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Digital Camera review: Fuji Finepix F11

Friday 25 November 2005, by Phi, 6277 Views

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I have just bought a new digital camera: Fuji Finepix F11 for 389 euros at the Fnac. It’s an update of the Fuji F10 which was very good at high ISO. So what are the results ?


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1 Context

I have currently two other digital cameras which could be considered as in the same class: a Canon A95 and a Sony V1.

My main points with the Canon A95 were the following:
- main specifications: 5 megapixels, zoom 3X 38-105 mm, around 240 g
- positives: screen, fast start, uses standard AA batteries, very good battery life (around 400 pictures), very detailed and sharp pictures (thanks to digital signal processing ?), fast processor (ex: pictures zooming), good built
- negatives: blurred pictures risk (except if we turn to ISO 200 directly) in difficult conditions, the pictures are sharp even when zooming but the total picture is cold, digital (like other Canon, I find the pictures doesn’t look like film pictures), automatic white balance is not good, bad menu system, indoors pictures with flash are washed out

My main points with the Sony V1 were the following:
- main specifications: 5 megapixels, zoome 4X 34-115 mm, around 200 g
- positives: nightshot and nightframe modes (with infrared which gives black & white pictures without blurring problems), good menu system and keys (but lots of key), very good image quality and white balance (pictures looks like film) even if when zoomed, the image quality is lower than Canon A95’s, fast autofocus, excellent video mode at 640x480 (on quality and length as 45 mn of video can be recorded on a 1 Go memory card), better indoors pictures with flash
- negatives: bad design for hand grip (flash is under left index), slow start, slow processor (ex: when zooming), memory stick media, indoors without flash needs timer + holding breath, bad optical viewfinder (65% coverage, variable coverage with zoom)

More information on the two digital cameras on my review and comparison of both: Sony V1 vs Canon A95 (in French).

I was looking for a digital camera, not to cover all the negatives from the previous ones (perfect camera does not sadly exists), but more to be able to do some type of pictures:
- indoors without flash (impossible with the others without tripod, or at least timer and lots of care)
- snapshot pictures (Sony too low, can be blurred with Canon)
So I picked the Fuji F11 (not that there was much choice, it’s the only one which can use high ISO).

2 Main functions

Contents

The Fujifilm Finepix F11 is sold with a pouch which looks solid and a good capacity 128 Mo XD Card (it can holds 84 photos at normal resolution and 42 at fine resolution, that is one or two rolls of film). So the digital camera comes well equipped and I don’t think I’ll have to buy other accessories for a while, moreover the battery life is very long (other digital cameras means buying memory cards, additional battery, pouch).

Ergonomics

I find the ergonomics of the Fuji F11 excellent compared to Canon A95 or Sony V1 as:

  1. Handling is fast and natural (Sony V1: fingers on the flash, Canon A95: always opening the screen first as one always fold it before packing it)
  2. Fast start, almost instant (Canon is slower, and Sony even slower)
  3. Very fast autofocus, which can be quicker with quick mode (Sony is faster than Canon but even with Nightframe or Nightmode it’s slower)
  4. Very good 2,5 inches screen (Canon and Sony LCD are smaller, optical viewfinders of Canon and Sony have small coverage and are not useful), except under strong sunlight where it is less good than the two others LCD
  5. Not lots of menus (like Canon) or keys (like Sony), easy access to functions (even if some options access could be better)
  6. Small and compact without bumps or not solid looks (ex: Sony, or Canon which is quite large)
  7. Zoom is very fast and does make noise (I prefer this, because I have more feedback when I shoot photos)

so this camera has excellent ergonomics

Battery Life

Is very good:
- still 2 bars out of three after 250 pictures
- still 1 bar after 410 pictures
- empty battery after the 488th picture, 18 days after
but when the battery is empty, it’s empty: the camera won’t take any more pictures even if it still has enough power to turn the screen on. Similarly, when the battery is full, plugging off then on the power won’t charge more the battery.

3:2 Mode

The Fuji 3:2 mode is a real 3:2 mode with higher horizontal resolution (at 3024 x 2016 pixels).

