Fujifilm FinePix A330
Fujifilm's entry-level FinePix A330 has a basic feature set that won't scare away even the most hesitant digital-photography newcomers. And you can enhance its ease of use with the optional PictureCradle CP-FXA10 dock, which charges an included battery pack and makes connecting to a computer or a TV extremely simple. The FinePix A330 also works as a Webcam for Windows XP users, although you have to supply your own microphone. When it comes to snapshot performance, this 3.2-megapixel camera is slightly faster than its predecessors, but it won't break any speed records. Still, casual snapshot photographers who aren't looking for quickness will likely be pleased with its decent photo quality.
Accented by a charcoal, silver, and blue sliding lens cover, the FinePix A330's mostly plastic body is simply designed and weighs 7.1 ounces with batteries and media installed. In keeping with its straightforward personality, the camera has few external controls. Macro and Flash buttons sit on either side of the toggle that controls the 3X zoom, and there are three buttons adjacent to the 1.5-inch LCD. Unfortunately, those last three buttons require a little extra effort to activate the menu system, Playback mode, and the display settings. The small LCD is further limited in that it previews only 90 percent of your image in Shooting mode, and the tiny viewfinder, with its distorted 80 percent view, doesn't offer a better alternative.
Shooting modes include Auto, Portrait, Sports, Scene (for photographing landscapes), Night, and a low-quality video mode without sound. Manual mode provides exposure compensation and white-balance adjustments. Fujifilm makes it inconvenient to use, however, by requiring too much menu navigation. But it's worth the trouble of selecting a white-balance preset indoors to avoid capturing overly warm (yellow/orange) images. The 3X zoom lens provides a range of 38mm to 114mm (35mm-camera equivalent), which doesn't give you the wide angle you need to shoot groups of people in tight spaces but offers a little more telephoto reach than some other snapshot cameras.
In Playback, you can magnify your view to make sure you've captured a sharp image. There's also a trimming function to crop and downsize image files, as well as slide-show options that include a selection of transitions and intervals for a little viewing variety.
The FinePix A330's performance is sufficient for snapshots but otherwise unremarkable. Time from start-up to first shot is average at just shy of 4 seconds, as is shot-to-shot time without flash at about 3.5 seconds. Flash recycling slows the time between shots to an almost frustrating 5.2 seconds. But you won't have to wait too long to snap when you press the shutter-release button; lag times were about 0.6 and 0.8 second in bright and low light, respectively. You can't rely on this camera to focus in very low light, but its AF warning signal prevents you from ending up with blurry pictures.
We were pleasantly surprised by this camera's image quality. Our test shots, even of a moving freight train, were generally well exposed and sufficiently sharp. The FinePix A330 has a tendency to slightly underexpose, but we see that as a plus since it rarely clipped highlights. We can more easily live with less detail in the shadows. Image noise was minimal, and the FinePix A330 did a nice job with macro shots. All in all, we think most snapshot photographers will be pleased.