The Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR is the little brother of the pricier F300EXR, with which it shares many of Fujifilm's latest innovations. The Z800EXR, which costs just under £200, sports slender dimensions of 98 by 59 by 20mm that ensure it's easy to slip into any trouser pocket or handbag. At a weight of 158g with SD or SDHC memory card and rechargeable battery, you'll almost forget you're carrying it.
If you're looking for visual wow-factor,
the Z800EXR's rear screen has it in spades. It's 89mm (3.5 inches) in size,
boasts a better-than-average 460k-dot resolution and stretches the entire width
of the camera's back plate. Turn the camera on its end and the virtual buttons
also flip 90 degrees, so you're never inconvenienced.
The Z800EXR is almost entirely devoid of physical controls, save for a top-plate auto/playback button, shutter release and zoom lever. The audible 'dink' as you select each on-screen icon can quickly become tiresome, however, so it's a good thing the sound can be muted with a silent mode.
The touchscreen takes some getting used to at first, simply because the dedicated physical controls that would normally provide shortcuts to key functions, such as activating the flash, aren't there. Instead, you have to navigate your way around the touchscreen menu. Not everything is where you'd expect, so it's fortunate Fujifilm has included 'home' and 'back' buttons at the edge of the screen for anyone who becomes hopelessly lost.
Stacked with features
The metal-build model, with a slide-open-and-shoot faceplate a la Sony Cyber-shot TX5, features a 5x internally stacked optical zoom equivalent to 35-175mm on a 35mm film camera. Thanks to the faceplate's gentle, undulating curve, it's easier to slide open and shut than Sony's flat models. Doing so also works to switch the camera on or off as a convenient time-saver. The lens remains hidden within the body at all times, adding to the Z800EXR's minimalist feel.
If that sounds tempting, there is a drawback. Such a huge dependence on the touchscreen, coupled with the camera's slender proportions, means battery life is pretty poor. Fujifilm admits the fully charged camera is good for just 170 shots. Ouch. Still, the camera does only cost a budget-friendly £199, which, given the Z800EXR's solid feel and designer looks, seems very fair indeed.
As the model's suffix suggests, the Z800EXR once again packs Fujifilm's innovative switchable Super CCD EXR sensor at its core, which Fujifilm insists can be utilised in three different ways. The camera appears to have exactly the same half-inch chip carried by the F300EXR. Once again, there's a choice between shooting at full 12-megapixel resolution in High Resolution (HR) mode, alternatively choosing wide Dynamic Range (DR) mode to achieve optimal balance between shadows and highlights, or Low Noise (SN) mode for shooting without flash in low-light conditions. If that sounds too taxing, the camera can be left on scene-detecting EXR Automatic Mode.
Just a phase it's going through
Unexpectedly at this price, the Z800EXR has phase-detection autofocus, a feature more commonly found on digital SLRs. Fujifilm says this allows for almost instantaneous captures -- officially 0.158 seconds, or roughly a blink of an eye. It's also thrown in a new hybrid autofocus system to measure light and contrast. We'd question the effectiveness of the latter, however, as most of our test images were distinctly lacking in contrast.
The theory is that this camera chooses between phase-detection autofocus, best suited to bright, high-contrast situations; and contrast autofocus, for dark, low-light scenes. In this sense, you're getting dSLR-like technology in the form of a point-and-shoot compact. HD movie capture makes an expected appearance at 720p resolution with mono sound. Disappointingly, though, the zoom is disabled when shooting video. The lens simply stays put where you left it before you began recording.
Not to be a total killjoy, Fujifilm has included a new 360-degree Motion Panorama Mode for sweeping landscapes. This generates a single, elongated image. It's one of those features that's great fun the first couple of times, and then you forget about it. In playback mode, you can rate your favourite snaps by allocating them award-like stars. In essence, you're getting most of the new innovations introduced on the F300EXR for £130 less.
Man's best friend
The innovation that is being flagged on this particular model relates to friends of the furry variety, which tells you something about the audience this model is being pitched at. A new pet-detection technology can detect up to ten four-legged friends in a scene, should such a picture opportunity ever arise. Fortunately, you also get standard, human face-detection and recognition functionality. A useful feature for families with restless children is the auto-release mode, also found on the F300EXR, which fires the shutter as soon as the subject looks directly at the lens.
Unsurprisingly, the Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR's image quality is on par with the F300EXR. The camera inherits its predecessor's inability to deal with image noise/grain above ISO800 when shooting in dimmer conditions, avoiding the use of flash. You also get Fujifilm's familiar purple pixel-fringing between areas of high contrast, and the inability to retain detail in highlights, despite the EXR sensor's claims to the contrary. When it comes to image quality, the Z800EXR could do better. In all other respects, most notably value for money, it actually betters expectation. For under £200, you can't go wrong.
Edited by Emma Bayly