With its primarily metal finish, the Z900 has a nice, solid feel to it. Our review sample came in a dark shade of ruby red, which to our eyes looks pretty classy. In terms of weight the Z900 hits a good sweet spot, being weighty enough to feel well-made yet light enough to carry around all day.
The sliding cover that protects the lens and acts as the main on/off switch offers just about enough resistance to avoid being accidentally opened inside a bag, while the sculpted edge adds to the overall finish. Given the sliding fascia design, a finger-grip was never really going to be possible and the Z900 does lose some points here for being a bit slippery in the hand – something that’s not especially helped by its smooth, shiny finish.
There are but four physical buttons on the Z900 – a shutter button, a zoom control, a one-touch movie record button and a Home button. Everything else is controlled via the 3.5-inch touchscreen. At 460k-dots the screen itself is plenty sharp enough and also remains quite easy to view in bright outdoors conditions.
Sensitivity of the touchscreen is very good, the camera recognising virtually all of our finger-jabbing commands first time. We did experience a bit of seizure on a couple of occasions, although it should be noted that at both times the camera had sustained some exceptionally prolonged use of the kind it’s unlikely to receive outside of a test environment.
In-camera menus have undergone a bit of a rejig. The Z900 now presents an icon-led top-level menu interface, rather like the camera app of an iPad or Android device. This makes navigating your way around the various in-camera menus a fairly painless experience.
Performance wise, the Z900 is a bit of a mixed bag. We timed the camera’s start-up time – from sliding the cover open to shooting a properly focused image – at about five and a half seconds. While we’ve yet to see a compact in this price bracket that offers anything even remotely approaching instant start-up-and-shoot abilities, five and a half seconds is undoubtedly slow.
Autofocus performance is better, at least in good light, with the Z900’s contrast-detect AF system able to lock on pretty much instantaneously. Speed remains pretty good in less than ideal light too, although in very dim to near dark situations the camera does struggle. This isn’t helped by the absence of an AF Assist light on the front of the camera either.
Used in Single-shot mode it’s possible to shoot at just under a frame a second, with no upper limit on the number of shots you can take. Switching over to Continuous mode the fastest speed at which you’ll be able to shoot along with the maximum number of shots you’ll be able to take is directly affected by the resolution you are shooting at.
For example, at 16MP it’s possible to shoot at 3fps albeit for a maximum three frames, after which you can expect to wait about five seconds while the camera processes the images. Drop the resolution down to 4MP though and you’ll be able to shoot at 12fps up to a maximum 12 frames, followed by about an eight-second processing wait. High-speed shooting (at lower resolutions) has long been a strength of Fujifilm compacts, and the Z900 follows this tradition.
One thing that does rather let the Z900 down is battery performance. The supplied 720mAh Li-Ion battery drains especially fast, especially if you are prone to changing settings often and using the camera to review your images. Used constantly like this, we were barely able to get three hours from the battery. Of course, if you’re just pulling the camera out to shoot the odd snap every once in a while this probably won’t be so much of an issue.