Fujifilm FinePix 6900 Zoom

Author: Eric Yim
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2001
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/fujifilm6900/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introduction

Over the past number of years, digital cameras have gained a lot of fans in the market. Most people are choosing the filmless, lightweight, small-size, slick-looking digital cameras over the old school, bulky optical counterparts. Realizing this trend, manufacturers, like Fujifilm, have spent more money and resources on the research and development of the digital imaging technology. And recently Fujifilm has released a new product, and we are lucky to get a unit for testing.

FinePix 6900 Zoom is Fujifilm’s newest digital camera production. While sharing the same stylish look and control layout with its predecessor (the FinePix 4900 Zoom), the 6900 Zoom has improved on some critical features and specifications. Let’s take a look at its impressive specs:

Specs

Features

Specification

CCD1/1.7” Super CCD, 3.3 million pixels in an interwoven pattern
Image file size2,832x2,128 / 2,048x1,536 / 1,280x960 / 640x480 pixels, 24-bit color
File formatTIFF-RGB, JPEG
Storage mediaSmartMedia™ (3.3V, 2MB to 128MB)
Number of imagesMG-16S/SWMG-32S/SWMG-64S/SWMG-128S/SW
* Hi0137
* Fine6132653
* Normal132856113
* Basic3368137275
LensFujinon lens, f = 35 to 210 mm on a 35 mm camera
SensitivityEquivalent to ISO 100/200/400
FocusAutomatic, 10 cm / 3.9 inches to infinity
White balanceAutomatic / Manual (6 modes) / custom
FlashAutomatic, 3.6 m / 11.8 ft. (Max), Hot shoe
LCD monitor2” color LCD monitor (130,000 pixels)
OutputVideo and USB
Power sourceRechargeable lithium-ion battery or AC Power Adapter included
Dimensions (WxHxD)110 x 78.5 x 93.5 mm / 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.7 inches
Weight410 g / 14.5 oz. (without batter)

Box Contents

Box contents: An owner’s manual, two quick start guides, a CD-ROM (including USB drivers and software applications), one SmartMedia (16MB, 3.3V) memory card along with an anti-static case and an index label, an AC power adapter AC-5V/5VH, a rechargeable battery NP-80, a lens cap and a lens cap holder, an USB cable, a video cable, a shoulder strap, and the device itself.

Like most other digital cameras, the FinePix 6900 Zoom ships with a delightfully comprehensive manual. I’m impressed, however, that while it’s easy enough to understand for beginner photographers, it’s detailed to the point that can keep hardcore professionals interested. For instance, to get beginners familiarized with the basic components and their functions, clearly labelled diagrams and a table of operation modes are depicted in the first few pages of booklet. On the other hand, in-depth explanations of special features and functions and introduction to new technologies never bore the gurus.

One thing I like in particular about this manual is that effective warnings and informative footnotes are everywhere. There’s nothing worse than erasing all your memorable photos for doing something stupid like pulling the SmartMedia out without turning off the power of the camera. Of course, that’s just an example; a safety is implemented in the camera to prevent that from happening.

Like the owner’s manual, the quick start guides are very detailed and informative. The software guide is a 85 page handbook. It has all the information that can help the subtlest person to get the software running on a Windows or Macintosh based system. And of course, there’s a troubleshooting section at the end of the booklet to help you solve some problems by yourself. The other quick guide is a sheet of paper that points out all the parts and buttons on the camera (with numbers referring to pages on the owner’s manual) and instructs you on how to take your first picture.

The included software CD contains all the useful drivers and applications you’ll need to access and edit your photos. The USB drivers allow connections with the recent members of the Windows family (compatible with as old as Windows98) and Macintosh system 8.6 and above. While the drivers are pretty much universal, most of the bundled applications, except the FinePixViewer, are for Windows only. The FinePixViewer is basically the camera’s version of Windows Explorer. It allows you to browse the data inside your camera, as well as your other storage devices, view photos in thumbnail and blown-up scales, set the DPOF of your photos, and use the camera as a PC-Cam for video conferencing, just to name a few of its features. You get the idea of the usefulness of this program ;). There is a few things this neat little program (only about 6MB) doesn’t address, however, so Fujifilm completes the package with two Adobe products – ActiveShare and PhotoDeluxe.

