The autofocus system isn’t going to win any races, but it’s not too slow, focusing in good light in about a second. It slows down a bit in low light, but it will usually find a focus within two seconds even is a candle-lit room. However at light levels a little lower than that it gives up completely. It has no AF illuminator, so focusing in the dark is not an option.
One concern is battery life. The A700 uses two AA batteries, so actual performance will vary depending on the brand and type used, but using 2100mAh Ni-MH rechargeables I was only able to take around 50 shots on a fresh charge, so you’ll need to pack some spares.
Fortunately the lack of features or performance is compensated by decent picture quality. The Fujinon lens provides good edge-to-edge sharpness, although it does suffer from some uneven barrel distortion at wide angle. The 7.3 megapixel HR sensor produces a good level of detail, roughly the same as some other similarly-powered cameras I’ve tested recently. Contrast is a little lacking in my test shots, but as I’ve already indicated they were shot an a very rainy and overcast day, go results in good light will certainly be better. Colour rendition was also a little muted, although probably for the same reason.
The built-in flash provided good colour and coverage and was well metered. With a stated maximum range of 3.8 metres it is powerful enough for most social situations.
With an ISO range of only 100-400 noise shouldn’t be a major problem, and ISO 100 shots are very smooth with good detail and contrast. However ISO 400 shots did show a significant amount of it speckling, although not enough to ruin the picture.
The FinePix A700 is so lacking in features and performance it’s hard to believe it comes from the same company that makes the F31fd and S9600. As budget-priced snappers go though, it isn’t too bad. It’s well made, incredibly easy to use, and is capable of producing reasonably good results under normal circumstances. Non-existent low-light focusing, terrible movie mode and low maximum sensitivity are handicaps however.