3 Some photos

Here are the first pictures of the day, picture quality is normal (and not fine):

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Tube (ISO 800 1/10 s without flash hand held: impossible with other compact digital cameras)

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Tube billboard (ISO 800 1/56 s without flash, excellent)

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Outdoors 1 (ISO 200, ok but zoom has less quality than other digital cameras)

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Outdoors 2 (ISO 200, too blue for me)

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Wall with sunlight (ISO 400 1/90 s, good colors)

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Railroad (ISO 80 1/350 s cloudy white balance, colors are fine but it’s noisy for ISO 80, sky almost white)

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Tower (ISO 100 1/210 s cloudy white balance not bad but a little noisy for ISO 100)

4 Photos in difficult conditions

The fuji F11 is just excellent in these conditions. By selecting natural light mode (which seems to pick often ISO 1600) or by turning off flash in automatic mode at ISO 800, very difficult pictures for the Canon A95 or Sony V1 can be taken.

On the latter, it is impossible to go higher than ISO 200, which makes all indoors pictures (ex: museum) very hard and difficult: they are often blurred, and timer must be used, one must held one’s breath (or choose to use the flash which will wash out the entire picture). This is not the case for the Fuji, I have taken lots of snapshot pictures, in the evening, in the tube, at home, without flash and it’s very rare that they turn out blurred.

To have a measure of this, I have taken a picture in difficult lighting conditions (indirect halogen light without flash) with the Fuji F11, the Sony V1, the Canon A95 and the Nikon D70 (lens was Nikkor 18-70) with a tripod:

IsoFuji F11Sony V1Canon A95Nikon D70
50 N/A N/A 1/4 s N/A
80 1/3 s N/A N/A N/A
100 1/4 s 1/3 s 1/8 s N/A
200 1/8 s 1/6 s 1/15 s 1/5 s
400 1/15 s 1/10 s 1/30 s 1/13 s
800 1/28 s 1/20 s N/A 1/25 s
1600 1/58 s N/A N/A 1/40 s

The table shows:
- that at ISO 400 the Fuji shutter speed is almost the Sony ISO 800 shutter speed (whereas aperture of Sony’s zoom is same as Fuji’s at 2.8)
- that Fuji ISO are about the same as Nikon’s (but Fuji aperture is 2.8 versus 3.5 on Nikkor 18-70 lens)
- that Canon’s ISO seems to be divided by two (Canon aperture is also 2.8): Canon at ISO 200 is as sensitive (or more) as Sony, Fuji or Nikon D70 at ISO 400!

Moreover:
- the Fuji ISO 800 picture is as good as the Sony ISO 200 picture (without the tripod which stabilize the cameras the Fuji ISO 1600 is even better than the Sony ISO 200). This opinion is on noise and shutter speed only, there is something in Sony V1 pictures which without taking into account noise, it could be considered as more beautiful (same results when Sony V1 was compared with Canon A95).
- pictures quality in different ISO for Nikon or Fuji are similar
- Canon A95 pictures are of similar quality to Fuji at the same shutter speed (that means Canon ISO 400 is almost as good as ISO 800 Fuji on both quality and shutter speed, even if Fuji is better)

The main surprise is on Canon A95 quality on noise and ISO, not on Fuji which still has an excellent quality and can go as high as ISO 1600.

I have taken 14 pictures this morning (it was still night) outdoors with the Canon A95 and the Fuji F11. The surprise is out of 14 pictures, 5 are better with the Canon, 5 are better with the Fuji and 4 are of similar quality. This proves that the Canon ISO can be multiplied by two, and that camera is more stable than the Fuji F11 because it’s heavier: the photos are more noisy on the Canon but there are more details destroyed on the Fuji. However Fuji is still better because none of the 14 pictures taken were really blurred whereas Canon bad pictures were blurred. That means however that Fuji high ISO is not that significant advantage when compared to Canon digital cameras for outdoors pictures (compared to other digital cameras brands the advantage is very significant). It also means that I had perhaps already a good camera with high ISO with the Canon A95 ... (well at least Fuji F11 is still better indoors than Canon A95, because of the bad white balance and too powerful flash of the latter).

In all cases, Fuji ISO are not faked (it’s more Canon A95 ISO which are better than advertised, Canon ISO 400 is equivalent to ISO 800 and the quality is very good). Sony seems to overrate its ISO though.

On Fuji quality, there is a significant difference between ISO 1600 and ISO 800 shots, a slight difference between ISO 800 and ISO 400 but not that much difference between ISO 400 to ISO 80 (exactly as on F10).

