The Fujifilm Finepix A405 Digital Camera

Bob Leggitt | Wednesday, 21 August 2013 |

When Fuji began distributing their A405 digital camera exclusively to the Dixons / Curry’s / PC World group of stores in the autumn of 2003, they already had form in taking regular products from the line, giving them misleading spec ‘upgrades’, and sneaking them into outlets where the customer base was known to lack market knowledge. The previous Fuji A403, which had arrived in spring ’03, incorporated a Super CCD sensor chip into the lowly A202, and produced a supposed resolution output of 4 megapixels. But in reality, the camera offered no gain in image quality over its standard (not to mention lower priced) contemporary, and many would argue that the ‘upgraded’ device was actually worse.

Fujifilm A405 digital camera

The A405 was undeniably a better camera than the A403, offering superior (if more cumbersome) construction, and not only adding an improved lens, but making that improved lens a 3x optical zoom to boot – which easily trumped the A403’s super-cheap, non-variable provision. Otherwise, though, Fuji / Dixons PLC were employing familiar tactics. The A405 was simply an A205S (similar to the 2600Z and A204) with the standard 2MP sensor chip switched for a Super CCD, and the maximum output resolution basically doubled to 4MP, courtesy of some decidedly unsophisticated in-camera interpolation.

Like the A403, the A405 was introduced at a retail price of £199, but the superior build and lens, and the addition of an optical zoom capability, made the A405 better initial value. In the run up to Christmas 2003, however, the camera was heavily promoted with a half price discount, and for the average consumer with only a cursory understanding of digital camera brands and spec, £99 for an apparently well specified Fuji digital camera was a very tempting offer.

In fact, the A405 was quite an enjoyable camera to use in its time. It’s very basic. You select the image resolution you want, then point and shoot. It’s just a shame that good results are not a little easier to attain…

The colour from the Super CCD in the A405 (and the A403) is disappointing for a Fuji product. I wondered at first if the manufacturer was using old Super CCDs rather than the Third Generation design contemporary in 2003, but actually I think it was just the in-camera processing that sucked. These Dixons ‘special’ cameras were not designed around the Super CCD chip like the dedicated Super CCD models. They were designed to house standard Fuji CCDs, which had different colour properties. If the colour processing wasn’t fully amended to suit the Super CCD, the output colour would leave something to be desired, and I’m guessing that’s exactly why the aesthetics are a bit suspect in the A405. You can get improved results by using the “cloud cover” white balance in sunshine, rather than the recommended “sunny” white balance, but that compromises the blues and makes the skies look a bit nasty and greenish.

Austin Park Longbridge 2013_jpegjuice
This shot of the newly developing Austin Park, Longbridge (Birmingham, UK), was taken in summer 2013 using the Fuji A405. The camera is unable to produce monochrome photos internally, so some additional processing was required. It's an attractive image, though, which shows what the A405 can do - even if most of the time it doesn't.

It’s possible of course to correct and enhance a colour rendition using digital editors, and if you’re good with colour and saturation curves you can make your own auto-routines which will sort out the oddly biased colour in a single click. Another option would be to strip out the colour entirely and use the A405 to produce monochrome images. Again, though, user-processing is required there, as the device has no in-camera black and white mode.

But the problem with either of the above measures is that these cameras weren’t designed for an area of the market where consumers would typically know how to use computer editors or want to bother learning. If you’d known enough about digital imaging to address the A405’s shortcomings, you’d probably have known enough not to have bought the camera in the first place.

The demo images I’ve included in this piece look fine, but it has to be remembered that both have a resolution of just 1.3 megapixels (nowhere near the 4MP maximum), and the monochrome shot has been re-processed to eliminate an uninspiring colour rendition and add a bit of zing to the highlights. It is possible to produce nice photos with the A405 (more so than with the A403), but it certainly doesn’t happen with every click of the shutter, and it’s unlikely you’ll get adequate image quality at resolutions of above 1.3 megapixels. That’s something I explained in more depth in my A403 article.

Rosebay Willowherb_PB_jpegjuice
One of the interesting things about the less eminent Fuji cameras is that quite a few of them perform well in macro mode. The Fuji 1300 was one camera which gave unexpectedly good results at very close range, but the A405 can produce some attractive moderate close-ups too.

CONCLUSION

Naturally, if you spot one of these old specimens in a high street secondhand shop for a few quid, as I did, you might find the temptation to buy yourself a new toy irresistible. Surely, few tech enthusiasts would begrudge the cost of a junk food blow-out for what was once a two hundred quid product. I find that the experimentation which follows purchases like this often prompts me to take photos I wouldn’t otherwise have bothered taking, and that’s always a recipe for pleasure and satisfaction in the more distant future.

But in the grand progression of digital camera history, the Fuji A405 was no cause for celebration. As with the A403, the spec and value for money looked impressive. But in reality, the images struggled to compete with those from cheaper and more conservatively specified devices (not least from Fuji’s own range), and the proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating.

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