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Fujifilm FinePix F50fd - Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
The F50fd's overall performance is pretty good. It starts up in just over two seconds, which is fairly quick, and shuts down again in just under two seconds. In single-shot mode the shot-to-shot cycle time is 2.5 seconds, which is actually a little on the slow side. The AF system is fast enough, in fact it is very fast; what slows it down is the image processing and storage, even using a high-speed Type H xD-Picture card. In first-12 continuous mode the camera can shoot off a dozen frames in approximately 2.8 seconds, but it is limited to 3MP (2048 x 1536). The first-3 continuous mode can operate at full 12MP resolution, and shoots its three frames in 1.5 seconds. As I said, the AF system is very quick, focusing almost instantly in good light. However it has a closest-focus distance of approximately 60cm in wide-angle mode and nearly a metre in telephoto mode, and again my own measurements contradict the figures given in the website and spec sheet. The AF system also works well in low light, focusing quickly even in a dimly-lit club or a candle-lit room, and in darkness thanks to an AF assist lamp. Unfortunately however the monitor has serious problems in low light. It has an image enhancement system of sorts, but the resulting monitor view is so noisy as to be almost useless.
The main selling point of the F31fd and the F40fd was their vastly superior high-ISO and low light performance. Both cameras produce usable images at 1600 ISO, and the F31fd was even usable at 3200 ISO, a performance currently unsurpassed by any other compact camera. Fuji is claiming that the F50fd is the successor to the F31fd, with statements like "class-leading high ISO performance", but I'm afraid the results simply don't back up this claim. While the image quality at 100 ISO is very good, even at 200 ISO there is evidence of image noise, and at 400 ISO is is already having a serious effect on colour rendition and detail, as the heavy-handed noise reduction system goes to work. The camera has a maximum ISO setting of 6400, but only at 3MP (2048 x 1536), or 3200 at 6MP (2848 x 2136), but frankly the image quality at these settings is so poor that they are virtually useless. The highest full-res setting is 1600 ISO, but even at this setting it doesn't even come close to the quality of the F40fd. In fact it is roughly the same as the high-ISO performance of the other 12MP compacts. This is a great pity, because in all other respects the F50fd's image quality is very good. The lens produces very good edge-to-edge sharpness with minimal distortion or chromatic aberration, and even the old Fujifilm bugbear of purple fringing is almost completely absent. Focusing, exposure and colour reproduction are all up to the usual very high standard, although also in common with the other 12MP compacts, dynamic range is rather limited and shadows do look very murky. The Fuji FinePix F40fd my pick for the compact camera of the year 2007, and so I had high hopes for the F50fd. I am very disappointed that Fuji has chosen to throw away the one thing that made the F31fd and F40fd special in favour of the pointless marketing-led pursuit of ever more megapixels.
While the F50fd is by no means a bad camera, and indeed it performs as well as any of the other 12MP compacts on the market while undercutting most of them on price, it has lost the low-light, high-ISO advantage of the F31fd and F40fd. It is still a very well made and sensibly designed compact camera with some useful features, and at low ISO settings its image quality is very good, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd.