For many enthusiasts and pros, a compact is still well worth considering as a portable alternative or back-up to a DSLR.
The new Fujifilm F60fd fits this bill in terms of size and megapixel-power, but how does it really measure up?
First impressions are good. The Fujifilm F60fd boasts a high-quality build, sleek finish and a large, bright, 3-inch colour LCD. It switches on swiftly and though autofocusing isn't instantaneous, the speed is by no means problematic and the system works well in low light too.
The LCD offers a handy rule of thirds grid overlay that helps you to shoot straight and the shutter lag is barely noticeable. It does, however, take a couple of seconds to process each picture. In low light the LCD also becomes noisy, which can make accurate composition tricky.
Unfortunately there are no histograms or flashing highlights available in Playback mode, so you have to rely entirely on the LCD to verify whether your exposure is correct.
Indoors the screen provides a pretty good indication of the exposure, but outdoors it's an entirely different ball game.
Luckily the metering system is pretty accurate, so if you understand how and when to use exposure compensation and spot metering, you can improve your chances of achieving accurate exposures.
Choosing which of the seven auto/semi- auto shooting modes to use in a given situation is rather more challenging. Rather than making life easier, we found that a) working out the subtle differences between the modes and b) which additional exposure/picture options they enabled, led to much time-wasting and confusion.
For example, for best results should you switch to Auto, Auto Scene Recognition, Scene Position, Natural Light or Natural light plus flash mode? If you want the Chroma Colour mode to intensify your colours, for some reason that rules out both the Scene modes.
Or should you use the somewhat inaptly named Manual mode, which doesn't let you set the aperture or shutter speed, only the ISO, exposure compensation, metering and AF mode?
To control shutter speed or aperture you can use the A/S mode, but again this isn't straightforward. Not only is setting your chosen values incredibly fiddly, the slowest available shutter speed is ¼ sec. To access shutter speeds of 1-8 sec you must switch to Night Scene Position, then choose Long Exposure.
On the plus side, image quality is excellent at ISO 100, with bright colours and plenty of fine detail. ISO 200 isn't bad either, despite shadows becoming slightly mottled and minor loss of detail.
At ISO 400 and higher, however, noise severely compromises detail. The results at ISO 400 are by no means unusable, but they don't even begin to compare with entry-level DSLR quality, particularly since shooting RAW isn't an option.
In most exposure modes ISO is set for you, which in lower light appears to default to 400 or 800 even when flash is used, leading to poor quality results. You could stick to Manual or A/S mode, set the ISO on low and always use a tripod, but that does rather defeat the object of having an ultra-portable compact.
When you also consider that the Fujifilm F60fd's lens is only 35mm at the wide angle, it's clear that the true audience for this camera is beginners and happy snappers. More advanced photographers accustomed to the quality and flexibility of an SLR are likely to be severely underwhelmed.