FujiFilm FinePix F11 Zoom digital compact camera
Does it fix the F10's faults?
Review FujiFilm's F11 Zoom steps into the company's line-up alongside the F10, its predecessor. It addresses a few issues with the F10 that were not exactly problems, more just missing features, such as a manual shooting control. So, the camera boasts more or less the same design and control layout of the F10 but with a smorgasbord of options...
There's also a new control switch that surrounds the shutter release on the top plate, and which provides the new camera's manual control options. These include aperture and shutter priority, white balance control, exposure compensation, ISO and the like.
An auto-shooting mode is still there - the control switch must be flipped round to the required setting - as is an option allowing a fast route to a selection of subject program (or scene) modes. These include the usual options of portrait, landscape and a sports mode with the latter, in conjunction with the continuous shooting mode, allowing up to 2.2fps for up to three frames.
You also get a 40-frame burst mode, and top-three and bottom-three modes where after a series of images are shot either the first three or last three images are saved to the camera's xD storage. The rest are deleted.
A high quality 640 x 480 movie mode - also selected via the same, shutter-release surround switch - with mono sound provides video at a resolution (almost) enough to fill a TV screen, squeezing in as much footage as the storage card will allow.
Talking of storage, the camera comes complete with a 64MB xD card (better than many manufacturers' more modest-capacity cards) that gives enough space for around 21 high quality JPEG shots or about two minutes of 640 x 480 video.
Just like other Fujis equipped with the same fifth-generation, 6.3 megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor, image noise is held in check very well indeed, even at the maximum 1600 ISO sensitivity setting. There are some processing artefacts floating about on my test shots, particularly in shadow areas in low light (using the Auto ISO mode), which can be cleared using the lower ISO 80 or ISO 100 settings.
Overall, the image quality is good and with various image settings, such as vivid 'chrome' and monochrome modes on offer, you can tailor your shots to quite a degree. Using the vivid setting on particularly grey days I had to contend with on this shoot, helped boost colours and contrast. But there's still no substitute for sunshine!
Metering and AF work well - the former uses a 256-zone set-up that works well and is complemented by centre-weighted and spot modes, while the latter has single and continuous settings plus a low-light emitter for darker situations. The F11's flash is underpowered for my liking, though what small compact cameras' flash units are not? However, it makes for a good fill-in in daylight or dusk.
Handling is quite accomplished for a small camera. My one niggle is reserved for the menus, which I'll deal with shortly. The back plate is reserved for the large, bright LCD, the zoom, playback, Photo 'F' menu control and a four-way jog button with central "OK/Menu" button, used to confirm menu selections for example.
All fairly standard fare: the F button has a separate shooting menu (common to all Fuji compacts) providing resolution, quality, ISO and control of other image parameters. The OK/Menu button provides access to the main menu's innards. Now to my gripe. Many of the menus just require a selection using the jog button while other require a press of the OK button. But frustratingly, the latter also brings you out of the menu system, even if you're not finished.
For example, try setting aperture or shutter priority, and exposure compensation. You can't adjust them both and then come out of menus - each must be done one at a time. Presumably, the thinking is this lets you get back to shooting as quickly as possible, but in practice you actually waste more time going back into the menu to adjust your second or third parameter.
On the plus side, the superb power management means the battery charge lasts for a claimed 500 shots, a stand-out feature. On my test, even in some sub-zero temperatures, the battery indicator read full even after around 200 images had been shot, saved, reviewed on the 2.5in screen and transferred to a PC.
Menu niggles aside, the F11 is a definite improvement over the F10 thanks to the new manual control, good image quality and solid handling. The battery life is superb, so if it's a compact, stylish, high-resolution digital camera your after, at £300, the F11 is one that should be very high on your hit list indeed.
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