FujiFilm F900EXR, Review

Review, Fujifilm F900EXR.
Official images etc see FujiFilms own page here
Official user guide can be found here

Originally posted 2013-05-23


Overall: Quite satisfied. 8/10

F900EXR_Black_Up_ffbfa0522f[1] F900EXR_Black_Front_Left_76975fa68b[1]

Minor firmware improvements could easily make it even better. You are left with no way to override the AF even when it fails(!), you can not even request focus at infinity!!


The PROs

+ Very good signal to noise ratio in lo light, even better than my CX3, that was better than the F200EXR
+ Fast camera. Not even using continuous mode but simply using the shutter, you can easily get 2 to 2.5 shots per second! (preview off, good lighting)
+ 20x zoom in reasonable slim body. About 3.8cm (INcluding protruding parts to both sides, distance between two parallel plates)
+ F3.5 at 25mm focal length (35mm eq.)
+ F5.3 at 500mm focal length (35mm eq.) [note: worst is F6.1 at 300mm]
+ The BSI CMOS sensor is 6.4mm x 4,8mm  Called 1/2″ (Other brands would call that 1/2.2″) which is not small for a compact with 20x zoom.
+ Fuji have tried to stay somewhat off the megapixel craze, and has given it 16Mpixels. A good compromise with better details and better lo light abilities than e.g. F200.
+ Shutter priority modes.
+ ‘Aperture’ priority modes. (ND filters i assume?)
+ Good image stabilizer. It is not hard to take non-blurred pictures at 1/10s and full 20x zoom, holding the camera at arm’s length between two fingers and firing the shutter with a third.
+ Raw-file format offered
+ Some functions can be assigned A single one-click button “fn”
+ Some functions can be assigned two-click short-cuts (“e-fn” and six keys)
+ A bunch of features/filters/effects I haven’t dug into, and most likely will never even try…
+ Reasonable sun light legibility of display
+ All the camera body’s edges are smoothed/slanted making it as pocketable as possible given the thickness.
+ Good non-slip surface
+ General feeling of good hardware.
+ Good one and two hand grip for non-flash-usage.
+ Metal tripod mount
+ Lens protection build in
+ Hardware button for flash pop-up. So if you want to avoid accidentally taking flash photos, simply do not press the button.
+ Quiet zooming – though not completely noiseless
+ Zooming during video allowed, and done slower and even more quiet than when taking stills.
+ OIS during video also.
+ FullHD and HD 60fps video offered
+ Videos in “Portrait” supported.
+ SDXC supported
+ High speed videos with reduced resolution.
+ The Macro offers down to 40mm wide motive, 1/2921″=8.6micrometer motive per pixel. Better than expected – though far from the CX3.
+ Decent full moon pictures at 20x zoom. Even in automatic “p” mode – though not in automatic EXR mode.

The CONs, Software (easy to fix!!)

– NO manual focus! Not even a way to force it to infinity!
– Re-pressing the shutter does NOT cancel a preview. So preview-ON slows down consecutive shots significantly!
– Auto selection. If you pause for two seconds on many options it gets selected!!!
– No saving of personal sets of settings for later usages. Last used setting always remembered.
– FullHD and HD only 60fps video offered, not 24, 25 nor 30fps, so they get HUGE about 5Mb/sec, or 0.3Gb/min.
– Annoying VERY slow graphics when ever you try to delete a picture in the camera.
– File-naming wraps around zero after 9999 pictures.
– The focal length are stored as integers in the metadata, giving several the same values! From 1.0x to 1.8x 14 different zoom levels all labelled 5, 6, 7 or 8mm
– No 24h setting, only AM/PM
– Some odd Auto-rotation issues

The CONs, Hardware (hard to fix)

– AF handling small object at Infinity tend to fail, and no way to set the focus to Infinity, this is a serious issue.
– AF in poor light not too impressive at above appr. 12x zoom, and with no manual focus offered, this is sad news.
– ‘Aperture’ selection limited to two ND filters.
– Extremely small buffer for Continuous modes.
– The wheel around the “OK” certainly take some getting used to. I often activate it unintentionally.
– The tripod mount isn’t centred, though ‘only’ off by about 14mm, but still blocking the battery/SDcard door.
– There are no Level indicator, that I REALLY miss from my CX3.
– The zooming steps are somewhat coarse. there are 39 steps of zoom over the entire 20x range (I’m used to 54 on the 10.7x zoom CX3)
– The battery/SD cover is a bit strange. You must put your thumb at the centre and pull it straight out. If you try at either end (including the thick end with a marked dot and the text “open”!) – it will not work, unless you pull quite hard…
– The ring around the lens could have been used as active.
– The lens is over-sold as 20x, “F3.5-5.3”, At zoom 6x to 19x it is OVER F5.3! Over the entire 1x to 20x range it is F3.5-F6.1, IMPROVING from F6.1 at 12x towards F5.3 at 20x.

