With a 10x wide-angle zoom, it's a natural competitor for the Canon SX200 IS, the Samsung WB500, and the expensive--but excellent--Panasonic TZ7. What's its secret weapon then? Its EXR CCD sensor should both excel at high sensitivities and boasts a large dynamic range, but will it be enough to allow this newcomer to join the ranks of the top three?
Like its predecessors, the F100fd and the F200EXR, the F70EXR is solidly built, with a decent finish but a relatively neutral design: it's neither ugly, nor particularly attractive, but this compact camera isn't going to win any supporters with its looks. Instead, we'll need to take a look at the technical details.
Without a doubt, the biggest piece of news is the optical zoom: powered by a wide-angle 27-270 mm 10x lens, it could do with allowing a little more light in. At 27 mm, it opens to f/3.3, like most of its competitors, reaching f/6.9 when zoomed in, where some of its competitors stop at f/4.9. That means you'll need to count on the stabilisation and the management of high sensitivities if you want to push that focal length to 270 mm. The 5 cm macro mode is fine for most situations, but some competitors can do better, especially the Canon SX200 IS.
Using the camera is relatively enjoyable, and most of the controls fall naturally enough under your fingers. The zoom control, round the shutter release, is rather precise. The LCD screen, on the other hand, is a little disappointing. Despite 'only' having 230 000 pixels on its 2.7'' screen, the display is of reasonable quality. We would still have preferred a larger, higher resolution screen--3'' and 460 000 pixels, say--to make it easier to use. At low light levels, the display is clear but less fluid.
The interface is rather traditional, with a scroll wheel to let you choose the different modes, and a joypad to navigate through the menus and access some functions quickly (like macro mode and flash). You can also use the F button to access the most common settings like ISO sensitivity and the size of the images. The scroll wheel found on the F100fd isn't back on the F70XR, which is a shame, as it was very practical. Incredibly, you can adjust the exposure manually by adjusting the aperture and shutter, but that's of limited interest because the choice of settings is very limited, with just two different apertures available.
Despite everything, the F70EXR is a little bit complicated for beginners, who find themselves up against two automatic modes, a ton of options in the EXR modes, a wide range of scene modes, Natural and Natural + Flash modes and, to top it off, a confusing way to adjust ISO sensitivity, where the range available depends on the scene mode you've chosen. That means that you're likely to stick to the Auto EXR mode, where the camera chooses the right mode based on the scene you're photographing. Note, however, that the F70EXR continually focuses in that mode, which can suck up a lot of your battery. Speaking of which, the battery isn't that impressive, as we only managed to take 220 photos before it ran out in normal mode.
The F70EXR is pretty speedy: the autofocus is fast in most cases, but face detection, which was a real strength on previous models, isn't now up the challenges presented by manufacturers like Canon and Panasonic, whose most recent models are faster. It's also a shame that it takes such a while to switch on.
Of course, image quality is the aspect of the F70EXR's performance that we most looking forward to investigating, and, specifically, its handling of electronic noise at high sensitivities. For low light levels, the F70EXR has two different mode: EXR SN and Pro Scene. In EXR SN mode, does a reasonably good job of regrouping pixels, but can only produce 5 Megapixel images over a limited range of sensitivities from 100 to 1600 ISO. The results are more than conclusive with photos ending up with less grain and more detail:
100% details from the F70 EXR
The low light Pro scene mode also works well, but only with static subjects, making it less of an all-rounder. In P mode, the results are attractive enough, with very clean shots up to 400 ISO and a lot coloured grain up to 1600 ISO. It does keep blurriness in check, but from 3200 ISO upwards, images become pixellated and photos lose detail. We can't advise going beyond 1600 ISO, even for 4 x 6'' prints.
The EXR DR mode is pretty decent and preserves a lot of detail in light, busy parts of the frame. You can't use it at the lowest sensitivities though, as every time you adjust the dynamic range from 100% through to 800%, you also have to increase the sensitivity. That's another considerable step forward, and unlike its competitors, this mode doesn't just pick out details in dark areas, but also finds more in lighter areas, as the two photos below show, taken with the dynamic range at 100% and 400%:
Using the default settings, the colour handling is very nice, with accurate shades that are just saturated enough. If you like deeper colours, you can use the Velvia film-simulation feature in P mode. Overall, we found our wide-angle test photos were accurate, with sharp detail across the whole frame. In tele mode, our shots lacked detail exactly where we'd expect them to, but without posing any real problems. More irritatingly, the EXR sensor still seems to be susceptible to producing purple fringing which is very easily visible on highly-contrasted details like the branches of a tree.
100% detail from the F70 EXR
Image stabilisation is also relatively decent, with decent photos at 200 ISO and 1/4 s without a tripod. In tele mode, the stabilisation system has a lot to contend with given the relatively small amount of light the lens lets in.
Compare the Fujifilm F70 EXR to other digital cameras in our Product Face-Offs
Unfortunately, we've got nothing new to say here, with the video mode still plain old VGA with barely acceptable quality. The optical zoom does work while you're recording, but the camera doesn't support recording in 720p HD or have a HDMI output for looking at your photos and videos on a compatible TV.
- Electronic noise well handled up to 1600 ISO in EXR SN mode
- Fast autofocus in most situations
- Decent 27-270 mm zoom
- EXR DR mode works well to increase the dynamic range
- Accurate colours
- Lens doesn't admit much light, especially in telephoto mode
- Limited battery life (under 250 photos)
- No HD video
- Difficult to use
- Still no automatic rotation of photos(!)
Although the EXR sensor's great handling of electronic noise and extended dynamic range are undeniable advantages, the F70EXR is still a complicated camera that's a little way behind some of its competitors, with no HD video and a low definition screen ...