There haven't been many changes in design, as the F80 has a very similar appearance to the F70. In other words, it's relatively well built but remains conventional and unexciting. New features include a slightly bigger screen, now measuring 3 inches (7.6 cm) compared with 2.7 inches (6.9 cm) for the previous model. The resolution, however, remains unchanged at 230,000 pixels. The screen could certainly be a little sharper, but does the job well enough in most situations, even if it's a long way off the kind of quality you'll see in high-end displays. In low-light conditions there's lots of noise, jumping, glitches and a general lack of detail. In good light it's smooth, but there's a slight delay, which can prove a little irritating.
There have been very few changes to the controls. There's a thumb wheel for choosing one of the many exposure modes (EXR, SP, natural, natural with flash, P, M), and an F button for quick access to certain settings (ISO, image size and film simulation). A four-way controller is on hand for navigation and shortcuts (macro, flash, speed) and there's a dedicated face-recognition button. The internal graphic interface is very similar to that of the F70 EXR, making the F80 EXR a consumer compact that's just as confusing (and sometimes down-right baffling) as its predecessor, in particular due to its two automatic modes (auto and auto EXR) and menu layouts.
Although the F80 EXR is a little slow to start up, once it gets going it's fairly responsive with a fast autofocus. Saving pictures is nice and quick too, so you won't be waiting around to regain control of the camera. The burst mode is passable at 2 fps for 5 shots at full resolution. Facial recognition works just as well as in the previous model. Some competitors' cameras can do better for people facing the camera straight on, although the Fujifilm is still unbeatable for detecting profile or ¾-angle faces.
And now for the important bit: picture quality. Thanks to Super CCD and now EXR technology, the Fujifilm F series has long reigned supreme in the field of digital noise management. The arrival of backlit sensors has, however, raised standards in some competitors' cameras.
The F80 EXR has several tricks up its sleeve for noise management. You can use the camera in regular auto mode, set the camera to EXR SN mode, or play around with the Pro Low Light scene mode (which adds together under-exposed images).
In EXR SN mode, the F80 EXR 'couples up' pixels to create larger pixels, which can record more detail in low light and keep noise levels down. It therefore takes pictures in a resolution of 6 Megapixels (which, to be honest, is perfectly sufficient for 4" x 6" (10 x 15 cm) prints.
Left: the F80 EXR at 1600 ISO in EXR SN mode (6 MP). Right: F80 EXR at 1600 ISO in P mode resized to 6 MP (detail at 100%).
On our lab test scene, the EXR SN mode looks to give better results but the difference is nothing spectacular really.
The F80 EXR displays fairly typical behaviour as the ISO settings start to climb, with noise visible from 200 ISO (at 100% on a screen) and increasing with sensitivity. It's interesting to compare the F80 EXR test shots with those taken by the current top compacts: the Panasonic TZ10, Sony HX5V and Samsung WB650. At 800 ISO, the Sony HX5V clearly outdoes the rest with just a slight speckling of noise (but severe smoothing of the finest details). The Fujifilm F80 EXR (P mode, 12 MP) comes just behind with a good balance between noise and smoothing. In the two other models smoothing is much more marked.
Fujifilm thus pays the price for reducing the size of its Super CCD EXR sensor, as the F200 EXR with its larger sensor (1/1.6" compared with 1/2" for the F80), is still a reference in the field.
Clockwise from top left: Sony HX5V, Fujifilm F80 EXR, Samsung WB650 and Panasonic TZ10 at 800 ISO.
The EXR DR mode optimises the dynamic range to pick out more detail in dark, shadowy areas and light zones of a scene. The results are mostly very good too. The DR mode does, however, push up ISO sensitivity in relation to the dynamic range selected (100, 200, 400%). This affects picture quality slightly.
On the whole, the F80 EXR exposes shots correctly and colour reproduction is flattering. There is a slight purple fringe around highly contrasted objects, which is a problem common to most of Fuji's F-series cameras.
The F80 EXR finally brings an HD (720p) video mode to Fuji's F series, even if it is pretty rudimentary. Although you can use the 10x zoom while filming, the sound is recorded in mono. Plus, with footage captured at 24 fps, there are sometimes glitches in faster movements. M-JPeg isn't the most effective video format either. The overall quality is OK, but nothing special. The good news is that the F80 EXR has an HDMI connection for viewing photos and videos directly on a compatible TV.