Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR review: 20x zoom compact for those who crave control

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

The Good The Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR has hobbyist-targeted features like manual controls, direct access to settings, and raw capture. Shooting performance and picture quality are excellent.

The Bad For those unfamiliar with Fujifilm's EXR sensors, getting the best results can require a little extra effort. Similarly, its menus and controls can take some adjustment.

The Bottom Line If you crave a compact megazoom that gives you a lot of control over your results, look no further than the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

Fujifilm's FinePix point-and-shoots have taken a backseat to its enthusiast compact models like the X20. Still, there are a handful of its FinePix models that deserve attention -- from hobbyists or more casual snapshooters -- such as the 42x zoom HS50EXR and its pocketable sibling, the 20x zoom F900EXR.

The F900EXR is great as a leave-it-in-auto compact camera. However, while it doesn't have the larger sensors or fast lenses of Fujifilm's X-series cameras, it does have some things that enthusiasts will appreciate, such as manual and semimanual shooting modes, raw capture, and quick access to important settings.

It's a fast camera and takes excellent pictures, too, though to get the best results from it, you'll need to explore its various modes and settings.

And yes, it has built-in Wi-Fi, so as long as you have a mobile-broadband-connected iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, you'll be able to shoot and share your shots from anywhere.

Picture quality
From a photo quality standpoint, the F900EXR can produce some of the best photos you'll get from a camera in this class. The overall quality -- especially at higher ISOs -- doesn't compare with what you get from cameras with larger sensors like dSLRs, but for a small-sensor compact megazoom, it's quite good. When viewed at full size, its 16-megapixel pictures are on the soft side with visible artifacts right down to its lowest ISO setting -- not great for enlarging and heavily cropping. (That can be said for almost all cameras in this class, though.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the other hand, at about 50 percent, you can go up to ISO 800 and get very nice photos. And if you take advantage of all the camera can do, you can actually get good results above that sensitivity. That means doing more than setting it to Auto. You may have to adjust settings, shoot in raw, or experiment with its EXR modes to get the best results. If that's not something you're willing to do, this probably isn't a good choice. Its EXR Auto mode is very good as autoshooting modes go, but even tweaking that mode's settings can get you better shots. For more on image quality and the camera's shooting capabilities, see the slideshow below.

Video quality is very good, and the continuous autofocus works well, though it may take a second or two to focus once the lens is fully zoomed in. If you're looking to replace a video camera with it, you may want to pass. That's mostly because full HD clips are limited to 14 minutes in length. The built-in mics did an excellent job of picking up even distant audio. However, when listening with headphones, you can hear the zoom lens movement in quieter scenes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shooting performance
If you're looking for a point-and-shoot that actually has a chance of capturing fast-moving kids and pets, the F900EXR is it. Thanks in part to an autofocus system that combines contrast- and phase-detection AF, the camera is one of the fastest in the category. From off to first shot took 1.4 seconds in our lab tests, though it felt a touch faster when I was actually out shooting with it. From shot to shot it averaged about 0.8 second; turning on the flash adds about 1 second to that time.

Its shot-to-shot time when shooting raw was about 1 second, too. Its shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- was excellent at 0.1 second in bright lighting and just less than 0.4 second in low light. For the most part, these tests are done with the lens at its widest position, so zooming all the way in might slow things down some, but the F900EXR never felt slow.

The camera's continuous-shooting options include the capability to shoot at up to 11 frames per second at full resolution. That's with focus and exposure set at the first shot, and it can only keep that speed up for five shots. Still, that's a nice little burst. I clocked its raw capture burst at 7.5fps, which is also very good.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
In look and feel, the F900EXR isn't significantly different from the past few generations of the camera. That, in this case, is a good thing.

It's still packing a 20x 25-500mm lens (35mm equivalent) and a 3-inch high-resolution LCD. Its shooting-mode dial and shutter release are still tilted slightly for improved ergonomics. And the body has a nice rubberized finish and a decent right-hand grip for easier one-handed shooting.

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 Canon PowerShot SX280 HS
Price (MSRP) $399.95 $349.99 $329.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.1x2.4x1.4 inches 4.3x2.3x1.1 inches 4.2x2.4x1.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 8.1 ounces 7 ounces 8.2 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2-inch EXR CMOS II 18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch high-sensitivity MOS 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/None 3-inch touch LCD, 920K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 461K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 20x, f3.5-5.3, 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) 20x, f3.3-6.4, 24-480mm (35mm equivalent) 20x, f3.5-6.8, 25-500mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG, raw (.RAF)/H.264 linear PCM (.MOV) JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still / video) 4,608x3,456 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive) 4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive; 28Mbps) 4,000x3,000 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 60fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 260 shots Lithium ion rechargeable, 300 shots Lithium ion rechargeable, 210 shots
Battery charged in camera No; wall charger supplied Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB No; wall charger supplied
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes/No (geotagging available via mobile app) Yes with NFC/Yes Yes/Yes

Fujifilm gives you a lot to play with on this camera. For that reason, it can take some time to learn the menu system and where everything is. What's available changes depending on what mode you're in, too. Fujifilm includes a listing in the camera manual of all the features that are available for the different shooting modes.