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Digital Camera Comparison/Review, June 10, 2006

Digital Camera Comparison/Review, June 10, 2006
Between Fujifilm FinePix F601, FinePix F30, and Panasonic SDR-S100

I just got my new Fujifilm FinePix F30 (6 megapixel) digital camera yesterday. This little camera got a European TIPA award, and its predecessor, the F10, was recently top-rated in a leading consumer magazine. Naturally I had to do my own head-to-head comparison between the F30 and my 4-year-old FinePix F601 (3 megapixels) and my 0.5-year-old Panasonic SDR-S100 hybrid video/still camera (also 3 megapixels, and already obsoleted by the SDR-S150!). You can also review my first digital camera comparison from 2002.

Other Reviews: C-Net (6/7); DCRP (6/28); Steve's (7/17); DPReview (7/25); megapixel.net (July)

Update (5/22/07): Here is a good article on high ISO modes in compact cameras, which concludes by pointing out that the F30 family is the lone exception among compact cameras for producing good results at high ISO settings.

The F30's strength is low-light situations (and compact size). It has ISO 3200 capability. The SDR-S100, on the otherhand, because it's more of a video camera, has a large-range 10X zoom. One thing I didn't care for on the F30 is that when connecting to a Windows XP PC, it does not make the xD card data available as if from a hard drive volume, like most other flash media. Instead, it comes up as a "camera" device under "My Computer" with no drive letter assigned. It is beyond me why people find this more convenient than the old method. It's so much handier to simply have a drive letter assigned. As a work-around, I bought a separate xD card reader.

Other comments: I was a little disappointed with focusing time on the F30 (lag between between pressing the shutter button half way and getting the AF/AE lock), but then I realized that I had the "high speed shooting mode" of the F30 turned off. When this is turned on, it reduces the focusing time. It's hard to tell from the manual, but I think this primarily trades with battery life. The F30 brochure claims the F30 snaps the picture 0.01 seconds after AF/AE lock, but I did not find it to be especially more responsive than my F601 or the Panasonic SDR-S100.

For all of the shots below with flash, the F30 was in automatic mode. I believe this uses the "Intelligent Flash" feature that the F30 brochure brags about. This is not explicitly mentioned in the user manual, but if you look at the EXIF settings for the pictures below, you can see that even with the flash enabled, the F30 still takes some pictures at ISO 800, so it uses both ISO and flash to get the shutter speed down while maintaining as much natural light as possible. This leads to flash pictures with a brighter background, which is a nice feature.

All in all, I think the FinePix F30 lives up to its reputation as an excellent low-light performer. That combined with it's nicely compact size (it is noticeably more comfortable for me to carry the F30 in my pants pocket than either the F601 or the SDR-S100) make me very happy with this purchase.

Be sure and click on the images below to see larger versions with full detail.
(Sorry to have this information separate, but it was an afterthought.)

Three feet away from subject, no zoom, low incandescent lighting, no flash. F30 looks good.

Same as previous but with flash.

Same as previous, but 3X zoom and no flash.

Same as previous, but with flash.

One foot away, macro mode, no zoom, incandescent lighting, no flash. The F30 struts its stuff here.

Same as previous, but with flash.

Five feet away, fluorescent lighting, no zoom, no flash.

Same as previous, but with flash. Actually, the F30 shot is the same as the previous since it determined that it did not need the flash.

Same as previous but now zoomed in 3X (a little more for the Panasonic) with no flash.

Same as previous, but with flash.

One foot away (macro), no zoom, no flash, incandescent light. The F30 is grainier, but also sharper than the F601.

Same as previous, but with flash.

12 feet away, 3X zoom, no flash, low incandescent light. The F30's focus assist lamp was an important factor here.

Same as previous, but with flash. Cat had his eyes closed for F30 shot. Again, the F30's focus assist lamp was critical.

This shows off the Panasonic's powerful 10X zoom. The other two cameras only have 3X. This is eight feet away, full zoom, no flash.

Ten feet away, low room light, 3X zoom, no flash. Note how the background in the F30 shot is much brighter with the higher ISO.

Same as previous, but with flash.

About 20 yards away, cloudy daylight, 3X zoom except for the bottom right shot which is 10X zoom on the Panasonic and again shows off the advantage of the high zoom when there is plenty of light.

1.5 feet (not macro, though), low incandescent lighting, no zoom, no flash. The F30 is in natural light mode where it cranks up to 3200 ISO. If you just suppress the flash but stay in automatic mode, the F30 goes to 1600 ISO.

F30 in auto with suppressed flash at ISO 1600 (left) and in natural light mode at ISO 3200 (right).

This page last modified
Tuesday, 24-Jul-2007 08:23:55 PDT