ANOTHER in our series of reports on compact, mostly automatic cameras: the Fuji TW300. Like most of these wonderfully simple cameras, it has auto-focus, auto-exposure, a kind of auto flash and DX (automatic setting of film speed). But this camera also has some remarkable differences.
First there's a dramatically different auto-loading system. With most of these cameras, you drop in your film, close the back and the camera loads itself and moves the counter to 1. On the TW300, you drop in your film, close the back and the camera starts to wind and wind and wind. All of the film is wound from the can onto a takeup spool. That's right: The film can empties.
A digital readout, meanwhile, is counting up. When all the film is wound on the takeup spool and the counter is set, you start to shoot, and the counter counts down! The exposed film is wound back into the can, protected from accidental fogging.
When I found out how the system worked, I challanged the manufacturer. "One grain of sand or dirt and I'm dead," I grumbled. In times past pulling exposed film out of the cartridge without breaking it open was courting disaster. And scratches on the film were the rule rather than the exception. But the folks at Fuji assured me that the system had been checked over and over and, in fact, was so tight that it was safer than most even at the beach.
The first 25 rolls I've shot have proved them correct: not a scratch, and the camera interior indeed stayed clean and dust free.
It's a radical idea, but once you get used to it, it's a good one!
The other new and different idea about the TW300 is the lens arrangement. Your normal shooting lens is an f/3.5, 38mm wide-angle. By twisting the lens barrel, however, you extend it and the lens becomes a 65mm, f/6 "telephoto." (As you twist the lens, the infrared auto-focus system, the auto-exposure system and the flash are changed to the proper mode.) The change between 38 and 65mm doesn't seem like very much, but makes a whale of a difference.
The camera is powered by Lithium batteries the manufacturer says should last five years in normal shooting. The flash is automatic and fires when the light level is low enough to demand it. Officially the flash recharges in six seconds, but I found that four seconds seemed to be correct. Manufacturer's suggested price is $290.
I also tested Fuji's DL-200, basically the same camera with the same kind of radical film takeup. The difference is in the lens system -- this camera doesn't have the dual-function lens.
Instead, you can add small, lightweight attachments over the built-in 38mm. One is a tele-converter that increases the focal length to 65mm -- and that makes a considerable difference when making portraits. The other is a close-up lens that allows you to move in as close as 10 inches. When this attachment fits over the lens, it carries with it a flash diffuser that makes close-up flash practical.
The camera that was tested had an optional "date back." Once you set it, it keeps the date like a calendar watch, and prints that date unobtrusively into each exposure: a handy gadget that provides an answer to the old question, "Now when did I make that shot?"
Another feature of this camera: the lever to open the back has been moved to the side. I really like this -- it's so much safer.
Manufacturer's suggested retail price for the DL 200 is $280; with the date back, $310. The two add-on lenses, sold as a set with their own cases, are $44.
Both cameras are auto focus, using a fine infrared system.