For a printout at 4x6 inches, I think that I’ll see the difference between ISO 1600 and ISO 800 but not between the others (perhaps between ISO 400 / ISO 800 if I do a detailed look).

It’s Fuji F11 strong point and I guess it stands up even versus the Nikon D70.

I have taken around 80 pictures at Christmas (indoors pictures, it was pretty dark). The results without doubt are the following: all are bad. All other relatives digital pictures are better (Nikon D70, Canon A95, Sony P-10, Kodak DX4330) by far.

Only pictures without flash are average. The other with flash are either blurred and/or noisy, with really horrible red eye (due I think to the green autofocus light). I might have made a mistake: I was at ISO 800 or ISO 400, with flash in portrait mode to decrease flash power and avoid washed out pictures. It’s really bad because up to now the quality of Fuji F11 pictures was fine.

Additional tests shows that when one wears black indoors and the ISO is 400 or more, there are bad noise on the black garments when the flash is used.

Only way to use flash with Fuji F11 is ISO 80 + normal flash, and perhaps a little under exposure of -1/3. All others settings with flash disappointed me.

5 Photos in regular conditions

This is a weak point of the Fuji F11 (compared to Canon A95 or Sony V1). The pictures I have taken yet seems to be worse on several points:
- with the current weather in Paris, they are somewhat too blue (well with a manual white balance it can be corrected)
- the quality of the pictures are far from either the digital sharpness of the Canon A95 pictures, or the "beauty" of the Sony V1 optics when zoomed at +50% or more. Is it because the JPEG compression is too strong or the image processing I don’t know.

It’s a pity, I won’t be able to use the Fuji F11 in all cases. It can be seen indirectly on this site which must be one of the best for F10, the pictures taken with an F10 are pretty but I’m sure that if they were available at full resolution, the lesser quality will show.

White balance problem

The Fuji F11 white balance is too blue when the weather is cloudy, but also indoors:

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Auto white balance (ISO 80 1/25 s)

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Cloudy white balance (ISO 80 1/25 s: this picture is more like what I see)

To correct this problem the best way is to select the cloudy white balance

The other solution would be to use the manual white balance which doesn’t seem to work on my camera: it’s always too blue (indoors included), even when I do a manual white balance. I have exchanged my Fuji F11 at the Fnac store and the new one does exactly the same, so I guess they are all like that (unless Fnac La Défense has a bunch of defective ones).

The problem with using cloudy white balance is it takes an additional step, and moreover it can’t be used for natural light, auto mode or specific modes (because white balance cannot be set in other mode than manual and A/S), so that’s not great.

I’m going to keep the camera after all, because it can be corrected (cloudy for outdoors, incandescent for indoors).

Over-exposure problem

The Fuji F11 always over exposes significantly, indoors or outdoors. As proof the following 100% crop of an outdoor picture:

ISO 400 normal exposure: all details are destroyed

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ISO 400 -1/3 exposure: all details are almost destroyed but at least a trace of the pattern on the wall is shown

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ISO 400 -2/3 exposure: at least some details

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ISO 400 exposure -1: all details are here

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Is -1 exposure the right setting then ? The problem is that the global image is too dark.

After numerous tests:
- at least always -1/3
- -2/3 looks fine, gives a beautiful picture but which is darker than actual
- use of spot light metering gives good results
=> those past months, I always use spot light metering and -1/3 exposure

ISO too high on automatic mode

The automatic mode (or the natural light mode) select often an ISO which is too high, especially with flash. Without flash, the automatic mode is better than natural light mode (natural light mode goes higher for the same scene, and automatic mode is capped at ISO 800).
The natural light mode aims for 1/100 shutter speed which is great for moving subjects but which is too much for a static subject, so often a manual setting is needed to avoid the ISO 1600.

=> those past months, I often use auto ISO mode, because with under exposure it’s not that much a problem (and there is a cap at ISO 800)

Purple Fringing problem

Only solution: go to aperture mode and decrease aperture. At F4 it’s better than F2.8 but even at F8 there are still some purple fringing.

6 Side by Side Fuji F11 avec Sony V1, Canon A95 and Nikon D70 !

I do a side by side at the lowest ISO which is ISO 80 for the Fuji, ISO 100 for the Sony V1, ISO 50 for the Canon A95 and ISO 200 for the Nikon D70. At higher ISO + handheld, Sony, Canon or other digital cameras don’t have a prayer, so I guess it wouldn’t be interesting. At automatic, Fuji will go to ISO 800 and ISO 1600 and it won’t be comparable either (Fuji must be used in manual mode for ISO).

