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Ultracompact and uncomplicated
Slim and weighing just a little more than seven ounces with two AA batteries and a SmartMedia card installed, the 30i is well designed for traveling snapshooters. Controls on the camera body are kept to a minimum, and basic operation is as easy as sliding open the lens cover and pushing a button. Some menu surfing is necessary to tweak the flash setting, white balance, and exposure compensation. Although the menu interface is straightforward, we wish that Fujifilm had made these functions more easily accessible through buttons. You get to MP3-related controls by means of a convenient clip-on remote control that plugs into the camera.
As a camera, this device offers a basic set of features, sporting a fixed-focus, fixed-focal-length lens. There is a digital zoom function, but it can't be used when you're shooting in the highest-resolution mode. Slow-sync flash and a macro mode add nice touches to the 30i, although our macro test shots were often out of focus. As for those multimedia extras, you can add voice captions to photos, capture 20-second movie clips with sound, and record up to four and a half hours of audio, depending on the capacity of your SmartMedia card. Shooting with the 30i is quick and easy--the fixed-focus lens means no autofocus delay, and there's no real shutter lag either. The LCD isn't great, however; it's usually too dark to use for composition in low light, and it's contrasty enough to lead you to believe that you've blown out highlights when you really haven't.
Listening to music on this FinePix is not so quick and easy, to say the least. We encountered maddening problems with the audio-downloading software and never did get it to work on our Mac, in either OS X or OS 9.x. Regardless of whether you're running Mac OS or Windows, downloading MP3s to the SmartMedia card is not a simple drag-and-drop process. Files must be encoded for use with ID SmartMedia cards, a music-industry copy-protection scheme that makes life difficult even if you paid for the songs that you wish to play. In Windows, this process is accomplished with the included RealJukebox software and necessitates that your camera be connected via USB; we had no luck using a USB SmartMedia card reader.
Overall, we were happy with the 30i's audio quality. During playback, you can toggle the remote control's display to reveal either artist and song title or song duration time, and you can skip forward or back by one song at a time. Audio adjustments are limited to volume control and boosting the bass tones by one or two steps. The included earbuds are of average quality, their biggest inconvenience being a rather short cord that connects them with the remote control. Unless you're petite, you won't be able to clip the remote to your belt or pants pocket while the buds are in your ears.
Easier on the eyes
The good news is the 30i's image quality, which compares reasonably well to that of other 2-megapixel cameras in the same price range. Colors are rich and well saturated, with a warm balance. The tonal range, contrast, and definition in our test shots were quite good, and color aberrations were hard to find. Our biggest complaint is with the in-camera sharpening, which is often just too high. Though the sharpness does bring out detail in many cases, it also gives edges the jaggy appearance that commonly results from oversharpening. Images from the 30i look best when printed at small sizes, where this level of sharpening is most effective.