March 5, 2013

FUJIFILM FINEPIX JZ300


Low cost cameras always sell well and more so in a price-conscious market like India. Fujifilm has got a few low cost options with decent optical zoom and we have one such camera today. The Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 is an ultra-compact, 12 MP camera, that comes with a 10x optical zoom. It is capable of recording 720p HD videos with stereo sound. With several other features, which may appeal to the general consumer, this camera does look promising. Let us take a look at how well it performs.


Bundle

  • Fujifilm FinePix JZ300
  • Battery charger with cable
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • User manual

The bundle is fairly sparse to reduce the cost. The battery charger lets you charge the battery separately, while you can also charge it using the USB 2.0 cable.

Design and build

The Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 belongs to the J-series of point-and-shoot ultra-compact digital cameras. With a lustrous metal body with brush metal finish, this camera is pleasing to look at. There are no sharp edges anywhere, and the rounded shape gives it a silver nugget-like look. The size is as small as a clenched fist; naturally, the camera feels tiny in your hands. But holding it for long is not a problem, especially because the camera is incredibly lightweight.



The wide-angle lens is a Fujinon f3.3-5.6, 28-280mm (35mm equivalent) with 10x optical zoom. The lens is protected by an automatic cover, which opens when the camera is switched on and closes when it is switched off. The Xenon flash is placed on the side away from where the shutter button is placed, which is a smart placement because it reduces the chances of your fingers accidentally coming in the way of the flash. A tracking/AF sensor is situated next to the lens, towards the upper part of the front. A microphone is located just beside the lens in the lower part.



The top of the camera has just three controls - shutter button, zoom rocker and power button. The shutter button is towards the right and is large enough for comfortable use. The zoom rocker is situated around this button and you can easily zoom in or out with just a flick of the lever of the rocker. The power button is shaped like a medical capsule and is recessed inside the body. It has a blue power LED at its centre, which lights up when the power is switched on.



The back of the camera has a bright 2.7-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels and an aspect ratio of 4:3. Being such a small camera, there is no optical viewfinder, so you have to depend on the LCD all the time. Most of the controls available in this camera are located at the back. These include a dial to select different shooting modes and a jog dial to go through the captured photos or videos. The jog dial also lets you select different settings such as macro mode, flash, EV value, delete and delayed shutter.

You can choose other settings too by pressing the OK button at the centre, selecting the setting and then pressing OK again. There is a playback button between the two dials, to enter playback mode and view captured content on the LCD. Just below this button, there is a DISP/BACK button, which sets the display mode (such as grid guides on LCD), or even lets you go back a menu.





At the bottom of the camera a flap with a latch houses the battery compartment and the memory card slot. This camera supports SD and SDHC memory cards. The slim Lithium ion battery is a proprietary 3.7V Fujifilm NP-45A with a typical rating of 720mAh. The battery cannot be charged in the camera and has to be charged in a separately provided charger. The sieve present at the bottom is the speaker. Lastly, there is a centrally located threaded tripod mount socket, and this is made of metal rather than plastic, thus ensuring durability.

A proprietary socket is present on one side of the camera, covered with a protective plastic flap. This socket is to plug in the USB or A/V cable. There is also provision to attach a wrist strap to the camera at the side.


Features and Performance

The Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 comes with 10x optical zoom, which is quite a bit packed in an ultra-compact camera.





If you are interested in zoom photography, then this camera should interest you.

The different modes selectable through the mode dial are SR Auto, Auto, Program Auto, Natural Light & with Flash, Natural Light, Scene Position 1 & 2, and Movie. Auto mode puts the camera on auto-pilot, with minimal control to the user. In the SR Auto mode, the camera automatically recognizes the scene and selects the best setting.

Program Auto mode lets you change most of the settings manually, except shutter speed and aperture size. Natural Light mode retains natural ambience when shots are taken in low light conditions, while in the Natural Light & with Flash mode (in which the camera takes two photos - one with and one without flash), the camera clicks two images continuously - one with flash, and one without to create natural photographs even in badly lit conditions. Lastly, there are two Scene Position modes to ensure the ideal camera settings to match the shooting scenes.

There are 13 scene modes to choose from, which are Portrait, Portrait Enhancer, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night (Tripod), Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Party, Flower, and Text.  These modes can only be selected in the Program mode.





