Fujifilm FinePix Z30 Digital Camera Review
By Sandy Berger on July 20, 2009
We couldn’t pass up the chance to review the Fujifilm FinePix Z30. It is a point-and-shoot camera that bucks the trends. The Z30 has a really unique style. It has a smooth and curvy metallic surface and comes in several bright colors including a bright fuchsia pink, an intense bright orange and a vibrant purple.
The Z30 comes in an intriguing black box that made the picture of our pink camera look very good.
Inside the box, as shown in Figure 2, is the camera itself, an NP-45 rechargeable battery, the battery charger with a foldable plug that makes transporting and storing it easier, a foldable mini-user’s guide, a USB cable, a wrist strap, the complete owner’s manual on a CD, and a CD with the FinePix software.
We give Fujifilm a thumbs-up for including the owner’s manual on a CD, so there is no fumbling around looking for it on the web. Also, the user’s manual is simplistic and accurate. Good for a beginner as well as for someone who knows their way around digital cameras.
What’s really unique about the Z30 is its design and color. As you can see in Figure 3, our pink Z30 has a distinct rounded look and bright metallic finish. For those who are not into bright colors, the Z30 also comes in black and white. Although the design was meant to be trendy and stylish, instead, the color and finish make the camera look a little toy-like.
The Z30 is a very compact device. Its dimensions are 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.0 inches (9 x 6 x 2.5 cm) and it weighs roughly 4.1 ounces (116.5 g) not including the battery or memory card. The curves and compactness of the camera are its biggest pluses. Unfortunately, the Z30 has several design flaws that we will discuss in this review.
The front of the camera, as shown in Figure 3, has a sliding panel that covers the lens. When you slide the panel open to reveal the lens, the camera starts. It produces a melodic sound, a small light on the front illuminates, and the LCD screen comes to life. Closing the lens panel turns the camera off. The flash is located on the top of the sliding panel. The lens does not extend from the body of the camera when in use. Rather, you will see no movement in the lens at all.
When we first got the camera, it made a clicking noise whenever it was turned on. We removed and reinserted the battery, and tried a different memory card, but the sound persisted. Although it was not terribly loud, it was very obvious. If we had purchased the camera, we might have immediately returned it to the store. However, since Fujifilm sent it to us for review we continued to use it to see if the sound worsened. The sound was there consistently for the first 12 days of use. Then, to our amazement, it completely disappeared. We have been using the camera for over a month now with no reoccurrence of the mystery sound.
The 2.7-inch LCD screen has a 230,000-pixel resolution. There is a slight graininess to the screen. While not enough to be disturbing, the screen is simply not as crisp and clear as some others that we’ve seen. As shown in Figure 4, the screen extends all the way to the left side of the camera, and the buttons take up the remainder of the back of the camera. This can be problematic because it leaves no place to put your fingers while holding the camera to take a picture.
Adding to that problem is the fact that the lens is offset to the side of the camera, as shown in Figure 5. This means that not only may you struggle to find a way to hold the camera, but occasionally a finger will wind up in the shot if you are not careful.
The camera controls are two columns of buttons are located to the right of the screen, as shown in Figure 6. These buttons are rubberized, which actually give a them a nice feel, but it also adds to the toy-like quality of the camera. Overall, the buttons are too small and too close together. Only the Menu button is easy to find since it is a little rounded on the right side and there is a slight bump in the camera (see Figure 7) that helps guide your figure to it by touch.
The buttons are (from top to bottom), W & T for zoom control, Delete & Playback, Macro & Flash, Self-Timer & Menu/OK, and Display/Back and Movie Mode. You will notice that four of the buttons have red arrows on them. These double as 4-way directional controls. Three of these directional buttons are on the right column of buttons. Since they are not arranged in the typical 4-way cross layout, using them can be a bit problematic. You always have to look at the keypad and find the small red arrow to determine the right button to press.
On the top of the camera, as shown in Figure 8, you will see the shutter button and a cluster of round dots that make up the camera’s speaker.
As shown in Figure 9, the bottom of the Z30 has a nicely-placed tripod port and a hinged door. The door itself feels a little plastic and weak, but the hinge mechanism seems sturdy. Figure 10 shows what is behind the door: the memory card, rechargeable battery, and mini USB port. It is poor design to have to expose the entire battery compartment just to attach the USB cable. Also, the USB port is placed near the hinge of the door. We didn’t like this arrangement because if you are not careful, the attached USB cable may press against the door, putting unnecessary pressure on it. The mini USB port also acts as an A/V-output, but you will have to purchase an addition accessory cable to use it.
