It’s now generally accepted that the digital camera industry has moved beyond the ‘megapixel wars’ that dominated marketing campaigns up until a few years ago. However, so many 16-megapixel compacts have been released recently it seems there is a case for re-iterating what’s already been said by us and countless other digital camera reviewers - we’d much prefer to see Fuji (and other manufacturers) peg the resolution of their 1/1.2-inch compact sensors to more manageable levels (about 10/12-megapixels is more than ample) and concentrate instead on other aspects of picture quality.
In other words, there’s not much point in being able to blow images up to poster-sized dimensions if all that does is reveal the effects of overzealous image processing, large-scale JPEG compression and noise reduction. Far better, surely, to reduce the physical size of prints and produce images that are smaller and more natural-looking?
This isn’t a criticism we’re levelling specifically at Fujifilm or the Z900 in particular, as all compacts tend to suffer from exactly the same problem to a greater or lesser degree. That said, when the Z900’s images are viewed at 100% and above they can be seen to suffer from the ‘smudged detail’ and ‘painted-on’ effects so common with small-sensor compacts.
It’s also worth noting that while the use of a folded-lens design does help to ensure that a camera is small and portable there is a trade-off in image quality, specifically a drop off in sharpness. That’s not to say that all images produced by the Z900 are inherently blurred, however the ‘strike rate’ for what we’d class as pin-sharp images is significantly lower – especially when the Z900’s zoom is extended deep into telephoto territory.
On the plus side, the Z900’s 256-zone TTL metering module is consistently accurate, producing images with good highlight retention, especially when the camera is being used in the EXR Auto or Dynamic Range-priority mode.
In fact, given that the EXR shooting modes are a big selling point of the Z900 we don’t mind admitting that we felt compelled to use them as much as possible. In doing so it quickly became clear that they produce images with much greater contrast and vibrancy than images shot in Program mode. See the Sample Images gallery for some visual examples of this.
If all of the above sounds a bit critical, rest assured that the Z900 is far from alone in not being perfect. The overwhelming majority of compacts on the market suffer from exactly the same problems to a lesser or greater extent. For the vast majority of day-to-day snappers the Z900 is capable of producing perfectly acceptable image quality.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z900 EXR is a stylish little ultra-compact that feels solid and well made. The large 3.5in monitor is sharp and clear and remains useable outdoors in bright conditions too. The touchscreen controls are perfectly responsive and the new icon-based menu is easy to navigate. Overall, we’d say that image quality is on a par with other compacts in this price range. The EXR-specific shooting modes deliver plenty of contrast and also help to reduce noise in low-light conditions. The lens can be a bit soft though, especially at the edges and corners and at its telephoto extremes.