Fuji FinePix A303 Digital Camera
|Novice to experienced amateur|
|Family / Travel / Special Events|
|Point and Shoot|
|High, 3.3-megapixel CCD|
|Good prints to 8×10|
Suggested Retail Price
Whether in the analog world or digital, Fuji is known universally for great color. In the digicam arena. they’re likewise know for good-quality consumer digicams at very attractive prices. Combining quality and portability, Fuji’s FinePix digicam line has been populated with compact, travel-worthy digicams that take great pictures. The latest additions to this line, the A303 and A203 models maintain Fuji’s well-earned reputation for quality, offering 3.3-megapixel and 2.0-megapixel CCDs respectively, while keeping proportions small and portable. Though both models offer less image control than many of the FinePix digicams, their point-and-shoot simplicity will appeal to a wide audience of consumers. Probably the biggest news about these models is that they are the first Fuji digicams to accept the new xD-Picture Card, one of the tiniest memory card formats currently on the market.
Small, compact, and light weight, the new FinePix A303 (along with its sister model, the A203) is one of the first Fuji digicams to accept the super tiny xD-Picture Card, which helps maintain the small case size. The A303’s 3.3-megapixel CCD captures high resolution images with good detail, and its largely-automatic exposure control is a boon for novices. Loaded with batteries and memory card, the A303’s surprisingly rugged-feeling, all-plastic body weighs in at only 7.1 ounces (200 grams). The A303 is pocket friendly as well, measuring just 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches (97 x 64 x 34 millimeters). With the lens retracted, the A303’s front panel is mostly flat, letting it slip in and out of pockets quickly. A small strap secures the A303 to your wrist while shooting (a welcome feature given the A303’s minimal hand grip), but you might invest in a small camera case as well. Its maximum resolution 2,048 x 1,536-pixel images are good enough for printing as large as 8×10 inches, although lower resolutions are available for printing as snapshots or sending as email attachments.
Equipped with a 3x zoom lens, the equivalent of a 35-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera (a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto), the A303 offers a maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/4.8 (depending on the lens’ zoom position). Focus ranges from two feet (0.6 meters) to infinity, in normal mode, with a Macro setting ranging from 3.9 inches to 2.6 feet (10 to 80 centimeters). In addition to the A303’s 3x optical zoom, the camera also offers up to 3.2x digital zoom. (Maximum digital enlargement depends on the image resolution, with more magnification being available at smaller image sizes.) I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it only enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image, but that said, the A303 adopts my favored approach, simply presenting the available pixels as a smaller file, not trying to resample them back up to a full-sized image. Optical distortion was well below average, with the A303’s lens producing a moderate 0.4 percent barrel distortion at wide angle, and only the barest hint of barrel distortion at telephoto. Chromatic aberration was high though, at about five or six pixels. (See the for further analysis.) For framing shots, the A303 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. A limited information display reports camera settings on the LCD monitor, and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid. The optional grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects. Fuji estimates approximately 80 percent frame coverage with the optical viewfinder, which is close to my findings (approximately 84 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 79 percent at telephoto). The LCD monitor proved more accurate, at about 95 percent frame accuracy at wide angle (92 percent at telephoto). I generally like to see better viewfinder accuracy than this, particularly relative to the A303’s performance at telephoto focal lengths. The LCD monitor is acceptably accurate however.
Exposure remains under automatic control, despite the A303’s offering of both Auto and Manual exposure modes. The “Manual” setting simply expands the Record menu to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance options, as opposed to the purely “point & shoot” operation in Auto mode. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 1/2 second, and the lens aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11.6, but the A303’s LCD display doesn’t report on either. (Most entry-level cameras don’t report aperture or shutter readings, perhaps to avoid confusing novices with too much information. I’m a big proponent of at least presenting the information though, so people can have at least some idea of how sensitive the camera might be to motion at longer shutter speeds, or how much depth of field might be available, depending on the aperture setting.) To determine the best exposure, the A303 employs a TTL (through-the-lens) 64-zone metering system, which averages readings taken throughout the frame for the best overall exposure. Through the camera’s Record menu, you can increase or decrease the exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 in one-third-step increments. White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent presets. Though it’s not adjustable, the A303’s sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100, which combines with the 1/2 second maximum shutter time to limit the camera’s low-light shooting capabilities. (Indeed, the camera captured bright images at light levels only as dark as two foot-candles, or 22 lux, about twice as bright as average city street lighting at night. Darker conditions will definitely require use of the flash.)
The A303’s built-in flash is effective from 1 to 11.5 feet (0.3 to 3.5 meters) depending on the zoom position, and operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow-Synchro modes. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and when the shutter actually opens, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. The A303 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies without sound. Two resolutions are available (320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels). Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space, with a maximum of 60 seconds for 320 x 240, and a maximum of 240 seconds for the 160 x 120 size.
As I mentioned above, the A303 and A203 digicams are the first Fuji models to accept the xD-Picture Card. A 16MB card comes with the camera, but you’ll want to purchase a larger size almost immediately, given the A303’s maximum 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution. (The xD-Picture Card itself is very tiny, rivaling the popular SD memory cards in size.) The A303 uses two AA-type batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH, and an optional AC adapter is available. A set of single-use AA alkaline batteries comes with the camera, but I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. to read my “battery shootout” page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite.
- 3.3-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
- 3x, 35-114mm (35mm equivalent) lens.
- 3.2x digital zoom.
- Automatic exposure control.
- Adjustable white balance with seven settings.
- Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 100.
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/4.8, depending on zoom.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1/2 second.
- Built-in flash with five modes.
- xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
- Power supplied by two AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
- Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
- Movie mode (silent only, no sound).
- 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).