Equipping a compact camera with a 6X optical zoom is no mean feat, but Fujifilm has done a nice job with the FinePix 2800 Zoom. Weighing in at 13.3 ounces with batteries and SmartMedia memory card installed, this digicam has a well-balanced, ergonomically pleasing design. Its good-sized grip provides a solid handhold to combat camera shake, which is especially critical when zooming in close. An electronic viewfinder (EVF) takes the place of an optical viewfinder on the camera, and although neither it nor the 1.8-inch LCD will give you the sharpest view on the block, the EVF provides a relatively smooth display when you pan and zoom.
Almost all of the 2800 Zoom's settings are accessible via easy-to-understand LCD menus. The minimal controls on the camera body let you zoom, navigate the menu, and switch between the EVF and the LCD. You can use a dial on top of the camera to select the shooting, playback, and video modes. Although these controls are well placed and readily accessible, we sorely missed being able to access frequently used features such as flash settings and the Macro mode without scrolling through the menus.
A rare blend of features
The FinePix 2800 Zoom offers a nice combination of no-brainer automatic features and the kind of zooming power usually found only on larger, more sophisticated cameras. Although best suited for those who prefer snapshot simplicity, this digicam does offer a few advanced features for users who want a little more control. The Manual mode, for example, provides exposure compensation and white-balance settings. Unfortunately, using it requires several steps of menu surfing. On the other hand, a simple but very useful addition to the viewfinder options is a framing grid, which makes centering a subject or aligning a horizon a snap.
Point-and-shoot fans will have fun recording 60-second video clips with sound and make good use of the 30-second voice-caption feature for still shots. Attaching a verbal note to a photo is perfect for eliminating postvacation image-identification confusion, especially when there are multiple shots of the same types of subjects, such as cathedrals or landscapes. And, if you like to videoconference with family and friends, you can hook up the 2800 Zoom to your computer and use it as a Webcam.
The 2800 Zoom is no speed demon, with a shot-to-shot delay of more than three seconds at high resolution. The four-shot continuous mode, however, cuts the between-shot time to less than a second. We wish only that the viewfinder didn't black out while you're using it. The camera's battery life was longer than we expected, especially given that it comes with alkaline batteries. You'll get more stamina out of rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride cells.
Our test shots were well exposed, with pleasing color and a respectable dynamic range. The images exhibited a slight bit of noise--particularly noticeable in large expanses of sky--and details in dark shadow areas tended to get lost. But overall, the picture quality was very good. Flash coverage was even and generous, and we got good results in a range of indoor and outdoor lighting conditions.