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Once in a while a camera manufacturer will come up with an idea that’s so clever that you can’t help wondering why nobody thought of it before. Many people now have widescreen televisions, and the advantages of the 16:9 format are well known, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone put a widescreen LCD monitor on the back of a digital camera. Fujifilm has done this with the F810 and it works a treat.
To be strictly accurate, the widescreen LCD was first seen on the F710, but that camera is now discontinued, and anyway the F810 is more than just an updated version of the previous camera. Instead of the 6.3 megapixel SR sensor in the previous model, the F810 features the latest generation of Fuji’s acclaimed SuperCCD, giving it astonishing performance. It still carries 6.3 million pixels, but in standard mode it generates a 4,048 x 3,040 pixel image - a whopping 12.3 megapixels. To find a larger image you’d have to turn to a digital SLR costing several thousand pounds.
SuperCCD is slightly controversial. Basically, it works by having a CCD with large hexagonal sensor cells arranged in a diagonal pattern, rather than the usual horizontal/vertical grid of small square cells that most others use. The pixels in the final image are derived from this pattern by the image processing engine. Much has been said on this subject and opinions are divided. On one side you have most other camera manufacturers and some reviewers who say that it uses image interpolation to double the size of the recorded image and that’s cheating, while on the other side is Fuji and most Fuji-using photographers who say never mind all that, look at the photos. The truth is that all digital cameras use some form of image interpolation to generate their final images anyway, Fuji just does it slightly differently. It works, and it works very well, and it’s the results that count.
Actually there is a little cheating going on here, but it’s the widescreen part that’s the phoney. In fact all the camera does is chop the top and bottom off the standard 4:3 aspect ratio 12.3 megapixel image to make it fit the 16:9 screen. The result is an eight megapixel widescreen image, but that’s still a lot of pixels and the wide format itself is more than just an amusing novelty. It’s great for getting a large group of people into a shot without all that “squeeze in a bit” nonsense, and it's ideal for landscape photography. Just looking at a scene in widescreen actually makes you take photos in a slightly different way.
There’s no doubt that the F810 can be used for serious photography. Not only does it have the pixel power, it also has a good range of options and features, including shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure, 64-segment matrix spot or centre-weighted metering, manual focus and a good array of flash modes. The 4x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 32.5mm - 130mm on a 35mm camera, so it has a wide angle of view to go along with its wide screen.
The F810 isn’t a particularly small camera, so even with that big screen on the back there’s still plenty of room for a nice uncluttered control layout. As a result there's space for new controls, such as the command dial that can best be described as a metal roller positioned next to the screen that's used to change settings or to scroll through images in replay mode. As with most recent Fuji cameras the F810 has a Function button menu as well as the main menu, giving quick access to image size/quality, ISO setting and colour effects.