Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fujifilm Finepix F31fd Review

In the fast-moving, 'bigger better faster' world of the digital compact the Fujifilm FinePix F30 will be one of the rare few that are remembered after they have gone (the nearest this throwaway business gets to a 'classic'). The reason this unassuming, blocky little camera stands out from the scores of other cameras launched last year - and why it has a mantelpiece covered in industry awards - is simple; image quality, or more specifically, high ISO performance. The F30's low light capabilities come from a combination of clever technology (Super CCD and Real Photo Processor) and a 'swimming against the tide' attitude to specification, which means a bigger sensor with fewer pixels. The F30 also, against all the odds, actually sold pretty well, going against the conventional wisdom that consumers buy on pixel counts alone. Although it has its share of faults the F30 became the benchmark by which all compact cameras in the 6-8 megapixel sector were judged. The excellent battery life and high speed performance certainly helped too.

Now we have the F30's replacement, the F31fd - an upgrade so minor that we would not normally even bother to review it (the only spec changes are a Face Detection function and infra-red communication). But such is the continuing level of interest in the F30 that it would be remiss not to update the review for the new model, and that is what we have done - the majority of this review is taken word-for-word from the F30 review, but the image samples are all new, and all the tests have been re-done.

In 2007 the market has, inevitably, moved on again, with 8,10 and even 12 megapixels common in even fairly inexpensive compacts, so the F31fd will have an even tougher job competing for attention, and we were interested to see how it stacks up against the latest generation of high resolution compacts; all boasting 'high ISO' capabilities - on paper at least. We were also interested to see if the internal changes (the sensor is the same but the F31fd has a new version of the Real Photo Processor) had upset the fine balance of hardware and processing that made the F30 what it was. We'll start, as ever, with the headline specification:

  • Face Detection Technology built-in to the camera’s processor
  • Real Photo Processor II and new Super CCD HR VI
  • ISO 3200 sensitivity at full resolution
  • 6.3 million pixels
  • 3.0x optical zoom
  • Long-life battery (up to 580 shots)
  • IR Communication (IR simple™)
  • VGA movie capture of 30 frames per second with sound
  • PictBridge™ compatible for direct printing without a PC
  • Quick response times (0.01 second shutter lag

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