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Underwater compact camera review

Fuji FinePix F600 EXR UPDATE | Fuji WP-FXF500 housing

Equipment review
The camera | Following on from our previous reviews on the Fuji FinePix F80 and F500 we recently put the newer F600 compact through it's paces.

This version is extremely similar in looks to the F500. We were again sent the pure white version, which still looks fabulous beside those other objects of desire, the MacBook and the iPad.

All the physical elements of the F series Fuji compacts are much the same as when we first reviewed the F80 (read that here) but we will reiterate that the build quality of these cameras is amazing. They are chunky and sturdy, feeling much more substantial than many compacts that are available these days. Of course, if you want something really tiny and lightweight there are other Fuji cameras available.

The Fuji F600 EXR shoots up to 16 megapixels and has a wide angle 24-360 mm optical zoom. This model also has introduced RAW files for those who want to use that facility.

The housing | The underwater housing produced by Fuji to specifically fit this camera is the same as the previous, please refer to the review here.
Colour and exposure tests

The main aim with testing this newer F600EXR was to check focus on the video function as the F500 sent had been a pre-production model. The "hunting" focus has now been resolved and the clicking noise that was generated during this process has stopped.

However, strangely, the white balance software is now reading with a slight red/yellow bias, which at times was useful but sometimes distorted the colour in some frames.

These two videos were taken on a recent trip to Indonesia. The dark and murky waters in the Lembeh Straits, right, probably gave the white balance readings quite a challenge but all things considered, the results were pretty good.

The video below was taken in the clearer water of Buyat Bay and the colour balance was less successful, showing a red tinge. This was been corrected easily in iMovie.
The full length Buyat Bay video is here

Both videos were edited in Apple iMovie and had a small amount of colour balance correction. I say small - and mean it - because life is too short to fiddle about for an extended amount of time. What you see here is pretty much what you get from the camera.
Still photos

Taking stills underwater with the Fuji FinePix F600 EXR is limited in the same way as the F80 and F500. The port casts a shadow so you will need an external flash. If stills are your priority, please refer back to that section on the previous reviews. However, for many photos taken in reasonable daylight, using a custom white balance reading gave good results, although I felt there was often a slight yellow cast as shown below.

These two larger images of the pygmy seahorse in the Lembeh Straits demonstrate the colour cast. However, this is easy to correct with the Auto colour function in Adobe Photoshop.

LOCATION: Lembeh Straits
DEPTH: 8 metres
SETTINGS: Custom white balance
IMAGE: Juvenile golden trevally on tank

LOCATION: Halmahera
DEPTH: 22 metres
SETTINGS: Custom white balance
IMAGE: Clownfish in anemone

LOCATION: Lembeh Straits
DEPTH: 22 metres
SETTINGS: Custom white balance
IMAGE: Two Ambon scorpionfish
On land, this camera performs fantastically. The EXR function is fantastic for instantaneous snaps – you simply turn the camera on and it decides what to do, selecting macro or wide and an exposure all by itself. Very clever...

More information and similar cameras are on the FujiFilm website.

The Fuji FinePix F600 EXR continues in the same vein as the previous models tested. They are sturdy, well-built cameras that will withstand a fair deal of heavy-handed treatment like being dropped on the floor, into the bottom of a RIB or knocked about in rinse tanks. Likewise, the Fuji housings are strong and easy to maintain.

Fujifilm compact cameras improve step-by-step with every new version that Fuji release. This one is getting very close to what I would say is my ideal underwater toy of choice. The build quality – especially of the housing – is superb. For someone who is willing to add a flash and use it underwater for stills, it could be a great camera but stills in this 'house' are Shaun's domain. For me, it's simply about recording what is happening around me and loading the fun stuff up on this site. Although I know this isn't a professional-quality video, it does the right job for me.

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