The Light Slide

fun with photography

The Fujifilm Finepix F450 Zoom

Is it time for another vintage digicam? You bet your sweet pixelated ass it is!

The Fujifilm Finepix F450 Zoom came out in 2004.

This little chonky square was one of the very first vintage digicams I snagged this fall — well before I decided it was going to be a project.

silvery square-shaped camera with a telescoping lens

The motivation was pure nostalgia: Back in 2002, when they were new, I had a Fuji Finepix F402… not unlike this model but with a shiny circle around the lens, and half the megapixels.

It was that little camera that broke me.

You see, the resolution was only 2 megapixels but the photographs I took with it looked so sharp and beautiful at 100%. I remember specifically marveling at a shot I took of a pelican on a rustic piling. It was vivid, textured, dimensional. It was wonderful, in the true sense of causing wonder.

But one day, poisoned by the technology treadmill, I decided that 2 megapixels was not enough and so I sold it and replaced it with a newer Fuji. The pictures were bigger, for sure… but the image quality was suddenly awful. The demon of software interpolation had arrived. Even when I down-sized or zoomed out, there was something missing in those files. The joy was gone. I returned it in disgust and haven't really enjoyed a digital camera since. (Until I began this project!)

It was that feeling of wonder I was seeking out… just like every other nearly-middle-aged person seeking out the thrills of their youth, only more boring. But the F402 is available literally nowhere for sale except one obscure Korean shop and, while I may be extravagant, I'm not paying-$250-for-a-20-year-old-2-megapixel-camera extravagant.  

So until I find a cheap one, I've got this F450 Zoom.

And I'm glad I do!

The Sensor

It's a CCD! And it delivers those magical, vintage CCD colors. Details and latitude are surprisingly good for being just 1/2.5" in size and 18 years old. The 5.2 megapixel files weigh in at 1.4mb. It shoots jpeg only.

5 megapixels is the beginning of what I think of as "the gradient of acceptability." They look good on screen, and you can make good quality album-sized prints.  

There's nothing else special to note about the sensor except that it's a standard CCD, which is important. Fuji's later compact cameras feature their own invention, so-called SuperCCD sensors with an "innovative" honeycomb color photosite layout that produces higher-resolution pictures through interpolation… aka computational photography… aka blurry crap. SuperCCD? More like PooperCCD!

Bitter? Who, me? Never.

cough Without further ado…

The Quality

Check out my Flickr album.

twiggy branches lit by red-orange sunlight in front of a darker desert background
This automatically triggered the fill flash, but as you can see it didn't overtake the orange sunset colors

In short… the Finepix F450 is almost everything you'd want out of a vintage digicam:

  • It's got that vintage 35mm consumer film look.
  • It's got nice bright colors without looking posterized.
  • It's got character but not too much character.
  • Latitude is better than I'd expected.
  • Grain in dimmer situations is relatively pleasant and free from chroma noise.
  • It's not great for low light scenes such as dark cloudy sunsets, but that's expected.
  • It's not super sharp, but it's got enough detail that it gives the impression of being sharp, which to me is a genuinely film-like attribute.
  • Fill flash and whole flash work well at various distances and give an even more vintage snapshot look.
  • Both distant subjects and close subjects look good (sounds weird to say this but some of these vintage cameras always render backgrounds like scratchy watercolors, not bokeh but true resolution failure…)
  • The zoom lens delivers solid performance throughout the whole range!

The Experience

Point & shoots can only go two ways: wonderful and terrible. This one is a point & shoot where you can really relax and just snap away. I trust it. Everything pretty much just works. Even the fill flash is surprisingly good… I'm happy to let this camera make flash decisions for me, and that's something I basically never do because there's nothing that ruins a photo like a bad flash.

It makes cute little chirping noises that I personally find nostalgic (the same as my much-missed F402). It's responsive and does what I ask it to, and the chirps confirm each step is successful. Of course you can turn these off, but why would you? This is no stealth street shooter.

It feels like you're using something retro rather than old and crummy. It's fun to use!

Boring details:

  • The menus are fine. You don't have to use them really because it's not like you can control the aperture… this is a point & shoot.
  • It charges in a cradle, which is kind of annoying.
  • It takes an XD card, which is also kind of annoying; they're extremely tiny and easy to lose. I had to buy yet another card reader to get one that did XD.

The Body

It's a square! I love an odd shape, but this one is also compact and functional and it can slip in a pocket. It's heavier than it looks, well-built. It can be a little tough to keep your grip on it sometimes, so definitely use the wrist strap.

The buttons, switches, levers, and dials are firm and satisfying. Turning the camera on by sliding the front bevel is very satisfying. The battery door and clip seem robust (a real issue with old digicams).

The little screen was remarkably large at the time for such a tiny camera, judging by the news coverage I read, and is pretty crappy while also being better than I'd expect for a camera this age.

The Verdict

I paid $20 for the Finepix F450 Zoom, including the charging cradle, power cable, and a 512mb XD card. I bought it to compare to a treasured memory — always a bad idea — and at first I wasn't feeling it. But the more I shoot it, the more I love it.

It's an ideal vintage digicam if you want the vintage look without a lot of hassle or compromises. It doesn't have the most vintage character but it's also flexible, easy to shoot, and easy to live with.

Going Shopping

If you can get this camera under $40, I recommend it!

That's the cost of buying, developing and scanning 1 or maybe 2 rolls of consumer-grade 35mm film. You can't beat that value.

It's well worth it to get the zoom model (F450 not F440) because not only is the lens very good, but it adds an additional megapixel.

The Finepix F450 is not as common as other vintage digis, and it doesn't look like a high-value camera for people who find it in a box and decide to sell it, so if you really want a deal, I would hunt around for insufficiently labeled listings that may only say something like "Fuji camera" or "Fujifilm camera."