, you won't want to go any higher than DR400 to keep a minimum amount of detail in your shots.


The F300EXR reproduces colours in a flattering but sufficiently accurate way, and the white balance is generally decent. The F300EXR does, however, have an annoying habit of overexposing pictures.
The 15x zoom lens is pretty good, with a resolution quality that's consistent across the frame in wide angle and telephoto. Distortion is kept under control but the sensor is sensitive to glare, and the borders of highly contrasted zones are surrounded by purple fringes.


Video

The F300EXR shoots video in 1280 x 720 pixels at 24 fps. The result is pretty average and on a Full HD screen, the picture does lack detail. In low light, the image is speckled with noise. On the other hand, you can use the optical zoom (but you can't take a photo while filming) and the F300EXR now has an HDMI output (the very small C-type) so you can watch videos back on a compatible TV or monitor. Sound is recorded in mono, which is duplicated for stereo-effect playback.

Fujifilm F300EXR test review vidéo
4/5 Fujifilm F300EXR DigitalVersus 2010-10-14 00:00:00

Pros

  • Fast autofocus in good light and when zooming
  • Picture quality at high sensitivity in SN mode (6 Mpix)
  • Good-quality lens
  • High-quality finish
  • LCD screen with 460,000 dots

Cons

  • Quite complicated to use (too many options)
  • Slightly disappointing video mode. No automatic image rotation in playback mode
  • Some problems rendering finer details
  • No exposure histogram in shooting mode
  • Quick AF mode runs down the battery (pre-focusing)

Conclusion

The F300EXR is pretty responsive, takes good-quality pictures and has plenty of attractive features. It is, however, slightly let down by its confusing handling and a video mode that's not as good as in certain other models.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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