The similarities between the J12 and J10 extend to the camera’s overall performance. It starts up quickly in around 1.6 seconds, and shuts down again in about the same. Shot-to-shot time is a little over two seconds, which is fairly respectable for a cheap camera. The three-shot burst mode however is quite slow, at over a second per shot.
Naturally if you’re only prepared to pay £70 for a camera you shouldn’t expect miracles, and the J12 does have a couple of major weak spots. The first is the autofocus system, which is patchy at best. It’s only the second camera I’ve ever seen that wouldn’t immediately focus on my Cathedral-window test shot. It actually too three or four tries to lock on to this well-lit, high-contrast subject. It also doesn’t work well in low light, and lacks an AF assist lamp, so it’s going to have problems in a lot of social situations.
The second weakness is overall image quality. Although it seems to have lost the vignetting problem of the J10, it has a couple of new problems all of its own. First, the automatic white balance is inconsistent and unreliable, and second, every shot I took seemed to lack contrast and saturation, leaving shots looking pale and washed-out. I thought at first that I’d somehow got dirt on the lens, but I checked and cleaned it, and still got the same results.
Although the J12’s 8.2MP sensor is capable of capturing a fair amount of fine detail the lens quality is quite poor. Even in the centre of the frame the images look generally soft, while the corners of the frame are badly blurred. It also produces significant barrel distortion at wide angle.
Noise control is actually not too bad, and shots taken at 400 ISO are good enough for small prints if you’re not too fussy. Even shots taken at the 1600 ISO maximum setting could be used on a web page or blog without too much embarrassment.
Although it lacks just about every advanced feature from the past two years, has serious issues with its autofocus system and has less than ideal picture quality, the Fujifilm FinePix J12 is still probably the best camera you’re likely to find at this price point. Build quality, design and overall performance are quite acceptable, and it does have the advantage of being very easy to use. However it would probably be a better idea to save your pocket money for another couple of weeks and get something a bit more advanced.