Without a doubt the most popular new format for digital cameras over the past couple of years has been the long-zoom compact camera, and especially those with wide-angle lenses. Ricoh started the trend, as it has with many others, back in 2005 with the launch of the Caplio R1V. It took the other manufacturers a while to catch up, but now almost all of the major brands have added long zoom compact models to their line-ups.
The benchmark for the type is of course the Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (£250), but there are plenty of others to choose from. Naturally Ricoh is still in the market with its superb CX2 (£260), Canon has the PowerShot SX200 IS (£230), Casio has the Exilim EX-H10 (£200), Olympus has its mju 9000 (£240), Samsung has recently launched the WB550 (£225), Sony weighs in with the Cyber-shot DSC-H20 (£200, review coming soon) and even Kodak has got in on the market with its EasyShare Z950 (£200). Nikon is lagging behind a bit with the 7x zoom CoolPix S630 (£210), and Pentax, having dipped its toe in the water with the Optio Z10 back in 2007 has apparently decided to concentrate on standard compacts and DSLRs for now.
With such a wide and varied range of competing models it's obviously pretty hard for any one manufacturer to stand out from the throng. Nonetheless Fujifilm has launched a 10x zoom compact camera into this crowded market. Looking at the basic specs of the new FinePix F70EXR, with its 27-270mm zoom range, 10-megapixel sensor and 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, not to mention its somewhat expensive £280 price tag, it's hard to see how it can compete, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve that should enable it to make an impact.
The F70EXR features a new 10-megapixel version of Fujifilm's innovative SuperCCD EXR sensor, previously seen in its 12MP form in the F200EXR reviewed earlier this year, and in the S200EXR super-zoom which I reviewed last week. The clever part of the EXR sensor technology is its low-light shooting mode, which uses pairs of adjacent photocells and paired RGB filter elements to half the resolution of the sensor while effectively doubling its light sensitivity, greatly reducing image noise and increasing dynamic range in low light situations. It's a simple and elegant solution to a problem that has dogged high-resolution, small sensor digital cameras since day one.