Fujifilm Finepix F20 Digital Camera

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Fujifilm Finepix F20 Digital Camera
Sound Buys product review by Don Lindich

Small, deck-of-cards sized digital cameras have become very popular because of their portability and convenience. Unfortunately, their small image sensors are limited in their ability to capture light, and in anything other than perfect lighting conditions image quality takes a nosedive quickly, looking grainy, fuzzy and all-around nasty. Thinking realistically, how often do you encounter perfect lighting?

A very small camera that can produce excellent results in a wide variety of lighting conditions has been something of a sought-after holy grail, particularly among serious photographers looking for something they can carry all of the time to capture special scenes and moments they may happen to come across in day-to-day life. As the author of a consumer-oriented Q&A column, I can say that casual photographers appreciate great looking pictures too, as well as not being hamstrung by their camera when the light is less than perfect. Many family pictures are taken indoors and with flash, and this is where many small cameras fall flat on their face.

Fujifilm is to be commended for recognizing the picture quality problems inherent in small cameras and doing something about it- namely, their SuperCCD sensor technology. The Super CCD promises unmatched performance in low light and high ISO (sensitivity) settings, even in a small digital camera like the subject of this review, the 6.3 megapixel Finepix F20.

The Finepix F20 is the little brother to the Finepix F30, a camera that has been making quite a stir in photographic circles for its excellent image quality in almost any lighting conditions. The all-metal body is the same, but the Finepix F20 lacks the F30’s manual picture controls, and the F30 also has a sharper, more colorful LCD screen. It is accurate to say that the F20 is a stripped F30, but fortunately they left the best stuff in, namely the excellent lens and the SuperCCD sensor.

The F20 includes a long-life battery that is charged inside the camera with an external AC adapter. Pictures are stored on XD Picture Cards, but no picture card is provided. The camera has internal memory that can store a few pictures, but I recommend anyone purchasing the camera also buy an XD card of at least 512MB. There is no peek-through optical viewfinder, the large LCD screen being the only means of composing. This did not pose any problems in use and I found it easy to use even when the sun was behind me on bright days.

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The Finepix F20 has excellent ergonomics, easy-to-understand controls and a logical menu system. I especially liked the dedicated F-Mode Menu button for color settings and ISO, especially since one can readily change the ISO on this camera and not pay a huge image quality penalty for it. The camera feels very responsive, with focusing and capture taking place very quickly. It’s a camera that can be used for photographic children if you finger is quick.

Gratifyingly, I found the pictures to live up to the hype. Even in bright light where other cameras would have also done well, the images from the F20 looked especially clean and crisp. I found myself to prefer the “Vivid” color setting, finding the standard setting colors to look a bit flat and washed out. The camera does deliver as promised in low light and flash, though I found the detail in some of the low-light images to show a little smearing of detail when looked at full-size on a computer monitor (known as “pixel peeping”). If you won’t be making very large prints or pixel-peeping yourself, you will never notice. As one of those aforementioned serious photographers looking for a quality compact, after I had run the F20 through its paces, I knew I had found the camera.

The Fujifilm Finepix F20 lists for $199. I have seen it sold for as low as $149 at amazon.com and $139 at dell.com. At under $150, I beg anyone shopping for a $100 to scrounge up the extra cash and get the F20- that will be some of the best money you ever spend! All in all, this camera is a real winner and an easy recommendation, especially for its target audience- point and shooters who want great pictures anytime, anywhere without having to think too much about it.

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