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

The F900EXR is a 20x zoom point-and-shoot that's good in auto, but for those who aren't afraid to change settings, it can be even better.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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8 min read

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.

Fujifilm_FinePix_F900EXR_35764743_01.jpg
8.1

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR

The Good

The <b>Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR</b> 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.

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.

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR sample pictures

See all photos

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
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
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.

To help you get to an important setting fast, there's a programmable function button (Fn) on top. It can be set for ISO, image size or quality, dynamic range, film simulation, exposure metering, focus mode, or face detection.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Joining the Fn button on top, the F900EXR has an E-Fn button on the back that basically lets you map the buttons on back to a second set of functions. Want to be able to quickly change focus mode or white balance? The E-Fn button is for doing just that. For people who actually like to find just the right settings for a shot, it's a great setup.

One slight disappointment -- and I mean slight -- is the pop-up flash. It performs just fine, but it's a manual flash, so you'll have to pop it up yourself if you need it. Plus, despite the fact that it can be angled back, it won't fire in that position so it can't be used as a bounce flash.

What will probably be more disappointing, though, is battery life. It's rated for 260 shots, but setting it for the fastest performance, using the zoom a lot, frequently recording full HD or high-speed movies, or using its continuous-shooting modes will empty it faster. Also, if you take advantage of the camera's built-in Wi-Fi, don't expect to reach that mark. On the upside, its battery pack is fairly inexpensive, so do yourself a favor and pick up a couple extra batteries and you should be set.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Wi-Fi and mobile app
The F900EXR's built-in Wi-Fi can be used for a few things. Mainly, it's for sending shots (up to 30 at a time) from the camera straight to your Android or iOS mobile device. Basically, you pick the photos on the camera you want to copy to your smartphone or tablet, open Fujifilm's camera app on that device, and tap a Connect button on screen, and, with any luck, the two will directly connect to each other and start sending the images.

You can also connect to the camera and use your smartphone or tablet to browse the camera's contents. You can select and transfer photos that way as well.

The Wi-Fi connection to your smartphone can be used for geotagging your photos while you shoot and, with Fujifilm desktop software, you can use the camera to connect to a home wireless network and have the camera automatically back up your shots to a Windows computer.

General shooting options Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Direct Sunlight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Custom
Recording modes EXR Auto, Auto, Advanced, Scene, Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Movie (Normal, High Speed)
Focus modes Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, Macro; Center, Multi, Area, Tracking
Macro 1.9 inches (Wide); 4.2 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Soft, Sepia, B&W
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 5 shots

There is no shortage of shooting modes on the F900EXR, including two Auto modes (with or without scene recognition) right up to semimanual and manual controls. In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 8 seconds and go down to 1/2,000 second (though they're dependent on the ISO used); selectable apertures include f3.5, f7.1, and f10 at wide end, and f5.3, f11, and f16 at the telephoto end.

EXR Sarah Tew/CNET

The scene-recognition auto, called Auto EXR, can now detect 108 different shooting patterns and includes Fujifilm's EXR options. These consist of High Resolution Priority, D-Range Priority, and High Sensitivity & Low Noise Priority. The High Resolution Priority setting uses the full 16-megapixel resolution for photos, while the other two shoot at 8 megapixels to improve dynamic range in high-contrast scenes or reduce noise in low-light photos. (Fujifilm's site has a full explanation of the EXR technology if you're interested.)

Each of these can be individually selected or you can leave it in Auto, letting the camera decide which to use. Auto is effective and reliable as long as you're OK with the possibility that you'll end up with 8-megapixel photos if the D-Range and High ISO & Low Noise Priority modes are used for your shot (and you should be because 8 megapixels is enough resolution for a megazoom point-and-shoot).

The Advanced mode gives you a few more tools to work with that take advantage of the camera's speedy sensor: Pro Low-light and Pro Focus. The Low-light mode snaps off several photos and then combines them into one lower-noise photo, while the Pro Focus creates a shallow depth of field by digitally blurring the background. (The former works better than the latter.)

In this mode you'll also find a cool multiple exposure option that lets you layer one shot on top of another as well as eight advanced filters (Toy, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key, and Soft Focus). You can see example of these in the slideshow in the photo quality section of the review.

For video, you can shoot at resolutions of 720p or 1080p at 60fps and VGA at 30fps. You also get high-speed movie movie capture at 480fps (320x112 pixels), 240fps (320x240 pixels), and 120fps (640x480 pixels).

Conclusion
There are plenty of compact megazoom options available -- from basic snapshot cameras to ones that are mostly point-and-shoots with a bit of extra control to those designed for enthusiasts. The Fujiflim FinePix F900EXR falls into "enthusiast" group, but it's a very capable "family camera," with solid results if you just leave it in auto. Though its photo quality and performance still aren't those of larger-sensor cameras like dSLRs and mirrorless compacts, you're not going to get one of those with a 25-500mm zoom lens.

Fujifilm_FinePix_F900EXR_35764743_01.jpg
8.1

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Image quality 8
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