Usable high-ISO sensitivities, good photo quality and a brawny battery highlight the appeal of the 6-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom. It's a compact point-and-shoot package that includes a 3x optical zoom and a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD that's usable under a variety of difficult lighting conditions. Photo enthusiasts might be disappointed by the lack of manual controls for exposure and focus and by the image quality, which is long on latitude but suffers from fringing that pulls it up short. Snapshooters who like lots of scene modes will find only five to choose from, but fans of this camera's special features will find its shortcomings merely minor annoyances.
LCDs aren't just for review anymore. The FinePix F10's huge 64mm display will make you wonder why you ever put up with peering through your last point-and-shoot's tiny optical porthole. You can easily compose shots on the full LCD, whether you're holding this compact's 156g, 91-by-58-by-28mm aluminium body a few centimetres away or at arm's length. The LCD's 60fps refresh rate resists ghost images, is readable under direct illumination, gains up under dim light for enhanced viewing of murky scenes, and gets a temporary brightness boost when you press up on the four-way cursor pad. Or you can opt to compose using a 38mm (diagonal) view, with thumbnails of your last three shots running down the left side of the live display.
A two-handed grip is your best bet if you want to keep one finger poised over the shutter release mounted on top of the camera while thumbing the sensitive zoom rocker on the back panel. On top, this camera's minimalist controls include a (nonilluminated) power button and a shutter button concentric with a dial that selects Auto, Manual or Motion Picture mode or one of a handful of scene modes.
The equally clean back panel is dominated by the LCD, which is flanked by a zoom rocker, a display/info button, picture-review and function keys, and a four-way cursor pad with a central Menu/OK button. You press up on the pad to access the LCD brightness control or to delete the currently displayed photo. Press left to enter Macro mode, right to set flash options or down to activate the self-timer.
All other functions, including exposure-compensation settings (±2EV in 1/3EV increments), are available from the screens that pop up when the function or menu buttons are pressed. These include white-balance settings, your choice of 64-segment multipoint evaluative, spot or average metering, and continuous autofocus, or centre or multipoint single autofocus.
To charge the camera, you must connect the power cable to the transformer, then connect the transformer to a cable adaptor, then connect the adaptor to the camera. The same adaptor is used to connect the data cable when you want to download your images. This seems unnecessarily cumbersome -- the F10 is surely big enough to accomodate separate power and USB ports.
Like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with Smarties swirled in, the Fujifilm FinePix F10 Zoom is an odd mixture of humdrum features and quirky fun. The mundane includes the 3x optical zoom and a middle-of-the-road 36mm-to-108mm lens (35mm equivalent), which focuses down to 80mm in macro mode, with no manual-focus option. While exposures can be set automatically to shutter speeds between 3 seconds and 1/2,000 second (up to 15 seconds in long-exposure mode) and apertures between f/2.8 and f/8, there aren't any manual, shutter-priority or aperture-priority modes to let you choose among them. Scene modes are limited to Natural Light, Sports, Night Scene, Portrait and Landscape. Nevertheless, you can specify ISO settings from ISO 80 up to ISO 1,600 for photos with better detail and higher-ISO shots with less noise than you'd expect from such a small sensor.
Other cool features include a variety of continuous-shooting modes. You can snap off 3 shots in a row in about a second and a half, shoot 40 full-resolution images in about a minute, or snap off those same 40 shots but retain only the last 3 captured before you released the shutter button. The last feature, also found on some competing cameras, such as recent Nikon point-and-shoots, is great when you don't know exactly when the action is going to peak.