The build quality is up to Fuji’s usual high standard, with a strong aluminium body that feels reassuringly solid despite the camera’s low weight. The sliding cover operates smoothly, although it is a little bit too loose for my liking. I found it sometimes came open in my pocket. The lens doesn’t protrude from the body at all, but it is in a very exposed position when the cover is open, and the front element is prone to getting smeared with greasy finger marks if you grab the camera from the wrong end. Since the camera has a very symmetrical shape this is easily done.
Apart from this minor quibble I found that the camera handled very well. There is a slight raised edge on the sliding panel which serves as a finger grip when it is open, and the rear panel controls are arranged so as to leave plenty of room for your thumb, with the zoom control sensibly located for quick and easy use. The shutter button is quite small, and is flanked by the button to activate the face detection mode and the slider switch to select movie mode, but in practice it falls neatly under the trigger finger. It is a bit over-sensitive though, and on a night out in a busy pub I did accidentally take one or two shots of my shoes or the ceiling, although after a few pints this was a fairly accurate description of my state of mind.
The Z5fd is a simple snapshot camera, and its feature set reflects this. It has a “manual” mode, which allows the user to adjust ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and AF mode, and an “auto” mode, in which these adjustments are disabled and only continuous shooting mode, colour mode and picture quality can be changed. As well as these, there are 16 scene modes, including a “natural light” mode that selects higher ISO, and all the usual modes such as portrait, landscape, sports, night scene, fireworks, sunset, snow etc. As the “fd” in the name indicates, it also has a face detection mode, but like most such systems it is not completely reliable, and really only works when the subject is not more than a few metres away and is looking straight and level at the camera. Things like dark sunglasses, partial face coverings, large beards and some hats will confuse it.
In terms of overall performance, the Z5fd starts up in around 1.8 seconds when the cover is opened, and shuts down almost instantly when it is closed. Like most Fuji cameras it has three continuous shooting modes; two burst modes that fire at two frames a second but only record either the first three of last three frames, and a long-period setting that can shoot until the card is full but at a rate of one frame every 1.7 seconds. This might sound slow but it does check focus for every shot, although the flash is automatically deactivated. In normal single-shot mode the camera can take a shot about once every two seconds, or once every three to four seconds if the flash is used.