The Fujifilm FinePix J150w compact camera is the top model in the company's 'Fun & Easy' range. For around just £100, it comes with a 76mm (3-inch) display, 5x wideangle zoom and 10-megapixel sensor, and it's all packed into a smart, black, brushed-metal body that belies the budget price tag. So what's the catch?
There's no catch really. The 5x wideangle zoom is really handy, especially the 28mm equivalent focal length at the wide end. It doesn't sound like much of an advantage over the 35mm equivalent of most compact zooms, but the small numerical difference is misleading -- you really can squeeze much more into the picture. The LCD is a decent size, the control layout is straightforward and the menus are simple.
Interestingly, the J150w takes SD and SDHC cards only, and not the xD Picture Card format that Fujifilm, along with Olympus, once championed. The lack of xD Picture Card support is not much of a loss, it has to be said.
The J150w's pictures are good, offering great colour, crispness and clarity, and casual snappers are likely to be well pleased. If you want to switch from stills to movies, the 640x480-pixel, 30-frames-per-second movie mode isn't so far away from the quality you'd get from a MiniDV camcorder.
Up close, however, it's obvious there's some pretty heavy-duty image processing going on. Much of the clarity of the detail in the J150w's shots comes from very heavy sharpening, combined with processing, which seems to emphasise some textures while supressing others. At low ISOs you'll scarcely notice, but, as the ISOs go up, so does the mushiness in the subtler details.
Although the J150w is mostly very easy to use, things get more awkward if you decide you want to adjust the white balance, ISO or EV compensation. In fact, if you press the menu button in auto mode, it looks like you can't do it at all. Bizarrely, Fujifilm's inserted the camera's manual mode -- such as it is -- in among all the scene modes. We had to read through the electronic manual -- not the brief printed guide -- to find out it was there at all.
The autofocus is disappointing too. It chugs and chunters, and gets there in the end, but you'd have thought that, after all these years, the designers would have figured out how to make AF systems speedier than this. The AF mars the otherwise excellent face-detection system too -- the J150w can recognise faces in an instant and track them around the frame, but, when you're ready to shoot, you've still got to wait for the AF to do its stuff, by which time your subjects will probably have wandered off.
The Fujifilm FinePix J150w is a very appealing camera. With its smart finish, easy controls, punchy, vibrant pictures and handy 5x wideangle zoom, it's the perfect pocket-sized snapper. The sluggish AF is a handicap, though, and more experienced users will wish the manual overrides were more accessible.
Edited by Charles Kloet