Usable high-ISO sensitivities, good photo quality, and a brawny battery highlight the appeal of the 6-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F10. It's a compact point-and-shoot package that includes a 3X optical zoom and a 2.5-inch LCD that's usable under a variety of difficult lighting conditions. Photo enthusiasts might be disappointed by the lack of manual controls for exposure and focus and by the image quality, which is long on latitude but suffers from fringing that pulls it up short. Snapshooters who like lots of scene modes will find only five to choose from, but fans of this camera's special features will find its shortcomings merely minor annoyances.
LCDs aren't just for review anymore. The Fujifilm FinePix F10's huge 2.5-inch display will make you wonder why you ever put up with peering through your last point-and-shoot's tiny optical porthole. You can easily compose shots on the full LCD, whether you're holding this compact's 7.1-ounce, 3.6-by-2.3-by-1.1-inch aluminum body a few inches away or at arm's length. The LCD's 60fps refresh rate resists ghost images, is readable under direct illumination, gains up under dim light for enhanced viewing of murky scenes, and gets a temporary brightness boost when you press up on the four-way cursor pad. Or you can opt to compose using a 1.5-inch (diagonal) view, with thumbnails of your last three shots running down the left side of the live display.
A two-handed grip is your best bet if you want to keep one finger poised over the shutter release mounted on top of the camera while thumbing the sensitive zoom rocker on the back panel. On top, this camera's minimalist controls include a (nonilluminated) power button and a shutter button concentric with a dial that selects Auto, Manual, or Motion Picture mode or one of a handful of scene modes.
The equally clean back panel is dominated by the LCD, which is flanked by a zoom rocker, a display/info button, picture-review and function keys, and a four-way cursor pad with a central Menu/OK button. You press up on the pad to access the LCD brightness control or to delete the currently displayed photo. Press left to enter Macro mode, right to set flash options, or down to activate the self-timer.
All other functions, including exposure-compensation settings (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV increments), are available from the screens that pop up when the function or menu buttons are pressed. These include white-balance settings; your choice of 64-segment multipoint evaluative, spot, or average metering; and continuous autofocus or center or multipoint single autofocus.
Like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with M&Ms swirled in, this Fujifilm FinePix F10 is an odd mixture of humdrum features and quirky fun. The mundane includes the 3X optical zoom and a middle-of-the-road 36mm-to-108mm lens (35mm equivalent), which focuses down to 3.1 inches in macro mode, with no manual-focus option. While exposures can be set automatically to shutter speeds between 3 seconds and 1/2,000 second (up to 15 seconds in long-exposure mode) and apertures between f/2.8 and f/8, there aren't any manual, shutter-priority, or aperture-priority modes to let you choose among them. Scene modes are limited to Natural Light, Sports, Night Scene, Portrait, and Landscape. Nevertheless, you can specify ISO settings from ISO 80 up to ISO 1,600 for photos with better detail and higher-ISO shots with less noise than you'd expect from such a small sensor.
Other cool features include a variety of continuous-shooting modes. You can snap off 3 shots in a row in about a second and a half, shoot 40 full-resolution images in about a minute, or snap off those same 40 shots but retain only the last 3 captured before you released the shutter button. The last feature, also found on some competing cameras, such as recent Nikon point-and-shoots, is great when you don't know exactly when the action is going to peak.
Minimovie fans will like this camera's ability to shoot decent flicks at 640x480-pixel resolution, 30fps with sound for almost 15 minutes using a 1GB xD-Picture Card. The video clips can be played back, fast-forwarded, reversed, or viewed single-frame, but no in-camera trimming is available.
Thanks to the F10's hefty battery, the built-in flash is robust enough to illuminate subjects out to 21 feet with the lens at the wide-angle setting and out to 13 feet at the telephoto position (both on Auto ISO). You can choose Auto, Red-Eye, Fill, Flash Off, Slow Sync (for balancing flash with ambient illumination), and Slow Sync/Red-Eye flash settings.