The right side of the phone includes a metal area for attaching the wrist strap, as shown in Figure 11. Other than that, the sides of the camera have no other controls. However, you will see that the silver metal screws are quite noticeable, detracting from the overall design of the phone.
The Z30 is a 10-megapixel camera that takes surprisingly good pictures. Pictures were sharp and well-exposed. We, however, often encountered the flash being stronger in the center of the picture, which was an aggravating quirk.
The Z30 has 50MB of internal memory. It accepts SD/SDHC cards which you will purchase separately. The lens is has 3x optical zoom and has a focal length 6.3 - 18.9mm (a 35mm equivalent of 35 - 105mm). The lens has an aperture range of f/3.7 - f/8.0 at wide angle and f/4.2 - f/9.0 in telephoto.
Battery life was good. We were able to shoot over 250 photos before we had to recharge the battery.
There is a lot of functionally hidden in this camera. Unfortunately, much of it is hidden in nested menus. The one nice thing about the menus is that, as shown in Figure 12, each menu item has large-letter text that describes it. There is also often on-screen text that describes the settings making your choice a bit easier.
Pressing the Menu/OK button while in the shooting mode, lets you choose from 17 scene modes; turn face detection on or off; change the image quality, change the movie quality, change the ISO, choose between color and black and white, turn on and off high-speed shooting and continuous shooting, and enter the set-up menu. When you change the mode to black and while you see everything in black and white on the LCD screen.
The scene modes include: natural, natural light, auction, portrait, landscape, sport, night, night tripod, sunset, snow, beach, museum, party, flower, text, anti-blur (picture stabilization), and successive movie.
There is also an auto-scene recognition mode on this camera. Although we did not find it as accurate as some other cameras, it was adequate. When the auto-scene mode went to work made on very subtle, but odd clicking sound. This was much subtler than the mystery sound we talked about earlier. Although the sound was odd, it was not intrusive. The camera also has face recognition and image stabilization.
If you press the Menu button in the playback mode, you are able to erase, choose the type of images you want to play back (all, still, movie, blog). You are also able to adjust the settings for trimming for blog, slide show, red eye removal, image rotation, image protection, trimming, copying to and from the internal memory and the memory card, creating a voice memo, changing transitions, ordering prints (for PictBridge compatible printers), and set-up.
Trimming for Blog was a command that confounded us a little and we are still not sure why the blog name was chosen. In effect, what it turns out to be is a way to process a still photo in the camera. You can change the aspect ratio, brightness, contrast, and other effect like painting, miniature, face mosaic, and drop shadow. The completed photo is stored in the camera while the original is also kept intact. Be forewarned, though, this feature is a little difficult to use.
The Z30 has several features that may be found in other entry-level cameras, but have more options in this camera. Self timer modes include 10 seconds, 2 seconds, Couple Timer, and Group Timer. There are three continuous shooting modes. The Long-Period mode begins taking photos when the shutter is pressed and continues until you release the shutter or the memory card is full. There are also two other options: Final-3 which saves only the last three images and Top-3 which capture three images in a row. More flash settings are also included on the camera. They are: Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction Auto, Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash, and Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro.
A standard-definition movie mode is also included in the Z30. You can record at 30 frames per seconds in two sizes: 640 x 480 or 320 x 240. The videos are recorded as AVI files. The sound is mono. Optical zoom cannot be used during video recording. The video recordings are good, but not great.
The included FinePix software is the same as the A150 that we recently reviewed. It is a good starting point for new digital camera users.
Fujifilm FinePix Z30 main specifications include:
Although meant as a fashion statement, this camera comes off looking a bit too much like a toy, especially in the bright colors. Although the camera is nicely compact, that compactness seems to have adversely affected the camera’s everyday functionality. Poor design plagues the camera in several different areas including a difficult-to-access USB port and no place to properly hold the camera.
Even though the camera takes fair photos, pictures from FujiFilm’s other point-and-shoot camera, the A150, shine in comparison. The Z30 is meant to be a real point-and-shoot camera but the lack of manual controls may frustrate some users. Unless you are enamored of the bright colors, you will want to stick to the similarly priced A150.