The two Adobe products seem to have many overlapping features. Some examples are that both can share photos on the Web and through email, fix photos, and make postcards. So why need both of them? It’s the few extra functions in each application that make the difference. ActiveShare allows better organization by sorting photos into different electronic albums, while PhotoDeluxe offers more powerful editing tools to repair and customize your photos. The nice thing about them is that all their functions can be fired up in just a few clicks.

The package contains a good selection of accessories. The inclusion of a rechargeable battery is a great idea. A rechargeable battery will save you a great deal of money for the long run, though it costs more than non-rechargeable ones in the beginning. Another advantage of today’s rechargeable batteries is that they usually provide longer hours of operation. Speaking of long hours of operation, the AC power adapter is a great asset if you do a lot of indoor photographing. Once the adapter is plugged into a power outlet, your only limit will be the length of the adapter wire. Well, you got to give some to take some, right? ;P

OK, let’s say you’ve fully charged your battery and you’ve taken a few pictures. Now what do you want to do next? You want to be able to view your photos on a relatively bigger screen than the LCD display or send red-eyed photos to your PC for editing, right? You can do so by using the video and USB cables. The video cable allows you view your photos or videos on any TV that has a video-in RCA connector. Good for watching videos, but not so for photos because of the poor quality (except for HDTV’s, I suppose :)). To establish a connection with your PC, an USB cable is used. One very nice thing about the USB connection is that it’s hot-pluggable, meaning you don’t have to shut down your computer every time you connect or disconnect your camera.

The only letdown here is the inclusion of only 16MB of memory. Let alone the fact that 16MB of memory is minimal these days, for a camera of this quality, that amount of storage won’t take you very far. A picture at the highest quality and resolution won’t even fit on an empty 16MB SmartMedia card. I would really like to see a 64MB or 128MB card, instead.

Usability

As seen in the photos, the FinePix 6900 Zoom is a slick looking camera. The casing is made of a combination of sleek magnesium and high quality rubber. At 410g (14.5oz) without the battery, this camera is best suited for people who travel a lot or who simply hate weight. Despite of its lightweight, this camera still gives a feeling of quality and sturdiness.

There are two ways of handling the camera. In auto mode, this camera can be operated single-handedly. Because of its lightweight and ergonomic design, one can just grab on the hand grip that wraps around the battery. On the other hand, if you are a more professional photographer who prefers manual operations, you’ll need both hands to make good use of all the cool functions of the device.

Unlike other digital cameras (or even some hardware devices), the FinePix 6900 Zoom has fairly secured covers for its compartments. During the entire testing period, I have not encountered any untimely opening. There are three compartments, locate on the left side, the right side, and at the bottom, and they house the I/O panel, the SmartMedia, and the battery.

Again, the I/O panel is behind a very secured cover. It is, however, not very convenient or easily accessible. It is located right below the strap mount and whenever it needs to be accessed, the shoulder strap and lens cap cord have to be moved aside or lifted to give way. On the good side of things, one usually don’t open and close that compartment frequently. The I/O panel consists of the USB connector, the video output, and the AC adapter connector.

The viewfinder is made of soft rubber so that it doesn’t hurt your eye when pressed against it, although that doesn’t happen a lot because the EVF (electronic viewfinder) is clear enough to be seen from about an inch away. The brightness of the display can be adjusted easily through an internal menu.

There are lots of buttons on this unit, and each carries out one or more functions (usually with combination of the shift button). While using the viewfinder, I find that some buttons are more easily accessible than others. For instance, the telephoto and wide-angle (zoom-in and –out, respectively) are well-placed on the left side of the unity near the manual focus dial. The shapes of the two buttons create a nice fitting for the thumb, thus it becomes natural to place the thumb on it all the time. On the other hand, however, the arrow buttons are a bit tougher to locate when using the viewfinder instead of the LCD screen. I would prefer them to be moved next to the DISP and OK buttons. This problem can be solved by using the LCD display. In fact, that’s what I ended up using most of the time because it’s much more convenient. But then, of course, I had to sacrifice my battery life…

Many of today’s new digital cameras have built-in video and audio recording functions. Unfortunately, this model has only got the former. OK, here comes an interesting question. How often do people actually shoot silent videos? Alright, maybe they do. Let me rephrase my question. How many people who shoot silent videos enjoy watching them? Not many, I would assume. It would have been MUCH better if audio recording were also included. A minor complaint, though, since this is a camera not a camcorder :P.

