The F30 is equipped with Fuji’s SuperCCD HR sensor, which has large octagonal sensor cells arranged in a diagonal pattern rather than the perpendicular chequerboard pattern of smaller square cells used in a conventional CCD. This provides the advantage of a larger area to capture light, giving slightly better dynamic range than an equivalent conventional CCD, although not as much as Fuji’s SuperCCD SR sensor. What it does provide however is far better detail resolution than a conventional sensor of the same size. As you’ll see from the accompanying test shots, the image quality is exceptionally good, certainly better than most other six megapixle cameras I’ve tested recently.
Overall performance is outstandingly good. From a cold start the camera powers up in approximately 1.5 seconds, which is quick by any standards. The AF system is possibly the fastest I’ve seen in a compact camera. In good light it locks on in a fraction of a second, and even in low light it takes less that half a second to get into focus. It has an AF lamp with a range of about 4m, so it can focus in total darkness.
Shot-to-shot times are also good. In single shot mode it can manage a shot every two seconds, which is faster than average. It has three continuous shooting modes; in the long period mode it can shoot a frame every 1.4 seconds and keep it up until the card is full. The other two modes fire at two frames per second, but then only save either the first or the last three shots of the sequence.
The F30 is powered by a very large 1800mAh lithium-ion battery, for which Fuji claim a duration of 540 shots on a full charge. I didn’t have time to shoot that many photos, but the 100 or so that I did take didn’t even make a dent in the charge meter.
In maximum picture quality mode, the camera produces JPEG files with a nice low compression ratio and a file size of approximately 3.1MB, so a 1GB xD Picture card is enough for about 336 shots.
It is in low light performance that the F30 really shines though. As I’ve already noted, it has very good low light focusing, and it has picture-taking ability to match. Fuji has done a lot of work on high ISO noise reduction and the F30’s picture quality at 800 ISO is at least as good as most other cameras can manage at 200, which gives it at least a 2-stop advantage when shooting in low lighting conditions, which is when most social photos are taken. Image quality does drop off a little at 1600 ISO and is looking decidedly shaky at 3200 as the noise reduction system sacrifices fine detail to remove noise artefacts, but even at the highest setting the images are still reasonably good, with accurate colour reproduction and exposure.
The Finepix F30 is a stylish, efficient and easy-to-use compact camera with excellent picture quality, a useful range of features and outstanding performance, but even these qualities are overshadowed by its amazing low-light performance. It has easily the best high-ISO picture quality of any compact camera on the market, and is perfect for shooting pictures at any social occasion. While not exactly cheap, it does offer unique abilities that you won’t find anywhere else.