Most Fujifilm cameras look slightly odd. Don't get us wrong, we like the occasional quirky styling of the S5600, or the chunkier-than-expected body shape of the excellent F11, but when it comes to good looking we remain to be convinced.
The Z series is where Fujifilm's designers cater for the masses and offer the common (or beer) garden snapper a camera that looks good and is slim enough that friends with a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 or the latest Casio won't start giggling when it's whipped out.
Another problem Fujifilm has is persuading punters that megapixels are not the last word in digital imaging -- the Z3 boasts a reasonable 5 megapixels alongside a decent feature set for a style-led camera. But in a market place where 6-, 8- and even 10-megapixel compact cameras are grabbing the headlines, is it enough?
Any camera that shares a name with a sporty BMW touring car had better be a good-looking chunk of technology, and the latest instalment in Fujifilm's catwalk-friendly Z series is certainly that. The Z3 boasts the same clean lines as its predecessors, with an attractive curved design and a smart sliding lens cover that doubles up as the on/off switch. The whole shebang is made from sturdy aluminium, and it feels as solid as any compact camera on the market.
Our only gripe with the design is that while the colour range has been increased to three models, the classy black and silver number has fallen by the wayside. Instead, we keep the cool silver, and are offered boy and girl versions in a baby blue or soft pink finish.
It may not be as slim as say the Cyber-shot DSC-T7, but the Z3 is a tad shorter and still cuts a slimline dash at 90mm by 55mm by 20mm. It weighs in at a handbag -- or manbag -- friendly 150g with card and battery on board. There's little in the way of protrusions, too, and the lanyard slips through a couple of embedded slots on the right-hand side of the camera.
It may be small, but the extra depth compared to some compacts means it's reasonably easy to get to grips with, and fingers and thumbs don't get in the way of the lens and flash. This makes for steady images, especially when you rack up the ISO settings -- more on that later. The sliding cover can sometimes be a pain, though, and it feels clumsy getting your hand from opening the camera to ready to shoot, even though start-up time is a racy 0.5 seconds.
With an understandable lack of originality, all of the important controls are located on the top and back of the camera. The top lip features a mere two controls -- the shutter release button and a switch that moves you from still to movie mode. There's also room up there for a very small microphone, which is located just about where your left forefinger would be if you were trying to hold the camera very still, so beware when shooting film. The speaker is located on the left-hand side panel of the camera.