HandlingThe F600 EXR is very nearly identical in design to the F550 EXR. The only difference we spotted was that the (still rather loose) pop-up flash now has its own control button, so you no longer have to press the flash itself to open and close it. As a result, the camera doesn't automatically pop out the flash each time you turn it on, which is an improvement. Otherwise, the camera body is exactly the same as the F550—in other words, it's well-made and built, and offers decent grip, but the settings wheel is still a bit loose and can get turned accidentally.
The screen hasn't changed a bit either—it's a fairly standard 3-inch display with 460,000 dots and relatively wide viewing angles. It's nice enough to use, but be careful if you're planning on sorting and deleting photos directly in the camera, as bright, light shades will look overexposed onscreen and colours aren't reproduced particularly accurately.
The interface has seen a few minor changes, but there's unfortunately still no way of accessing EXR mode from the Quick menu (you have to go into the main menu each time) and the EXR functions can still only be used in Auto mode. The Fuji graphic interface is clear and relatively simple, but it isn't always as logical as those seen in some competitor cameras.
Note that the GPS isn't exactly lightning fast in this model—even when standing high up in the middle of a bridge it took over four minutes to find its position during our tests.
ResponsivenessIn this field too, the F600 EXR brings no major changes. Start-up is very slightly quicker, but there are no other significant differences in speed.
Although a tiny bit quicker, the start-up time is still too slow for a five-star camera according to our test criteria. However, once it's up and running, the F600 is just as good as any other current compact with, in particular, fast photo saving times and a decent continuous shooting function.
Picture QualityWith identical internal electronics and an identical lens, it's pretty safe to assume that the F600 will take very similar pictures to the F550.
No surprises here, then—the F600 test shots are almost interchangeable with those of its predecessor. There's still the same very light exposure with the camera's standard settings, which in turn accentuates noise in dark and shadowy areas of our test lab shots. When we changed the settings manually to bring exposure levels down, over-exposure and noise were much less of a problem and the test shots looked fine up to 1600 ISO. Note that in real-life situations, this over-exposure will only very rarely be noticeable.
The F600 EXR lens does a decent job at wide-angle settings, but it's nothing special—some chromatic aberration is visible and cameras like Sony's HX9V, and particularly Canon's SX230, do a better job. Things improve as you zoom though, and at 200 mm the F600 holds its own compared with the Sony superzoom compact. The Canon model gives slightly better results, however. At the longest focal length, the Fuji lens gives levels of sharpness that are up there with the best.
The stabilisation system isn't as reliable as it could be. While we got a reasonably decent amount of clear, sharp pictures of the Barbie head at 1/4 of a second, things barely improved as our tests progressed. Even at 1/16 of a second, there's no guarantee you'll get a sharp shot.