In CNET Labs' performance tests, the FinePix F50fd took longer than we'd like between shots, but was otherwise good. The camera took 1.8 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Subsequent JPEGs took 2.9 seconds between shots with the flash turned off and 3.1 seconds with the flash turned on. That's a long time, especially compared to cameras such as Canon's PowerShot SD1000 and Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T20 checking in with shot-to-shot times of half that or less. The F50fd's shutter lag measured an impressive 0.5 second in our high-contrast test and 0.9 second in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In our continuous shooting test, which we conducted in the Top Three burst modes, we were able to capture an average of 3 frames per second regardless of image size.
While Fuji is able to keep noise very much under control up to ISO 400, with very little loss of detail, I saw some noise even at the camera's lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 100. At those lower ISOs, noise manifests as a minor dusting of off-color speckles and is greatly minimized when you make prints. At ISO 800 I saw a slight loss of both fine and shadow detail, but not much, and noise increases noticeably when viewed on a monitor. At ISO 1,600, noise increases greatly, taking away most fine and shadow detail, though you still should be able to get an acceptable print at small sizes. While we don't run our lab tests on ISO settings that reduce the camera's pixel count, in my field tests the ISO 3,200 and 6,400 modes did manage to keep the noise from getting significantly worse than it was at ISO 1,600 and even at 3MP you should be able to make a 4x6-inch print, so it could be a useful feature for low light snapshots. Still, I'd try to stay below ISO 1,600 whenever possible when using the F50fd.
Other aspects of image quality were also good. The automatic white balance does a good job of neutralizing colors in different types of lighting, though photos shot under incandescent lights were a little warmer than I like, but still usable. Colors look accurate, I saw almost no fringing, and images are quite sharp with a wide dynamic range that does a good job of maintaining details in highlights.
As long as you don't mind the between-shot sluggishness or slight texture that the noise creates, even at lower ISOs when viewed on a monitor, then the Fujifilm F50fd would make a nice choice for advanced photographers looking for a pocket camera to supplement an SLR. I say this not only because of the merits mentioned above, but also because the camera's aperture- and shutter-priority modes give you up to 10 choices when choosing an aperture or shutter speed, while a lot of compact cameras with those shooting modes limit you to significantly fewer choices, sometimes as few as two. Of course, if those manual exposure controls don't matter to you, then you may also want to check out the Canon Powershot SD1000 or Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 mentioned earlier, since they'll provide cleaner images at lower ISOs and are faster between shots. Of course, the SD1000 doesn't include image stabilization and is 7.1MP, and though the T20 has optical image stabilization, it is an 8.1MP camera. Even if the megapixel count isn't important to you, and it shouldn't be, you should keep the Fujifilm F50fd on your short list.