Designing a camera around a touchscreen makes a lot of sense. If you're going to have a display on the back anyway, why not double it up as a control method? That's the route taken by Fujifilm's slim, slick-looking Z700EXR.
Fujifilm's Z700EXR strips back the hardware controls to just a shutter button, a 5x zoom rocker and a playback/camera toggle. Everything else is handled by the 3.5in touchscreen – and, in fact, you can take pictures with the touchscreen alone.
However, while touching an area of the image to select a focal point works fairly well, tapping the screen to take a shot is ergonomically awkward and has the side effect of jogging the camera at the critical moment.
A touch of confusion
The design of the touchscreen interface is a disappointment. It should make for a more direct approach but requires an irksome amount of button presses in many cases, and sometimes leads to confusion. It has a number of auto modes, for example, and the arrangement of icons around a few of the menu pages isn't the easiest to follow.
Some touchscreen functions are pleasant enough, such as flicking through pictures with a swipe of the finger, but often the experience is clumsy with too many taps involved. Combined with the placement of the lens at the top left corner of the unit, the question of how to hold the camera is one that never really goes away. Grip it as you'd like and you'll probably take pictures of your fingers.
There's another disappointment in store with the picture quality. Much is made of the 12MP EXR sensor but it doesn't always hit the spot. On overcast days, the camera seems to see the world in shades of grey, punctuated by over-saturated splashes of colour here and there, as if daubed on after the event.
When viewed up-close, detail isn't up to the standards of some rival compacts, with muddled edge definition.
On a sunny day it copes rather better, and there's a high dynamic range mode that aims to maximise shadow detail without blowing out highlights in scenes with dark and light areas, which works fairly well.
And there's better news on low-light performance. In fact, this is by far the camera's strongest feature. Much of the grain and noise you might expect from indoor scenes apppears to be smoothed out – albiet with somewhat exaggerated dollops of colour that would might unnatural in exterior settings – but have more of a flattering, warming effect here.
The Z700EXR is a stylish piece of kit, for sure, and with 720p HD video recording it's a capable snapper, too. But we'd still like a better interface, sharper images and a body that feels more comfortable in the hand.