It seems like Fujifilm tried very hard to offer something for almost everyone in its 2010 camera lineup. It's not surprising that it includes two 10x zoom pocket cameras priced to move at $199.95 and $249.95--the FinePix JZ300 and JZ500, respectively. What is surprising is how very similar the models are, differing mainly in resolution and color choices; the 12-megapixel JZ300 comes in black or silver versions, whereas the 14-megapixel JZ500 comes only in black.
The JZ500 also has a couple of somewhat extraneous shooting options to make up the price difference. One of those is face detection of pets, more specifically dogs and cats. The other is Face Recognition (for people only), which can be handy but seems like a tough thing to use for an upsell. (Frankly, a panorama mode of some sort would be more worthwhile to me.) However, if those things appeal to you, then the $50 price bump is probably easy to swallow. For me, the JZ300 is the better deal and at less than $200, its mixed photo quality is easier to overlook.
|Key specs||Fujifilm FinePix JZ500|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.8 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.8 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||10x, f3.3-5.6, 28-280mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 24fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 230 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; external charger supplied|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC memory cards|
|Bundled software||MyFinePix Studio (Windows only)|
The main attractions of the JZ500 are the wide-angle lens with a 10x zoom packed into a small body. All of the corners are nicely rounded as is the lens surround so there's nothing to snag when slipped into a tight pocket or bag. The metal body gives the camera a more upscale feel, but it's a bit too slick and there's nothing really to help your grip. That said, it's a comfortable camera to use despite the limited space for controls. One thing that you have to be careful of, though, is blocking the flash, which is placed high on the upper left, and the mono microphone, which is to the bottom left of the lens. Also, the LCD is reasonably bright, but it was still a struggle to see it clearly in direct light.
The controls are pretty basic and should be simple enough for even first-time camera users. On top are the shutter release and zoom ring and the power button. The power is flush with the body, but has enough of a lip surrounding it that operating it without looking isn't a problem. On back next to the LCD is a slightly concave shooting mode dial; the dished shape gives you someplace to rest your thumb. It moves freely, however, so you'll have to check your settings if you're taking it in and out of a tight pocket or pouch. Below the dial are a playback button; a display button for turning on and off onscreen info; and a directional pad with a menu/select button in its center. Along with menu and setting navigation, the pad changes options for flash, timer, exposure compensation, and macro focus.
The menu system is easy to manage as there are only two tabs: one for system settings, the other for shooting settings. There aren't a lot of options to play with, but there are a couple worth mentioning. If there's someone you shoot regularly who frequently ends up with red eyes, you can opt to have the camera digitally remove it. That's not unusual, but it was nice to find that you can opt to save the unedited original, too, while shooting. And though one of the first things I do is shut off all operational noises, the JZ500 has a Silent Mode that turns off the speaker, flash, and self-timer lamp, by pressing and holding the display button. Press and hold again and it turns them all back on.
The battery and card slot compartment is on the bottom right. The door covering it doesn't lock, but the door slides forward instead of off to the side, which seems to keep it from accidentally opening during use or when stored loose in a bag. The battery life is average for its class; the battery must be removed from the camera for charging.
|General shooting options||Fujifilm FinePix JZ500|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm white), Fluorescent (Cool white), Incandescent, Manual|
|Recording modes||SR Auto, Auto, Program, Natural Light, Natural Light & with Flash, Scene 1, Scene 2, Movie|
|Focus modes||Center AF, Tracking AF, Face Detection, Macro|
|Color effects||Standard, Chrome, Black & White, Sepia|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Three|
Shooting modes are geared for point-and-shoot users with mostly auto and scene modes or a combination thereof. There is a standard Auto mode designed for use in most situations. There is an SR Auto that does scene recognition, but for only six scene types: Portrait, Landscape, Night, Macro, Backlit Portrait, and Night Portrait. If the camera can't fit your subject into one of these categories, it defaults to Auto. As fully automatic modes go, they're both good enough for when you don't want to think beyond framing your shot. There is a Program AE mode if you want control over ISO, autofocus mode, white balance, and exposure compensation. The camera's movie mode is capable of capturing at resolutions up to 720p at 24 frames per second. Also on the mode dial is a Natural Light mode for indoors and low-light shooting without the flash, and a Natural with Flash that takes two pictures, one using available light and one with flash. There are two spots for presetting with scene modes, which is nicer than having Fujifilm decide which ones you'll use the most. Options include Portrait, Portrait Enhancer (in-camera smoothing of blemishes), Landscape, Sport, Night, Night with Tripod, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Party, Flower, and Text.
These scene options is where you'll find the Dog and Cat Face Detection, which again is one of four things separating it from the cheaper JZ300. There's not much to say beyond the fact that it will detect the faces of dogs or cats in frame. (However, it doesn't work on animals with black or long fur on their faces.) What's probably nicest about this feature is that there is a pet face detection shutter release, so when the camera is able to detect a dog or cat, it will automatically focus and shoot.
Another of the feature benefits to the JZ500 is Face Recognition. The option allows you to register the faces of up to eight people in the camera's memory; you simply line up their faces with some onscreen markings, snap a picture, and then add info like name, birthday, and a category, such as friend or family. The camera will then prioritize focus and exposure for registered people when detected in photos (up to four at the same time). It can be useful, but depending on your camera use it may not be worth paying extra for.
Shooting performance is above average; it won't blow you away, but it's very good for a midrange compact megazoom. The start-up time is probably the worst part at 2.7 seconds from off to first shot. Shot-to-shot times are basically the same at 2.8 seconds between shots--with or without the flash. Shutter lag is very good for its class at 0.4 second in bright conditions and 0.6 in dim lighting. The JZ500 still won't be great for moving subjects like active kids and pets--even with the Pet Detection--but it is slightly faster than most in this group and with a 1.4fps burst mode you've got a better chance of getting a clean shot.