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Even in this digital age of wonder in which we live, you’ll still find old photographers sitting in their favourite corner of the pub, nursing a pint of Otter Head ale and reminiscing about black and white film photography. For these reactionary Luddites, or “artists”, as they like to be known, film grain is what it’s all about. They’re not happy with a photograph unless it’s been shot at 32,000 ISO, developed at furnace-like temperatures and has grain the size of golf balls all over it. It’s “texture” you see, and of course the more you have, the more of an artist you are, and you can brag about it to all the other cardigan-clad weirdoes at the local camera club.
Of course for digital photographers, grain equals image noise and we hate it with a passion. For the vast majority of digital cameras, as soon as you turn up the ISO sensitivity beyond about 200, you start to see strange red-green colour artefacts in the shadows, and your picture quality goes to hell faster than Osama bin Laden on a skateboard.
Of course some cameras are better at coping with image noise than others, and all the main manufacturers claim to have made big improvements, but in truth only one manufacturer has made any real strides in this particular area and that is Fujifilm. Back in May I reviewed the Finepix F11, which was new at the time and offered a maximum ISO setting of 1600 and was actually usable at that setting, producing about the same noise levels as most other cameras do at 400 ISO.
This week I’ve got the latest in the F series, the F30, which goes one stop further with a maximum ISO setting of 3200 and is the only compact camera on the market that can make that claim. It was launched in May this year, and currently has a list price of £299.99. On the High Street you can get one for around £249.99, although if you shop around online you can find one for about £200 including delivery.
The F30 looks superficially similar in both size and shape to the F11, which it will most likely replace in Fuji’s range, however the style of the body has been completely reworked, with smoother, rounder lines, a nice two-tone brushed-steel colour scheme and an undeniable air of class about it. The body is all metal and the fit and finish are extremely good. The control layout is basically the same as the F11, with only the addition of a separate exposure compensation button to set them apart.
The 2.5in monitor screen has a resolution of 230,000 pixels so it’s nice and sharp and has an anti-reflective coating, so it’s easy to see even in bright sunlight. I did find that the monitor refresh rate was a little slow, especially in low light, but not sufficiently so to cause a problem.
Fujifilm has always made a big thing of pursuing picture quality through image processing rather than joining the megapixel arms race that most of the other manufacturers are engaged in. At a time when most of its rivals are pushing their latest 10.1MP compact cameras, the F30 has a maximum resolution of just 6.3 megapixels.
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