Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR digital camera review

Super-zoom travel camera with GPS and motion detection
Photo of Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR digital camera
£269

The Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR digital camera is a ‘travel camera’ – part of a burgeoning market that cynical types might see as an excuse for manufacturers to resurrect chunky old designs and call then ‘rugged’. But beyond its impressively solid build quality, the Fujifilm has a lot more travel-friendly features to offer.

New features
The chief new feature of this update to the brand’s F550 is a novel motion-detection system that tracks moving subjects around the LCD screen in real time. A neat feature it is, too, with EXR Auto mode on the dial adding an automatic preset, too; point the F600 at a person and it switches into portrait mode, but if a dog runs across the frame it will instantly go in to pet mode, and so on. There are 27 different modes, including specific face recognition settings for both cats and dogs!

All that’s actually happening is that a motion sensor is calculating the best ISO to use depending on what’s going on in front of you, but there are some more options within; Resolution Priority, High ISO + Low Noise, and D-Range Priority (dynamic range – where two images are spliced together, useful in low light conditions and to avoid washout).

Old favourites
Fans of the F550 will be glad to find that this compact camera’s ability to shoot in the photographer’s friend RAW format remains, as does 1080p video recording at 30fps (though its 320×112 pixel, 320fps might be just as useful for posting slow-mo on YouTube.

These facilities are now joined by the must-have – though battery hungry – feature of any true travel camera: GPS. It’ll find nearby landmarks (though it’s no replacement for a good guidebook), and even tag them on any picture you take.

We’re really not sold on this feature yet, however common it might be becoming – though on the F600, it appeared to work reasonably well. Albeit at the cost of around two-thirds of battery life…

Super zoom
Of most use while travelling, or in general use, is the F600′s lens. Capable of 15x optical zoom (a shade bigger than that of its closest rival, the Casio Exilim EX-H20G), this 24-360mm equivalent lens, coupled with the camera’s massive 16-megapixel EXR-CMOS sensor, gives the F600 a seriously impressive dimension that’s just as good at a wedding (where we primarily tested it) as it is taking snaps of cityscapes.

The last feature of note is Motion Panorama, though we had trouble here; during our tests the camera rejected our many attempts to sweep across a crowded room to capture a 360-degree shot. Finally we managed to capture one such shot, which was impressive indeed and as smooth and detailed as we’d hoped – though marred by our earlier frustrating experience.

Other details
Elsewhere, this camera’s 3in LCD screen is clear enough, though it’s not a touchscreen. The user interface, while simple and nicely designed, can be tricky to navigate because of the camera’s overly-sensitive clickwheel design on the back – it behaves like a poor man’s iPod Classic (remember them?), sweeping past our intended choice far too easily.

Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR digital camera

The dial atop the camera, meanwhile, contains Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Auto and Movie modes. One design characteristic we like very much is the dedicated button for switching into movie mode; an essential feature if anything at all spontaneous is going to be captured – though it’s rather too easy to accidentally activate and slip into shooting a movie.

General handling
General handling is fine, with the camera’s chunky body (measuring 104x63x33mm and weighs 220g) easy enough to hold and to keep steady to countenance taking panoramic shots, or to use the full extent of the optical zoom. It’s worth noting that only the black version has a rubberised outer layer (the white and red samples – we tested the latter – feature a shiny surface).

Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR digital camera

The F600 comes with 33MB of memory built in, and is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. The life of the Li-on battery is rated at around 300 pictures; we used it all day at a wedding, and managed 96 photos and a couple of short videos in around eight hours before it ran dry – though we did leave GPS switched on all day.

Image quality
The headline motion detection system is interesting, and appears to work rather well; if nothing moves, it lowers the ISO to minimise noise, and it picks out moving objects well.

The sensor inside the F600 is identical to that of the F550 – that is, backlit and capable of some seriously impressive, bright pictures across the spectrum. For our test we snapped away in a dark room with light spilling in from windows – challenging conditions indeed, but the F600 produced reasonably contrast-heavy pictures with more detail than we’d expected. Taken outside, shots are exemplary: bright, with well-saturated colours and heaps of detail even at the full extent of the optical zoom.

Burst shooting does eight frames a second at maximum resolution, though up to 32fps is possible if you’re OK with (much) lower resolutions.

Movie mode
Activated by a dedicated button on the camera’s rear, movies are one of the F600′s special skills. Producing a H.264 MOV file, our 1080p results were mixed; a slightly jumpy, stepped experience reigned, though certainly not to an unwatchable extent.

We preferred the smoothness of the higher-speed videos, despite the lower detail, though all approaches suffer from problems with the continuous focus mode. It has to be engaged if the optical zoom is to be used, and yet has real trouble focusing quickly, often failing altogether. The AF (without zoom) is better is this regard.

All video comes with stereo sound, and it’s possible to take still pictures while filming video, which is a really useful addition, especially when in a once-in-a-lifetime location. Another great travel feature is the mini-HDMI output on the camera’s undercarriage for hooking-up to a HDTV – remember to pack a suitable cable if you plan to stay in posh hotels.

Company: FujiFilm

Website: http://www.fujifilm.co.uk/

Contact: Fujifilm on 0844 553 2322

Positives
  • Build quality, price, detail, versatility, reliable zoom, stills during video, 'Cat' mode.
Negative
  • Continuous focus slow and unpredictable in movie mode; GPS is battery-heavy; Motion Panorama tricky to master.

Verdict

A nicely priced and good value stab at a compact camera with knobs on, the F600 is well built for travel; excellent outdoor shots and reasonable low light results meet a solid design, GPS options and the ability to take snaps while shooting movie.