Further details

Many of the above bullets do not require further elaboration, so be sure to read the lists first.


No manual focus, and AF in poor light using high zoom factor.
I really miss the manual focus. I’m sure it would be SO simple to add in firmware!
With no manual focus the AF’s limited abilities in poor light and zoom above approximately 12x, is sad news on a camera that are especially good at taking pictures in lo light…
It is hard to get shutter times worse than about 1/10s with AF light off on large zoom, as the AF will have problems at light conditions where slow shutter times are needed. It can be enforced in Shutter priority mode though.
So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE add this in a firmware upgrade, ASAP!!
The obvious way to implement it would be through e-fn as a selectable item, and when selected use the wheel, and display the distance to the focus plane with the current zoom ratio.
The super elegant variant would be if the display also outlined any objects found by the AF in (or close by) the manually selected focus plane.
During video recording the ring is currently inactive, so it could move the focus plane directly.


No manual focus, and AF at ‘infinity’ even in good light
I also tried to take some shots at distant objects like the moon or planes in daylight. And there seems to be no way to persuade the camera to stay at “Infinity”, so you will need a number of shots to get it right. confused
(Of course you can use the ‘focus lock’ on another distant object, but unless the exposure luckily also matched, it will give a poor result…)
Even the “Scenery”-mode called “Landscape” do not put the camera in Infinity-distance mode. (nor does “Fireworks”, or even “Sunset”?!?!?)
This is REALLY stupid, as the 20x-zoom is most likely to be applied on far away objects!! wallbash
If they AT THE LEAST defaulted to infinity, when the AF failed at 20x zoom, a lot would be gained idea


Re-pressing the shutter during preview
Please add a fix so Re-pressing the shutter during preview cancels the preview immediately.
With preview-OFF the camera can easily provide 2 to 2.5 shots per second simply pressing the shutter (in good light)
Currently if you have chosen 0.5 secs preview, you can ‘only’ take one picture every second (and if 1,5s preview once every 2s) – an annoying firmware limitation/bug.


Auto Selection
If you pause for two seconds on many options it gets selected!!! This is really annoying in the menus when you explore the possibilities.
It MIGHT not feel that bad in daily usage, when you only enter a menu when you intend to choose a different setting.
To add to the confusion, I haven’t found a system in where auto-select is active and where not…
So please: An “Auto selection” setting switch with three options “Auto OK”, “Auto Cancel” or “Off” would be nice!
As the Back key and Disp key is the same, and pressing this key during shooting first selects the Disp-mode-selection (where auto-selection is active) and under this the same key works as right arrow(?!?!?!). So you can not cancel, but must select the same mode again manually…. So if you ‘panic’ and press Back multiple times, you end up changing the display-settings unintentionally…


Graphics on deletion
Fuji still uses really annoying VERY slow graphics when ever you try to delete a picture in the camera.
They have had this ‘feature’ from way back (a decade?) when it made sense and cards were slow – with a fast card it is a pest!
PLEASE add a setting switch for that!


Continuous modes
There are four different options.
L 3.0/s for 3.7s then 2.5/s
M 6.0/s for 0.8s then 2.5/s
H 11.0/s for 0.5s then 2.5/s
SH 16.0/s for 0.8s then 2.5/s

The extremely small buffer makes the Continuous modes practically useless, as they are limited to 0.3 to 1 second in duration!!.
Making it highly unlikely to hit the right moment. The L-mode has 3fps for almost 4s, but as you can get 2.5fps just pressing the shutter – there are not much need for that.
Also note that the rotation state of the camera are sometimes(?) ignored, some continuous shots are stored as landscape – I can not understand why/when, I got it multiple times in the beginning, but haven’t seen it for quite a while??


