Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom
Review Date: 16th December 2003
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom has a slightly elongated feel to it when you first pick it up, due to the 108mm width. It's a little too wide to fit into the palm of my hand and feels better when used two-handed rather than one. Nevertheless all of the important controls fall readily to hand, and there is a nice touch in the form of a round recessed area under the zoom buttons where your right thumb naturally sits. So although it won't fit into your shirt or trouser pocket, the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom instantly feels intuitive to hold and use.
This is helped by the number of external controls on the camera; there are just enough to give you full control over the important aspects of the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom, but not so many that you're left wondering which one does what. There's a fairly traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the different exposure modes; Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes.
What is a little more confusing is that the scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene) are also shown on the same dial, but you can't access them by using it. Instead there is a sticker that instructs you to select them via the LCD monitor. I'm not sure why Fujifilm decided to add them to the dial if they can't be selected using it. This almost looks like an afterthought - maybe during the camera's development the scene modes were going to be accessed via the dial, but at some late stage the designers changed their mind. Despite the presence of the sticker, I initially tried to turn the dial round to the scene modes, and I suspect many other users will too.
Unfortunately, the same comments that I made about the Fujifilm M603's zoom control also apply to the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom, so I'll repeat myself again. One thing that initially confused me is that the optical zoom and digital zoom are integrated together. When you zoom in and out, a horizontal bar appears at the top of the LCD screen with a vertical mark at the middle. A small square indicates what zoom setting the camera is currently set to, with optical zoom shown on the left side of the scale and digital zoom at the right. I didn't realise this and thought that the vertical mark at the middle just indicated the middle setting on the 35-105mm optical zoom. As digital zoom negatively affects image quality, I think Fujifilm should have separated to two types of zoom, not combined them in the way that they have. It may give the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom a greater zoom range, but it does so at the expense of image quality at the longer zoom settings. Worse still, there is no way to turn digital zoom off.
Thankfully, one of the most annoying aspects of the M603 has been rectified in the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom. When you turned the M603 on and changed from Still or Movie mode to Play mode, the lens automatically retracted into the camera body. When you changed back to Still or Movie mode, you had to wait for the lens to extend again. You couldn't view the images that you had taken unless the camera was set to Play mode, so this got very annoying very quickly. With the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom, you still have to set the camera to Play mode to view your images, but this time the lens stays extended and ready to take a picture as and when you switch back to Camera mode. This improvement, coupled with the very speedy startup time of the camera, makes the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom feel much more responsive.
Like virtually all digital cameras the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom has a Menu button on the rear of the camera which, as you would expect, gives you access to the software menu system. This lets you set various parameters including focusing, sharpness and white balance. For the first hour or so that I used the camera, however, I couldn't find how to set the file quality setting or the ISO speed. I was convinced that it should be accessed via the Menu button, but those menus just weren't there. A quick read of the manual revealed that they were accessed via the blue F button instead, which is positioned to the left of the LCD screen. Pressing this button opens the Photo Mode menu, which allows you to set the file quality, ISO speed and colour settings (B&W, Chrome or Standard). I'm not really sure why these 3 settings alone should fall under the heading of Photo Mode, and things like white balance and sharpening are just part of the standard menu. And I'm undecided about whether it is a good idea or not. The F button does give quick access to certain features, but you do have to memorise what another button does.
On the whole the Fujifilm Finepix F700 Zoom is a well-built, easy to use digital camera that is fairly typical of compact digital cameras in its price-bracket, albeit with a few quirks which may annoy you but which don't seriously detract from the camera's performance. It looks and feels well-designed and well made and will suit both beginners and more experienced photographers alike.