Fujifilm Finepix F610 Zoom
Review Date: May 5th 2004
Ease of Use
You will either love or hate the upright format of the Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom. This is definitely one of those cameras that you should try before you buy as it is so different to most other digital cameras (and film cameras for that matter). The rectangular shape of the F610 means that at first it is a little uncomfortable to hold. I found the best method was to support the top-left hand corner of the camera with my left hand and the bottom of the camera with my left hand thumb, then operate the zoom and shutter release controls with my right hand.
One of the most immediate and striking things about the Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom are the 2 LCD screens that dominate the back of the camera. The main screen is a bright 1.8 inch colour TFT LCD monitor with 134,000 pixels, which makes composing pictures and movies very easy. The large LCD is a little difficult to use in bright sunlight, but most LCD screens suffer from this problem, and you can always use the optical viewfinder instead.
Underneath the main LCD screen is a smaller LCD that shows the most frequently-used camera settings, including flash, macro, shooting mode, exposure mode, aperture and exposure compensation. The 4 buttons underneath the second LCD screen allow you to change these settings. It's a very innovative idea that takes a while to get used to, but once you have used the camera a few times it definitely speeds up the overall operation.
In conjunction with the smaller LCD, there are a couple of other ways to access menu settings. As with the FinePix F700 Zoom and the FinePix S7000 Zoom, the Fujifilm FinePix F610 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. There is also a small blue button with an F on it, which opens the Photo Mode menu and allows you to control the file quality setting, 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. I think Fujifilm should have dropped this button on this camera because of the addition of the smaller LCD.
The Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom is very well constructed, being built of a mixture of brushed aluminum and a few plastic parts. It certainly looks very stylish and will no doubt impress your friends. Unfortunately the various buttons on the rear of the camera are a little on the small side and may be fiddly to operate if you have large hands. Even the 4-direction button which sits at the top-right of the camera's rear is too small; I found that operating it using my thumbnail was easier than using my thumb itself. Also the exposure mode button on the top of the camera is too small - only the shutter button itself feels like it was designed for "normal" people. One last complaint is about the tripod mount, which despite being of metal construction is positioned at the extreme left of the bottom of the camera. The USB connector occupies the middle instead.
My complaint about most of the other Fujifilm digicams that I have reviewed unfortunately has to be repeated for the Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom. One thing that initially confused me is that the optical zoom and digital zoom are integrated together. When you zoom in and out, a vertical bar appears at the top of the LCD screen with a horizontal mark in the middle. A small square indicates what zoom setting the camera is currently set to, with optical zoom shown on the bottom of the scale and digital zoom at the top. I didn't realise this and thought that the vertical mark at the middle just indicated the middle setting on the optical zoom. As digital zoom negatively affects image quality, I think Fujifilm should have separated the two types of zoom, not combined them in the way that they have. It may give the Fujifilm FinePix F610 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 the digital zoom off.
Despite these complaints, overall the Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom is a very stylish and well-built digital camera that I feel will definitely appeal to the gadget-lovers out there. The small external buttons, upright format and the fact that it is so different to other cameras will also definitely put some people off - this isn't a camera that will be universally loved. The second smaller LCD screens is a great idea, courtesy of the professional FinePix S2 Pro digital SLR, and it's something that I'd like to see more widely implemented. I enjoyed my time with the Fujifilm FinePix F610 Zoom, but it does take a while to get used to, especially if you have used more conventional cameras before.