The position of the controls on the back is also laid out for visual symmetry rather than convenience, and I found that the camera was hard to grip without my thumb occasionally pressing the ‘up’ direction on the D-pad, accidentally switching off the image stabilisation. The pad could easily have been positioned much lower, leaving room for a thumbgrip that would have improved the camera’s handling, but then it wouldn’t look as nice. The zoom control is symmetrical with the two buttons at the bottom of the control area, and these too are designed for visual appeal rather than function, which unfortunately means that the zoom control is very small and fiddly. Fuji has dispensed with the usual “F” button menu, and instead has put all of the camera’s main shooting modes and 16 scene modes on one big 22-entry rotary menu controlled by the rotating D-pad, and the main camera options menu is selected as one of these options. This is something that you’ll either love or hate; personally I found it tiresome having to go through seven button presses just to get to exposure compensation or ISO setting. Since the Z100fd is very much a point-and shoot camera, the range of menu options is fairly limited. ISO, white balance, drive mode and image quality are adjustable, but the only image adjustments are monochrome or the usual high-saturation “chrome” mode.
While the shooting modes may be limited, the Z100fd’s range of clever tricks is extensive. As well as the now-obligatory face detection portrait mode, and the less-common but not unique automatic face-detection-based red-eye correction function, it also has an infra-red communication system called IrSimple, which allows pictures to be transferred wirelessly between the Z100fd and any other camera or device that is also equipped with IrSimple or the earlier IrDA system. Infrared communication is used on a number of mobile phones and some older laptops, but I can’t help thinking that the radio-based Bluetooth would probably have been a more sensible option for wireless file sharing. One sensible option however is the dual-format memory card slot, which can accept SD, SDHC and xD-Picture cards.
The actual photographic features are also useful. Obviously the mechanical image stabilisation is a major selling point, and it is a very effective system, allowing stable hand-held shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/15th of a second. The face detection system works well too, although it suffers from the usual limitation that subject faces have to be looking straight at the camera, and unobscured by such things as pints of beer, broad-brimmed hats, beards or large sunglasses. The scene modes include a fairly nifty auction mode which can composite up to four shots into a single 640 x 480 image, ideal if you get the sudden urge to sell something on eBay. The natural light mode, also seen on some other Fuji compacts, takes two photos in rapid succession, one with and one without the flash. The flash itself has Fuji’s Intelligent Flash System, which balances the flash output to the ambient light even at close range, resulting in pleasant fill-in flash in daylight, or balanced night portraits.