Without a doubt, the £100 Fujifilm FinePix A900 is one of the weirdest little cameras we've ever reviewed.
On the surface it seems like an ordinary budget point-and-shoot camera, but underneath it packs a strange mish-mash of features and design quirks. Nearly everything about it, from its 9-megapixel resolution to its bizarre jog dial, simply feels... off.
Fujifilm distinguishes itself as the only major camera manufacturer to offer 9-megapixel cameras, thanks to the company's Super CCD sensor. Every other big camera company skips directly from 8 megapixels to 10, so the A900 appears atypical from the very start.
Of course, the higher-than-usual resolution is a pleasant surprise for a £100 camera. Its 39mm-to-156mm-equivalent Fujinon lens also perks up the A900, giving it a 4x zoom factor compared to most budget models' 3x lenses.
The A900's blocky plastic body won't win many points for style, but its clean, simple design more than makes up for its lack of aesthetics. At 32mm thick and weighing 155g, the camera just barely slips into a shirt pocket. That thick frame leaves enough room for the two AA batteries that power the camera, plus a dual-format memory card slot that can take both xD and SD cards.
While the A900 uses a sensor-lens combination normally found on higher-end models, it neglects or ignores features that all but the most barebones budget cameras have. It completely lacks a burst shot mode, denying a useful option for shooting sporting events. The camera can shoot video, but only at QVGA -- 320x240 pixels -- resolution compared to the VGA -- 640x480 pixels -- movie modes most point-and-shoot cameras sport.
The dual-card support presents a major upgrade over older FinePix cameras, which could only use the less popular xD cards. The side of the camera contains the camera's various connectors, including standard miniUSB, AV out and power adapter ports.
An infrared sensor sits just above the miniUSB jack, letting the camera beam photos to other infrared-enabled devices with an IrSimple interface. This IR connection works only with special IR-enabled devices such as certain mobile phones and photo kiosks, so unless you're desperate to eschew cables, you probably won't use it very often. USB cables and memory card readers work much more reliably, and far more products support them.
Like the camera itself, the mode dial on the upper-right corner of its back panel looks fairly ordinary. It offers quick access to commonly used modes like automatic, scene preset, portrait and movie. However, it also holds a few unusually specialised settings, while burying a much more common mode in the camera's menu system.
You can only change the A900's white balance and exposure compensation settings in Manual mode, which is mysteriously hidden among Landscape, Night and Sports modes under scene presets. Meanwhile, the much more dubious Baby mode sits on the dial itself. Red-eye reduction, electronic stabilisation and even digital zoom also get their own slots on the mode dial, forcing you to choose among those features instead of individually enabling or disabling them.