Fujifilm was among the first camera makers to push up to ISO 1,600 and beyond in compact cameras, thanks to its effective noise-reduction algorithms. That resulted in a parade of double-digit F-series cameras that employ Fuji's Real Photo Technology--a group of features aimed at shooting usable photos in low-light, among other, situations. The latest of those cameras is the FinePix F40fd, which offers an 8.3-megapixel Super-CCD-HR sensor, sensitivity up to ISO 2,000, a 2.5-inch LCD, and a 3x, 36mm-to-108mm f/2.8-to-f/5.1 zoom lens. However, you won't find optical or mechanical image stabilization, which puts it one step behind many of its competitors, some of which also offer 4x or even longer zoom lenses, too.
As can be correctly deduced from its model name, the F40fd includes Fuji's face-detection system, which can identify faces and use them to set focus and exposure. In our field tests, it functioned well. As most of these types of systems do, it relies on finding a subject's eyes to detect the face. That means if your subject is in profile, or if the camera can't "see" both eyes, it likely won't detect the face.
Unlike Fuji's F30 or F31fd, the F40fd doesn't include aperture-priority or shutter-priority, or full manual exposure modes. While this won't irk casual snapshooters, advanced shooters who are looking for a pocket camera might be disappointed by this fact. Fifteen scene modes help you deal with special shooting conditions, such as fireworks, sunsets, or museums.
All controls are found on the right side of the camera, making one-handed shooting possible. Fuji splits its menus between the F button and the Menu button. The F button gives you access to ISO, image size and quality, color, and power-management functions, while the Menu button lets you adjust exposure compensation, metering (which Fuji refers to as photometry), AF mode, white balance, and a number of general setup functions. The mode dial isn't as easy to move as some that I've used, perhaps because of its location. If the edge of the wheel extended past the edge of the camera body slightly, it might be easier to manipulate. Similarly, the ridge that runs along the right side of the front of the camera, which seemingly provides a grip of sorts, is too far to the right to be effective. As a result, it is somewhat uncomfortable to use and isn't as effective as it could be in steadying the camera. As always, we suggest using two hands whenever possible while shooting handheld for the steadiest results.
While quicker to start up than the F30, the F40fd is slightly sluggish between shots. The camera took 1.1 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. After that, it took 2.5 seconds between shots with the flash turned off, slowing a little more to 2.7 seconds with the flash turned on. However, shutter lag measured a decent 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, we were able to capture an average of 0.46 frame per second (fps) when capturing 8.3-megapixel JPEGs, and 0.52fps when capturing VGA-sized JPEGs.
Image quality is very good, with accurate-looking colors, though we did notice a minor amount of purple fringing in some photos. The camera's automatic white balance produces slightly warm images under incandescent lighting, but does a nice job of neutralizing colors when shooting under fluorescent lighting or natural daylight. There's an impressive amount of sharpness, though of course, some of this becomes obscured at higher ISOs. We saw some ISO noise even at the camera's lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 100, though it's only really noticeable on computer monitors and won't show up in prints. At ISO 200, noise remains well under control, though at ISO 400, the sharpness of finer details starts to deteriorate, a small amount of shadow detail is lost, and you'll start to notice that smooth objects take on a textured, or mottled look. At ISO 800, all of these conditions worsen appreciably, but you should still be able to get a decent 4x6 print from images shot at this setting. By ISO 1,600, small text that was viewable at lower sensitivities becomes unreadable, most shadow detail is lost, and the entire image becomes covered in noise that makes images look more like paintings than photos. We recommend that you stay below ISO 1,600 whenever possible, and below ISO 800 if you plan on printing larger than 4x6 inches.