Fujifilm Finepix F600EXR Digital Camera Review$349.95
The Fujifilm F600EXR is a well-executed travel zoom, one that a casual photographer could bring on vacation and learn to love, though it's really designed with hands-on, enthusiast shooters in mind.
Its defining characteristic is control. Several travel zooms at least offer manual control, but very few can shoot the RAW format that photo geeks demand. Even its automatic modes function at a higher level, thanks to the EXR processing. The interface could use a facelift and an assignable function key, but it's easy enough to navigate.
Full-resolution photos are clear, color-accurate, and quite detailed thanks to a smart processor. The quality improves even further using the EXR modes; we shot our official test photos with Program mode and got good results, but we also ran some tests on the EXR settings and they always returned better scores, especially for the noise marks. There's a bit of a learning curve with this camera, but it's worth it in the long run.
That curve makes us hesitate to recommend it to everyone. With two auto modes and tons of shooting settings, it might be a bit more complicated than the average point-and-shoots wants. It really doesn't have any hand-holding features, and very little of the fun extras like photo effects and filters that make compact cameras so endearing to use.
Since Fuji is taking aim at the hobbyist set, we'd love to see them try a full-bore enthusiast travel zoom. Advanced compacts like the Olympus XZ-1 and Canon G12 sometimes retail for as much as $500. The F600EXR has many of the same features as those cameras, but has a much longer zoom and a lower price tag. They could fill the gap with a small-body, long-zoom camera with a more robust control scheme and a sharper, higher-quality lens, even if they have to knock the zoom range down to 12x or 10x.
Pipe dreams aside for the moment, the F600EXR is a very solid camera. F550EXR owners don't need to bother upgrading, but it is notably faster, which is good news for prospective buyers. It won't appeal to everyone, but we heartily recommend it to enthusiast photographers who want an all-in-one, carry-anywhere camera.