Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR: Feature-filled pocket zoom stumbles in key areas
At a Glance
If you're looking for a lot of zoom range in a little camera, the 20X-optical-zoom Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR ($300 as of October 15, 2012) certainly fits the bill. Like many of its competitors, this pocket megazoom augments its far-reaching lens with manual exposure controls, in-camera GPS, and an array of shooting modes to tackle everything from low-light shooting to instant panoramic images to 3D still shooting. However, in our standardized lab tests for image and video quality, the 16-megapixel FinePix F770EXR turned in below-average scores. You'll need to use the camera outside of Auto mode to get the best results.
Performance, image quality, and video quality
In TechHive Labs subjective jury tests for photo quality, in which we capture all test shots in Auto mode, the Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR trailed behind competing long-zoom compact cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Samsung, posting scores of Fair for exposure quality and color accuracy. Specifically, the camera had trouble reproducing skin tones in our flash exposure test, as our mannequin's face looked a bit blue (it gets cold in the lab, but not that cold), and purples and reds seemed less vibrant than they did with other cameras. In sharpness and lack of distortion, the F770EXR fared much better, achieving a score of Good in each of those categories.
Click the thumbnail images below to see the full-size shots we used for our subjective tests.
In our subjective video-quality evaluations, the FinePix F770EXR fell back into the Fair range. The 1080p/30-fps sample video that we shot in our well-lit test looked fine, with smooth motion and relatively sharp details, despite a blue/gray cast. In our low-light video test, however, it was hard to make out anything whatsoever. On a bright note, audio capture through the FinePix F770EXR's front-mounted stereo microphones earned a rating of Very Good.
Here are the test video clips we used for our subjective evaluations. Select 1080p from the bottom menu in the player for the full-resolution clips.
In battery life, the F770EXR is better than the rest of the pocket-megazoom pack. With a CIPA rating of 300 shots per charge of its lithium ion battery, the FinePix F770EXR earned a battery-life score of Good, offering significantly more juice than long-zoom compacts from Canon, Nikon, and Samsung.
Shooting modes and features
The marquee feature of the Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR is its 20X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 500mm), which offers about as much zoom range as you'll find in any pocket megazoom camera in stores today. Although the camera offers sensor-shift image stabilization, in my hands-on tests it wasn't as effective as the stabilization systems in competing cameras; I found the stabilization system to be problematic at full zoom (where you'll need it the most), and photos can come out blurry unless you mount the camera on a tripod or rest it on a flat surface.
Like most of Fujifilm's EXR-sensor cameras, the F770EXR has no shortage of in-camera options to choose from, and some of the shooting modes are quite unusual. Three separate "EXR" modes optimize the sensor for low-light shooting, dynamic range, and high-resolution output, and you'll also find an "EXR Auto" mode that automatically selects from the three according to your shooting environment.
Similar to most pocket megazoom cameras in this price range, the FinePix F770EXR offers full manual exposure controls in addition to aperture- and shutter-priority modes. Like most long-zoom compacts, the F770EXR doesn't have the widest maximum aperture; at its widest angle, the aperture maxes out at F3.5, and the camera's maximum aperture setting pinches down to F5.3 at full zoom. Because of that limited aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom, the camera tends to jack up the ISO or use a slower shutter speed when you're zoomed all the way in, which leads to noisy or blurry images, even in EXR Auto mode. The camera also has an "Advanced Anti-Blur" option for the EXR modes; this option seems to be an additional digital stabilization feature, but it failed to fix many of the blur issues I encountered in my hands-on tests.
This camera excels in macro mode, thanks to a tight minimum focus distance that lets you put the lens within an inch of your subject. Despite the F770EXR's relatively narrow aperture at the wide-angle end, the camera allows you to create shallow depth-of-field effects for macro shots and portraits by using "Pro Focus" mode, which is accessible in the camera's Advanced menus. The mode takes two shots in rapid succession and then stacks them together in the camera to create an image with the foreground in focus and the background slightly blurred out.
The F770EXR has a few more treats in the Advanced menu, as well, including a "Pro Low Light" mode that uses image stacking to create well-exposed shots in dark settings. Generally it turns out great-looking low-light photos, and the only complaint I have is that accessing the mode takes a bit of menu-diving. Also tucked away in the F770EXR's Advanced menu are a motion-controlled, 360-degree Panorama mode; a 3D mode that lets you capture left- and right-channel images separately and then compiles the stereo image in .MPO format; and a "Multiple Exposure" mode that overlays two images taken in succession.
