Back when everyone was having a go at Fujifilm for exaggerating the resolution of its SuperCCD sensors by using image interpolation, I used to get a lot of press releases and even nice little booklets from them, explaining in great detail how the total megapixel count of a camera's sensor was of secondary importance to other factors such as lens quality, the size and arrangement of the individual photocells on the sensor and the quality of the image processor. The thing is, although Fuji may have been defending its proprietary technology, its claims were absolutely correct. Simply adding more megapixels does not automatically make a better camera, and in some cases it can actually make things worse. The current crop of 12-megapixel compact cameras are really little more than a marketing gimmick aimed at those who are easily fooled by printing larger numbers on the box. Although it has been repeatedly demonstrated that there is no noticeable advantage in terms of picture quality, and in fact there are several disadvantages in terms of image noise and dynamic range, 12 is more than 10 so it must be better, right?
It was with some surprise therefore that I learned that Fuji's new F-series camera was to feature a 12-megapixel sensor. Most of the other manufacturers had already jumped on the 12MP bandwagon, with mixed results, but surely Fuji would resist the temptation? Apparently not, and thus we have the FinePix F50fd, a 3x zoom pocket compact camera with a 12.0-megapixel 1/1.6-inch Super CCD HR VII sensor, a 2.7-inch 230k pixel LCD monitor and a maximum ISO setting of 6400. It is billed as the successor to the popular and highly acclaimed FinePix F31fd, a camera noted for its outstanding low light ability and low image noise at higher ISO settings. This is a bit odd, because I was under the impression that the superb FinePix F40fd was the successor to the F31fd, since it too has outstanding high-ISO performance. The F40fd achieves its remarkable high-ISO image quality thanks to a large 1/1.6-inch 8.3MP SuperCCD HR sensor, with big octagonal photocells capable of capturing a lot more light than most of its rivals. The sensor in the new F50fd is exactly the same physical size, but now has 50 percent more photocells, which presumably means that those photocells are correspondingly 33 percent smaller, and half as good at capturing light. Surely this can't bode well for the camera's low light ability.
I've already reviewed several 12MP compact cameras, and they have ranged from the disappointing to the merely adequate, but none so far have been really outstanding. They have also all been pretty expensive, with the Casio EX-Z1200 currently selling at around £200, the Sony DSC-W200 at around £225, the Panasonic DMC-FX100 at around £260 and the Canon PowerShot G9 at £285. The Fuji F50fd is currently selling for around £170, which does give it something of an advantage over its immediate peers, but it still far from cheap, especially considering that the F40fd is currently selling for around £125.