If a camera can detect faces in your shots, then why shouldn't it find flowers and mountains too? The 12-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F60fd (US$300) adds automatic scene recognition to the face-detection abilities of its predecessor, the Finepix F50fd, which at one time was a Best Buy on our Point and Shoot Cameras chart.
When you point the camera at your subject, the F60fd's new SR-Auto setting evaluates the shapes, focus distance, and lighting conditions, then chooses one of four scene modes automatically. If a flower is close to the lens, it automatically sets a macro mode to focus on the fine detail. For low-light and night scenes, the camera adjusts the shutter speed and sensitivity to reduce blur. It chooses extra sharpness and depth of field for landscapes. And it optimizes the focus, aperture, and speed to keep all the faces it finds in portraits sharp and evenly exposed.
And all this automated optimization produces little to no shutter lag--the F60fd continuously monitors the subject, so it's very quick to lock in and shoot when you press the shutter button. However, the extra power required for automatic scene recognition may be the reason the F60fd didn't fare well in our battery tests. We took 190 shots on a single charge, significantly down from the 276 we achieved with the F50fd.
When SR-Auto mode is turned off, you still pick from a set of scene modes to shoot complex subjects such as fireworks displays, sporting events, and beach outings. What's more, when you need maximum control, you can also select aperture priority, shutter priority, or full manual modes. Whichever mode you're using, the built-in dual image stabilization system helps to reduce the effects of unsteady hands, especially in dark surroundings or when the 3X zoom lens is extended for telephoto shots. While it also extends its face detection function to remove red-eye from portraits, the camera does lack a few advanced features, such as exposure bracketing (automatically shooting at a variety of settings, then letting you select the best one), panoramic stitching, and manual focus.
Though the F60fd has a larger screen, at 3 inches (and easily viewed from an angle), than the F50fd, it maintains the understated look of its predecessor. It's available in an uninspiring silver finish, but my review model came in a more sophisticated-looking matte black. If you're after something in a flashier color, you'll have to look elsewhere. The camera supports SD and SDHC memory cards, in addition to the slightly more obscure xD card.
The PC World Test Center awarded the F60fd high marks for the fine sharpness and low distortion of its images. However, the relatively weak flash hampered its results in our flash shots. In my own testing, I tried to leave the flash off as much as possible. One of the strengths of Fujifilm's proprietary Super CCD sensor design is its performance in low light. I got some great indoor shots at my godson's birthday party--you could see the whole room and not just the kids closest to the camera. I could also bump the ISO sensitivity up to 1600 with far less image noise than I typically observe from other point-and-shoots.
Finally, the F60fd has a movie mode, shooting 640-by-480 AVI (motion JPEG) clips with mono sound. But you'll have no zoom while you're filming, although zooming is quite common in video-capable point-and-shoot cameras.
If you take mainly impromptu photos of family and friends, you'll find the Fujifilm FinePix F60fd a breeze to use. Its automatic scene recognition means there's little to think about before you start snapping, yet it also offers plenty of advanced features for when you have more time.