I wanted to love this camera. I really did. I came into this probably more inclined to give it every chance than I normally would with a Vine offering, because the things it claimed it could do were just awesome - geotagging based on data from the phone, wireless transfer, 20x optical zoom. Nice screen in the back. A great (for me) form factor, easy to grip. Fuji had to do very little to get a good review from me, I thought. About all they had to do was show up.
Unpacked it, charged the battery. It's easy to remove and insert the battery, and there's an orange stripe on the battery that matches the orange release button under the cover - makes it easy to see which way the battery goes without having to peer inside to see where the contacts are.
Powered it up, ran through the initial setup for language and time, and started playing some with the menu.
The menu is not very intuitive. And the manual is horrible. It gives a list of what options there are in the menus, but not how to get to them. Some are only available in certain modes, and some you don't get at all just scrolling through the menus - you have to click LEFT on the "d-pad" type button, then get to the little wrench icons to get at the others. I finally found that just by trying it and hoping. This was my first Fuji camera so I don't know if that's how they all are or not. But it was frustrating.
I sat on my couch and took some random photos of my great room. The low light pictures are actually very well done, even on the screen, you can see the image much brighter than you see in front of you in real life. The colors match reality on the viewfinder, something I often don't see in digital cameras (I go through them every year or two, so I've been through a bunch - this one seems to color match on the viewfinder better than any of the others I've had).
Image stabilization - in low light very very poor. No matter how steady I held it things would blur. Even with the camera resting on the arm of the chair, taking a picture across the room of my kid's bookshelf and most of the time they were blurred somewhat. Using a flash let it snap fast enough to keep it from blurring, but my Nikon, taking the same shot in the same light without flash was able to take the pictures without blur. EXR mode gives a better percentage of low light images not blurred from bad stabilization, and changing around to other modes get me a couple that are not blurred, but I expected much better from this when compared to other cameras I've used in similar light that had no problems with stabilization and lower light shots indoors using just room lighting. I didn't play with any manual setting options, it's been decades since my 35mm days, and I'd probably just make things worse, so my testing was with automatic modes, since most of the people who are going to look at a camera like this are people like me, who want a simple point and shoot camera. For people with a more professional or advanced background, if there's specific things you want me to try to test, ask in the comments and I'll do what I can.
Zoom - very nice - less than 2 seconds from 1x to 20x, and less than 2 seconds back to 1x. In movie mode, it does not zoom anywhere near that fast, it's 9 seconds to go to full optical zoom during movies. Things are nice and crisp at 20x just much easier to blur your shot with movement due to the image stabilization issues. But the slower movie mode zoom may be useful for people with a tendency to go nuts zooming in and out while taking movies... Would be nice though if there was an option to adjust it though.
Movie mode - there's a separate movie mode button on back right near where your thumb rests, so you can instantly enter movie mode without having to change modes or touch the dial on top. While taking normal pictures, hitting that button has you taking movies in less than a second. It also gives you a timer that counts down backwards how much recording time is left on the current card.
Flash - manual release only - doesn't pop up if needed. If you think there's any chance you'll need a flash, either due to darkness or just to fill in light, you have to eject it manually. When I saw that the entire left top section to the left of the hump in the middle comes up, I thought, "Oh great, another camera that screws up how you can hold that side with your left hand while taking pictures. But it actually doesn't cause problems because of how it pops up and forward some. The entire back half of that section is open for your finger. It's a HOLLOW spot of course since it's empty with the flash extended, but you have the left and rear edge of that hole, which gives you plenty of grip if you like to use both hands.
The place it utterly failed though was anything having to do with the wireless connect. Plain and simple, it could not. While looking for a manual online (I'm on a Retina Macbook Pro with no optical drive by default so was looking for an online manual) I found a firmware update 1.01 for it. VERY easy to do, just download and copy the DAT file to the memory card, insert in camera and power on camera while holding the DISP/BACK button. Shows current version and lets you update it just right there. And this is evidently there to rectify an issue with wireless connect. However, the problem they outlined as the problem this was intended to fix wasn't my problem.
