Fuji's MX-500 camera is the real deal





At $479 on the General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule,
the MX-500 from Fuji Photo Film USA Inc. may be one of the least expensive megapixel
digital cameras around.


As with any bargain, the MX-500 has a few drawbacks, but I know of nothing comparable
in imagery and resolution. Its inexpensive FlashPath adapter makes the


MX-500—or any other make of camera with SmartMedia storage—easier than ever
to use.


The SmartMedia plastic card has gold connectors and is about the size of a business
card folded in half.


FlashPath makes it work like a 3.5-inch floppy diskette. Install the software drivers,
slip the SmartMedia card into the FlashPath and slide that into any floppy drive. The PC
will think the SmartMedia is just another floppy.


A PC running Microsoft Windows 9x accepts SmartMedia cards from 2M to 16M, and
downloading photos is as easy as dragging and dropping. No more special cables or PC Card
worries.


Although the MX-500 does a pretty good job of taking photos, Fuji should simplify the
interface between camera and user.


In addition to the digital camera’s 1.5-inch LCD panel, the user must grapple with
a dial printed in hieroglyphics, a four-way direction pad, a button labeled EXE, and
another button with a flower and four arrows.


Figuring out how they work together is a real puzzle.


Taking photos with the MX-500 is a little more straightforward, at least once you get
the dial in the right position. The built-in flash tends to overcompensate even on simple
point-and-shoot tasks.


The digital zoom does not let you see the zoomed image in the viewfinder, but the LCD
panel displays it just fine.


Images taken without flash do not have quite as good color quality as I’ve come to
expect from Fuji.


Shadows appear heavy and overall contrast is washed-out.


The company claims the camera has a 1.5-megapixel detector, but images come in at
1,280- by 1,024-pixel resolution, which is a little better than 1.3 megapixels.


One megapixel roughly translates to a million pixels. The more pixels, the greater
detail in the digital photo, and many cameras in this price range are less granular.


The MX-500 requires four AA batteries, which lasted much longer than I expected. Over a
couple of months of on-and-off use, I traded cells only once.


Other digital cameras with a little better quality but the same megapixel rating cost
up to twice the MX-500’s price. Sometimes when you get what you paid for, it still
turns out to be a good deal. 


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