The 2-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix 2650 offers just the right balance of features and shooting simplicity for many entry-level digital shooters. Like the FinePix 2600 before it, the 2650 delivers better image quality than you'd expect, given its point-and-shoot orientation and bargain price. The 2650 departs from its predecessor primarily in its support for the tiny xD-Picture Card storage media and the omission of rechargeable batteries and a charger from the package.
Fuji targets first-time digital-camera users with the FinePix 2650, touting the camera's ease of use and film-camera look and feel. For the most part, this model lives up to its billing, providing simple operation via straightforward controls. Relatively lightweight at 8.5 ounces with batteries and media installed, the silver-tone plastic camera is small enough to carry in a coat pocket but doesn't fall into the ultracompact category.
Unlike some similarly designed cameras that turn on when you open the built-in lens cover, the 2650 requires you to slide this power switch as well.
A very simple mode dial encircling the shutter-release button lets you switch between shooting, playback, and video-clip capture.
The 2650's controls are easy enough to master. A mode dial surrounding the shutter-release button lets you switch between capturing photos, shooting video, and viewing your creations. You adjust the few remaining camera settings with a simple menu system on the 1.5-inch LCD. Our only notable complaint about the camera's controls is that you have to enter the menu system even to change the flash setting or set the self-timer. And if you want access to more advanced features, you have to first select Manual in a menu, then reopen the menu system.
A zoom lever, an LCD power button, and menu navigation buttons are the only controls you'll find on the camera back--everything else is in the menus.
You can't change the batteries or the memory card while the camera is on a tripod because they're in a hatch right next to the tripod mount.
Although we liked having a built-in lens cover, we weren't crazy about the sliding lens cover's design. To extend the lens and start shooting, you must slide the lens cover completely to the open position, but the cover design makes it too easy to stop a click short of fully open.
The 2650 uses Fuji's relatively new xD-Picture Card media.
Another nice touch is the slow-sync flash mode, which helps you capture well-exposed shots in low light and create effects such as trails of light from moving subjects. However, you'll have to look elsewhere if you want preset scene modes or any other exposure modes. Although the camera has a "manual" mode, it doesn't offer true manual exposure. The manual mode simply provides access to exposure-compensation and white-balance presets.
Unfortunately, the 2650 has retained a couple of the drawbacks of its predecessor, the 2600. It doesn't offer a video-out connection for displaying pictures on a TV, and its self-timer isn't accessible when you're in manual mode.
We burned through the included AA alkaline batteries in one day of heavy testing.
As is typical with cameras of this class, the 2650's optical viewfinder is small and shows only 80 percent of the image frame. It's bright and clear, however, and if you want more accurate composition, you can use the 1.5-inch LCD to get a nearly 100 percent view. The LCD itself is also clear and easily viewable, even in bright and dim lighting conditions. You can adjust the LCD brightness, too.
Some buyers will greatly miss the rechargeable batteries and the charger that were provided with the 2600. The 2650 comes with only two AA alkaline batteries, though it will also accept AA nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable cells. We burned through a pair of standard AA alkalines in one day of heavy testing, which included frequent flash and LCD use. If you plan to use the 2650 reasonably often, you'll save in the long run by investing in a set of rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries and a charger. The camera doesn't come with an AC adapter, either; Fujifilm sells that separately for $49.
Budget-priced Fujifilm cameras have gained a reputation for delivering the image quality you'd expect from more-expensive models, and the FinePix 2650 carries on the tradition. Colors were usually right on during testing, and skin tones were excellent. The camera's highly saturated colors sometimes made skies a bit too blue, but the results usually looked good.
The 2650 did a good job of minimizing noise, even in low-light conditions. However, the automatic white balance gave some indoor low-light shots an almost beige color cast; we recommend switching to the indoor white-balance preset for shots with incandescent lighting.
Some clipping in bright highlights and deep shadows was noticeable in our test shots, minimizing image detail in those areas. On the other hand, our images were generally sharp and detailed for 2-megapixel shots. We also had a hard time finding flaws such as purple or green fringing in high-contrast areas.
This camera may not be the best choice if you'll often be photographing objects at very close range. The macro mode allows focusing at distances as close as 3.9 inches but only with the lens in its wide-angle position. Exposure was frequently off in macro shots, usually because the flash fired and overexposed the image.
All in all, image quality was impressive for a camera in this price range, though a discerning eye will find flaws in some pictures.