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The 10-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd is the latest in a range of colourful, stylish compact snappers from the Japanese manufacturers. It's available now for around £100, with the price and the styling clearly aimed at the less demanding end of the market. Demanding as we are, we're curious to see how the Z20 measures up.
The Z20 is first and foremost a style camera. It comes in a rainbow of colours: light green, blue, pink, red, and black, all finished with silver accents. Whether it's a stylish camera is in the eye of the beholder, but we aren't keen on the pronounced tapering shape or sliding faceplates, either aesthetically or practically.
The tapering effect to the right-hand side is unusual: generally, the right side is the chunkiest as that's where the camera is gripped. The Z20 is less comfortable to hold one-handed with any stability, and it's impossible to press the buttons with your thumb without supporting the camera with your left hand. Watch those fingers, however, as it's all too easy for them to wander in front of the non-protruding lens. The LCD screen isn't huge either, at 64mm (2.5 inches).
The round buttons themselves, surrounded by neat silver click rings, look cute -- until you realise that the upper round bit isn't a button at all, which is a waste, and the tapering body makes the left side of the ring difficult to click. It seems likely that this camera was designed for someone with significantly smaller fingers than us -- but does the YouTube generation really have midget hands? A dedicated movie button is one nice touch.
Considering it costs £100, the Z20 isn't as feature-light as you might expect. Unfortunately, most of the features let themselves down. A 3x optical zoom lens is fairly standard, as is a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 35-105mm. Face detection is also pretty ubiquitous by now, but a range of red-eye removal options and IrSimple/ IrSS infrared photo transfer are less common. Not that you'll be able to transfer your pictures via infrared to anything much except other Fujifilm cameras.
Playback mode has plenty of different viewing options, such as a 10x10 micro-thumbnail array, slide shows and resizing options for blogs or auctions. Sadly, you have no say in the level of resizing, so it's not as useful as it could be. We're also irritated by Fujifilm's continued refusal to make the playback button a toggle, pressing to return to shooting mode eliciting an onscreen ticking-off that we should press the shutter button instead. We do, however, like that playback will highlight and zoom in on any faces found when originally focusing.
Images and video are recorded to xD, SD and SDHC memory cards. Video is available in YouTube-friendly AVI, at 640x480 or 320x240-pixel resolution at 30 frames per second. No high definition option, but in-camera editing is reasonably versatile, as you can add new video to existing clips and edit out unwanted footage.
On the plus side, we didn't see much purple fringing or distortion. Sadly, that's about all the good things we have to say about the Z20's performance. Wading through menus to tweak even the most basic shooting option wasn't much fun either.
Low light performance is one of Fujifilm's strongest points, but the Z20 doesn't have the lens or the sensor to deliver great pictures. Just about every scene mode boosts the ISO speed at the least excuse. Noise is present in images as low as ISO 200, while any higher than 800 is just bad for your eyes. Natural and flash mode is a good idea, capturing an image with and without flash, but in reality you end up with one horribly noisy image and 1 second-long gap between the two puts paid to any ideas of combining the two images at a later stage.
Continuous shooting mode is woeful, capturing an image every 3 seconds in long period burst mode. You'll probably never find out how long that period is because, like us, you'll probably get fed up of the arthritic snapping that apparently refocuses between every shot. Final 3, which saves the last 3 shots no matter how long you hold the shutter, manages 1fps, but we rarely have cause to use this type of mode and 3 shots isn't really enough.
Battery life is okay, but would probably have been better if the faceplate didn't keep opening in our pocket.
It's cheap and it's colourful -- but so is Pick'n'Mix, and you wouldn't want that for every meal. If the representative of Generation Z in your life has their heart set on it, it won't ruin their lives, but we struggle to find anything exciting about the Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd.
There isn't a great deal of choice at this price point, but we'd suggest either the stylishly slim Casio Exilim EX-S10 or go for the novelty of a touchscreen with the gorgeous Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday