Fujifilm FinePix F50fd Verdict
Fujifilm’s FinePix F50fd is one of the more highly anticipated compacts of recent times. It’s the successor to the legendary FinePix F30 / F31fd models which both shunned higher resolutions for better performance at higher sensitivities. So while their rivals were incessantly increasing Megapixels, Fujifilm sensibly held back and delivered superior image quality as a result.
Now though their successor, the F50fd, appears to have followed the numbers game by sporting nothing less than 12 Megapixels – the joint highest of any compact at the time of writing, and higher than that of most DSLRs. On the upside, the F50fd, like the 12 Megapixel Sony W200, is capable of recording a huge amount of detail. Point either model at a brightly lit studio test chart and it’s hard not to be impressed.
Unfortunately this leap to 12 Megapixels on a compact sensor has inevitably resulted in a compromise on its predecessors high ISO performance. As our real-life noise results show, the F50fd may look fine at 100 and 200 ISO, but begins to lose significant quality at 400 ISO, and falls dramatically at 800 ISO and above. Of course this isn’t unusual for today’s compacts, but equally it isn’t as impressive as the earlier F30 / F31fd; indeed when you look back at our results, the earlier F30 actually appears to resolve slightly greater detail than the F50fd at higher ISOs even with half the number of Megapixels.
So if you were hoping the F50fd was the new high ISO performance leader, prepare for a disappointment. It may be no worse than rivals, but it’s certainly no better. Where the F50fd does score though is its no-nonsense approach to common activities like indoor flash photography. Like the F30 / F31fd before it, the new FinePix is a great indoor party camera, focusing and exposing faces perfectly and increasing the ISO (if you allow it) to record greater background detail. Outdoors it also performs well and offers manual control over the aperture and shutter for creative effects.
On the downside the F50fd is not quite as slick in design and operation as its top rivals from Canon and Panasonic. The F50fd’s lens may be decent quality but delivers a pedestrian 3x range which lacks the 28mm wide angle of rivals. The image stabilisation helps reduce camera-shake, but wasn't as effective as others in our tests. And the screen, while of a respectable 2.7in size, also doesn’t look as good as some others when placed side-by-side. So before wrapping-up, how does the FinePix F50fd compare to its closest rivals?
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33
For roughly the same money as the FinePix F50fd, you can buy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33. It may only have two-thirds the number of Megapixels, but as our Outdoor tests show, there’s not a great difference in the actual real-life detail both cameras can record.
In the FX33’s favour are a wider 28mm lens coverage, a slightly longer 3.6x zoom range, widescreen movie capabilities, a more compact body and arguably better menus. The FX33’s Intelligent Auto mode also does a wonderful job at figuring out what kind of photo you’re trying to take, but is sadly lacking manual control over aperture and shutter. See our forthcoming Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 review for more details.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100
Panasonic’s Lumix FX100 is its highest resolution compact, sporting the same 12 Megapixels as the Fujifilm F50fd. We’ve not tested this model, so can’t comment on image quality, but we can tell you it shares several of the benefits of the FX33 above: namely a 3.6x optical zoom range with 28mm wide angle, widescreen movie capabilities, a compact body and arguably better menus.
In the F50fd’s favour though is price, so if you can live without wide angle capabilities and just want the best value 12 Megapixel compact, then go for the Fujifilm. If you do however want wide angle on a 12 Megapixel compact, and an arguably classier design, the Lumix FX100 is worth considering.
Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-W200 is another 12 Megapixel compact which in studio tests matched the F50fd’s huge resolving power. It also shares manual control over exposures, although sadly also has the same pedestrian 3x 35-105mm lens coverage. In the W200’s favour are an optical viewfinder and a huge array of optional accessories.
In the F50fd’s favour are a higher resolution screen and once again a lower price. The Sony W200 may have arguably superior industrial design, but if you want the best value 12 Megapixel compact, the F50fd is again a better overall buy. See our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 review for more details.
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd final verdict
The Fujifilm FinePix F50fd is the best value 12 Megapixel compact on the market. It comes in comfortably cheaper than rivals from Panasonic and Sony, while also delivering a thoughtful and effective approach to indoor flash photography – but do keep your eye on the ISO on auto modes to maintain the best quality.
So if you’re after a good value high resolution party camera, the F50fd could be for you. It’ll also allow you to flex your creative muscles with manually adjustable aperture and shutter.
What the F50fd isn’t though is a high ISO leader. Its predecessors consistently impressed us with their low noise and high detail even at relatively high sensitivities and remained benchmark models against much newer products. Unfortunately by playing the numbers game on resolution with the F50fd though, Fujifilm has lost that high ISO advantage. Don’t get us wrong, the F50fd is no worse than any other 12 Megapixel compact, but it’s also no better. So if you’re a pixel-peeper looking for an unusually low noise compact, you won’t find it here.
Ultimately the FinePix F50fd is good but not remarkable. It has a pedestrian 35-105mm optical range, a screen and IS system which are bettered by rivals, and arguably doesn’t match Canon, Panasonic and Sony for industrial design. It is however a solid performer with effective indoor flash facilities, reasonable manual control and represents good value considering its high 12 Megapixel resolution. As such we can recommend it, but it’s not the F30 / F31fd successor we were hoping for.
Very high resolution images.
Good face detection and flash.
Manual control over exposure.
Cheaper than 12 Mpixel rivals.
Pedestrian 35-105mm lens range.
Noise artefacts at 200 ISO and above.
Screen and IS bettered by rivals.
Not much grip to speak of.
(relative to 2007 compacts)
18 / 20
16 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20