Fuji Zoomdate 1300 – Is that a telephoto in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Hi, fellow photography (and camera) nerds! Gaston W. here, reminiscing about a time when ‘zoom’ meant something on a camera, not an awkward work meeting. Today I’ll be recounting tales of my experiences and appreciation for the unpretentious Fuji Zoomdate 1300. It’s like having your own personal time machine to the 2000s, minus the questionable fashion choices and dial-up internet.  This little gem is an affordable zoom point and shoot that has accompanied me on numerous street photography adventures. With its focal length starting at 28mm and an unimposing demeanour, this compact camera has managed to capture some good looking images (I hope), despite a few quirks. Let’s delve into what makes this camera truly exceptional (and why it’s a fantastic alternative to the likes of the overpriced Yashica T4).

Taken at around 50mm with expired fuji Press 1600 – slightly cropped. It did a great job of the focus and exposure.

Chapter 1: Size Matters – The Art of the Pocketable Camera

The Fuji Zoomdate 1300 embodies the adage, «good things come in small packages.» Its soap bar form factor, silver design, and solid metal front panel lend it a subtle yet clean appearance. This compact marvel is the perfect size and weight for slipping into your pocket, making it an ideal everyday carry that you can take out when an opportunity presents itself.

Taken at 28mm from the hip – notice the ’02 date stamp. I left the date function on by mistake, oops. Focus is bang on again. (rainbow caused by rain droplets on the lens)

Equipped with cutting-edge tech from the early 2000s, this pocket-sized powerhouse boasts very accurate passive Autofocus, a diopter adjustment, auto-adjusting flash (zooms with the lens) electron beam coating (Super EBC Fujinon! I like to think this is the special sauce for the great contrast?), and aspherical elements. You have macro and infinity mode – the infinity mode is handy for shooting through dirty windows or other situations that may fool the autofocus. For the spec enthusiasts, the 28-130mm has 7 elements in 6 groups, starting at f5.8 and ending at a pretty dull f11.5. It’s a tiny, technological marvel that packs a punch in the image quality department. Max shutter speed is 1/500s, which again is really respectable and all you need to freeze movement in the street. The sharpness and contrast at the wide end is really surprising, with just a bit of vignetting and the tiniest bit of smearing in the corners to add some delicious character (because perfect is just boring). Distortion seems a non-issue in my use, where other cameras have failed me in that department – Olympus XA4, I’m looking at you with your weird and wavy distortion pattern.

Taken at 130mm, this is still sharp enough for a decent print, and I would never have gotten this scene with a 35mm prime lens – the perks of a zoom!

Chapter 2: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zoom

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was initially skeptical about the whole “zoom” thing. I mean, who needs a 130mm zoom on a tiny point and shoot? But after playing around with the Fuji Zoomdate 1300, I realised that versatility is its greatest strength. The 28mm wide-angle lens is perfect for up-close-and-personal street scenes or stealthy hip shots (and sadly a rare focal length in an affordable point and shoot). And for those moments when you can’t quite get close enough, the telephoto end of the zoom comes in handy.

You don’t always have to include people in your street photography in my opinion. Again, bang on exposure here.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But doesn’t image quality suffer at the long end of the zoom?” Well, my friends, yes and no. While it’s true that images can get a tad soft at 130mm, I firmly believe that in street photography, a slightly blurry image is better than no image at all. After all, it’s all about capturing the moment any way you can, right? And don’t forget about the focal lengths in between. You have 35mm and 50mm for those more classic perspectives (to my knowledge, there are no prime lensed 50mm P&S!), and 60mm to 90mm for light telephoto perspective. I agree the 130mm is a bit of a gimmick, but on those rare occasions you can actually get a nice shot with it.

Although it’s one of my favourite films (sadly I’m running out!) the expired Fuji Press 1600 struggles a bit with grey scenes like this, despite the commendable efforts of the Zoomdate.

Chapter 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Quirky

As enamored as I am with the Fuji Zoomdate 1300, I must admit that it’s not without its flaws (but then again, who is?). This unassuming camera has a few quirks and issues that you should be aware of before you dash out to purchase one.

