Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR: A Slick, Fast Touchscreen Camera
At a Glance
Among touchscreen point-and-shoot cameras, Fujifilm's FinePix Z800EXR ($200 as of 11/4/2010) is one of the top options we've come across, thanks to an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, very fast autofocus, and some of the best in-camera editing and playback options we've ever seen.
Overall, it's a joy to use, but a few drawbacks in its performance hold it back a bit: less-than-sharp images, poor overall video quality, and lackluster battery life. Nevertheless, the pros outweigh the cons, and we find a lot to like for the price.
Hardware and Design
The 12-megapixel Z800EXR is slim, at 0.8 inches thick, and pocket-size, at 3.9 inches wide and 2.3 inches tall. It weighs 5.6 ounces with the battery and SD/SDHC memory card loaded, making it both thinner and lighter (though not by much) than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 is the only touchscreen camera we've seen that's slimmer.
It packs a 5X optical-zoom lens, which doesn't extend from the front of the camera when you zoom in; it's covered by a sliding faceplate when the camera is powered off. The 35mm-to-175mm zoom lens offers a maximum aperture value of F3.9 on the wide-angle end and 8.0 at full telephoto; we would have liked to see a bit of a wider-angle lens and aperture, but a 5X zoom is a good amount of optical versatility for a camera this skinny.
In design, the Z800EXR is fairly simple, with the only physical controls being a shoot/play mode toggle and a shutter button with a zoom control ring around it. And instead of a dedicated power button, you turn on the camera by either sliding the front panel that covers the lens down or pressing and holding the shoot/play mode toggle. On the side of the camera, a panel covers a mini-USB jack. The Z800EXR has no HDMI-out port, unlike both the Lumix DMC-FX75 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9.
Shooting Modes and Features
Like the other cameras in Fujifilm's EXR line, the 12-megapixel Z800EXR features Fujifilm's EXR Super CCD sensor, which allows the shooter a bit more manual control over a shot without having full manual controls. The three dedicated EXR modes can be set to optimize the sensor for high-resolution shots, high sensitivity in low-light situations, and wide dynamic range. Also, an EXR-driven Auto mode automatically selects between those three EXR-based modes.
While that's cool enough, the real draw with the Z800EXR is its incredibly quick autofocus, coupled with very good image stabilization. Fujifilm touts it as the world's fastest autofocus lens, and I'm inclined to believe them, as this thing is quick. A gyro sensor purports to give you blur-free photos, and it does a pretty good job--while the Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 features some better anti-motion shooting modes (including modes that combine a number of shots to get you one perfect photo), the Z800EXR's dual image-stabilization mode is very effective.
The Manual shooting mode allows you to adjust a number of settings, including the white balance, ISO, dynamic range, exposure, and autofocus. The automatic modes (including EXR Auto, Auto, Touch & Shoot, Natural Light, and Scene modes), on the other hand, give you control over ISO but not white balance, exposure, or dynamic range. You also get 15 different Scene modes, including "dog" and "cat" modes that detect up to 10 dogs or cats in a photo and optimize exposure settings accordingly.
Shooting modes include EXR Auto, Automatic, Touch & Shoot, Scene, Motion Panorama, Natural Light, Manual, and Movie. The Touch & Shoot mode is similar to the Lumix DMC-FX75's touch-and-focus option: You can touch anywhere on the screen to focus on that spot in the photo and immediately snap a picture. The Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 also has the touch-to-focus feature, but you can only focus and not shoot when you touch the screen. The Movie mode features HD recording, but only at 720p and 24 frames per second--not 1080i, like the Cyber-shot DSC-TX9.
While shot-to-shot shutter lag wasn't a problem on this camera--it's a barely-noticeable fraction of a second--turning the camera and taking a shot was a laggy process. Each time you slide the lens cover down or turn on the camera via the shoot/play mode toggle (you hold it down for a couple of seconds), the Fujifilm EXR logo appears. The logo stays on the screen for only about a second and a half, but it's still annoying if you're trying to take a quick photo. This will definitely cause you to miss some moments when attempting to power the camera on and snap a shot right away.
