First of all, note to self: never take an unproved camera to an important trip or event. I bought this one a couple days before a trip to Europe with our daughter who’s moving out to college in a couple weeks. It was a memorable trip and I thought I had good pictures to remember it by. Well, they did look good on the 3″ LCD display on the back but on a PC, zoomed in to 100% of their 4000×3000 pixel size the pictures looked horrible. Please see the sample pictures I took. They are not from the trip and they are done in macro mode, so the comparison is not exact but they are very much representative of the issue at hand.
Check the picture taken with the camera as purchased, with firmware V 1.01. Looks OK (slightly out of focus, my apologies to the purists among us) at 800×600 or 1/5 of the size as taken. Please click on the small image to see the full size.
But look closely at details at 100% of the original size and notice the noise / grain. They are horrible, look like JPEG compression on 50% quality setting or less.
OK, after much grumbling and research on how to return the camera (proved impossible, the box had to be destroyed in order to apply for the $50 rebate which, by the way, came quicker than any rebate I ever applied for) I decided to take a chance and do the upgrade to the latest firmware V 1.02 even though FujiFilm lists only these improvements for V 1.02: “1. The selector buttons (4-direction buttons) of the camera can be fully operated without any problem when the camera is inserted with the waterproof case WP-FX500.“. Says nothing about the JPEG file saving algorithm.
Note that FujiFilm does not describe the upgrade process for those with Linux PCs. However, upgrading the FinePix F300EXR camera on Linux proved a piece of cake. Basically, all the Win/Mac software does is putting the firmware binary file ( download the F300EXR/F305EXR V1.02 firmware here ) into the root directory of the freshly formatted SDHC memory card, which you can easily do on any computer, Linux included, using an SDHC to USB adapter or a card reader if you so desire.
Here’s what came out of the firmware upgrade. Note the improved quality of the picture which, I guess (but have no way to prove it) can be attributed to a better way of saving the raw sensor output (this camera does not allow access to RAW) into a JPEG file.
And here is the closeup of the most important detail (this is an upcoming project which makes use of vintage 7-segment LED displays I have a particularly soft spot for). The full size (again, click on the small picture to expand) is 100% of the original size, just cropped to the detail to save space.
The actual settings of the camera are the same – EXR mode with HR – “Resolution Preference” mode and the closeup mode on. ISO is manually on 100 in both cases.
So, I do like the results of the firmware upgrade, I just don’t like how it was handled by the manufacturer – there is not even a peep anywhere on FujiFilm site about the new firmware doing anything different about the picture quality even though it was apparently such an important part of the upgrade. The picture quality issue had to be publicly recognized so people struggling with this camera could upgrade it. Otherwise they’ll just think FujiFilm FinePix F300EXR is a piece of junk ( i know I did) and will probably stay clear of Fuji cameras in the future. Additionally, I have registered my camera with FujiFilm the next day after the purchase and I think it would be reasonable to at least expect a short email saying something like: “hey user, we have a firmware upgrade you might want to look at”
I anyone from FujiFilm is reading this, I recommend you revise you policy for publicizing important firmware upgrades. There is nothing bad about recognizing a software issue, everyone that ever had to use a computer, camera or a smartphone (and that includes literally, everybody these days) would understand.
Had I known about the upgrade and what’s fixed in it, I would have much better pictures of the great family trip I had, pictures I would not be ashamed to print …
P.S. This was not intended as a description of the upgrade procedure. If you have a Windows or a Mac computer, head on to FujiFilm site and read more about the procedure. If you are on a Linux PC, download the firmware binary into the root directory of the SDHC card and put it into the camera, then just skip right to section C: Update the firmware using the media.. Follow those steps until you see something like this:
Good luck with your great new camera!