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Midrange FinePix Camera Offers Top-End Features
Knight Ridder News Service via Knight Ridder

Look through continuing-education catalogs for advanced photography classes, and you notice that many a course description specifies that only those with film cameras need apply.

The folks teaching those courses are probably reincarnations of English teachers who, once upon a time, decreed that ballpoint pens could not be used for writing essays.

Still, this is a mighty strange prejudice to harbor, to think that Kodak Gold 35mm film and a Minolta Maxxum 4 are the only legitimate way to capture an image. Never mind that cameras such as the Nikon D70, the Canon Rebel XT and their higher-priced cousins put the lie to that.

So do, increasingly, midrange cameras such as the FinePix E900.

Four things impressed me immediately about the $500 E900: It offers 9-megapixel resolution, it shoots in RAW mode, it offers a shooting-mode histogram, and it has a program-shift option.

If you are going to use the E900 to get snapshots of the family all gussied up for a spring party, you will not care much about those capabilities.

But you will if you like to manipulate and fashion your photos, especially after they are out of the camera and in the PC.

While shooting, the histogram will give you the chance to study your exposures and adjust them for follow-up shots. Program shifting will allow you to shoot a scene at different shutter-speed-aperture-opening combinations.

If you shot at 9 megapixels and set the camera to capture those images in RAW format, you would have photograph files laden with information that had not been tweaked by the camera's built-in software, that could be edited with abandon.

On the whole, the photographs the camera delivered were, in fact, quite good, rich in detail and well balanced. The E900 turns on immediately and wastes no time recording photos to the memory card. It has a viewfinder, which helps you preserve battery power by reducing your dependence on the LCD screen.

What is there not to like? Some photos had chromatic aberrations, a purplish discoloration at the edges of objects. A decent photo editor can help do away with them, as can shooting at smaller apertures. But they should not be there in the first place.

While the camera zooms in and out quite fast, at the 4X range, it takes the camera about two seconds to get a grip on its far-off subjects.

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