top of page


Fujifilm 6900z - My First Digital


Before September of 2001 I had used a few Pentax film SLRs at home and college, but I hadn't used them a huge amount. I perhaps had a fascination for cameras as product design more than a deep interest in photography as an art form. Although this would continue for a little while longer I was about to make a decision that would eventually change all that. A year into my first job as an Environment Artist (Codemasters), I was getting more into 3D modelling and becoming curious about creating my own textures. I started considering the purchase of a digital camera...


I remember lusting after the pioneering Nikon D1 DSLR more than a year earlier, but at £5000 (over £11,000 in today money), I would have to set might sights on something a little more realistic. The concept of digital photography was exciting. Being able to take images, get them on to a computer quickly and cheaply was truly game changing. After looking at a few camera models and lots of reviews, I decided on the Fujifilm 6900z. Now that I am a retro digital enthusiast, I had to hunt down this camera again and test it properly. So, did the image quality live up to the hype in 2001 and what was this camera like to use 22 years later? The perspective of time and the experience of using several other cameras from this time period means I have some thoughts...

The Fujifilm 6900z - Taken with the Sony A1 + Sony 135GM lens (@f/2.2) in 2023

Key Specifiations




DR Stops:



AF points:


Live View:







1/1.7" CCD


5ps / 5 shots


up to 1/1000th

1/4s - 1/2,000th


320 x 240 @ 10fps


100 - 400

0.5x / 110k90%

2.0" / 130k / Fixed

Smart Media


~500 (NP-80)


This was a 3.3 megapixel (interpolated to 6mp) camera. With a 1/1.7", 4:3 ratio Super-CCD sensor and a built-in 8-46mm f/2.8-3.1 zoom lens (equivalent to a 35mm f/12.5 to 210mm f/14). It wrote images to smart media cards (up to 128MB) and had a rechargeable proprietary battery (NP-80), which you could charge externally or internally (impressive). You could view images on either the rear 2.0" LCD or the 0.56" EVF. I thought that these LCD colours had deteriorated over the years, but then I looked at the DPR review and I realized they had always been that terrible, wow!


The most disappointing aspect of the 6900z is how patient you need to be with every step of using this camera. Turning the camera on/off, the stop-motion screen refresh rate, the glacial auto focus, reviewing images, but perhaps worst is the shutter lag. Taking a photo while set to full manual demonstrates how much time the sensor needs to "prepare" itself. Action photography will be a disappointment. I promise I'm not overly spoiled by my main camera being the Sony A1. I have used many retro digital cameras from this era recently, most of the DSLRs have aged much better. I was right to be desperate to upgrade to one here.

Leamington Spa station (Sept 2001)

Image Quality

Jumping straight to the elephant in the (processing) room, let's discuss Fujifilm's pointless pixel interpolation. Their excuse for employing this technique was that it extracted more detail due to their use of odd-shaped, offset photosites. DPR's review​ of the camera does show the 6900z's image quality to be noticeably sharper than the Nikon Coolpix 995 (also 3mp), but that's more likely caused by better processing. Since this sensor (like most others) uses a "beyer pattern" filter - its colour resolution was actually only 0.825 megapixels, so bumping that up to 6 megapixels was mathematically meaningless. My opinion of the time (and certainly now) was(is) that Fujifilm's pixel doubling was a marketing gimmick to sway potential customers from other brands, it worked on me and I don't feel proud of it. Dealing with larger files and poor native image quality annoyed enough people that Fuji eventually stopped doing it (by 2006).

The lens has a lot of barrel distortion on the wide end and given the small sensor there is no discernible shallow depth of field to speak of. Compared to most of the cameras I review today the image quality is heavily marred by the small sensor, uninspiring zoom lens and harsh image compression. It's quite possible that current phones could take better quality images than this (i'll try a comparison soon). Of course that was not an option in 2001, but it's also interesting to note that Fuji's DSLR at the time (Fujifilm S1 Pro) cost over four times as much! It was also only 3 megapixels and could only shoot JPG. The next generation of DSLR was much more interesting however...


