Perhaps the most important feature on the camera in terms of shooting is the Z3's incredibly wide ISO range, with settings from ISO 64 right up to 1600. This relates to the film speed in 35mm cameras and allows you to shoot in lower light without the need to resort to the lightweight flash. Fujifilm is keen to get the message across that this figure carries more weight than the number of pixels captured in an image.
If you can accept the company's claim that the majority of images are taken in low light situations -- and most of ours when not on holiday are -- then this makes perfect sense. The results with the higher ISO are very atmospheric, and while there is some trade off with an increase in digital noise printed out on standard 100x150mm (4x6-inch) prints, this failed to ruin any of our shots. What is certain is that the results were far more pleasing than the washed out images we took using the flash. Used in conjunction with the anti-blur system -- accessed by a button on the back of the Z3 -- it really is possible to take good images in quite poor light.
Shooting modes include a 2-second and 10-second self timer, plus a continuous shooting mode which keeps going as long as you press the shutter release, and can be set to save all the images or just the last three. Finally, there's a 30fps (640x480-pixel) movie mode with sound.
This kind of lens system on a compact camera generally means that a price has to be paid, and often this is found in barrel distortion and chromatic aberration (unsightly purple fringing). The good news is that there's very little of the latter in evidence, but there was a hint of the former, especially when the lens is at its wider settings.
That aside, the Z3 proved itself a capable compact, with good levels of detail for its 5.1-megapixel resolution and little in the way of digital noise, unless the ISO is ramped up to max. The high ISO settings proved invaluable when shooting images in the evening, especially as the flash wavers between bleaching out subjects under a metre away and failing to light any further.
In brighter situations skin tones were respectably normal, and colour performance was good overall. We did find ourselves notching the exposure down a setting or two one crisp autumn morning, but generally the automatic settings worked well and the basic white balance settings proved useful.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield