Top critical review
11 people found this helpful
Good camera, astonishingly bad default settings
on June 7, 2011
Got this camera to replace our old vaunted Fuji F30 that had reached the end of it's life at after some ungentle treatment in my wife's hands. (Actually the concrete did most of the damage shortly after the camera left my wife's hands.) What I was looking for is a point and shoot with decent performance in low light. Most any camera can take decent photos in bright light, so low light indoor shots is the true test. While a long range zoom is nice, I also value a wide angle lens even more. Decent video quality also comes in handy when for when she wants to shoot some video and doesn't have a camcorder.
For the most part, this camera met my expectations. It's a little bigger than I was hoping it would be, but that's the price for having such a powerful zoom lens. It's no bigger than other cameras with similar zoom lenses and not obnoxiously big, just a little bigger than many of the newer camera with shorter range zooms. I really like how wide the view is when zoomed out all the way. Very useful for group and indoor shots. Battery life seems good. The rear screen is nice and big but the resolution is somewhat low. The face detection and especially the automatic red eye removal are very cool and work pretty well. One less thing to fix in post processing.
I did have some pretty big issues with the camera when I first got it though. When I got it, I put it in EXR mode, gave it to my wife and let her shoot with it for about a month. I tried it out myself a few times too and was a little concerned at how noisy the pictures were on the screen. I figured it was just because of the poor screen resolution though and assumed they'd look better once I got them onto the PC. When I finally got around to loading them onto the PC, I was astonished to find that other than a couple of outdoor shots, every image taken with the camera was absolutely terrible. Tons of noise and massive noise reduction left the images looking like watercolors. Maybe some people like pictures like this but to me they were useless. I really wished I had noticed this sooner before ending up with so many useless images.
Upon reviewing the image, I noticed that the camera defaults to ISO 800 for all flash shots. This worked out fine on the F30 which could handle such high ISO nicely, but on the F80 the camera is passing checks that the sensor can't deliver. I tried one of the EXR settings for low light and it made things even worse bumping the ISO up to 1600. If the camera could deliver at those sensitivities, that would be one thing, but it clearly can't. I can absolutely see why people are so disappointed with this camera when shooting at the default settings. I think Fuji really shot themselves in the foot by giving the camera default settings that lead to very poor image quality. I should point out that most other point and shoot cameras don't get very good results at ISO 800 either, but to make it a default for all flash pictures seems to be a very bad idea. They should really just have it on the camera as an option for people to use when they have no other choice and set the max default ISO at something that delivers decent results.
So anyway, ISO settings are configurable and I tried them out at lower ISO levels. At ISO 200 I found that the camera is quite capable of taking some very good quality pictures. Actually noticeably better than other point and shoots that I compared it to. Yes, the lower ISO level cuts down on the flash range, but at least I can see on the review screen that the image didn't turn out for lack of flash range, rather than looking at a properly exposed image at ISO 800 that will reveal a ton of noise once I get it onto my PC. ISO 400 is acceptable but borderline. So I've set the ISO to 200 and luckily it stays at that setting so that my wife can use the camera without having to mess with the settings every time she uses it.
What I'd really like (and maybe it's in there, I'll comment on my review if I find it) is a setting for max ISO. That way I could set that and the camera would use it when it needs it but then go back to lower ISO when it doesn't such as for outdoor shots. My SLR has an auto ISO setting that works like this and it's very handy.
So there it is, it's a good camera but it's crippled by the default settings. If you have one and hate it, try lowering the ISO and you might find that it's actually a pretty nice camera. If you haven't purchased one yet, keep in mind that you'll have to play with the settings a bit to get decent quality pictures out of it.
Update 6/8/2011: Upon reviewing the manual, I found that it does have a setting for max ISO. ISO settings are specific to each camera mode so you have to set it for each mode on the dial plus each EXR mode separately. (Once you figure this out, it's actually kind of a nice arrangement.) Unfortunately the lowest max ISO setting is 400, which is still too high for this camera. If it only used that setting when it needs to, it might be fine, but the camera defaults to max ISO whenever the flash is used which is unacceptable. I've found that setting the ISO (not max ISO) to 200 and using the EXR mode for low light (which leads to 6 megapixel output) leads to very good quality pictures in most cases. Since the camera retains is settings for ISO and mode after being turned off and back on again, I think this should work out reasonably well.
I've lowered my rating to 2 stars because I think Fuji ruined a potentially great camera by putting in a high megapixel sensor and then added default settings that the camera can't support. Had they stuck with a lower megapixel sensor with good low light performance, they could have had an amazing camera. Instead they let their marketing department dictate technical specifications and ended up with a camera that requires lots of fiddling and testing to avoid very poor performance. When they ended up with is a very average camera made much worse by the default settings. Unless you are into photography want to spend time figuring out how to get decent performance out of this camera, I can't say that I would recommend it. Get a Canon or Panasonic instead and they'll work well right out of the box.