The Fujifilm Z700EXR is marketed as an ultra-compact camera packed with the latest in high-end technology. It's certainly very compact, and features the same slide-down lens cover that's characteristic to Fuji's Z-series cameras, as well as a Super CCD EXR sensor and a large touch-screen.
Fuji's Z-series cameras are traditionally stylish, slim, brightly coloured compacts with a slide-down lens cover and a slightly feminine design. That's all set to change with the Z700EXR, which is bigger and bulkier than other cameras in the range. This is almost certainly due to the huge 3.5-inch screen, which takes up the entire back face of the camera. In fact, the surrounding border is so small that your thumb will naturally rest right on the screen.
In spite of its new strong and slightly more masculine design, the camera finish could still be improved. Notably, in spite of its sleek design and finish, the slide-down cover is made from low-quality plastic. The USB port compartment is also dubious with its soft-rubber cover.
The Z700 features the same couple of large buttons that are now characteristic of touch-screen digital cameras. The first time you switch it on, the camera asks you to select a default mode: EXR Auto, for automatic scene detection, or point & shoot, allowing you to select the main subject of the picture by pressing on the touch-screen. It also asks whether you want to activate bright-display mode and a pre-focusing function, both of which require more battery power.
On the whole, it's easier to find yourself in EXR mode than on F-series cameras, which is good news, as it's one of the camera's strongest points. However, in EXR Auto mode, the logo showing the selected mode (12-Megapixel high resolution, 6-Megapixel enhanced sensitivity or 6-Megapixel enhanced dynamic range) is a bit too big and a bit annoying when you're trying to line up a shot.
In playback mode, things get a little more complicated. Although this camera has a touch-screen interface, Fuji has decided to base it entirely on a system of touch-screen buttons, something other manufacturers are trying to avoid. For example, if you want to zoom in on an image displayed on the screen, don't even think about trying to stretch it with your fingers like you would with certain touch-sensitive mobile phones, and don't bother trying to tap on the photo either. In fact, you have to tap once on the screen to bring up a big virtual button with a magnifying glass. Then, you can use the two magnifying glasses in the corner of the screen to make the image bigger or smaller as required. In other words, you might as well be using a physical zoom control around the shutter release button, which would actually be infinitely more practical too! Worse still: once you've enlarged the image, it's impossible to slide the image around. You have to use the four buttons on the side of the screen to move to the part you want to look at.
One other, and very unusual feature of this camera, is that the viewfinder doesn't offer 100% coverage. The picture displayed on-screen when you're lining up a shot is slightly slimmer than the actual image captured. OK, the actual picture isn't much bigger, but it's enough to end up with a branch or someone's hand spoiling the edge of the photo even though it wasn't visible on the screen. This is a common problem with SLR viewfinders, but it's incredibly rare to see it on a screen, since it's easier for a screen to display a full image from the outset rather than have to resize it for playback.
The Z700EXR isn't the fastest camera off the blocks, taking three seconds to start up. Once it's up and running, it's comparable to other compact cameras, although some can still do better. Saving photos doesn't freeze the camera up too much, which is a problem often seen in the latest generation of compacts. On the whole, it's responsive but it won't blow you away.
At low sensitivities, in 'wide-angle' (which doesn't actually go any lower than 35 mm), the Finepix Z700EXR takes pictures that are sharp in the centre and not quite as clear around the edges, with traces of purple fringes around highly contrasted areas. That's all pretty typical stuff for a periscopic lens. In telephoto mode, the picture is much less sharp, and although it's perfectly fine for a 20x27 cm print, anyone into cropping and editing their pictures might want to look elsewhere.
In theory, Super CCD EXR sensors are more sensitive than regular CCD sensors. However, the gap between them is nothing like it was in the days when the F30 could easily run circles around the competition. Image smoothing is barely visible at all with the Z700. Pictures remain detailed up to high sensitivities, although noise is visible from 800 ISO. Cameras with the market's other exotic breed of sensor—the Sony Exmor R—take pictures that are less grainy, but also less detailed. This is preferable for taking photos at 800 ISO, but for image editing and retouching, the Fuji sensor obtains better results.
Fuji may have decided to include a 720p HD video mode, but unfortunately that's not enough. First of all, you can't use the zoom while filming, and second, sound is recorded in mono. Finally, the picture isn't great with evident digital noise and a slight purple tinge to darker zones.