My very first 35mm film (aka size 135) camera was a “Willoughby’s Classic IV” made by Fujica (Fuji Camera, now known as Fujifilm – which is ironic given the state of film photography these days). It looked very much like this:
When it comes to modern day digital Cameras, Fujifilm still makes “classics”; great performance and magnificent retro styling, like this X-Pro3:
I’d love to have one, but can not in any way justify the price (in the case of this model about $2,400 CDN). There are many ‘cheaper’ Fujifilm cameras, but when you get down to my price range they don’t have the ‘classic’ styling and the eye-level finder I’m so fond of.
Then along came Jones, as the song used to go. Just to see if Fujifilm had all the image quality others say it does I looked at some used offerings, and found one I could afford. Not new, but used. No eye-level finder, but cheap. No retro styling, but interesting specifications. Thus I forked over for a Fuji FinePix F80 EXR. It’s that ‘EXR’ part that intrigued me.
The ‘EXR’ function is a unique programming mode that does some interesting things. Like it can ‘sacrifice’ pixels in order to improve dynamic range. Now it’s only 12 MP to begin with, but for my shooting that’s more than enough. Even when it shifts itself down to 6 MP to work its image magic that’s more than enough. The weird part about this is seeing that some of the images come out as 4000 x 3000 pixels and others are 2816 x 2112 pixels – without the user doing a thing.
Now, I haven’t had much time to use it yet. I took a couple of walks around the yard taking some snapshots just to try it out. If you’ve read my posts about the nightmare of getting decent images out of the brand new and fairly expensive Lumix ZS60 you’ll understand what I mean when I say the Fujifilm started out gloriously. Charge battery, insert card, turn on, take snaps, get pictures. Right out of the box this camera returned acceptable results under admittedly not-the-best lighting conditions. Such as this:
That is an absolutely dreadful scene to ask an automatic camera to handle: part of the field of view is in deep shadow, part is in glaring sunlight, part is in-between. The EXR ‘shifted down’ to 6 MP to enable a greater dynamic range and came up with a shot the average user would see nothing wrong with. I see Marley is slightly washed out, but only slightly. Typically either you’d get correct exposure on her and the background would be totally black, or it would try to bring up the shadows and the dog would be an utter washout of white.
The other big complaint I had with the Lumix was its disappointing lens sharpness. So let’s see what the Fuji will do:
A full-frame shot of some trees looks fine when shrunk to ‘Internet size’, but how is it close up? Well here’s a screen shot of a portion of this image (4000 x 3000 resolution) at 100% resolution on a 1366 x 768 screen:
The lens is sharp. Not extremely sharp or even very sharp, but sharp enough to not disappoint. Admittedly it has ‘only’ 10X zoom capacity, running the equivalent of 27mm to 270mm, whereas the ZS60 is 30X – but how much zoom do you need? Let’s face it; I’ve been spoiled by the Nikon P610 with its stunning 60X optics that are incredibly sharp – and not just ‘for the type of lens it is’.
No initial report on a camera (by me) would be complete without the ubiquitous shed shot:
You’ll notice some distortion in this wide-angle image, but it’s not awful. You will also notice, despite no effort to correct the colour, the Fuji predilection for green-blue tones; the reds are somewhat muted.
Let’s have one more picture just for fun:
Conclusion: This Fujica gives decent pictures right from the get-go without a lot of mucking about. I like that in a camera. It fits in my shirt pocket, which is another bonus. The only ‘downside’ is that it is used, which brings up the question of why manufacturers abandon known good products in favour of new and often questionable designs. Well we know why; to trick you into buying the latest set of impressive specification numbers.
I’m looking forward to using this camera on a greater scale as soon as conditions permit. If you want to read more about its technical aspects here’s an excellent review of it at Photography Blog.