Auto rotate
It is fine that it is optional to have the playback rotating the picture depending on how you held the camera while the picture was taken.. Put in playback they assume you hold the camera in landscape only. So you can not rotate the camera to view a “Portrait” picture in full screen??
Videos in Portrait played back on the camera do not auto-rotate at all, (But they are stored correctly, and play back fine on a pc).


Files are named in the form DSCF#### – except continuous shots. With #### being a consecutive number.
But note that file-naming wraps around zero after 9999 pictures (though in different folder on the SD), So if you have had Fuji cameras before (like me), you may have to do some substantial renaming of the old ones to avoid conflicting names.
I would have preferred the number to ‘eat’ into the “DSCF” text.

The naming for continuous shots differ from normal pictures.
The continuous have the same last four digit consecutive number BUT the “DSCF” are replaced by “S###” where the three digit represent the number of the sequence.
This gives a strange ordering by name. But I think it is a better solution that the MP format (used by e.g. Ricoh), that are not too commonly supported, despite being a cipa standard (http://www.cipa.jp/e…-X007-KEY_E.pdf and in more detail http://www.cipa.jp/e…df/DC-007_E.pdf).
I see no good solution sticking to the 8.3 naming convention, if you want the sequence-number also in the file-name.
I think the best solution would be to keep the sequence-number as meta-data only (you got the time-stamp to keep them together), OR breaking the 8.3 format an obvious choice would be “DSCF####_###.JPG”


The aperture-option is not iris. You got three options for: basic lens F, F * 2 and F * 3.
I assume these are ND4x and ND9x -filters inserted (you can hear a tiny extra mechanical sound pressing the shutter).
This limits the usage of aperture selection.


Zoom and aperture
The zoom works in 39 steps. They are easy to produce zooming in. It can be a little hard to zoom out one step (I guess due to the AF)

The real aperture varies in a strange way over the zoom range, getting worse and worse (as expected) going from F3.5 for 1x to F6.1 for 12x. But getting BETTER down to F5.3 for 20x!!


The apertures grows almost linearly with the logarithm to the zoom, for zoom between 1x and 12x

The F900 offer both FullHD and HD in 60fps, and VGA in 30fps.
But oddly neither 1080p nor 720p with 24, 25 or 30fps??
Additionally three High-speed modes VGA 120fps, 320×240 240fps and 320×112 480fps


The display can be pushed up quite bright, but this washes out details, so only really relevant in direct sunlight.
It would be nice if setting the brightness was one of the functions assignable to short-cut keys.
An ‘auto’ mode cranking up the brightness, and reducing it in poor light would be nice also.


There are seven assignable short-cuts available, one single stroke “fn”, and the rest double by “e-fn”.
The currently assigned functions for “e-fn” are neatly displayed on the screen, so you do not have to remember them by heart. Nice detail.
(Two extra could be easily gained by using “e-fn” twice -this currently doubles as “e-fn” plus “back”-, and “e-fn” plus “fn” -currently ignored- as also assignable)


I haven’t even opened the accompanying CD (yet), so I have no idea what is offered. I’m not sure that I’m ever going to.


FujiFilm and sensorsizes
The F900EXR got a 6.4mm x 4.8mm sensor, that is oddly labelled as 1/2″.
In reality it’s just slightly larger than what other brands call 1/2.3″ (e.g. 6.20mm x 4.65mm for Sony’s IMX117CQT), so for comparison with others, it should be called 1/2.2″
This is a principal FujiFilm thing, that goes back at least ten years(!) The legendary F30 has a sensor called 1/1.7″, and  the 7.44 x 5.58 mm is (within 1%) a factor 2.0/1.7 larger compared to the 6.4mm x 4.8mm of the F900EXR
The F50, F60, F100, and F200 all had an 8mm x 6mm sensor called 1/1.6″, perfectly matching a factor 2.0/1.6 of the F900EXR.

I would not say that FujiFilm are cheating, as there are no official method for these advertising numbers, as they are NOT the real diagonal, but the diagonal of a fictitious Vidicon tube with the same active area… See e.g. http://www.dpreview.com/news/0210/02100402sensorsizes.asp

(Since the outer area of the F900EXR sensor is thus only 64% of e.g the F200EXR, you could fear much worse abilities, but here the better area usage of the BSI comes to rescue)

(Click to enlarge)
Note that ALL the below examples are hand held, no tripod, and Spot-metered.

