The other nice social mode is the Natural Light & Flash mode, which takes two photos in quick succession, one with no flash and one with flash, so you get the best of both. The F40fd has a very good flash, providing excellent frame coverage, outstanding range (6.5m at wide angle, 3.5 at telephoto) and superb metering, filling in shadows nicely without being too harsh.
However, as with previous F-series cameras, it is the F40fd’s high-ISO performance that really stands out. Fujifilm is the only manufacturer that has really cracked image noise, by a combination of larger than average sensors with larger than average photocells, and vastly superior image processing. The F40fd has a maximum ISO setting of 2000, and produces usable images at this setting, with accurate colour balance, minimal loss of detail and an acceptable level of noise. I’m not exaggerating when I say that its image quality at 1600 ISO is better than many cameras can manage at 400. This means that in many situations you can switch the flash off and still take good pictures in low light conditions, something which simply isn’t possible with most digital cameras.
Image quality at lower ISO settings is correspondingly excellent. Like most Fuji compacts the F40fd has a superb Fujinon lens which produces good edge-to-edge sharpness with minimal barrel distortion. The level of detail in the images is better than many 10-megapixel compacts I’ve seen, in fact I would go as far as to say it produces some of the most finely detailed images I’ve seen from any compact camera. Exposure and colour rendition are excellent as always, focusing is very accurate, and the dynamic range of the large HR sensor is much better than the tiny 1/2.5-in sensors in most compacts. The only slight problem with image quality is one that has plagued most Fujifilm cameras, the dreaded purple fringes around bright highlights and high-contrast edges. If only Fuji could cure this as thoroughly as it has image noise it would have decisive advantage over other camera manufacturers.
Fujifilm continues to demonstrate that it is the only manufacturer that has successfully addressed the issue of image noise. The Finepix F40fd is an attractively designed, extremely well made camera with a good range of features and outstanding image quality. It is a bit lacking in overall speed, but its exceptional low-light and high-ISO performance are better than any other compact on the market – except another Fuji.