Introduction The Fuji FinePix Z1 has serious chick appeal. I think the ladies are gonna love it. It's a sexy camera and everyone who sees it wants a closer look. It's also built for abuse. The attractive design also acts as excellent protection against drops and scratches.
The FinePix Z1 is pure point-and-shoot. It's an auto exposure camera with an emphasis on simplicity, compact size, and durability. I'm used to cameras with more controls and at first I didn't have much confidence in it. But it grew on me over the couple of months that I used it. And I'm very happy with some of the photos I took with it.
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Features
The main feature of the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 isn't a control or component it's the camera's design. The Z1 is very compact, all metal, with a protective, sliding lens cover, non-telescoping lens, and an armored LCD display. The camera was designed to be compact, attractive, and durable.
As far as actual camera controls, the Z1 is a pretty basic point-and-shoot. There are seven exposure modes, including Auto, Manual, and five scene modes - Natural Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, and Night. The Manual mode offers exposure compensation but no aperture or shutter speed control. There is no spot meter option, either. The Z1 offers auto white balance and presets. There are no in-camera saturation, sharpness, or contrast controls.
The most interesting feature of the Z1 might be the least obvious - the Non-extending Fujinon 3x zoom lens. Most compact digital cameras have a lens that telescopes out of the body when you turn them on. Pentax and Konica Minolta have been using non-telescoping lens designs on compact digital cameras for a couple of years. The Z1's 36-108mm (35mm equivalent) lens does all of its zooming and focusing internally, insuring the lens is protected at all times. The Fujinon lens is part of what Fujifilm calls "Real Photo Technology." The other two parts are the 5-megapixel Fujifilm Super CCD HR sensor and the RP Processor. They say it combines "high sensitivity, high definition, and high speed" for better quality images in all kinds of lighting conditions, for all kinds of subjects. Real Photo Technology is currently available in the FinePix Z1, and the Fujifilm FinePix F10.
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 recording display
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 playback display
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 main menu
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Photo mode "f" menu
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Design
The best thing about the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is the thoughtful, durable, and compact design. Although the Z1 isn't the smallest compact digital camera we've tested, it appears smaller. And the design is very striking, drawing a lot of positive attention. But there's more to it than just sex appeal. The Z1 was designed to be very durable. When I first saw it, at the 2005 PMA tradeshow, I was told it was designed so it can be safely dropped into a purse or pocket. The thick aluminum case, non-telescoping lens, and armored LCD will protect the Z1 from being broken or scratched by keys, lipstick, mobile phone, or anything else you keep in your purse or pocket. I'm not saying it's indestructible. But it should handle normal, daily abuse, better than the average compact digital camera.
The Z1's main controls are placed within easy reach of the photographer's right thumb. However, the arrow and Menu/OK buttons are very small and it was too easy to press the wrong button or more than one at the same time. I had the same problem with the zoom control buttons. They're just a little awkward to use. Someone with smaller hands might find it a better fit.
Camera Experience I started out not trusting the Z1's exposure and image quality. However, my photos almost always turned out to be better than I expected. I've experienced this with other cameras and after a while you just learn to trust it. I used the Z1 for a couple of months and by the time I started to write this review I felt confident in the autofocus, the exposure, and the image quality.
The Z1 is a relatively quick camera in most functions. Shutter-lag, startup, and autofocus are excellent. However, shot-to-shot time is very poor. There is also a significant pause when you make changes to the flash mode. There's a High-Speed Shooting option that limits the auto focus and supposedly speeds up the camera response. I left it on although I couldn't sense any speed difference with the High Speed Shooting on or off.
The FinePix Z1 has two auto focus options - Multi Focus, which evaluates a scene and focuses on the most likely subject - and center focus, which focuses on whatever is in the center of the scene. The Multi Focus works pretty well. But it won't always focus where you expect it to. Center focus requires that you prefocus and recompose. But it's a sure thing. I use center focus with all auto focus cameras because I like to have complete control of what the camera focuses on. Although intelligent auto focus options like the Z1's Multi Focus work surprisingly well, they will occasionally let you down. For pure point-and-shoot photographers, the Multi Focus will keep things simple and do a good job. But for anyone with a bit of photography experience, I would recommend sticking with center focus.