As Fuji automatic white balance is not great, I use the cloudy white balance setting.

Of course, for the opinion I don’t take fully into account the dynamic range of the Nikon D70 or it would always win. The D70 is equipped with a Nikkor 18-70 lens.

Fuji F11:

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Sony V1:

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Canon A95:

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Nikon D70:

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Hall 1 My opinion: Sony picture is well exposed but noisy, Nikon D70 is one of the best. On this test, Fuji F11 looks one of the worse because the flash seems not powerful enough (all ISO were set to minimum): perhaps ISO must be set high when Fuji flash is used. Canon A95 photo is also under-exposed even if it’s less than Fuji’s.

Fuji F11:

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Fuji F11 (automatic white balance):

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Sony V1:

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Canon A95:

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Nikon D70:

JPEG - 2.2 Mb

Wall My opinion: the Nikon D70 is easily the best because it’s the only one which still shows the clouds. The three others have a white sky and are more or less of similar quality. I have also included the Fuji picture taken with automatic white balance, I guess it’s not that blue compared to Canon’s or Sony’s pictures. Cloudy balance setting is still truer to reality. There are purple fringing on Canon A95 and Fuji F11 on the lampost on the right, whereas there are none on Sony V1 and Nikon D70.

Fuji F11:

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Fuji F11 (automatic white balance):

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Sony V1:

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Canon A95:

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Nikon D70:

JPEG - 2.3 Mb

Building My opinion: on this scene, Fuji photo is perhaps the best (except it’s the only one where the sky is completely white!). Next best one would be Canon A95 (which has been enhanced by sunlight). Nikon D70 picture seems under-exposed (lilke all Nikon D70 images on this selection). Perhaps I don’t know how to use the Nikon (I have loaned the digital camera to someone). While zooming, the walls on Sony and Nikon are less detailed and more noisy.

Fuji F11:

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Sony V1:

JPEG - 2.3 Mb

Canon A95:

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Nikon D70:

JPEG - 2.6 Mb

Place My opinion: Fuji one is fine this time, perhaps enhanced by the cloudy white balance. All are more or less similar quality but for different reasons: colors are a little better on Fuji, Sony has a perfect picture (but automatic white balance is pretty blue), Nikon has a good dynamic range (ex: details on the building which doesn’t appear on the other pictures), even if the picture is a little underexposed. On Canon’s, purple fringing is strong on the left tree, unlike others digital cameras’.

Fuji F11:

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Sony V1:

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Canon A95:

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Nikon D70:

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Restaurant My opinion: perhaps Nikon is the best even if it’s a little blurred (ex: Pour les fêtes), followed by Fuji but they are all good. This last picture is taken with automatic mode for all digital cameras.

Overall it’s not too bad for the Fuji F11, even if it doesn’t always turn up the best picture.

The Fuji F11 negatives are clear from this side by side (for outdoors scenes at minimum ISO) which are:
- overexposure and lack of details (white sky), more than all other digital cameras in this selection
- flash not effective with low ISO

The Fuji F11 is acceptable (on minimal ISO) on:
- automatic white balance (not that blue after all)
- purple fringing (better than Canon but worse than Sony)
- quality of picture when zoomed (worse than Canon but better than Nikon D70 or Sony, I explain it below)

On overall, Sony V1 is the compact digital camera which gives the closest picture to the Nikon D70 on global image, colors or optics quality. Those two digital cameras have noise (Nikon D70 or Sony V1), but this doesn’t prevent the pictures to be more like film pictures which could be considered as better than other digital cameras.

The test results also shows that the Nikon D70 main advantage is its dynamic range, which is leagues better than other digital cameras (which lose details), whereas on exposure, noise or resolution the difference is not very significant in these tests conditions (even its lens is not really better than Sony V1).

For ergonomics, Nikon D70 is by far the best (to take the same pictures in the street with 4 digital cameras, one must be fast), the others ergonomics are good, Fuji is often better but its LCD is less readable than Canon or Sony outdoors.

