A first-class 3-inch LCD, good high-ISO photo quality, and some useful, quirky features separate the ultracompact Fujifilm FinePix V10 from the pack, a lure for snapshooters who want a camera with its own personality. However, its 5-megapixel photos don't rise above the crowd, it lacks manual exposure and focus adjustments, and the minuscule controls will frustrate all but the most dainty-fingered photographers. At 6.1 ounces (with xD-Picture Card and rechargeable battery) and measuring just 3.3 by 2.5 by 1.0 inches, the Fujifilm FinePix V10 will fit in most pockets. But squeezing a 3-inch LCD on the back panel of such a small camera means that something's got to give: in this case, the control layout. Seven frequently accessed buttons are crammed into a thin 0.13-inch strip along the bottom edge of the back panel, underneath the LCD, leaving no room for a cursor control pad. Unfortunately, Fuji's solution leaves something to be desired: tiny left/right keys sandwiched around a wider up/down jog lever, with the OK/menu button located to the starboard of the cursor trio.
The bottom also hosts display/Back, review, and trash/LCD-brightness-boost buttons. On the top edge reside the power button, a shutter release with concentric zoom lever, and a button that calls up options for adjusting resolution, ISO speed, and color effects (standard, chrome, and black-and-white).
There's no room for an optical viewfinder; thankfully, you won't miss it. Viewable even under direct sunlight, the bright 230,000-pixel LCD gains up exceptionally well in dim illumination, and it's large enough to compose pictures and read the status text when the camera is held at arm's length. With pixels to spare, Fuji offers a clever assist mode that shrinks the main preview down to a 1.8-inch (diagonal) window, with thumbnails of the last three shots stacked to the left of the live display. As with some other Fuji cameras we've tested, we found the FinePix V10 to be an odd mixture of humdrum features and quirky fun. Once you get past the humongous LCD, many of the most basic features are nothing to write home about. The 3.4X zoom lens extends from a not-so-wide 38mm to a useful 130mm telephoto setting (35mm-camera equivalent) and focuses down to 3.5 inches using your choice of multipoint or center autofocus.
There are just six scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Scene, Natural Light, and Natural Light/Flash. The Fujifilm FinePix V10 lacks shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual exposure modes; aside from the scene modes, your only option is programmed autoexposure using 256-point matrix metering. As with many snapshot cameras, the manual mode isn't really manual at all; it simply allows you to set EV (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV increments) and white balance, as well as choose an autofocus mode. The camera selects an exposure in the range of 4 seconds to 1/2,000 second, and either f/2.8 (wide) to f/5.5 (telephoto) or f/7.4. Flash options consist of auto, red-eye, fill, flash off, slow sync (for balancing flash with ambient illumination), and slow sync/red-eye settings.
You can capture monaural movie clips at 640x480 resolution and 30fps for as long as 15 minutes using a 1GB xD-Picture card. The sound clips can be played back, fast-forward/reversed, or viewed as a single frame, but no in-camera trimming is available. Dig past the mundane, though, and up pop some interesting features. For instance, when you activate the Natural Light/Flash scene mode, the V10 takes two photos in succession: one using available light and a second with flash. It displays both side by side on the LCD, then stores them to the memory card, so you can choose the one you prefer later.
This FinePix has several atypical burst modes, occasionally found in other cameras, that aid in capturing the critical moment when shooting fast action. One takes up to three photos continuously at a 2fps rate (for up to 7 seconds) while the shutter release is pressed. A last-image mode shoots at 2fps for up to 40 images and saves only the last three taken before you release the shutter button. The camera also has a continuous mode that snaps up to 40 pictures until the shutter is released but at a slower 1fps rate.
During idle moments, you'll find it hard to resist this camera's Game mode, which includes a maze, the familiar 15-sliding-number puzzle, and good implementations of arcade games that resemble Galaga and Blockbuster. With only a couple of exceptions, the Fujifilm FinePix V10 is a relatively sprightly performer. The camera reports for first-shot duty in just 1.5 seconds and, thereafter, can snap off photos about every 2 seconds, or 2.9 seconds with flash. Its modest shutter lag is just 0.5 second under high-contrast illumination and 0.8 second under more challenging low-contrast lighting--even without a focus-assist lamp. A high-speed shooting mode reduces shutter lag to almost nothing by disabling autofocus and setting the lens to the hyperfocal distance (everything at half that distance, which depends on the focal length, to infinity is in sharp focus).
The built-in flash is good for even coverage at the wide-angle position out to 14 feet when ISO is set to Auto--we found most of the photos at that distance to be quite grainy because the camera cranks up the ISO setting--but only 7.5 feet at the telephoto setting.
While the 3-inch LCD's refresh rate is 30fps rather than the 60fps found in some Fuji cameras, it displays only moderate ghosting; however, it blanks out between frames in continuous-shooting mode.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Overall, the FinePix V10 renders neutral colors, albeit a bit on the warm side. The automatic white balance does a better job than most of taming incandescent lighting. The flash's red-eye-prevention feature works particularly well; pupils usually ended up with attractive catch lights at the center.
The Fujifilm FinePix V10 handles high-ISO shooting better than most cameras we've tested recently, probably due to its octagonal-pixel Super CCD HR and Real Photo imaging processor. There's little noise at ISO 64, and it remained under control up to ISO 400. While noise is more apparent at ISO 800 and ISO 1,600, the FinePix V10 is no worse than most other cameras in this class at ISO 400. This is one camera you'll feel comfortable using indoors without flash.