So the wireless share is absolutely horrible - totally unusable with my third generation iPad or my iPhone 5. First, you have to get the camera into playback mode. Then you have to turn on the wireless connect option on the camera. It goes into "search mode" and this is where the fail is. *NOW* in the very short time it is in search mode, you have to go to your phone, go to settings, wireless, find the Fuji wireless network the camera is broadcasting, select it, then open the Fuji connect app and click "connect". 9 times out of 10 despite me having both apps running (and quick switching between them with a double click on the home button) the connect doesn't happen before the camera times out. The 10th of those 10 times I get a quick flash for a split second on the camera showing my iPhone and connected, then instant disconnection. This is AFTER the 1.01 update for the firmware. This is just a horrible setup.
And of course it's the same for the geotagging - you have to set the phone to use the camera as it's wireless access point before shooting. This one actually gave me enough time to connect my iPhone to it and enable geotagging. I had hoped once I had that connected I could then try to wireless connect, but I had to go back to trying to pick the camera as the access point again, and was back at the beginning of my problems outlined above. It would've been better had they reversed this - had the app on the phone act as a little access point for the camera to look for and connect to, rather than the other way.
And every time you want to try again, it's not keeping the camera on that already connected Fuji camera wireless network - every time it fails, you have to start ALL OVER from the very beginning, back to wireless, back to finding the fuji and selecting it, back to the fuji app to try again.
And the option on the phone to browse the camera, same problems. There is nothing in this wireless connection that works well. Absolutely nothing, and that was the one thing that set this camera apart from my Nikon. But without it, as much as I really wanted to love this camera, there's nothing at all to set this above my existing camera other than the physical aspects I liked.
And I'd also be more interested in wireless transfer directly to my computer, but that is not an option, at least not yet. I hope that if they work to resolve the mess they made of their wireless transfer procedure, they add options to get software for the computer as well.
Now, back to a few other good things.
RAW format - it's been a while since I had a camera that supported RAW, so that's a nice feature for people who need it.
The camera has great heft without being heavy - not as light as my Nikon so it actually feels better to hold. Very ergonomic, with the flared front grip for the fingers, and a pushed out part on the back right under the selection dial for the thumb, with non slip in both locations.
The zoom button is easy to hit, but the notches on it to provide a non-slip surface are just too rounded, don't grip enough. Sometimes your finger may slide around a bit on it.
Bright screen, easy to see. And I love the display and how it gives a big graphic when you switch modes, the right half of the screen shows a graphic of a big selector knob showing not just what you selected, but what ones are a couple above and below it. And the left side gives the details about the mode and what it is used for.
When the camera is off, hitting the playback button gives you the playback display and keeps the lens retracted, and simply pressing the shutter button switches it on for normal camera mode again.
I haven't beat it up yet to see just how long the battery will last since I've spent most of my time playing with the kludgy menu and the awful wireless options, but with about 150 photos taken so far, a couple three minute movies, and lots of flash photos, my battery meter hasn't dropped enough to take one of the three bars off the power icon. And when I'm not taking photos I've got it turned on this whole time so far. So up to this point, the battery life really seems like it's going to be good.
From power on, it's only about 1 to 1.5 seconds before you're shooting. Very quick startup.
Lens cover built in, but not solid. It's very delicate, and it can be easily nudged open so something to be aware of, make sure there's nothing floating around in your case if there's not a separate section for the camera body.
There is a nice, solid mount on the bottom for tripods and such, well secured, and I had no wiggle at all with mine when I tried it on my tripod.
There is a mini HDMI output, but I don't have any mini HDMI cables so I couldn't try it out. I use a media center PC for my TV anyway, with a server in the basement that it reads photos from, so for me it wouldn't have been used anyway.
Oddly enough, the USB cable it comes with doesn't seem to work with my Mac running Mountain Lion. It's recognized right away, and it opens my transfer program, but the program can't see any photos on the camera. If I pull the SD card out and insert it into my Mac, it sees the images just fine. That's how I'd do it anyway, so for me it's not an issue, but something to check if you're using a Mac and need that functionality. Test it to make sure you can pull the images off of it via cable.
It comes with a pretty standard low end wrist strap.
The button to release the flash is on the left edge, and there's no chance you're going to accidentally open the flash - it takes considerable force (for a camera) to release the flash.
Now, for the most important thing ultimately - actual end results. Picture quality is very good. Some shots are just excellent, looking at them on my Retina Macbook. Even the 20x zoom shots taken across the room are just outstanding for 20x zoom shots. I have some test photos I did of my 8 year old's book shelf on the other side of the room. I'll post them over the next few days when I get a chance. Close up shots are impressive. I have one I took with the camera held at about a 45 degree angle, the bottom edge of the lens actually touching a piece of paper, and it took a great shot of the words on the paper from that nearly nonexistent distance. Shots taken with the continuous setting work well also. The microphones pick up sound better than my other P&S cameras, and movies had a better, fuller sound to them.
