Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR Review - The F900 EXR is a feature-packed travel zoom boasting a 20x optical zoom, EXR sensor and Wi-fi connectivity.
The model features a new high-speed 16.1MP backlit EXR CMOS II sensor, along with Wi-fi connectivity and what Fujifilm claims is the world’s fastest AF system in a compact camera.
Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR Review – Features and Design
Like the Fujifilm F770 EXR and that camera’s update, the F800, with the F900 superb build quality comes as standard; the little pop-up flash (activated by a small button on the camera’s shoulder) seems a little flimsy by comparison, it can be tucked safely out of the way when not in use but watch you press it back home carefully since it seems the one time it could get knocked.
The F900 is available in various colours; I tested the red version and its soft touch finish helps disguise the plastic top of the camera, blending it with the rest of the camera’s metal bodywork. A neat rubberised grip on the front and associated rubber pimples on the back aid handling but the camera feels as if it would be easy to let slip, so always employ the wrist strap.
In terms of main controls, on top an “Fn” button joins forces with an LED equipped on/off button, the shutter release with its surrounding zoom control and the aforementioned pop-up flash. On the back, sloped at a jaunty angle to help aid easy use, is the mode dial where you get at the meat of the cameras shooting modes and options. Playback, video, display and “E-Fn” buttons surround the (rotateable, scroll wheel equipped) 4-way jog control with its central menu/ok button.
Most of these buttons will be familiar, the one slight stranger is the E-FN button. This was the “F” of FinePix button on the F800 and activated kit such as the Fuji film simulation modes and other image features. It’s since re-named the E-FN button and now activates an additional on screen menu revealing how the all the controls on the camera’s back (barring the mode dial) have additional features.
The Film simulation modes can be accessed via the playback button, the movie capture button can now be used to access the focus settings, the display button now is a back button (for the new on screen options) and the E-FN button can be pressed to exist the revised menu settings, this system makes it easy and quick to change those settings revised by the new button.
The main menu layout, reached by pressing the Menu/OK button is of the newer menu design and as such provides a simplified vertically scrolled set of six options or pages, three for shooting, three for playback and set up, which makes it easy to navigate particularly with the relevant photo elements now neatly separated from the setup options.
The F900 EXR provides a complete set of manual controls on the main mode dial; P, A, S and M and then the titular EXR mode. Here you get four settings to choose between that prioritise resolution, dynamic range or low noise at higher ISOs and an auto mode that makes the choices for you on the fly depending on the subject and ambient light and whether or not you have activated the flash.
These are selected in a separate menu option via the Menu/OK button each has a helpful description for what it does and so if you’re not sure and want the control, it helps you pick the right mode for the task at hand. The Auto EXR mode worked well enough, is the default setting, and provides a seamless way to use the camera without worrying about what is happening behind the scenes.
As with previous F-series compacts, regrettably you cannot use the EXR settings while shooting in the manual modes where it would certainly add improved versatility; shoot in manual mode and you’re basically not making the most of the new technology on offer.
A good set of pre-set filters and subject program modes are on hand to help with your creative bent. You get 14 of the latter (on the “SP” setting on the mode dial) and on the “Adv.” Mode dial position you find the main Advanced Filters settings.
The F900 EXR also features 12 so-called advanced filters ranging from Miniature to Toy Camera modes, so all pretty much as you’d expect here and they include a range of black and white colour filters (blue and orange etc.,) too to help adjust emphasis when shooting mono.
More shooting modes
Also found on within the “Adv.” position on the mode dial are the 360 Motion Panorama, Pro Focus, Pro Low light and Multiple Exposure modes. Confusingly however, all of these options, once selected from the mode dial, can only be reached from the Menu/OK button and then selecting the relevant options. A separate button to access these might be an improvement as this set up makes them all feel buried within the camera, almost as if they’re an after thought rather than a key set of automated and fun shooting options.
Some of the other features are frustrating to use; the camera dictates flash settings by using its in-built intelligent flash technology even in some of the manual shooting modes, which is both annoying and counter intuitive (there’s no flash control in shutter priority shooting for example).
The GPS feature allows the geo-tagging of images but also means you can grab the location data from a smartphone in conjunction with the Wi-fi system and you can display the location info with images too. Those after more control and manual options get access to relatively few further adjustments outside of the manual shooting options but what there are include exposure compensation, white balance, and saturation controls.
Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR Review – Performance
One of the only issues with the F900 and that became quickly apparent, cantered on the new Wi-fi system – well, not specifically the Wi-fi (more on the Wi-fi proper, shortly) itself but its knock on effect on battery life. The Fuji/CIPA rating for the F900’s NP-50A 3.7v lithium-ion cell is 260 shots but use of the built in Wi-fi reduces this dramatically, I shot about 140 images and about four minutes of video shot and “transported” to my PC.
Turn on the GPS and use a lot of the flash too and you have even faster battery drain. Do bear that in mind because a spare battery may be worth the extra investment and buying one up front if you intend to use the Wifi features a lot.