The first thing you will notice picking up this camera today is how light it is. This 6900z is actually double the weight of my current phone, but it doesn't feel like it due to it's weight distribution, ergonomics and materials. It is apparently mostly metal, but that must be a foil coating rather than a solid metal frame. It feels about as much of a toy as it actually was. Given it's price at the time (about £700 IIRC) I remember being rather scared to drop it but that was far more about its value than any fear of losing an awesome gadget. 


Birmingham, Cambrian Wharf (Jan 2002)


The menu is nice and simple by today's standards, but some of the functions set to dedicated buttons would be better off in here too (image quality). The menu being on the shooting wheel is not so nice however. It's not easy to turn and cycling through all the modes can only be done in one direction. Changing the aperture in manual mode requires an oddly positioned button to be pressed while scrolling the camera only dial, this is fiddly and weird compared to any film camera. The main control wheel was difficult to find by feel, the grip was too recessed and it was not satisfying to turn. The punch-in focus operation has a dedicated button was is great, but trying to see hat was in focus on the tiny, low resolution screens was next to impossible. Some of this could be being spoiled by modern standards of high end cameras, but also its buttons and LCDs could have degraded somewhat over the years.

Card & Connections

The Smart media card was probably not a huge issue back in 2001, but from today's perspective it's an obscure format. It didn't last very long in digital photography's history, thus supporting card readers are hard to come by today. The other option to retrieve your images in 2023 would be the data cable, but this is surprisingly even more difficult to track down. Although it's USB, the camera connector is a "flat mini-B 4-pin" type (I think), which is extremely obscure and rare today. The manuals simply refer to it as a USB cable, which clearly was not the case even in 2001. I ended buying two incorrect ones before realizing which type it actually was. It's not difficult to spend more souring this cable today than the camera itself!

Charging the cameras battery (NP-80) can be tricky if you don't have any of the original wall chargers. If you're hunting down one of these cameras today then I highly recommend getting one with some way to charge it. If, like me, you stupidly only get the camera and battery, there is still hope. The battery can actually be charged inside the camera. Originally this would have required a dedicated charger, but today you can get away with a simple USB cable from Aliexpress for just a few £/$/€ and this worked well for me.

Moody sky over Yeovil (Dec 2001)


The 6900z could record video, but the specifications will look rather comical by today's standards. Quicktime Motion JPG (.AVI) is the only video codec format on offer. Video quality is locked to 320 x 240 pixels at 10 fps (up to 160 seconds) and audio is not supported. Exposure is automatic and the zoom range seems to top out around a modest 70mm, rather than the max 210mm for stills. 


This is the first video that I took after getting the camera (two days before the twin tower attacks). Since I bought the camera in Birmingham this could very well have been my first few minutes with the camera, travelling back home on the train to Leamington Spa. I only took four video clips with the camera over my year with it, which I regret now. It's amazing to look back on these old memories and places today, more than two decades in the future. I've moved to three different cities (in three countries) since.

Birmingham Moor Street (Sept 2001)

You can also see a video comparison between the below two cameras just for fun here if you're curious.


It has been really fun looking back at my first experience with digital photography, more than two decades later. Although this camera had manual modes they are not friendly to use and thus old me left the camera in full auto mode and was not adventurous enough to experiemnt with manual. I didn't learn much about photography in my time with the camera and certainly didn't take full advantage of what it could (in theory) do. I was largely confused by the controls and disappointed with the image quality (as I still am today). However the convenience of digital was impossible to dismiss and it firmly cemented my obsession with cameras and digital photography, so I have to give it credit for that.


My photography skills did eventually improve with digital, but not until I upgraded to a DSLR, where I stuck with Fuji and bought the S2 Pro DSLR a year later. I will be getting that camera again soon as well, so watch this space for a re-review of that...


bottom of page