Five rupee coin shot from a distance of 3 cm with an exposure of 1/50 sec at ISO 400 in fluorescent light



With the macro mode, you can shoot subjects as close as 3 cm from the lens with autofocus.





Flowers shot from a distance of 3 cm with an exposure of 1/480 sec at ISO 100 in normal daylight

While the details are captured, the photograph fails to come out as anything but ordinary.

Hi-Speed Shutter mode was used to snap speeding vehicles. We tried several times, but it was not possible to get a clear picture of the moving vehicle.



Night mode was used to snap this shot under sodium lights. The shutter speed was automatically slowed down to 1/4 second at ISO 800. Though this ISO value cannot be selected manually in this mode, the automatic mode can select it. The photo looks normal at a glance, but a closer look shows a lot of graininess as is expected of photographs with high ISO value.



ISO sensitivity modes of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (at 3 MP) can be selected in Programmable mode in addition to the Auto ISO mode. In general, you get good results up to ISO 400, but noise increases noticeably as you dial to a higher ISO, especially in dark shooting conditions.



ISO 100




ISO 200




ISO 400




ISO 800




ISO 1600




ISO 3200 at 3 MP


You can see that the sharpness decreases and noise increases as the ISO value is increased.

One of the cons of this camera is that it lacks a full automatic mode. Even in the Program AE mode, you can neither select the shutter speed nor can you select the aperture size. You cannot even manually focus the lens.



Fujifilm has managed to keep fringing and chromatic aberration at a minimum as long as you don't use the zoom. But once you use the zoom and go all the way to 10x, it becomes very noticeable, as you can see in the above photo, which has been cropped at 100% to show this problem.

Here are a few more shots taken in daylight.



Shutter speed is 1/170 second and ISO 100



Shutter speed is 1/400 second and ISO 100



Shutter speed is 1/250 second and ISO 100



Shutter speed is 1/140 second and ISO 100

As noted earlier, the camera supports recording full HD video. Movies are recorded in 720p at 24 FPS in AVI format. Video quality is good with natural colors and crisp picture quality and sounds. The zooming is possible while shooting videos and it is silent. Autofocus and zoom functions work even during video shooting.
  
The camera uses a combination of High Sensitivity and CCD shift Image stabilization using a built-in gyro sensor, which detects camera shake and compensates by automatically shifting the lens to prevent blur and preserve image quality. Optical image stabilization is especially useful while using zoom and while shooting videos.

There are other notable features such as Smile Shutter, which detects the subject's smile and clicks photo automatically at the right moment. Face Detection can detect up to ten individual faces in a scene and make appropriate settings to get the best shot. Red Eye removal eliminates that issue in photos. The good thing is that you have the option to save the original as well as the fixed photo, just in case.

Overall, the image quality is decent in this category. The colors are not too saturated and seem to be just right, rather than being vivid. The focusing is not always accurate, especially when there is not enough lighting, but it is fast whenever it works well. The camera is very easy to use, primarily due to the lack of manual controls. The battery takes around 1.5 hours to charge and is supposed to last for around 230 shots.

Verdict

The Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 is a good camera. It is an ultra-compact camera which is small and light enough to be carried in your trouser pocket. Though the design is not great, it is a lot better than many of the other cameras in this range, especially because of its rounded contours. The build feels solid and the ergonomics are well taken care of.

Image quality is good in most situations, though not outstanding. 10x zoom works very well and the image stabilization lets you click good photos even if you don't have the steadiest of hands. The wide angle lens can capture a large crowd in your party and can detect up to ten faces at a time. You can store two of your own settings for shooting modes by using SP1 and SP2 preset modes. You can also capture 720p HD videos at 24 FPS and they do look good.

One of the major cons of the camera is that it does not have a full manual control mode, thus you cannot have control aperture size or shutter speed. You cannot even control the focus, but have to rather rely on the autofocus, which may sometimes be tricky. Macro mode requires the subject to be at a distance of at least 30 cm from the camera lens, though we would have wanted to be able to photograph subjects placed closer than this.

Overall, this 12 MP camera has an easy to use interface for anyone who has no background in photography. The lack of manual controls won't be a problem for casual users, because this is basically a point-and-shoot camera, but if you are one of the more serious consumers, then there are a lot of things you would miss because of this and you should be looking elsewhere. The Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 is available for an MRP of Rs.9,999, which we think is a good price for what you get.

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