I'm going to keep trying to see if I can ever get the wireless transfer to work, and will edit this post with notes on the results, as well as more impressions as I get some more shots in various settings.
For the camera itself, I'd give it a 4 star rating just for the camera only side of things, but since this is marketed as a camera with wireless image transfer, and it just is horrible, I'm going to score it based on that, hence the rating of a 2.
Edit 4/22/13 - It's been 7 months since this review, so I thought I'd visit it again and update. No change. Firmware is still the same version, the software has gotten no better on the iphone. Still have to jump between network settings on the iPhone to try to connect to the phone's "access point" and then back to the app to start anything, and it still times out before anything can happen. I had hoped maybe they'd update the firmware to help change things to make it reliable but apparently not. I've been using the Nikon S8200 happily instead of this, and today got a new Sony NEX-3NL/B interchangeable lens digital camera that I'm so far extremely happy with , so this Fuji will just end up thrown out since I have only been keeping it as a spare "backup" digital camera in case the Nikon had a problem, and now the Nikon has become the backup camera so no need to waste space with this unit. Too bad as this had a lot of potential, but between the really bad "intelligent Image stabilization" and lackluster "everything else", it's just not a camera I'd ever bother using despite how much I do like the body and grip and how secure it feels to hold.
on October 1, 2012
Fuji has a reputation for good digital cameras, and this one live up to it. They've managed to pack a 20x optical zoom (25-500 mm equivalent) in to a small, attractive, easy to hold package. The pictures it takes are very good for a small camera with a small sensor. They don't match my DSLR, but that would be asking too much. This is a camera to carry around, not lug around. It's a little larger than my cell phone, but takes much better pictures. It has a decent flash for indoor and low light shots, although you have to manually pop it up.
The camera has both an auto mode and an "EXR" mode, which is also auto, but allows the camera to make a wider range of choices about a picture. It seems to work very well; I suspect most people in the market for a good pocket camera would be perfectly happy never leaving this mode. It also has aperture and shutter priority modes as well as a full manual mode. There is a scene selection mode and a program mode. Finally, there is an advanced mode, which is sort of a special effects mode.
As all digital images are reconstructed from partial image information, the reconstruction can be altered to change the look of the image. For example, this camera can be set to mimic several film types, effectively varying color balance and saturation in ways similar to those film types. The advanced mode takes you beyond this, allowing you to add effects like extreme color saturation, blur like in a toy camera, or even black and white except for a single color rendered in color. For the most part these are things to play with in a camera like this; if you are serious about these sorts of effects you'll probably want a bigger camera and to add these effects in a photo editing program. Consider the B&W with a single color modes. First, if you use red mode you'll get all reds in the scene in red, not just the object of interest. Further, you are limited to what the camera chooses to call red, which might not match your choice. I took a picture of two red roses on a rose bush in this mode, and parts of the two roses weren't red enough to make the filter. Had I been able to choose for myself I would have chosen differently. I will say the panorama mode is cool.
This does bring me to one thing I don't like about this (or most compact digital) cameras: no viewfinder. Yes, my start in photography long predates digital. And I mostly use a DSLR, so I'm not as accustomed to framing with the display as many people. But with a long zoom it is hard to hold the camera out so that you can see the display and hold it steady as you try to frame; with a viewfinder you can brace the camera against your face to steady it. And the display is hard to see in bright sun, as are all displays.
While the camera being small is good in principle, and the design makes it easy to hold despite its size, there are drawbacks. The buttons are small and it's sometimes hard to press in the right place. The SD card is hard to extract because it is right against the door. Size is a trade off.
The printed manual is minimalist, but probably good enough for someone with experience with digital cameras. The CD has the full manual; interestingly, it is formatted in the same small, square page format as the printed manual, as if it had been intended as a printed manual.
For someone looking for a small camera with wide to tele zoom capability that takes good pictures at a decent price, the F800EXR is a good choice, even if you never explore the odd modes. If you want a relatively inexpensive camera to play around with, there is a lot to play with on this one. The various modes might also make it good for a child with an interest in photography. Keep in mind this is a very competitive camera category, so be sure to look into competing models before buying.