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Fujifilm FinePix F30 review: Fujifilm FinePix F30

Sports shooters should enjoy the F30's continuous-shooting modes. In addition to the normal burst mode, which can shoot as many as 40 shots in one long burst, you can also opt for the Top 3 continuous mode for just the first 3 shots, or the Final 3 mode, which will shoot as many as 40 shots in a row but keep only the last 3. This last mode is very useful for times when you can't predict precisely when the action will happen, such as trying to capture a soccer player kicking the ball.

The camera's movie mode captures Motion JPEG video with mono sound at as high as 640x480 pixels and 30fps. Like many still cameras, the F30 doesn't let you zoom while shooting video.

According to Fuji, the included 1,800mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery should last long enough for you to capture about 580 shots. With a short shutter lag, average wake-up and shot-to-shot times, and a disappointing standard burst mode, the Fujifilm FinePix F30's performance lands on the better side of average when measured against its competitors. The camera took 2 seconds to start up and capture its first image, 2.5 seconds between images thereafter without flash, and slowed only slightly to 2.7 seconds with flash. Shutter lag measured an extremely fast 0.4 second in high-contrast situations and slowed only a little to 0.9 second in low-contrast lighting.

Continuous shooting was another matter. In the standard continuous-shooting mode, the F30 captured 0.59fps for as many as 40 frames, refocusing and metering between each shot. Compared to some other cameras, this doesn't look very fast, but when you switch to one of the F30's other burst modes, it speeds up considerably. Not only does the camera not refocus or meter between each shot in these modes, it also doesn't have to slow down to write the images to the memory card. For the Top 3 burst mode, the constant focus shouldn't pose a problem, since your subject isn't likely to move very far in the span of the burst. For the Final 3 burst mode, this could be a problem, especially if you're trying to follow a sports player across a field and the player moves out of focus before you take your finger off the shutter to stop the burst. In this last case, your 3 images will most likely be blurry. Fuji built in a potential fix for this with its high-speed shooting mode, which fixes the focus to infinity, so that any object beyond about 3.5 feet is in focus. But you have to remember to engage that mode, or to use the sports mode, which automatically engages it. So, the F30's continuous-shooting modes provide plenty of options, but simple shooters might not be adept enough to figure out the best way to use them, especially when they are flustered and in the middle of shooting.

The Fujifilm FinePix F30's LCD performed well. It held up nicely in bright light and showed very little ghosting when set to its high 60fps refresh rate. Even better than that, it did a great job of gaining up in low light so that framing images in the darkness this camera was made for is a breeze. Many more expensive cameras have been moving up to 3-inch LCDs, but for a camera in this price range, and with its set of features, 2.5 inches is plenty of screen. Of course, purists might complain that there is no optical viewfinder, but again, this is becoming something of a rarity these days. Images from the Fujifilm FinePix F30 were pleasing overall, with well-saturated and accurate colors. Our test images were sharp, though the automatic white balance turned in noticeably warm images under our lab's tungsten lights. The Tungsten setting did much better, with an almost negligible warm cast, while the manual white balance was the most neutral of the bunch. In natural daylight, auto white balance did a great job of keeping colors neutral.

Exposures were generally on the mark, and Fuji's SuperCCD captured plenty of detail from bright highlights to dark shadows. Unfortunately, there was a large amount of purple fringing in high-contrast photos, especially along the edges of the lens.

Of course, low noise is supposed to be this camera's claim to fame, and indeed, it performed very well in our tests. At ISO 100 and ISO 200, the F30 had very low noise with only a few speckles showing up in very dark colors. At ISO 400, noise jumps a bit, becoming noticeable but not distracting. At ISO 800 and above, there is a just noticeable loss of sharpness. This could be an effect of the noise, though it seems like a side effect of Fuji's noise-reduction image processing. That means that at ISO 800, noise is only slightly more prevalent than at ISO 400 and remains well under control. By ISO 1,600, noise becomes obvious, but 8.5x11-inch prints we made were definitely usable. By ISO 3,200, noise obscured significant amounts of image detail and yielded prints that were generally unacceptable but might be OK in extreme circumstances. For example, while I'd prefer not to use ISO 3,200 with this camera, if I had to choose between capturing a shot of Britney Spears dropping her baby again or missing the moment, I'd use the F30's ISO 3,200 and probably still be able to get the National Enquirer to buy the image.

As highly sensitive compact digital cameras go, the Fujifilm FinePix F30 definitely reaches new heights in usability in low-light situations. After all, many compacts still can't provide usable photos at ISO 400, let alone ISO 800 or ISO 1,600. While the rest of the camera's design and features might not be cutting edge, they're certainly adequate, and the versatility added by usable higher ISOs makes this camera a great choice for low-light shooters who don't want an SLR.

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