Fuji f300exr

This new FinePix model comes with an array of useful features. The 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD screen provides a clear view of images at quite wide angles even when shooting (or reviewing) in bright sunlight.

There is improved 'Face Recognition' and the new 'Auto Release Mode' fires the shutter as soon as it detects a face, making it perfect for restless small children. The F300EXR can track the kids and release the shutter when they look to the camera.

The new 'Hybrid Auto Focus System' analyses both light and contrast and chooses whether to use the 'Phase Detection Auto Focus' (bright, high contrast conditions) or 'Contrast Auto Focus' (low-light scenarios). I found it makes its choice quickly and reliably, so focus is generally swift.

In fact, the 'Phase Detection Auto Focusing' lives up to Fujifilm's claim for making focusing and release as quick as the blink of an eye. The only focusing situation found to be disappointing was the 'Tracking' mode. It tracked town traffic head-on fairly well, but shutter lag was evident, and relatively simple shots. Here missed as a result.

Also new to the FinePix F300EXR is '360 degree Motion Panorama Mode' allows you create an all around you image in one sweep. It's a feature that is popping up in a few places now.

As well as the usual plentiful scene modes this FinePix, like its predecessors has an 'EXR' mode with Auto, Resolution priority, High ISO & Low noise priority and Dynamic range priority options. The principal behind 'EXR' is that it gives the camera the ability optimise for detail resolution or to open up shadows and preserve the highlights. I suspect that many users of this camera, if they use the 'EXR' mode, will leave it on 'Auto'. This proves a good choice for the majority of situations.

Fujifilm has given users the choice to customise their style of capture, but having to scroll through up to 3 pages and their respective sub-menus can become a chore. SLR users know that most of these are easily changed using buttons or dials, a far quicker method. Some may feel the camera's ability to 'Rate' images, separate detected faces and create photo books in review mode is unnecessary.

A handy feature that Fujifilm have incorporated is the 'F' button; allowing the operator to quickly access three pre-programmed menus for ISO, image size & film simulation, and change their settings accordingly. It would be even better if the user was able to choose their own three settings and personalise this menu.

I found it especially useful that it is possible to make the camera silent and cancel its flash simultaneously by pressing and holding the 'Review' button. Nice and discrete. Another function that is very useful is 'Pro Focus Mode'; it lives up to its expectations, using three consecutive images to create a shallower depth of field.

Fujifilm's photographic film heritage gives us a choice of three colour modes; based on Fuji's E6 Chrome's. They are Velvia; saturation and contrast, Provia; overall neutral feel and Astia; less saturated and lower contrast. Dedicated black & white and sepia modes bring the total five, enough to cover all situations. My personal preference is the 'Velvia' setting; images have evenly balanced, saturated colours, with increased contrast.

Not surprisingly with a camera that is designed to appeal to less experienced photographers (as well as more advanced users), the F300EXR's in camera Auto White Balance systemis extremely good. In fact, it often gives results that are better than the White Balance pre-sets.

The FinePix F300EXR has three metering modes: 'Multi', 'Spot' and 'Average'. Multi generally renders the image lighter overall than I would have liked and as a result of this I used 'Average' the majority of the time. 'Spot' metering works well in conjunction with the easily adjustable exposure compensation, provided you understand the principals of spot metering. This was very useful for heavily backlit situations where the 'EXR' could be caught out.

Video on 'stills' cameras is now becoming normal and the FinePix F300EXR is no exception, offering 'HD' or '640' quality, available at the press of a dedicated button too. Cancelling video recording is as instantaneous, taking you back to the last mode.