Turning up the sensitivity on the sensor of a digital camera is a bit like whacking the volume up on a cheap stereo. You get lots of noise but you can't really discern what it is you're listening to. Likewise, when digital cameras are turned up, they can produce very grainy and inferior images that exhibit digital noise.
Fujifilm has attempted to tackle this issue with a new camera that works well at sensitivities up to ISO 1600. That's very high sensitivity indeed and the quality of the shots the camera produces at this setting is very good.
Fujifilm has achieved this seemingly impossible feat by using a larger sensor and some clever software engineering. The result is the FinePix F10, a neat little 6-megapixel compact digital camera with a 3x optical zoom and a very large LCD screen. As well as being able to take great shots in low light, the F10 has a beefy battery that snaps away for 500 shots between charges.
The F10's images are stored on Fuji's own xD-Picture Card format and the results are very good. However, the camera comes with a miserly 16MB card, so you will have to buy more storage to take a reasonable number of shots on one card.
At the rear of the F10 is a luxurious 2.5-inch colour LCD screen with a refresh rate of 60 frames per second. Such a high-quality screen makes picture taking a real pleasure. Checking the quality of your shots is so much easier with a large screen. A clever sensor adjusts the brightness of the screen to take account of the conditions you are viewing in.
Easy to see
For example, if it's a sunny day, the screen brightness is turned up so you can see your pictures more easily. Conversely, in dark conditions the screen is turned down so you're not blinded.
If the F10 has a fault, then it's the fact that the controls are a bit on the basic side. There's a choice of five scene modes, a fully Auto mode and a manual mode that lets you change just a few settings. There certainly isn't the degree of customisation or control you'd expect to find on a camera of this price.
The lack of control would be fine if the camera were aimed and priced at the beginner's end of the market. However, most people forking out £300 or so on a digital camera would probably expect shutter and aperture priority controls as well as full manual exposure.
Despite the lack of fine-tuning or manual controls, if snapping candid photos in dark conditions is your kind of thing, or if you need to take photos in places were the use of a flash is prohibited, then the Fujifilm FinePix F10 makes a great deal of sense and is a handy pocketsized alternative to an SLR. Mark Sparrow