There's nothing about the design of the 6-megapixel Fujifilm Finepix F30 ($340 street) that screams "look at me!"
It's your basic contemporary boxy rectangle 3x retracting-lens digicam. There's a nice 2.5 inch LCD on the back that gains up and down well enough on its own, along with a button to crank it up in sunlight. It's got a couple of buttons and knobs here and there in the typical places to control modes and settings. In short, it's very similar in design to so many other digicams on the market right now. But what's inside this camera differentiates it from all the other 3x rectangular boxes on the market -- an ISO range all the way up to 3200(!).
While so many other cameras on the market try to dazzle (or baffle) the buyer with superfluous bells, whistles, buzzers, and non-photo extras, it is nice to see a compact camera that is pushing the envelope in terms of performance as a camera -- and not as an arcade, iPod substitute, instant diet machine, or portable multimedia slideshow player.
This camera seems designed for the photographer who wants a lot of big-camera functions and performance in a small package. The Fujifilm Finepix F30 caters to this market with such functions as custom white balance, an Aperture or Shutter Priority mode, and three metering modes: Multi-segment, average, and spot. The metering modes are accessed via the obtusely titled "photometry" menu item, by the way. "Metering" works just as well, and takes up less space.
Another odd and obtuse characteristic of this camera is the "Manual" setting. It does not allow the user to control shutter or aperture, but does allow ISO selection, white balance, and autofocus mode. We can see this confusing users until they read the manual, to understand what Fujifilm means by "Manual" with this camera. As for "manual" control of shutter speed and aperture, you can choose to control one or the other via the A/S mode dial. Switching from Aperture Priority to Shutter Priority is via the LCD menu.
The 8-24mm lens (38-108mm 35mm equivalent) varies in aperture from f/2.8 at widest to a sluggish f/5 at full optical zoom -- but because of the very usable ISO range based upon our lab testing, Fujifilm can get away with this slow maximum aperture at the tele end. It would be nice for Fujifilm to improve the optics to bring the max tele f-stop closer to f/4 in the next version, but we'll have to wait and see.