In terms of appearance and design the F770EXR represents something of a departure from most of the other travel compacts on the market. It’s much less angular than its competitors with more rounded edges and ergonomic curves. The outer shell of the camera is given a smooth (yet tough) rubberised finish too, and while it might not be to everyone’s tastes we have to confess that we rather like it. It certainly doesn’t feel in any way cheap or tacky in the hand, rather it feels well considered and quite solidly put together.
The front is given an ergonomic finger grip that comfortably allows you to brace your middle finger against, with a ridged thumb-rest on the back giving extra purchase. Overall, it’s a very comfortable camera to hold and feels perfectly secure enough to use one-handed. The various buttons and controls are, on the whole, quite well placed too, although the one-touch movie record button sits flush with body, which can make it a bit fiddly to press without the aid of a fingernail. On the plus side, the D-pad is surrounded by a circular wheel, which allows for quicker scrolling when navigating the main in-camera menu.
Another useful button is the F-menu button, which brings up a kind of ‘quick menu’ for easy adjustments to the main shooting settings. The number of options available though the F-menu is a bit limited though, even when using the camera in one of the more advanced ‘PASM’ modes. Somewhat oddly, white balance adjustment and the option to shoot in Raw are both absent from the F-menu too. Thankfully, the F770EXR does get a new Function (Fn) button on top of the camera body, and this can be assigned to a number of things, and although white balance isn’t one of them you can assign it to act as a quick Raw capture button. Aside from these two quirks, we otherwise found the F770EXR very easy to use and navigate our way around.
Initial start-up clocks in at a fraction under 2.5 seconds, which is pretty standard for a camera of this type. Processing times are also comparable to the competition, without being either unduly fast or slow. Used in Single-shot mode, we were able to record six full-resolution JPEGs in 10 seconds, which equates to around 1.6fps. Switching to Raw this drops to around four images in ten seconds, or 2.5fps.
Used in Continuous mode the camera offers a choice of 3, 5, 8 or 11fps, although the 11fps setting is only available at 8MP or less. Also, the maximum number of consecutive images you’ll be able to shoot at each of these speeds is limited by the resolution you are shooting at. For example, at 8MP the camera can only maintain the top speed of 11fps for 11 consecutive images, after which it will slow to a rate closer to 2fps. At the other extreme, knock the resolution right down to 4MP and you’ll be able to shoot at 3fps indefinitely (we gave up counting after capturing 180 shots in a timed minute). Raw capture is another matter altogether though, with the 3fps and 5fps Continuous shooting options both coming to a stuttering halt after about five consecutive frames. All in all though, so long as you stick to shooting JPEGs most users should be able to find a happy medium somewhere.
Autofocus is impressively quick, with the camera finding focus almost instantaneously in good light and only slowing down slightly in more subdued conditions. The front of the camera also gets a bright white LED AF assist light that can help to illuminate nearby subjects in really dark conditions. And of course, there's a built-in flash to call on too. While AF speed is pretty good, it’s a shame that the available AF modes are limited to Centre, Multi, Continuous and Tracking – a user-defined spot AF focus option would certainly make the camera more flexible. Perhaps that’s something that will come with next year’s model.
Image quality is, on the whole, very good indeed. Used at lower ISO settings and in good light, the F770EXR delivers punchy, vibrant images with good levels of edge-to-edge sharpness and plenty of fine detail. The camera’s built-in image stabilisation technology does its job well too, helping you to achieve sharp images even when shooting handheld at its telephoto extremes.
Of course, this being a Fuji camera there are a choice of five Film Simulation colour modes, some of which are named after old Fuji 35mm film stock: Standard, Velvia (vibrant), Astia (soft/muted), Black and White and Sepia. We shot all of our sample images using the Standard setting, which was still able to produce pleasingly vibrant images.
Metering is generally very accurate, although as with most compacts the F770EXR’s metering module tends to favour whatever’s inside the focusing area – even when the camera is set to Multi-point metering mode. This means that in high-contrast scenes a small bit of movement can make a big difference to the result – especially if you are using the camera in Single-point AF mode. That’s not a criticism by any means, although it is something to watch out for nonetheless. Automatic white balance is generally on the money, although when quickly switching between artificial and natural light it can sometimes take some time for the camera to adjust.
While the lowest sensitivity settings of ISO 100 and 200 produce good results, image quality does deteriorate once you go beyond these two settings. ISO 400 produces quite a bit more noise than ISO 200, although at regular image sizes this really shouldn’t be much of a problem. At ISO 800, however, fine detail begins to take on a smudged appearance, especially in darker parts of the image. By ISO 1600 this has become much more pronounced, with noise becoming much more visible even at regular image sizes. Beyond this things quickly go downhill, with ISO 3200 visibly noisy at all image sizes and the top two settings of ISO 6400 and 12,800 producing very poor image quality indeed and best avoided altogether.
The Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR is a generously featured travel zoom that delivers good image quality, especially at lower sensitivity settings. The ability to capture Raw image files is a big bonus too, and something that elevates the F770EXR above its main travel zoom competitors. In addition, the F770EXR’s flexible EXR shooting modes, one-touch panoramic image creation and High-Speed movie recording options are all useful tools that give the camera an extra dimension. Last but not least, the F770EXR is also quite a bit cheaper than its main travel zoom rivals, which makes it very good value too. So, if a small compact with a big zoom is top of your shopping list then the Fujifilm F770EXR is definitely worth a closer look.