One of the neatest things about this unit is that it has included a hot shoe for external flashes in addition to its built-in flash. This gives users more flexibility and control over their needs. Using the external flash is simple, just close the built-in flash, mount the external flash on the hot shoe, and set the external flash option in the internal menu to “on” then it’s ready to go. It may sound like a little thing, but it’s always all the little things that account for a great gadget.

Photo Quality

There are a total of 9 combinations of 4 resolution settings and 4 image quality modes. The following table shows all the possible combinations and their approximate file sizes:

-
HIFINENORMALBASIC
2832x212817720KB*2400KB1200KB460KB
2048x1536
-
1300KB590KB
-
1280x960
-
620KB320KB
-
640x480
-
-
90KB
-

(*Note: The HI quality uses the TIFF (uncompressed) file format instead of JPEG. Because only a 16MB SmartMedia was provided, this setting couldn’t be tested.)

Alright, let’s start off by comparing two (almost) identical images at the same resolution but different quality settings. The one on the left was taken at FINE quality, which was essentially the best setting available, and the on the right was taken at BASIC. Both photographs were taken at around noon on a bright, sunny day. At normal proportion, the two images look almost identical.

PuzzleHi.jpg
PuzzleLow.jpg

However, if we take a look at the 300% zoomed-in images below, you’ll notice a huge difference in the sharpness of the puzzle edges and smoothness of the color pixels. As you can see, the blown-up low-res picture has become all blocky. Compression is totally accountable for this degradation. I’m impressed with the FINE quality image, however. Even though a little bit blurred, the image is still relatively smooth considering it’s been magnified 300 times.

HiResZoomed.jpg
LowResZoomed.jpg

While the photographs above were taken at the highest resolution, I’m including a VGA one just for the sake of comparison. I’m not showing a magnified version for obvious reasons.

PuzzleVGA.jpg

The following pictures were taken on a cloudy day + some shower. I was going on a boat cruise, so expect to see a lot of the sea. :]

NORMAL

The main focus of the picture is the rainbow at the background. I was worried that the rainbow wouldn’t show up as nice on the computer as on the LCD, but I was over worried. Special attention should be paid to the surrounding buildings and objects. The edges are sharp and colors are bright. This is a good example of the power of this camera.

FINE

This is a quick picture that I took before I boarded the cruising boat. The red and white colors of the tower stand out very nicely.

NORMAL

This is one of my favourite pictures. One of the reasons being that it reminds me of the intro of the Simpsons :P.

FINE

A romantic sunset view! This photograph was taken on the boat so it looks a little bit blurry, but it’s still a great photograph nonetheless.

Conclusion

Despite all the downsides mentioned above, this is one helluva camera. It has got tons of features (just trying to fool around and get familiar with all of them can take days) and superb image quality. At as high as six million pixels, an entire photo can be printed at A4 size and still not loose its quality. Moreover, its stylish look and sturdy frame along with the lightweight make it an excellent choice for frequent travellers.

The most significant drawback of this camera is that it comes with only a 16MB SmartMedia card; it’s not enough even for a single image at the highest quality of the highest resolution. To just have a look at what this camera offers at its best setting, users are forced to upgrade their memory card to at least 32MB. That is definitely a gripe. In addition to that, the lack of audio recording is also a significant drawback. All of these aside, however, the FinePix 6900 Zoom is a wonderful device that you want to show off to your friends and possibly your enemies. Once again, Fujifilm has made an excellent product.

Bottom Line

Box Contents:93%
Usability:94%
Features:96%
Image Quality:95%
Value:93%

Overall Score: 94%

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