In terms of speed, the F900EXR is no slouch; from turning the camera on to snapping an image you’re looking at around one second (we switched off the start up screen) and so the high-speed performance the makers claim for the F900 is certainly there.
The shutter response is indeed very impressive and certainly “feels” almost instantaneous, so the 0.05-second response time claimed by Fuji is no idle boast. Set to wide focus and it’s slightly slower, then slower still at full zoom , but in both cases it’s marginal and barely a noticeable lag.
There is another issue with the focusing system – the AF is much less assured at the telephoto end of the zoom on some subjects and particularly when shooting video, the camera “hunts” alarmingly and this even on subjects where ordinarily, the focus would not usually have an issue, so there may be some work needed on the new focusing set up there.
On the plus side however, once focused, the continuous shooting mode is fast, achieving 10fps in JPEG mode, for up to six images before the data buffering needs slowed things down.
One of the other extras the F900 EXR has up its metaphorical sleeve is the 360-degre panorama mode. In fact there are four panorama modes to choose between: 120, 180 and 360 degrees and a joined up 360-degree “doughnut” image.
In panorama mode, you press the shutter release button and pan the camera around while a progress bar shows you how much more you have to move, so standard sweep panorama protocol in fact. But, try as I might, I could not get the camera to successfully capture a “doughnut” image, it just reported it was unable to process it and so mage a standard 360 instead. I also had problems with stepping and uneven joining of images, so all in all, not the most effective implementation of this technology.
Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR Review – Image Quality
The Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR can create images that are bright and beautifully colourful, while the exposure control is also pretty much spot on. The extended dynamic range mode provides up to 400% (at top resolution) while the EXR DR mode gives up to 1600% at a much reduced 8-megapixel resolution and while there’s a limited amount of control over the flash system used on the F900, I’m glad to say red-eye is not significant.
As far as the lens goes, its performance is very good with purple fringing all but invisible, in fact it’s about the best I’ve seen recently so very impressive for an ultra zoom camera. Overall, distortion, both barrel and pincushion is controlled well there is only very slight vignetting on some wider-angle shots.
The amount of actual image detail is not bad given the 16-megapixel sensor, but at close inspection, even on some lower ISO images, the images can have a rather processed look, making images appear softer than I’d have liked. The macro focus option provides good performance too helping make the most of the camera’s tech for close in subjects.
High ISO noise
Image noise is always a bug bear on high-resolution compacts and as this camera is designed to help mitigate that very thing, I had high hopes indeed. At ISO 100 and 200 there’s little if any noise, just that processed “look” mentioned above, presumably as a result of the noise being addressed by the camera’s processor. Inevitably, and rather disappointingly, noise is visible at ISO 400. At ISO 800 noise becomes very prominent and at ISO1600 detail suffers much more than I’d have anticipated as the noise reduction processing creams away detail along with the noise issues.
At ISO 3200, my advice is to switch the EXR High ISO & Low Noise setting and take the hit on resolution (it drops to 8-megapixels) but at ISO 6400 the camera dumps the resolution automatically so you’re forced to shoot at 8-megapixels; move to ISO 12800 and he image size is reduced further to 4 megapixels, but at each of the high ISO levels, noise is ever present, detail is less so.
While the camera is capable of some really gorgeous colour rendition, the Auto White Balance (AWB) bestows a rather warm look to images, particularly under tungsten lighting, but use of the correct preset sorts that out, but I recommend that is what you do anyway.
One of the real plusses of the F900 (and its predecessors) is the JPEG + RAW, JPEG or RAW capture modes that allow you to do even more with your images later on, in image editing software, this really makes the F900 a serious snapper in point and shoot clothing.
And of course let’s not forget the camera’s video capability. The camera shoots at up to Full HD at 60fps, with stereo sound and using the optical zoom, though you can here little clicks as the lens is driven if you zoom while filming. There are also a number of high-speed video modes, each available at reduced resolution. These are great fun and include a 120fps VGA recording, 240fps at 320×240, and 480fps at 320×112 pixels.
Unfortunately, the image stabilisation struggles manfully to keep the video stable when using a lot of zoom, but does not always do so successfully. Another problem I found was the framing jumps as the image stabilisation does its stuff, so one second the subject is correctly composed but no, the stabilisation jumps in again and the shot (or video) is taken without the correct framing. This takes some getting used to.
Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR Review – Verdict
The Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR combines a strong set of manual and automated shooting options, great new technology for mitigating image noise and addressing dynamic range, it has some superb sharing capabilities and connectivity (thanks to USB 2.0 and HDMI out as well as Wi-fi and GPS) and so it is sure to appeal to those wanting to move up from a more basic compact; have a more versatile snapping tool for holidays and travel, those wanting the sharing features and control offered with a simple Wi-fi set up.
To those ends it is certainly up to mark providing you watch out for the battery life and focusing foibles. Overall, while not without some flaws, the F900 pulls itself up by the socks thanks to the undeniably comprehensive feature set, its high speed performance, image quality and sharing capabilities; the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR is a camera we can highly recommend.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a few images captured with the Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR. For a full range of images, head on over to the Fujifilm FinePix F900 EXR review sample image gallery.