Although the FinePix F770EXR provides quite a few options in its burst mode, fast-moving action captured in its continuous shooting mode can still come out looking blurry. The mode captures up to 8 images per second at full 16-megapixel resolution or up to 11 images per second at 8-megapixel resolution; you can also select slower burst speeds at full resolution. You have a couple of ways to enable burst mode: by pressing the 'F' button on the back of the camera and selecting 'Continuous' from the on-screen menu, or by choosing the camera's motion-tracking autofocus mode and picking a shooting speed. In my hands-on tests, I noticed a strange lag between the first and second shots in a sequence, although the camera's burst speeds picked up after the second shot.
You can also set the camera's continuous shooting feature as a bracketing mode, which goes beyond the normal exposure-bracketing options. When you're in manual mode, aperture-priority mode, or shutter-priority mode, the camera offers a dynamic-range bracketing option and a bracketing option that applies the camera's different "Film Simulation" filters to the same shot.
Along with that high-speed still-shooting mode, you'll find a high-speed mode for video. You can slow down fast-action scenes by choosing the camera's 320-fps movie mode in the video menu, which captures a 320-by-112-pixel clip. You can also capture superslow-motion scenes at 160 fps in 320-by-240-pixel resolution and at 80 fps in 640-by-480-pixel resolution.
The FinePix F770EXR offers more than the average raw longitude/latitude geotagging features found in most GPS-enabled cameras. You don't get the in-camera maps that you do in GPS-enabled cameras from Casio and Panasonic, but the FinePix F770EXR does provide some advanced geotagging features. For example, the camera's GPS setup menu allows you to tag your photos by the real-world location name rather than by the latitude and longitude coordinates.
Establishing an initial GPS connection requires pressing the 'F' button on the back of the camera and selecting 'Power Search On', which displays a full-screen progress meter for your connection. Your connection times may vary: In my tests in New York, among the big buildings, linking up to the GPS satellites took 2 to 3 minutes.
A "Tracking Data" setting updates GPS data when the camera is off, but I disabled that feature in my hands-on tests to conserve battery life.
Hardware and design
The FinePix F770EXR stands out from the rest of the pocket-megazoom crowd in its physical design: Its sleek, wavy body feels as if it were sculpted out of a single piece of material, and the camera feels molded to your hand when you're holding it. It's also small enough to fit in the pocket of a jacket or a baggier pair of pants.
Despite its small size, the camera has enough room to host a comfortable, contoured hand grip on the front, as well as several buttons on the top and back for accessing its extensive shooting modes and adjustments. A lot of physical controls are in the mix, but the button layout doesn't feel crowded. On the top of the camera, you'll find a power button, the shutter button ringed by the zoom control, and the 'Fn' button, which basically just gives you access to ISO adjustments in some modes.
Bridging the top and back of the camera at a 45-degree angle is the F770EXR's mode dial, which has eight selections: manual mode, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, program Auto mode, the scene-mode menu, the camera's Advanced modes, normal Auto mode, and the EXR modes. Next to the camera's 3-inch LCD screen on the back are four more buttons and a directional pad/scrollwheel. Also present are a playback button, a dedicated video-record button, a display button, and a button marked with an 'F' that gives you fast access to some in-camera adjustments (image resolution, continuous shooting mode, GPS setup, digital image stabilization, and a number of "Film Simulation" effects filters).
On the right edge of the camera, you'll see a door that covers a Mini-HDMI port and an A/V-out port, while the left edge hosts the button that enables the pop-up flash. The pop-up flash is designed differently than the ones on most cameras in this price range. It has a hinged design, but you can't manually angle the flash upward as a bounce flash as you can with some mirrorless interchangeable-lens models; the flash is disabled once you angle it upward.
The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount and a sturdy plastic door that covers the battery compartment and SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot. All in all, the F770EXR is a sleek, well-constructed camera that distinguishes itself from the similar-looking pocket-megazoom pack in terms of aesthetics.
The Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR has quite a few strong suits, including very good macro capabilities, good-looking low-light pictures in its Pro Low Light Mode, solid battery life, good GPS features, and a comfortable, eye-catching design. However, it doesn't perform as well in a few very important areas, most notably overall image and video quality, iffy image stabilization, and noisy output at high-ISO levels and in burst mode. If you use this camera primarily for macro photography and low-light shooting, you'll get good results if you use its "Advanced" shooting modes for those scenarios. Unfortunately, a pocket megazoom is theoretically built for versatility at both ends of the lens, and the F770EXR's struggles start once you try zooming in its far-reaching optics.