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On the left: the Fujifilm FinePix A345, on the right, the 5 megapixel A350. The only difference is the A345 is a 4 megapixel camera, whereas the A350 is a 5 megapixel camera.
Fuji have this to say about the camera:
"A five megapixel resolution camera, with a neat, compact design, high quality 1.7 inch LCD screen and 3x optical zoom lens. This model offers exceptional power and value in a new and improved design. Whilst the entry-level category can often mean that corners are cut on build quality and feel, anyone who handles this camera will be pleasantly surprised by its compact solidity."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: It's
quite compact and made out of silver plastic - the FujiFilm Finepix A350
was used for the photographs below.
Size Comparison: Compared to a 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - 16mb is an average size memory or a 4 megapixel camera - and fairly low for a 5 megapixel camera.
Battery usage: I would recommend you buy high power rechargable batteries and a charger, ie. 2300+mah ni-mh batteries. Battery life seemed good to average.
Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the 3-way switch (play, video, photo).
Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution and the colours appear accurate. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is a small optical viewfinder.
Menu options are: Photo size/quality, Self-timer, Photo shooting mode (Night, Sport, Landscape, Portrait, Auto, Manual), Continuous shooting, Options (LCD, Setup), Exposure compensation (Manual mode only), White Balance (Manual mode only).
Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Image display, Power save, Format, Digital Zoom (on/off), Beep, Shutter, LCD, Date/Time, Time Difference, Frame number, USB Mode, Language, Video system, Discharge (for Ni-Mh batteries), Reset.
Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is a bit sluggish, however the zoom is quick.
Playback menu options: Erase, DPOF, Protect, Playback (slideshow), Trimming, Set (Setup, LCD, Volume).
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 16mb memory provided with the camera:
You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes (the 3:2 setting is especially useful for traditional size prints), but there is a poor choice regarding image compression.
A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Fujifilm FinePix A345/A350:
Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos - however the camera can occassionally 'hunt' for the focus in darker indoor conditions. The screen updates are a bit sluggish. The playback mode is fairly quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 16x. The camera shutter response seemed average-sluggish when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also fairly sluggish. The A350 seemed slower in use than the A345, and noticably slower at taking photos - taking a strangely long time to actually take the photo after the shutter was pressed all the way down.
Ease of use: The camera is easy to use. The controls on the back of the camera are very easy to use. The camera is very compact - but easy to hold and use, although be careful not to drop the camera! The menus are very responsive, very easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as some scene modes for simple point and shoot operation.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be a limited amount of buttons - for example a delete button would be good, as would a self-timer button. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well - although the labels around the zoom control could be made clearer by being a different colour. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, and was the correct weight - it seemed a decent weight and felt well built. The only issues I have are that there is no delete button, and other cameras with 4-way controllers seem easier to use in playback mode.
The zoom control was also stiff. I'm not a fan of the way Fuji do the zoom control on a lot of their cameras, it tends to add more confusion by trying to over simplify - the immediate problem people seem to have when using the camera is: How do I zoom? (in photo mode) Because it isn't obvious that you can push the zoom control up and down, and then in playback mode when looking for the down button, to play a video for example, again it isn't obvious that you can press the zoom control down...
Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - however, images were quite soft, and occasionally noisy. It has a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing in good light, but struggled in low-light. Red-eye was occassionally a problem.
Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, ISO 64 - 400 - as such I was unable to perform the usual ISO noise test, as the camera lacks the controls to manually change ISO. I've taken the standard test photo, just to show what it looks like with the automatic ISO selection:
Outside, again the camera had good colour, with good contrast and saturation. Detail seemed low - and images were quite soft. Noise seemed well controlled. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.
Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4.1x (A350) / 3.6x (A345) digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and digital zoom is capable of. (Images from the A345)
Lens noise and zoom: The lens noise is fairly average. The lens is fairly quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 10 steps between wide and telephoto. This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the photo of the shops, however it is still quite low.
Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, but not in telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 6cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.
The macro mode is good - the camera is okay, but not brilliant of toning down the flash, and colours are good, but detail is low, with soft images.
Movie: 320x240 at 15fps with sound. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera does an average job in low-light. The frame rate is highly average - and quite out of date compared to other new cameras.
Summary: Both cameras offer excellent value for money and offer a decent all round package for beginners, however image quality is quite average, and there seems to be little benefit in buying the 5 megapixel A350 over the 4 megapixel A345 as the A350 seemed slower in use, and didn't offer any extra detail (both cameras produced soft images). The A345 is probably worth having a look at simply for the excellent value for money it represents - however, if you have more money to spare, then I would recommend the Canon A510, or the A520, or one of the other Recommended or Highly Recommended cameras recently reviewed.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.