Ten... pocket compact cameras
When a phonecam just won't do
Fujifilm Finepix Z90
The Z90's slide-down front powers the unit and the reveals a non-protruding lens array in the top right corner - a different design to the other cameras here. Yet, at 95 x 57 x 20mm and 150g, it’s among the bulkier models. The top panel features a zoom lever, shutter release and, rather confusingly, a video capture button positioned where all others in the group have the power function. Too many times useless video clips were taken inadvertently.
The Fuji’s 3in widescreen touch display also stands out. The actual viewing area for standard snaps is equivalent to a 2.4in display - the icons needed to drive the various menus line the borders. However, in video mode, the screen is filled, likewise if you choose the widescreen stills aspect.
In use, the screen was responsive enough, but appeared a good deal darker than others on test and this, combined with a small area for 4:3 shooting, meant that it was never particularly clear how well focused images were except for close-ups. Power up to shot took just under 4s, thereafter the autofocus seemed a tad hesitant but not enough to dampen confidence.
The Z90 is a 14.2Mp snapper, with 5-25mm, f3.9-6.2 zoom, equivalent to 28-140 mm on a 35mm camera. Interestingly, it does allow use of the the optical zoom during HD video capture - 720p at 30fps - although you will hear it whirring as you adjust it and the focus remains fixed from the point where you started shooting.
Overall, the images on the Fuji were satisfactory rather than above par. Flower petals tended to saturate and lose detail, with JPEG artefacts quite evident in blue skies and other large areas of single colour. Exposures seemed reasonably well-judged though, but apart from its design and the novelty of touchscreen tweaking, nothing about the Z90 stood out as exceptional, although it is pricey. That said, the smooth optical zoom video capture could well come in handy, especially with the widescreen viewing.
Reg Rating 65%
More Info Fujifilm
Kodak EasyShare Mini M200
Measuring up at 86 x 52 x 19mm and weighing 100g, the 10.4Mp EasyShare Mini M200 is indubitably pocketable. However, there is a price to be paid to be second smallest model here – behind the Samsung ST30 – and that is both have a 1/3in sensor, rather than 1/2.3in featured on all the other models on test. The 3x optical zoom lens has a 4.1-12.3mm range equivalent to 29–87mm on a 35mm camera. Although it lacks image stabilisation, the M200 has the usual range of photo modes and captures VGA video at 30fps.
The top plate is slightly confusing with a button sat between the power and shutter release to engage the mode options. The back panel has a navpad, but the options are menu driven, so until you get familiar with reaching for that top plate button, performing tweaks can seem impossible. The 2.4in display is bright enough, seems accurate and unlike the Samsung has 230k dots which makes a significant difference to focus confidence.
Indeed the autofocus performs well, only jittering momentarily in low light, yet without image stabilisation, the M200 rather loses appeal unless you’re happy with high ISO shooting or flash, the latter being quite even and effective. Zoom in on the images and the artefacts bloom like watercolours. Although the definition can’t match others in the group given the pixel count and sensor size, the problems do seem quite well suppressed with few random elements. However, the lens is a problem, with some serious blurring at the edges noticeable in most of the shots.
Start up time to shoot is a boon on this camera, being among fastest at around 2.5secs. The MJPEG AVI video capture is rather gritty and will shoot from the current optical zoom setting, with a digital zoom kicking in when required if pixellation is your thing. Despite a decent capture performance, optically, the Kodak falls below expectations and as a consequence needs to be a good deal cheaper than it is.
Reg Rating 40%
More Info Kodak