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Fujifilm FinePix F31fd

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Fujifilm FinePix F31fd Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

The Fujifilm FinePix F31fd ($350 as of February 15, 2007) is a 6.3-megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom. The metal body feels solid enough to take a few knocks, and it fits well in the hand. My only complaint with the construction is that the small plastic flap covering the AV-out and power jacks looks flimsy and likely to snap off.

The F31fd is one of the first cameras to offer face detection, a feature that identifies human faces in order to optimize the exposure and lock the focus. The value of this feature became most evident when I shot in portrait mode with the flash suppressed. With face detection turned off, photos of coworkers sitting in front of a brightly lighted window came out underexposed, and their faces were much too dark. Turning on face detection improved the exposure: My coworkers' faces came out well lit, without my having to use the camera's flash. Turning on face detection also improved flash shots, though the difference was much more subtle than in the case of pictures taken without flash. A dedicated button for this feature sits next to the camera's four-way control button. PC World has created a video demonstrating this feature.

The camera's other noteworthy talent is its low-light capability. You can crank Fujifilm's proprietary sensor up to ISO 3200. Of course, shots taken at higher ISO settings contain increasing amounts of digital noise, but I'll take those artifacts over shots taken with flash any day. The camera can be slow to focus in low light, however: It sometimes required almost 2 seconds to lock on. The autofocus would swim in and out before snapping each shot, unable to recognize via its AF assist light that the proper focal distance had already been established.

In our lab tests, the F31fd performed admirably. Its battery life earned a rating of Superior because the camera reached our test limit of 500 shots on one charge of its rechargeable lithium ion battery. The average number of shots per charge for recently tested point-and-shoot cameras is far lower, at about 270 photos.

In our image quality tests, our jury gave the camera high marks for its photos' color accuracy and low distortion. The camera scored high across all categories, earning an overall image quality score of Very Good.

And though its 2.5-inch LCD isn't huge, it's sharp and bright enough for viewing in all but the brightest conditions. The up position on the four-way control brightens the display--a handy feature, since the F31fd lacks a viewfinder. Operating the four-way control is easy enough, though it's a bit small for my large thumb (I often ended up poking it with my fingernail). The dial atop the body makes six mode positions available: auto, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual, scene mode, antishake, and movie. It does not include an option for portrait mode because that mode is listed under scenes; you'll have to enter the menus to select portrait mode if you most recently used any other scene mode.

The antishake mode simply increases the shutter speed and ISO to reduce blur. Considering that the F31fd can go up to ISO 3200, that's no small potatoes, but you may have to accept more digital noise in exchange for your sharper photos, which you wouldn't if the camera offered optical image stabilization.

If you like shooting in low light or taking lots of pictures of people, the F31fd should prove to be a worthy workhorse.

Eric Butterfield

This story, "Fujifilm FinePix F31fd" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    The F31fd delivers very long battery life and its face detection improves portraits, but it lacks some common features.

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