Exposure control on the Fujifilm FinePix Z1 is very limited. It has exposure compensation and a few scene modes, with no histogram display. The camera doesn't offer any direct control over aperture or shutter speed. The Z1's exposure programming appears to be biased towards smaller apertures for more depth-of-field. In low light situations I'd find my shutter speeds would be very slow and I'd the camera shake warning icon would be displayed on the LCD. I've come to expect a histogram display option when reviewing images and I think it was a mistake for Fujifilm to not include one. They must have assumed that the people who buy the Z1 won't care about a histogram display. However, the histogram is the best way to find out if you have a good exposure. Without one the photographer is left to rely on the camera's exposure metering and LCD display. Even with the best exposure programming you can never be sure. And anyone who's taken pictures with a digital camera knows how poorly the LCD display reflects the actual image quality. The missing histogram is a big part of the reason I had a hard time trusting the Z1.
Lens position was a bit of a problem. The lens is in the upper left-hand corner of the camera and it's pretty easy to get a finger in the picture. I would usually notice when this happened. But it's definitely something the FinePix Z1 owner needs to learn to watch for. It can also slow down picture taking and definitely has the potential to spoil important photos. Having the lens a few millimeters to the right would probably have eliminated this problem.
Image Quality The Z1 image quality is pretty good. There is little to no noticeable noise at the lowest sensitivity settings of ISO 64 and 100. The images are a bit soft and I believe the softness hides some noise. Using Photoshop's Unsharp Mask filter on our ISO 100 studio sample sharpens it right up. After sharpening there is still little noticeable noise, except in the grapes. Well-exposed, low-ISO, FinePix Z1 images should look very, very good.
A camera's lens is critical part of the image quality equation. Since the Z1 has a special, non-telescoping lens, I thought I'd take a closer look at it. I took some test photos (see lens test photo) to look for distortion and other optical flaws. At the wide end of the 6.1-18.3mm zoom, there is some distortion toward the outside of the lens. If you take pictures of anything with straight lines, like architectural subjects, you can expect to have curved instead of straight lines toward the outside of the frame. There is also some softness in the corners at both the wide and the telephoto ends of the zoom range. Even though there are some issues with the lens, for most people and most subjects, they won't be noticeable. Most of my photos with this camera were of people and outdoor subjects where the distortion and soft corners aren't visible at all. Point-and-shoot photographers who buy this camera will likely never notice these problems. And if they do, they probably won't care.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
The other elements of images quality, color, white balance, and exposure, were fine on the Z1. The color is actually excellent. It's very accurate and neither too saturated nor too flat. Although exposure controls are limited, the Z1's auto exposure metering is excellent. I used the camera's "Manual" mode with exposure compensation set to -1/3 most of the time, in order to preserve highlight detail. Most Z1 users will probably use auto or scene modes and be very happy with the camera's exposure decisions. White balance options are limited to auto white balance and six presets. Since it's a point-and-shoot camera, it's not likely that people who buy the Z1 will be concerned with manual white balance. For the most part, the Z1's processor can be counted on to deliver very nice images, with little input from the photographer.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
The camera has none of the standard in-camera adjustments for sharpness, saturation, or contrast that most digital cameras have. Instead, it has "Standard" and "Chrome" settings, accessed via the "f" Photo mode button. This is an interesting and intuitive approach to image quality control. The tradeoff is that it doesn't offer any adjustability. You only have two options for controlling the look of your color photos. Although I only used the camera in the standard mode, I did do a comparison and the "Chrome" setting is much more pleasing to my eye. On the other hand, I can get the same results with post-processing. The average user will probably prefer the Chrome setting to "Standard." There's also a black and white setting in the "f" Photo mode menu.
Click for samples of the FinePix Chrome and Standard color settings
Conclusion The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 slowly won me over. At first, aside from the looks, I wasn't very excited about it. But after using it for a couple of months, and looking hard at the images I made with it, I feel pretty good about it. Image quality is good, although I think using the Photoshop Unsharp Mask filter is a necessity if you want your images to look their best. My only real complaints are the lack of a histogram display and the 4-5 button clicks it takes to access the exposure compensation. That could take just enough time for the photographer to miss an important shot. Personally, I would like more exposure controls, but that would make it a different camera. It's a real point-and-shoot. And that's a good thing for lots of casual photographers. Fewer controls mean less distraction and more attention to what's actually in the picture.
