| Picture quality
cameras are no longer just second best
First published in Business
Issue #627, October 30- Nov 5, 2001: GearGuide column
by ALAN ZISMAN (c)
are offering picture quality and price that are closer than ever to
of more traditional film cameras. Technology companies such as Hewlett-Packard
and Sony have joined those with a longer
the photo industry
such as Kodak, Olympus and Canon in offering a
of digital cameras. In this month's column I'll review models from both
the low-end and high-end from Japan's Fujifilm.
Life at the
low-end was a 1.3-megapixel model. Now that's been replaced with the
(list) Finepix 2300, taking 2.1-megapixel shots. (As with other
cameras, you can take lower-resolution pictures, allowing you to store
more at a time.) If you want an easy-to-use, basic point-and-shoot
this will do fine. There's no optical zoom, though it offers a 2.5x
zoom. (I can't call digital zoom a scam, but it achieves its close-up
by sacrificing clarity. You can do the same in any image editing
An 8-megabyte Smartmedia storage card is included.
On the other
For about four
times as much ($1,699 list), the Finepix 6900 Zoom offers all
features left out of low-end models. This 3.3-megapixel model has a
through-the-lens viewfinder, allowing more accurate framing of shots,
as with an SLR film camera. And like fancy SLR models, it offers a
of options. Experienced photographers can manually set f-stops and
speed or choose semi-automatic aperture or shutter priority. Or they
ignore all this and still get good photos in automatic mode.
A generous 6x
optical zoom gives it the equivalent of 35-210 mm lens. (Of course
also digital zoom.) Rechargeable batteries are included, along with an
I was surprised,
though, that in order to use standard filters, users need to first buy
a wide-angle or zoom adapter.
As well, Fuji
advertises this camera as being able to take huge 6-megapixel pictures,
even though it physically only has 3.3 megapixels. Like other trick
it's not quite real. Avoid this setting: it delivers huge file sizes
less-than-optimum picture quality.
It's a great
3.3-megapixel camera, but it's not a 6-megapixel camera. Sorry,
Fuji also offers
a range of models in between. The Finepix 6800 and 4800
models are 3.3-megapixel ($1,459 list) and 2.4-megapixel ($1,119 list)
models that share a common body that Fuji boasts is "designed by F.A.
Porsche." Personally, I prefer the more compact black look of the
6900. They're a clear step down from the top of the line, lacking the
expensive model's through-the-lens viewfinder and manual controls. Both
include a more modest 3x optical zoom.
Like the 6900,
the 6800 promises 6-megapixel images and, like that model, it doesn't
deliver the picture quality that figure promises.
patrons claim that when looking over a wine list, they pick a vintage near
the bottom, but not at the bottom. That's a sound strategy with
Fuji's digital camera lineup.
As far as I'm
concerned, the best choice in Fuji's product line is their 2400-Z, a
camera, like the low-end 2300, but adding a 3x optical zoom, mimicking
a 39-117 mm lens, while keeping the 2300's simple design philosophy. As
far as I'm concerned, a real optical zoom is a must-have feature.
While Fuji lists
it at $670, it's typically found for $599 or less, prior to a number of
rebates. After rebates, the actual price is quite a bit lower. I loved
having Fuji's high-end 6900 to play with for a month, but if it came to
spending my own money, I know what I would get.