Shot-to-shot time, however, is very quick and can be made even quicker--via the option to cut out image playback (right after you take a photo) completely, so that you can just take shot after shot after shot. The Z800EXR's continuous shooting mode tops out at 1.6 frames per second.
The Z800EXR truly shines when using its display for menu navigation and image playback. The back of the camera is dominated by a roomy 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen, which features 460,000 dots of color and an aspect ratio of 16:9.
The Z800EXR's touchscreen operation is considerably smoother when compared with two other notable touchscreen cameras of 2010, the Lumix DMC-FX75 and the Cyber-shot DSC-TX9. For one thing, all the on-screen buttons are larger and easy to press with your finger (or, at the very least, the tip of your finger). This is a much nicer implementation than, say, on the Lumix DMC-FX75, where almost all of the touchscreen operations need to be performed with a stylus.
The Z800EXR's menus are composed of large on-screen buttons, and they're intuitive and very easy to use. Unlike the Lumix DMC-FX75, the menus are not entirely image-based--each icon features words as well as images for easy navigation.
Playback on the Finepix Z800EXR offers a smorgasbord of features, such as the ability to do some very basic editing (cropping, rotating, making collages, resizing, and removing red-eye), along with some convenient search features. If you're one of those people who usually keeps hundreds of photos on an SD card, these options will be very helpful--you can search for images on your camera by date, starred favorites, type of data (photo or video), face (using face recognition technology), by scene (landscape or portrait), and by "upload mark." The "upload mark" feature is another convenient option--you can mark certain photos for upload, so that when you connect your camera to a computer (and open the corresponding software), it will automatically upload those pictures to Facebook or YouTube.
Another fantastic playback feature is the "compare" option, which allows you to take two photos and compare them, side by side, on the touchscreen. All in all, the Z800EXR is one of the best cameras we've seen in terms of in-camera playback and retouching options.
Performance, Image Quality, and Video Quality
In our standardized PCWorld Labs' image and video testing, the FinePix Z800EXR lost a bit of its luster when its photos were compared with those from other point-and-shoot cameras. The bright spots were exposure quality, color fidelity, and lack of distortion: The Z800EXR netted scores of Good, Good, and Very Good in those areas, respectively.
Image sharpness, however, was a major weak spot. The FinePix Z800EXR turned in a score of Poor in our sharpness test, lagging behind most point-and-shoot cameras we've tested in 2010 in that category.
In my hands-on informal tests, photo quality looked decent for a point-and-shoot. Colors tend to be a little washed out, especially with the flash, and there's some visible noise at ISO 400 (though it doesn't become really apparent until ISO 800). Still, it seemed to be better at high-ISO settings than our other two touchscreen cameras (the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9).
Click any of the sample images at left to see the full-size versions of the photos used for our subjective image testing.
The FinePix Z800EXR also falls short of the competition in terms of video quality. In bright light, 720p sample clips shot with the Z800EXR in AVI format at 24 fps was smooth and bright, but quite a bit less sharp than the video output of similar point-and-shoot cameras. But in our low-light test clip, we couldn't see any of the moving scene at all. Our panel of judges gave the Z800EXR an overall video score of Poor, but bright-light video quality is decent. Audio quality recorded through the Z800EXR's on-board microphone was rated as Fair.
Watch the sample clips from our subjective video tests below. Select "720p" in the drop-down menu in the lower right corner of each player to see each clip at maximum resolution.
Lastly, battery life falls way short of the 300-plus average we've seen on the vast majority of point-and-shoot cameras. The Z800EXR has a battery life rating of 170 shots per charge of its battery, just enough juice for a battery life rating of Fair.
If you're looking for a $200-range touchscreen camera for casual snapshots, you really can't go wrong with the Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR. Its incredibly fast autofocus and myriad playback options, coupled with its very intuitive and easy-to-use touchscreen make it a near-perfect choice as a touchscreen camera for tight budgets. While it's not as sexy as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9, it's way more affordable, and it's definitely worth the price.