Fuji Finepix M603
Review Date: 20th November 2003
The Fuji Finepix M603 has a 3.1 megapixel CCD that delivers more than six million recorded pixels. It features a 2x optical zoom that is equivalent to a 38-76mm lens on a 35mm format camera. The Fuji Finepix M603 supports the xD-Picture Card format, a tiny format that is commonly used in much smaller cameras than the M603, and Compact Flash and MicroDrive.
This camera doesn't have any selectable exposure modes, like aperture-priority, shutter-speed priority or manual, and it doesn't offer the usual range of scene modes either. The camera always controls what combination of shutter-speed and aperture are set to achieve correct exposure. Instead, you can choose between Auto and Manual. Auto means that the camera controls everything; all you have to do is focus on the subject and press the shutter button. Switching to Manual allows you to have some control over what the camera is doing. The White Balance, ISO Speed and Exposure Compensation are all made available to configure.
ISO speeds range from 160 to 1600, but unfortunately 800 and 1600 are only available when the camera is set to record 1M files, and not for the larger file sizes. There are 7 different White Balance setting to choose from, and you can alter the Exposure Compensation in 1/3 EV stops, up to 1.5 over-exposure and 2.1 under-exposure.
The M603 has a continuous shooting mode with various options. You can take 4 frames at up to 0.2 second intervals, or select the Final 4-frame option, which takes 25 continuous shots and records the last 4 in the sequence onto the memory card. Long-period continuous takes up to 40 shots at up to 0.6 second intervals, but only using the 1M quality setting.
The built-in flash offers a range of different modes; Auto Flash (automatic activation as required by the lighting conditions), Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Slow Synchro (uses a slower shutter speed) and Suppressed Flash (off!).
Images are recorded as JPEGs in a range of different quality and size settings; there are no TIFF or RAW formats. To compose your images, you have to use the LCD monitor. There is not traditional optical viewfinder on the M603. Fortunately the M603 has a massive 2.5 inch colour TFT LCD monitor which has 118,000 pixels, one of the biggest LCD screens that I've seen on a digital camera. The M603 is powered by a proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which takes 3 hours to fully recharge.
The M603 can record movies at 3 different settings; 640x480 pixels at 30 or 15 frames per second, and 320x240 pixels at 15 frames per second. All 3 settings are recorded in the Motion JPEG format, a type of AVI format that can handle images and sound as a single file, and can be played back by QuickTime 3 or later. According to the M603 manual, a 1GB Microdrive can store approx 15.3 minutes of video at the highest quality setting, or 58.7 minutes at the lowest. The supplied 16Mb xD-Picture Card can only store 13 seconds and 52 seconds respectively! Whilst shooting a movie, you can use both the optical and digital zoom options, and the camera automatically focuses on the subject in the AutoFocus frame. As well as recording movies with sound, the M603 also doubles up as a voice recorder, allowing you to record voice memos and attach them to still images.
Finally, the Premium box kit that I reviewed is very generous. Inside is a camera strap, 16 MB xD-Picture Card, USB cable, video cable, one lithium-ion rechargeable battery, AC power adaptor, hand strap, LCD monitor hood, PictureCradle, soft camera case, manuals and a CD-ROM containing various software. It's very nice to see the inclusion of extras like the camera case and LCD hood, but you will need to invest in a few more xD-Picture Cards to store your images on.