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Fuji FinePix A310 Digital Camera@DASHING THING REVIEW

11 Jul

Fuji FinePix A310 Digital Camera

A310 Camera QuickLook
Review Date
11/15/03
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
High, 3.1-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Good prints to 8×10
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$299.95


Introduction

F

Whether in the analog or digital world, Fuji is universally known for great color. In the digicam arena, they’re also 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 cameras that take great pictures. One of the latest additions to this line, the Fuji FinePix A310 provides very attractive prints under daytime lighting, and uses Fuji’s Super CCD HR technology to deliver 6-megapixel files, interpolated from its 3.1-megapixel sensor, for sharp 8×10 prints. Sleek and compact, and with great outdoor picture quality, I wanted to like the FinePix A310 more than I did. Unfortunately, its photos showed quite a bit of image noise, most likely due to its minimum ISO of 200 (most cameras provide a minimum ISO of 100 or even lower, to deliver lower image noise when shooting under bright conditions), and its white balance system had some trouble under the household incandescent lighting that’s very common in the US. Read on for all the details on the Fuji FinePix A310!

Camera Overview

Small, compact, and lightweight, the new FinePix A310 store images on a super tiny xD-Picture Card, which helps maintain the small case size. The A310’s 3.1-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 A310’s surprisingly rugged-feeling, all-plastic body weighs in at only 7.2 ounces (204 grams) with batteries and memory card loaded. The A310 is pocket friendly as well, measuring just 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.3 inches (97 x 64 x 33 millimeters). With the lens retracted, the A310’s front panel is mostly flat, letting it slip in and out of pockets quickly. A small strap secures the A310 to your wrist while shooting (a welcome feature given its minimal hand grip), but you might invest in a small camera case as well. Its maximum resolution 2,816 x 2,120-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 5.7-17.1mm 3x zoom lens, the equivalent of a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera (a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto), the A310 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 A310’s 3x optical zoom, the camera also offers up to 2.9x 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 A310 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 better than average, with the A310’s lens producing a moderate 0.5 percent barrel distortion at wide angle, and only 0.1 barrel distortion at telephoto. Chromatic aberration was also fairly low. (See the sample images page for further analysis.) For framing shots, the A310 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 79 percent accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto). The LCD monitor proved more accurate, at about 92 percent frame accuracy at wide angle (90 percent at telephoto). I generally like to see better viewfinder accuracy than this, although the LCD monitor’s accuracy is marginally acceptable.

Exposure remains under automatic control at all times, despite the A310’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 2 seconds, and the lens aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11.6, but the A310’s LCD display doesn’t report 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.) Note though, that shutter speeds are restricted to 1/2 second and above in normal shooting mode, with the longest shutter times only available in Night Scene mode. To determine the best exposure, the A310 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.

The A310 offers four Scene modes. Portrait optimizes settings for shooting portraits, using larger apertures to soften the overall background and adjusting the camera’s color to enhance skin tones. Landscape, which disables the flash, is optimized for shots of scenery in daylight, providing crisp, clean shots of distant objects. Sports mode gives priority to faster shutter speeds to “freeze” action. Night Scene mode allows shutter times as long as 2 seconds to capture ambient light in combination with several available flash modes.

White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent presets. The A310’s light sensitivity is adjustable from its default of 200 to as high as 800, although the ISO 800 option limits the resolution to 1 megapixel. Combined with the longer shutter times available in Night Scene mode, the A310 can capture images at light levels as dark as 1/4-1/8 foot-candle (roughly 1/4 to 1/8 as bright as city night scenes under typical street lighting), although its autofocus system can’t operate at light levels any lower than 1 foot-candle.

The A310’s built-in flash is effective from 1 to 16.4 feet (0.3 to 5.0 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 A310 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 120 seconds for 320 x 240, and a maximum of 480 seconds for the 160 x 120 size.

Digital Print Order Format is also supported on theA310, so you can tag prints in the camera to be printed on a DPOF-compatible printer or DPOF print service.

A 16MB  xD-Picture Card comes with the camera, but you’ll want to purchase a larger size almost immediately, given the A310’s maximum 2,816 x 2,120-pixel resolution. (The xD-Picture Card itself is very tiny, rivaling the popular SD memory cards in size.) The A310 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. In my testing, the A310 offered better than average battery life for a camera powered by only two AA cells, but I still strongly recommend purchasing at least a couple of sets of high-capacity rechargeable cells to use with it.  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.

Basic Features

  • 3.1-megapixel Super CCD HR delivering images as large as 2,816 x 2,120 pixels.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • 3x, 38-114mm (35mm equivalent) lens.
  • 2.9x 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 2 seconds.
  • 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.

Special Features

  • 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).

Recommendation
Trim and compact, the A310 travels well, and can be quickly stashed in a pocket when on the go. Exposure Compensation and White Balance adjustment options enhance the largely automatic exposure control, for uncomplicated picture taking. The A310 should immediately set novices at ease, as the user interface is quite simple and straightforward. Great for toting around town, to the kids’ ball games, or on laid-back vacations, the A310 is a good “starter” digicam for teens or new users. I’d be quite enthusiastic about it, were it not for its limitations of higher than average image noise and poor handling of the incandescent lighting that’s so common in US homes. (If you mainly shoot outdoors though, its color is first-rate.)

 

Design
Measuring 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.3 inches (97 x 64 x 33 millimeters), the A310 is small enough for most shirt pockets and purses, but fits the average hand well. Loaded with batteries and memory card, the A310 weighs just 7.2 ounces (204 grams), thanks in part to the all-plastic camera body. The included wrist strap secures the camera in-hand, but a soft camera case would be ideal for protecting the camera during long excursions. The A310 is an uncomplicated camera, with largely automatic exposure control and a select few menu options. External controls are limited, and the LCD menu system is short and to the point. Let’s take a look at the camera’s external features:

The sliding lens cover is activated by the large silver Power switch on the front of the camera, that also serves as a finger grip. Hidden beneath a sliding lens cover, the A310’s telescoping lens keeps the front panel flat when retracted. The silver lens cover slides out of the way when the camera is powered on, allowing the lens to extend forward a little over half an inch. Also on the front panel are the flash, flash sensor, self-timer lamp, and optical viewfinder window. A small ridge provides a finger grip on the far side of the front panel, with a shiny silver finish highlighting the FinePix logo.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap. At the very bottom of the right panel, the edge of the memory card and battery compartment door is visible.

The opposite side of the camera features the Video Out, USB and DC In connector terminals, all of which are uncovered.

On the A310’s top panel is the Shutter button.

The few remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The Display and Photo mode buttons line the top of the LCD monitor, while a set of arrow keys in the top right corner control both zoom position and menu navigation. The center arrows are implemented as a two-way rocker button, controlling optical and digital zoom, in addition to other functions. A large Mode dial to the right of the LCD monitor selects the camera’s main operating mode, with a series of ridges that provide a grip for your thumb as it turns the dial. To the left of that are the Back and Menu/OK buttons. Finally, the Flash button is located just below the Mode dial.

The A310’s bottom panel is flat, with the plastic, threaded tripod mount in the center. The xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is just adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. Although I personally prefer to have access to the battery and memory card compartments while a camera is mounted to a tripod, I doubt this will be much of an issue on the A310, given its very portable nature.

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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in cameras

 

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