Fuji’s FinePix 4900 is one of a new style of consumer digital cameras appearing on the market. Borrowing features from both film SLRs and point-and-shoot digital cameras, these hybrids offer an extremely potent set of features in a compact package and will undoubtedly steer even more film photographers over to digital.
The 4900 features an impressive 6x optical zoom lens plus a 3.7x digital zoom. Shots are captured on a SuperCCD sensor that generates images at resolutions of up to 2,400 x 1,800 pixels, producing photo-quality prints at sizes of 8 by 10 and beyond. By default, the camera is as easy to operate as a point-and-shoot, but virtually every function is manually controllable. Shutter-priority and aperture-priority modes are available, and the ISO, focus, white balance, and exposure compensation can all be adjusted. A pop-up flash features slow-sync, fill flash, and red-eye reduction, and a hot shoe on top of the camera allows you to use a dedicated flash unit.
Fuji has replaced the traditional optical viewfinder with a camcorder-style electronic viewfinder (EVF)–a tiny LCD display inside the eyepiece. The benefits of this arrangement are obvious: the EVF provides a traditional SLR-style through-the-lens viewing experience, works well even in bright sunlight, lets you hold the camera in the more stable, traditional position, and helps to extend battery life. However, there are some situations in which the EVF is inferior to a traditional optical viewfinder: if you’re shooting in near darkness, it’s virtually impossible to see through the viewfinder, and even in brighter light, the images tend to look grainy and washed out compared to the images in the 2-inch LCD on the back of the camera.
The 2.4-megapixel SuperCCD sensor was developed by Fuji and is only found on Fuji cameras. Instead of using a traditional grid of square pixels, it features octagonal pixels arrayed diagonally. Fuji claims that this system offers improved sensitivity and image detail over a standard CCD. To prove this point, the camera interpolates its 2.4-megapixel images up to 4.3 megapixels at the highest-quality setting. Independent tests typically place these interpolated images on a par with pictures from a 3.3 megapixel camera.
The 4900 is comfortable to hold, and its controls are logically arranged. Though it’s bigger and heavier than a point-and-shoot, it’s still smaller and lighter than an SLR, and the design feels good in your hands. The battery compartment forms a comfortable pistol grip for your right hand, and your left hand will naturally want to cradle the barrel. Fuji thoughtfully included dual zoom controls–one under your right thumb on the back of the camera, and the other under your left thumb on the barrel of the lens. An easy-to-reach thumb dial on the top of the camera controls shutter speed or aperture, depending upon your shooting mode, and a ring on the front of the lens manually adjusts focus.
Files can be saved at numerous resolutions and levels of compression, from a massive uncompressed 2,400 x 1,800 TIFF file (one shot nearly fills the included 16 MB SmartMedia card) to basic 640 x 480 JPEG files appropriate for emailing. The camera also features a movie mode for creating low-resolution silent film clips.
If you’re an amateur photographer who loves using single-lens-reflex cameras but don’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a true digital SLR, Fuji’s FinePix 4900 offers most of the functionality of a digital SLR at a fraction of the price. The lens is not removable, but its 35-210mm range (35mm equivalent) is flexible enough to use in nearly any situation.
Impressive 6x zoom lens
Comfortable, well-arranged controls
Easy to use for beginners and experienced photographers
Electronic viewfinder is hard to use in some conditions