Mark Harris

Fujifilm FinePix F420 digital camera Fujifilm’s latest shirt-pocket snapper declares it’s hip to be square

Kit: Fujifilm FinePix F420 digital camera
Cost: £330
Company: Fujifilm
Contact: 020 7586 1477

The concept of a security or keypad lock has never caught on in digital photography, probably because it doesn’t matter whether you waste a few frames on the inside of your pocket. But Fujifilm’s latest FinePix camera has the next best thing: a power switch so fiendishly well hidden that almost no one can find it within a minute and many people give up completely (hint: read the manual). Luckily, that’s the most intellectually challenging function of this classy camera, the rest of the interface being extremely intuitive, even simple, to master.

The F420 is an update of last year’s F410, retaining the square styling, all-metal case and 3.2 megapixel SuperCCD delivering interpolated images of up to 6 megapixels. The 3x zoom lens has a slightly better wideangle setting (36mm instead of 38mm equivalent) and also shaves off a centimetre or two in macro mode, with a closest focus of 8.5cm. The new camera is a shade lighter (20g) and smaller, fitting comfortably within a shirt or trouser pocket.

The F420 is not one of the new breed of ultra high-speed cameras. Starting up still occupies a couple of seconds, shutter delay is average and the colourful 1.8-inch LCD takes a moment to adjust to different lighting conditions. The display is good enough to use in low light or bright conditions, and the menu system is superb. Fujifilm’s F-Photo Mode button provides one touch access to resolution, sensitivity (up to ISO 400) and colour controls. Why Fujifilm thinks we need an enhanced saturation Chrome mode when even Standard shots are almost hypnotically sharp and vivid is a bit of a mystery, but I suppose the B&W mode might satisfy monochrome fans.

A short list of features includes the usual program modes (landscape, sports, night portrait), white balance options and exposure compensation. More upgrades from the F410 include continuous shooting modes at three frames per second (maximum of four frames) and a 320x240-pixel, 30fps movie mode with sound. This gives smooth footage and vibrant colours although the sound’s a little crackly.

Still images are great for a compact lifestyle camera, with even the full-fat six megapixel shots showing firm detail and rich colours. Grainy noise and purple fringing were visible in a few test shots but nothing too serious. Macro images were simply beautiful. The camera is also strong on portraits, delivering natural, attractive skin tones in both natural light and using the powerful built-in flash. While the F420 won’t appeal to the techier user, it’s perfect for parties and snaps. But do bear in mind that you can pick up its little brother the F410 for around £240 these days – a real bargain if you don’t mind a slightly slower, more basic camera.

Performance: 4
Features: 3
Value: 3

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