Compared to Canon A95 in these tests conditions (outdoors at minimum ISO):
+ less purple fringing
+ better colors
- less details at full resolution
- overexposure

Compared to Sony V1 in these tests conditions (outdoors at minimum ISO):
+ better ergonomics
+ better details at full resolution
- worse optics
- overexposure

7 Summary

My current opinion is the following:

Positives:
- good ergonomics
- fast starting time
- fast shutter lag (still faster with quick mode)
- fast zoom operation
- usable high ISO which enables pictures impossible with other digital cameras
- very long battery life

Negatives:
- bad auto white balance (which is too blue in some scene)
- bad manual white balance
- over exposure which leads to loss of details (ex: white sky with no clouds)
- LCD is not readable under strong sunlight
- bad flash pictures at high ISO according to my tests

- pictures at low ISO are slighty noisy (Fuji ISO 80 is not as good as Canon A95 ISO 100 or 200 under strong sunlight)
- pictures are slighty blurred when taken at tele
- the result are pictures which are less good than other cameras in normal conditions, or at full resolution (when zoomed at + 50% there are often artefacts, because of processing / optics / JPEG compression)
- auto mode or natural light mode selects often an ISO which is too high, because it oftens aims for 1/100 shutter speed
- menu system needs one more keypress than Sony
- dongle for USB/TV/AC is not great

Moreover:
- aperture and shutter speed modes are available but I don’t use them much (ISO is the important setting for this camera)
- The software improvement which I would really like, would be to be able to set the minimum shutter speed when the camera would raise ISO (ex: 1/30 the Nikon D70 has this setting), this will be far more useful than aperture and shutter speed modes.

Why do I keep it ?

With all the negatives, one can wonder why I keep it ? With its high ISO capabilities and good ergonomics, the Fuji F11 can just take pictures impossible for other compact digital cameras (they would have turned out blurred, or the camera wouldn’t have started or zoomed). And the pictures are good at 50% resolution (which is 4x less pixels). It’s the only model which can allows this (Panasonic models have stabilised optics, but this work only when the subject doesn’t move).

To compensate the negatives:
- Exposure: pictures are better with -1/3 or -2/3, moreover it improves the high ISO capabilities. This allows keeping details which would be otherwise blown up by automatic exposition. I often use -1/3 and spot metering.
- Outdoors with sufficient light: ISO 80 and cloudy white balance (except if it’s a very sunny day)
- Indoors without flash (ex: tube, stores): auto ISO (which is capped at ISO 800 unlike natural light mode), preset white balance if applicable, 2 s timer to avoid moving
- Indoors with flash: always ISO 80, no need for white balance or timer
- USB/TV/AC Dongle: buy an Olympus MAUSB-300 USB key, it is very fast and convenient, and works with 1 Gb type M XD-Card (most of other XD-Card readers don’t)

Other (magazines) reviews

Réponses Photo review N° 166 p 151 January 2006:
- Strong points:low noise, good built, image quality, aperture and shutter speed modes
- Low points:no histogram, no optical viewfinder, overexposure
- Scores: design and operation: 14/15, image quality: 14/15, focus: 12/15, lens: 12/15, functions: 13/15, quality/price: 22/25
- Total score: 87/100, Top Achat Réponses Photo

Chasseur d’images N° 280 p 177, December 19, 2005:
- 5 stars
- CCD: from 80 to 200 ISO, the noise level is excellent. It is very good at other ISO settings
- Lens: excellent at all zoom level, good coverage. Vignettage, distorsion and purple fringing are never significant in real operation.

Fuji F30

Fujifilm has announced the F30 for end of May 2006, this new model main improvement seems to be the ISO 3200 capability. I have started a new page gathering available information on that model.

8 Useful Links

Reviews

My Fuji F70EXR Review

My Fuji Finepix F200EXR Review

My Fuji Finepix F30 Review

- Fuji F11 Camera Labs review Excellent test with comparaison to Canon A620, Pentax S6 and Sony N1

Forums
- Dpreview Fujitalk The best Fuji related forum
- F11 Hardware.fr thread (French)
- F11 Megapixel thread (French)
- F11 photim thread (French) (Where my review goes down in flames 8-) not that it changes anything because my web site is not standard without any advertising)
- One of the best F10 pictures gallery, previous Fuji model

Others
- My Canon A95 test (French)
- My Sony V1 vs Canon A95 test (French)
- My Canon A95 vs Nikon F65 film camera test (French)


5 Forum posts

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