Who Should Buy The Fujifilm FinePix Z1 I believe Fujifilm designed the Z1 for women to carry in their purse. Women who want a camera that looks good and can stand up to being banged around with keys, lipstick, cellphone, etc., will like the Z1. It's got sex appeal and the black model will look good at parties and nightclubs.
I'm not suggesting that only women will like the Z1, though. Anyone who wants a well-built, simple, medium resolution digital point-and-shoot will likely enjoy the Z1. The camera is non-threatening, easy to use, and the image quality and exposure are good enough that most consumers should have no complaints.
Strengths: I love the 5.1 megapixels and the fantastic LCD view finder. The flash is very adequate and totally functional with very simple push button controls from off to red eye. The cover slips off to the side to turn the unit on (on is very quick) and expose the lens. The lens is a 3X optical but does not extend out from the camera body. All telephoto work is done internally making it extremely good for damaging the lens or extention tubes which it has none. I find the controls very simple to use but small but not at all impossible to use.
ISO settings are easily adjusted by pushing a single button and selecting not only ISO but picture quality itself and special features such as Black and White or sepia tone.
Weaknesses: I have a few hang ups with the Z1. My fat left index finger likes to get in the way of the lens but you see it very quickly in the large view finder. Also, it does not have a optical view finder which for most digital cameras you should have. In extremely bright light you have to shade the LCD view finder to see what you are taking. I know it is a Fugi because it uses the XD card. Eventhough the unit comes with a cradle to connect to a PC the XD card is not as popular as the other format cards so that on the road you don't find a reader as easily as for example a SD or CF card.
I have only had the Finepix Z1 for about three weeks. I am a diehard Nikon user wtih my present Nikon D100 and a D200 on order. This little guy and I mean little fits in my pocket so I have a 5 megapixel camera with me at all times. It is not a Nikon D100 but this little guy does the job for what I had intended and that was having something with me at all times. All in all, I am very pleased with the camera.
Strengths: Its small. So it goes anywhere and everywhere. There is no excuse not to be without this camera. But although it is small and the lens is absolutely tiny, I never fail to be amazed by the quality of images that this little camera generates. I also have a Nikon D70 and this camera gets used maybe 90% of the time. The only time I use the Nikon now is for Flash photography, when I need proper wide-angle or tele, when I need long exposures with a tripod, or need high fps for sports. Everything else I use the Z1.
Weaknesses: Nothing that one could realistically expect from something this small.
I'm very happy with this camera and really can't fault it.
i have a fuji finepix z1 camera that wont turn on unless it is on it's charger dock. at first i thought the battery was dead so i charged it up, but it still wouldn't turn on. I can turn it on and off though the charger dock. i think the front slider is broken. has anyone else had this problem? is i ... Read More »
I need help with my digital camera. It’s a Fuji finepix Z1. How do I get the video clips on to my computer? I cant figure this thing out. I can get the pictures but not the videos. Anyone have this camera? Please help.Read More »
Hi everyone. I bought a Fuji Finepix Z1 as my first digital camera a couple of months ago and have been very happy with it. In the past couple of days the built-in flash seems to have stopped working. The camera is charged, the display reports that the flash is on and it seems to charge, but there i ... Read More »
Fujifilm FinePix Z1 Reviewby Photo-JohnThe Fuji FinePix Z1 is a super-compact, stylish, 5-megapixel digital point-and-shoot camera with a 3x optical zoom lens and big, 2.5-inch LCD display.Price: Approximately $300 USProsVery compactGood image quality with great colorGreat LCD displayDurable, reinfo ... Read More »
This arrived today. It's so cute. And the sturdy little metal body is soooo sexy!
It's got a 5.1 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom that doesn't need to retract, and super-fast 0.01 second shutter-lag.
Here's the review page: [url=http://www.pcphotoreview.com/pscCameras/4,to,5,Megapixel/Fujifi ... Read More »