Fujifilm’s latest addition to their F series of travel zoom cameras is the FinePix F660EXR. Packing a telephoto lens, full manual control and Full HD video recording capability in a slim body, the F series is targeted at those who want serious shooting capabilities without having to carry too much bulk.
Fujifilm FinePix F660EXR on video
Design and Build
The F600EXR is available in black, blue and red. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket, but a tad heavier than most ultra-compacts due to the slightly larger body and telephoto lens. The edges of the camera are well rounded and the glossy finish lends it an attractive look. However, you’ll have to keep a piece of lint-free cloth handy to get rid of smudges that accumulate too easily.
Plenty of features in a compact, stylish body
Fujifilm has paid a good deal of attention to user comfort, especially while shooting. There’s a large rubber grip on the front and rubber dimples for the thumb on the rear, just below the mode dial, for a slip-free grip. This greatly adds to the comfort and inspires confidence while shooting. The rear of the camera is dominated by a large 3-inch LCD screen, which has a resolution of 460K dots. The layout of the control panel is pretty standard with a 5-way d-pad and dedicated buttons for playback, video capture, F-mode and Display/Back. The F-mode button brings up a small menu from which you can set the ISO, image size, drive mode and color mode. A jog dial around the d-pad makes menu navigation a breeze. The d-pad arrows double as shortcuts for instant access to macro, flash, self-timer and EV controls. What we really liked was the placement of the mode dial. There’s a small hump on the top right corner to angle the mode dial so that it can be rotated with only your thumb, and is right in front of you while shooting. The flash pops up from within the body on pressing a button on the left side. It’s locked when the camera is off and automatically sinks into the shell when you switch off the camera. A mini HDMI port and a proprietary USB port for data transfer are housed under a flap on the right side.
The F660EXR is quite slim and pocketable
Right from the shell to the buttons, dials and flaps, the build is excellent. We couldn’t find anything tacky or lacking in usability. The only thing we didn’t like was the all-glossy shell, which picks up smudges like a magnet.
The FinePix F660EXR is pretty much the same as the F600EXR with the built-in GPS and RAW support removed. Both models, and even the F500EXR and F550EXR, share similar specifications and design. At the heart of this camera is a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 16 megapixels. Note that this sensor is slightly larger (15 percent) than 1/2.3-inch sensors found in most compact digital cameras, so you can expect better control over noise with the ISO speed set even above 800.
At 24 mm (35 mm equivalent), the lens is wide enough to capture a broad field of view from short distances. You won’t have to stand too far from a subject to shoot full-length portraits or large groups of people. Capturing distant scenes is effortless too, with the lens extending to 360 mm, which translates to 15x optical zoom.
Apart from the regular auto and PASM modes, the F660EXR offers EXR, Advanced, and Scene modes. For better understanding, each scene preset flashes a crisp one-line explanation along with a thumbnail example on screen. Some of the interesting presets are:
- Natural and With Flash: Shoots two images in a burst, with and without flash.
- Portrait Enhancer: Skin appears smooth
- Dog and Cat: Optimizes focus by using face detection for dogs and cats.
- Night (Tripod): Clear shots of night scenes at slow shutter speeds
The more common presets include Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Beach and Snow.
The mode dial is angled for easy access
With the mode dial set to EXR, the camera switches to a "smart" auto mode in which it automatically detects the scene and tries to use appropriate settings for the best results. You can switch over to Resolution Priority, High ISO and Low Noise, and D-Range Priority. The Advanced mode has Panorama, Pro Focus, Pro Low-Light, Multiple Exposure and 3D shooting modes. The Panorama mode allows you to shoot 120-degree, 180-degree and 360-degree panoramas using left/right sweep, and the camera stitches the images together on the fly. In Pro Focus mode the camera shoots two frames and combines them such that the subject in the foreground is crisp and the background is blurred. The result is close to what you can get with a DSLR, but here the shallow DOF is processed and not a property of the optics. In Pro Low-Light mode, four frames are shot and the results are combined to achieve a blend of good exposure and detail while minimizing noise. Interestingly, colour filters can be used with all scene presets, EXR and Special modes, and even videos, so you can shoot a panorama in sepia or a Pro-Focus shot in black and white.
The F660EXR supports videos at Full HD and 720p at 30 fps. High speed shooting is also supported: 320x112 at 320 fps, 320x240 at 160 fps and 640x480 at 80 fps. When played at 30 fps, high speed videos appear in super slow motion, which looks very cool. Here’s the best part: you can capture individual stills while recording videos. If you like a frame while recording a video, just release the shutter. The photo will be saved and the recording will continue.
The user interface isn’t the best in its class, but not bad either. It’s not intuitive enough for a first-timer to get used to quickly. The menus are displayed in almost full screen and in some cases there are multiple pages. Also, each parameter has a separate sub-menu, which makes operation a tad fidgety.
You’ll find negligible noise if you stick to ISO 100. The results are quite acceptable with ISO values of up to 400, after which luminance noise or graininess starts creeping in. At up to ISO 1600, photos shot in good lighting and rescaled to about 50 percent still look very good. Apply some noise reduction in post-production software such as Lightroom and the results look brilliant. ISO values beyond 1600 should only be used as a last resort. Thankfully, there’s no colour noise, so the colours don’t deviate much.
We shot landscapes, people, macros, and low-light subjects, and we must say that the overall reproduction of color and detail is excellent. However, the camera struggles with bright backgrounds and tends to render flares around subjects in the foreground. What we particularly liked was the Pro Low Light mode. It works very well—you get very good exposures, good amounts of detail and less noise even in poor lighting conditions. Full HD videos that we recorded also came through very well, except that the stereo mic picks up the hum of the motor when we zoomed in and out, which was quite annoying. The overall performance of the F660EXR is excellent.
The Cat Scene mode optimizes focus using face detection. A Black and White filter was added separately
Excellent reproduction of colors and details in Macro mode. This image was shot at ISO 1600
A crop from another Macro shot. ISO 100, EV +1 2/3
Faux DOF using Pro Focus. The shallow depth of fleld in the background emphasizes the focus of the subjects in the foreground
Shot using Night (Tripod) scene to get low noise and good amount of detailing
Shot using Auto mode. The camera captured the shot at ISO 100 and 1/40 sec shutter
Verdict and Price in India
Premium travel zoom digital cameras are usually priced at around Rs. 20,000 and the Fujifilm FinePix F660EXR is right in that spot at Rs. 19,500. Its closest competitor is the Canon PowerShot SX240HS, which the F660EXR does surpass in a few areas. This camera might have been even more fun to use if FujiFilm had included effect filters such as Miniature, Pinhole and Fish Eye, but nevertheless, for the kind of performance and the feature set it offers, it quite justifies the price.
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