Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR Review
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Fujifilm's range of cameras is very distinct in the way that it has a stylish series, a performance range and long zoom range. So what happens when performance is put into the stylish range? The new Finepix Z900EXR, that's what. Sporting a 16 megapixel back-illuminated (BSI) EXR-CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 3.5 inch touch screen, sensor shift image stabilisation, top ISO6400 sensitivity, 1600% dynamic range and up to 12 frames per second continuous shooting, on paper the Z900EXR seems to be a camera that's too good to be true. The Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR costs £199.99 / $279.95 and is available in pink, black, red or blue.
Ease of Use
Speaking of which, there's a saying that if something is too good to be true then it probably is. So why do we have the Z900EXR sitting in front of us? What are its faults? The specification looks extremely impressive. Without touching it, from the front it looks like the lower specification Z series of cameras. The lens sits in the top left of the camera with a large plate of metal sliding over it to protect it and to also power the camera on or off. After we'd picked up the Z900EXR, we quickly changed our minds. The review model we tested was the black version which has a powder coating and the mottled effect found on some makes of DSLR. It gives the camera a rough touch which is refreshing in a market of super smooth cameras on every shelf.
On the Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR's top plate, there's only the shutter release with the zoom switch wrapped around it and a direct video record button for those candid moments so you don't have to go into menus and switch on the video mode first. The Z900EXR records video in the H.264 format and you can tag videos in camera for easy upload to YouTube. Something that the younger generation may prefer but that's not to say that it's off limits to anyone else. The underlying specification looks more than enough to satisfy photographers that are looking for something more in their camera.
Take, for example, the BSI EXR-CMOS sensor: BSI stands for Back Side Illuminated which means that all the circuitry that normally surrounds each pixel has been placed on the back of the sensor. This technique exposes the full sensor to light meaning that it's more responsive in low light situations and a lower ISO can therefore be used. The back of the sensor isn't actually illuminated, the sensor gets it's name from when it's fitted to the camera. Because the circuitry is on the back, it looks as though the sensor is fitted backwards so the back side gets illuminated by light from the lens.
EXR is a new processor and sensor system designed to increase the resolution, produce better colours, lower noise and be an all round good egg. It's certainly shown a lot of promise in the past with the cameras that have been fitted with it. For those of you that aren't photographically astute, there are two types of that are frequently used in digital cameras. The traditional variety is the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) offering a sharp image but has a higher fuel consumption than CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) which gives a slightly softer result but is more efficient. Fujifilm have opted for the CMOS in the Z900EXR believing that it works better with the EXR processor.
Thanks to the 5x optical zoom of the Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR being internal, the body of the camera is very slim. It makes the camera easily pocketable and of course should a child get hold of it, there's no chance of them breaking the zoom barrel. Fuji have introduced a new button to the Z900EXR called the Home button. All it does is take you back to the shooting screen wherever you are in the camera's systems. It can be useful if you're in the deeper parts of the set up menu and you're unsure how to get out without inadvertently setting a mode that you don't want but we found it most useful for coming out of the playback menu. All other buttons and functions save for the two on the top of the camera have been placed on the touch screen which we think is a neater idea. After all, why have a touch screen and surround it with buttons?
The build quality of the Z900EXR is very good. The camera feels solid to hold and the large plate that covers the lens will provide exceptional protection. We like the DSLR style coating to the case and the only thing we're disappointed in is on the bottom. The camera has a plastic tripod bush and the battery door is quite flimsy. Generally, higher specification cameras have a metal tripod bush and it's kind of like a status symbol with manufacturers. With regards to the battery door, it's not that problematic but it's not the easiest door to open and that gives us concern with long time usage.
Fujifilm have changed the way that their menus work these days. Before, it was a simple set up of shooting menu and set up menu with a separate playback menu in that mode. While it's technically the same at its base elements, the structure of it has changed so it seems more difficult to operate. The modes are now found by pressing the mode icon on the screen in the top left corner. This menu remains in the top left regardless of the orientation although other modes will take different places when the camera is vertical. This menu is where you'll choose whether you want the camera in auto, scene recognition, EXR, touch & shoot, scenes, natural & flash or motion panorama.
Recently Fujifilm released a new panoramic mode that allowed much easier alignment and stitching of pictures to create panoramas but it still wasn't as easy as the Sony Sweep Panorama. Motion Panorama is Fujifilm's answer to Sweep Panorama. It takes a series of images while you move the camera in the direction you want to record. It also features a yellow line to keep you aligned. The menu is still easy to use though, it's just evolved to a more advanced state of the extremely simple menu systems that they became famous for a few years ago.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Looking in the playback menu, there's a lot to look at. The picture is in the centre of the touch screen with ten buttons down the sides of the picture in 2 groups of 5. From this point it's possible to favourite your pictures by giving them a star rating, search for pictures using date, face recognition information (faces have to have been registered in the camera database before this will work), favourites, scene mode, type of data or by upload mark (YouTube or Facebook).
Along with the camera, inside the box you'll find a rechargeable lithium ion battery, dedicated charger which comes with a 3 pin attachment that slides on to the charger. The lack of lead could reduce the amount of places that it can be plugged in due to its size and shape. There's also a USB lead and small wrist strap to prevent the camera from being dropped. In the software package there's a paper based quick start guide, warranty booklet and on the driver CD is MyFinePix Studio version 2.1 (Windows) and version 3.6 (Mac OS X). The full owners manual is also on the disc.
We only found a couple of things we thought were disagreeable as we used the Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR. The battery can be inserted either way round but will only work one way which can be tiresome if you have to take it out again to turn it round. The only other thing was that the camera can be slow to process pictures before it's ready to take another. As it processes, buttons will change colour as a response to touching them but they won't do anything which can get frustrating. If you're not in a rush, this will be fine though. Apart from that, the Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR is easy to use, fast enough in the AF, metering is agreeably accurate and it looks great.