On the Brightness value
I found this description: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/28775711

Bv = log2 (A² T/Sx/N)

A= Aperture, here 6.7
T= Time in s
Sx= ISO speed
N= konst. ~ 0.30

=> Bv = log2 (6.7² 4.5/200/0.3) = log2 (0.166) = -2.588


Moon [EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/240s, Iso100, Brightness=7.82]
FullMoon Crop: FullMoon_CROP

Macro Monitor I (Samsung 275T+) , EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/100s, Iso400, Brightness=3.28

Macro Monitor II (Lenovo X300) , EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/42s, Iso100, Brightness=4.07

Dog smelling flowers close , EXIF: M, 1x, F3.5, 1/640s, Iso100, Brightness=8.57

Dog smelling flowers II , EXIF: M, 1x, F3.5, 1/680s, Iso100, Brightness=8.7

Dog in train , EXIF: F, 1.3x, F3.7, 1/80s, Iso400, Brightness=3.39

Dog in the night , EXIF: M, 1x, F3.5, 1/8s, Iso3200, Brightness=-6.89 (Note: MINUS)

Moon in daylight , EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/420s, Iso100, Brightness=8.7

Plane (RYR7WM)
Seen from the outskirts of Svendborg, estimated distance 15Km (12km up, view point 9km off track). Info taken from flightradar24.com, collage:
Using 20x, EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/280s, Iso100, Brightness=8.18
Plane20x Crop: Plane20x_CROP RYR7VM
Using 40x (20x+digital), EXIF: F, 40x, F5.3, 1/340s, Iso100, Brightness=8.38
Plane40x Crop: Plane40x_CROP
Note that the tail-marking can be somewhat recognised zooming in on the 20x image, but is almost blurred away by the noise-reduction of the digital zoom. And left wing tip also looks pretty strange and expanded. This MIGHT be a reflection of the sun though??

Plane (NAX56MG) , EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/220s, Iso100, Brightness=7.68
Straight over my head, 12Km up, much better atmospheric conditions
Plane_LN-NGG  Crop: Plane_LN-NGG_CROP NAX56MG
You can make out the existence of letters under the wing – though not read them. The front paint (including the line on the shadow side) are easily seen.

White Wagtail on the lawn , EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/180s, Iso100, Brightness=7.43 (flowers are 15-20mm)

Garden with Rhododendron Wide and Tele
EXIF: F, 1x, F7.1, 1/500s, Iso100, Brightness=7.95 (note the aperture, the automatic has applied the ND4)
EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/340s, Iso100, Brightness=8.25
Garden_Rhododendron1x Garden_Rhododendron20x

Party-shots, Poor light
EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/10s, Iso1600, Brightness=-1.79 (note the minus)
The tent lit by 25 candles only.

EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/7s, Iso800, Brightness=-1.72 (note the minus)
A gas heater (and its light) added

EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/9s, Iso1600, Brightness=-1.76 (note the minus)
Note that this picture is shown correctly in portrait (not landscape) in Win8, so something about the metadata and autorotation might be wrong???

Extreme lo light
Firewall, router and cable-mess very poorly lit.
F900 on auto, F900 shutter-priority matching CX3 and CX3, all iso3200

F900 EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/4s, Brightness=-7.75 ; F900 EXIF: F, 1x, F3.5, 1/15s, Brightness=-7.51 ; CX3 EXIF: F3.5, 1/15s, Brightness=-3.3
Dark25mmAuto Dark25mm1_15s Dark28mmAuto_CX3.jpg

Zoom to approximately 10x:
F900 EXIF: F, 10x, F6.1, 1/4s, Brightness=-5.8 ; F900 EXIF: F, 10x, F6.1, 1/13s, Brightness=-5.53 ; CX3 EXIF: F5.6, 1/13s, Brightness=-1.9
Dark300mmAuto Dark300mm1_13s  Dark300mmAuto_CX3.jpg

Zoom to 20x (took a LOT of tries to get the AF right):
F900 EXIF: F, 20x, F5.3, 1/4s, Brightness=-5.45
The zoom in is on the Cisco asa to the left in the wide shot. Note the differences in the reflections of the LEDs in the tables black paint, and the the artefacts of the wall on the wide shots.
I claim that the F900 is a clear winner, even when forced to the speeds used by the CX3

…And the same motive as high contrast example in daylight, EXIF: F, 1x, F5.3, 1/10s, Iso1600, Brightness=-1.42 (note the minus)


Original was posted here