Fujifilm's gone retro -- not in appearance, but in feature set, with this ultracompact that lacks many of the amenities you've come to expect from a 4-megapixel camera in this class. There's no burst feature, only four scene options, no autoassist lamp, and no control over metering or focus modes.
The Fujifilm FinePix F440's 'manual' mode is actually just a setting that allows access to user-specified exposure compensation and white-balance options. Mediocre picture quality and even the movie mode -- 60-second clips at 320x240 pixels and 10fps -- will invoke more nostalgia than enthusiasm.
Other than a large, 52mm LCD and a slight boost in the optical-zoom department, thanks to a 3.4X lens that corresponds to a 38mm-to-130mm lens on a 35mm camera, there's little about this camera to get excited about. Casual snapshot photographers may find a camera that's unencumbered by features simple to use, but anyone with a creative bone in their body will probably be happier with a camera that offers more control and functions.
Although compact at 76 by 61 by 20mm and 170g, the FinePix F440's squarish design makes its stainless-steel body quite usable for those with larger hands that fit less naturally around more elongated designs. It helps that there's only one button on top, the shutter release, to worry about. On the back panel reside three buttons placed to the right of the LCD, and above them is a four-way controller and mode switch for selecting review, movie recording, or photo capture. The FinePix F440 powers up when you slide a raised finger grip on the front of the camera over a click.
You'll either love or hate the directional controller. Fuji eschews the common disk-shaped cursor pad in favour of a horizontal bar that shifts up and down, flanked by two smaller side-to-side buttons. The bar also controls the zoom and is actually easier to use than most zoom-rocker switches. The left and right buttons do double duty to set macro mode and flash options.
The trio of buttons near the LCD activates display options and summons the spartan menu system for shooting and playback options. It also activates a function menu used to adjust image quality; ISO settings (automatic or selectable between ISO 80 and ISO 400); and the choice of standard, black-and-white, or high-saturation chrome colour mode.
Overall, the decisions you need to make to take a picture are minimal. There are no options for the 64-zone autoexposure system other than EV settings and just the basic Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene modes. The built-in flash can be adjusted for automatic, red-eye, flash off, forced/fill flash, and slow-sync modes with and without red-eye reduction to allow shutter speeds as slow as two seconds to capture background details. Shutter speeds up to 1/2000 second, and apertures from f/2.8 to f/7.4 are selected for you. Macro mode brings you as close to your subject as 90mm from the lens.
The FinePix F440 was a decent but not outstanding performer, clocking its best figures in our shutter-lag test with just a 0.4-second delay under high-contrast lighting conditions, and only 0.8 second under more challenging low-contrast lighting. This Fuji awoke from its slumber to snap off its first shot in a hair more than 3 seconds and thereafter snapped off pictures at a 3.5-second clip, 4.6 seconds with flash. We squeezed out 502 shots from the 565mAh lithium-ion battery during a workout that included 50 percent flash exposures, plus plenty of zooming, picture review, and card formatting.
The LCD is bright enough to use outdoors, but its low-gain view doesn't provide enough detail indoors under low-light conditions. It tended to generate ghost images when presented with moving subjects. Even so, the LCD was preferable to the smallish optical viewfinder, which showed only 78 percent of the actual picture area, but did have parallax correction marks to reduce the tendency to chop off image area at the top and left side of the frame.
Picture quality was less than thrilling and not as sharp as most of the recent 4-megapixel crop. While exposures were generally good with sufficient detail in the shadows, highlights tended to wash out, and noise was apparent even at ISO 80. By ISO 250, multicolored noise speckles were prominent enough to provide a texture of their own to most pictures. The Fujifilm FinePix F440's red-eye mode seemed to produce little more than an impressive preflash light show, but very little in the way of red-eye reduction.
Edited by Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by Nick Hide