Fujifilm FinePix Z1
Slim, sexy, yes - but is it any good?
Review The Z1 features the same CCD technology found in the FinePix F10 - SuperCCD HR technology - providing 5.1 megapixel resolution in an extremely svelte package. The camera is so thin because it incorporates a lens with folded optics that enable a non-extending 3x optical zoom lens to be crammed within its body; it's similar to the lens technology developed by Konica Minolta for its 'X' series cameras and also featuring in Sony's 'T' series models and Nikon's Coolpix S1, writes Doug Harman.
The other design feature of note is the curvacious metal body that folds around so the back of the camera is smaller than the front, leaving the face clean and clear for the slide away front cover that also acts as the on/off switch.
This gives the camera a very attractive look and clean front plate without protuberances: ideal for popping in a pocket. It's this pockteability that makes the camera so attractive, as is its pure point and shoot philosophy: the camera has no true manual modes. Even in what it calls 'manual' shooting mode, it only provides the user with a few extra options, such as the white balance control or the +/-2EV exposure compensation setting.
However, you do get a very nice 115,000-pixel resolution, 2.5in colour screen that is both crisp and nice to use in all but the brightest of sunlight when it becomes less distinct. It's then the lack of an optical viewfinder becomes brow-furrowing, you must shade the LCD with one hand and shoot with the other.
The camera is supplied with a neat docking station in which you can charge the camera's Li-ion battery and connect to a PC via USB 2.0. Battery life is mediocre at around 170 shots per full charge.
Controls on the Z1 are few, with a top plate shutter button and a switch to activate the camera's very good, 640 x 480, 30fps movie mode with sound. The aforementioned front plate slides away to activate the camera and reveals the lens; the somewhat underpowered flash unit peeks through a small window in the front plate too. On the screen-dominated back plate you have a small rocker-style lens zoom control, a playback button and an 'F' or FinePix button that activates a separate menu system for setting the shooting options such as resolution and quality (compression) settings. Finally, a four-way control allows scrolling and navigation of menus and its central; Menu/OK button selects the menu choices and activates the chosen menu options.
There are a couple of niggles. The very fiddly cover over the xD card/battery slot is a big contrast to the tough build quality the rest of the Z1 provides, and getting a storage card in and out is a even more fiddly, particularly if, like me, you have large sausage-like fingers. It's the camera's small size that has forced some of these inevitable compromises - compromises I'm happy to report that have not been carried over to the image quality, which is excellent.
Exposure is generally very good, focusing works well (even in low light and despite the camera lacking an AF assist lamp) although some shots had a very slight fuzziness when the camera was working hard in lower lighting conditions and at higher ISOs. However, the SuperCCD HR works well at those higher ISOs (up to ISO 800) and noise is well controlled.
While the lack of manual controls may put some off, the Z1 offers an ideal combination of point and shootability with bags of style - despite the handling compromises. And like the F10 before it, the Z1's Super CCD HR sensor works well; the Z1 is capable of producing stunning images and I can recommend it heartily.
|Fujifilm FinePix Z1|
|Pros||Stylish, well made and simple to use digital compact with good resolution and picture quality with low noise at higher ISOs.|
|Cons||Lack of manual controls, flimsy and fiddly plastic memory card/battery cover, no optical viewfinder and counter intuitive menus.|
|More info||The Fujifilm site|
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