For one, the build quality leaves something to be desired, which I suppose is the trade-off for the camera’s diminutive size and advanced features. I’ve had to clean the zoom and menu button contacts on mine, and the other two I’ve purchased had issues ranging from worn focus motors to dead LCDs and light leaks from the lens. So, brace yourself for the possibility that your camera may need some TLC, or be ready to fork out a bit extra for a tested one.

Another potential drawback is the camera’s low aperture. While great for nailing focus and achieving a deep depth of field, it can be limiting in low-light situations. But hey, it’s a tiny point and shoot, not the Hubble telescope, so don’t expect miracles in the darkest recesses of the city.

Lastly, while most zoom point and shoots stayed on eBay shelves a couple years ago, it seems prices have picked up slightly, and most of the zoomdates I see go for around 60£ now. I bought mine for about 15£ four years ago so that’s a steep rise.

Great exposure again in a challenging backlit situation. This shot demonstrates how useful 28mm is for shots from the hip – the composition is quite good for something I didn’t properly take through the viewfinder.

Chapter 4: Street Philosophy and Personal Preferences

For me, the beauty of street photography lies in capturing expressions, gestures, interesting people going about their day, or unusual scenes that can disappear in an instant. With the Zoomdate 1300, you’re able to do just that – even if it means embracing some of its imperfections. Sure, it’s not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but it’s the perfect companion for those who appreciate the beauty in the mundane.

Some of the greats, like Robert Frank and Daido Moriyama, have used point and shoots to capture city life (respectively a MJU1 and a Ricoh GR1). In that spirit, the Zoomdate 1300 allows you to focus on your environment rather than fumbling with settings and dials, giving you the freedom to truly immerse yourself.

A zoom point and shoot is an everyday carry that can do it all, but that also makes it a fantastic backup when you’re experimenting with unique cameras and lenses (think 20mm or super telephoto). If you happen upon a moment that begs for a more natural perspective, the Zoomdate 1300 has got your back. The only thing it struggles with is natural light at night, but in a pinch, you can always resort to using the flash.

Set at around 50mm – notice the light leak from the lens, or internal reflection.

The Verdict – To Zoom or Not to Zoom

So, is the Fuji Zoomdate 1300 the perfect camera for everyone? No, but it’s certainly a fantastic option for those seeking a compact, versatile, and affordable camera for street photography. It’s a bit like a Tamagotchi – if you don’t give it care and attention it might just die on you (or it might decide to die randomly no matter what). Its limitations and imperfections only add to its charm, and in my opinion, it’s a camera that firmly deserves its spot in my collection.

In the end, it all comes down to perspective. If you’re willing to embrace the quirks of the Zoomdate 1300 (and find one that actually works), you’ll find that it can be an invaluable tool in your street photography arsenal. So, I ask you: To zoom or not to zoom? That, my friends, is the question.

Thanks for reading!
If you’re interested to see more street photography, I have a street photography exhibition coming up this June (2023) in Glasgow: https://www.alchemyexperiment.com/a-new-world-gaston-welisch

I also have recently started a Youtube channel where I speak about street photography, cameras and show POV footage of what it’s like taking pictures in Glasgow: @GastonW

Finally like most photographers I have an instagram (there is no escape): @cigaregentique

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11 thoughts on “Fuji Zoomdate 1300 – Is that a telephoto in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

  1. Stala Gavrielides

    Nice write up and great to read/ learn of an affordable point n shoot that won’t cost you a kidney!
    Even though you’re running out of Fuji Superia 1600, maybe give Candido (ISO 800) a try in the future.

  2. Nice review! I’m always glad to learn about point and shoots that don’t cost several hundred dollars. I have a Fujifilm Discovery 290 Zoom; It’s pretty good but I don’t think the lens is quite as good as the one on your camera. Great article and photos!

  3. Gaston, P&S cameras are underrated for their usefulness. I’ve had several over the decades and have been generally pleased with the results. My main tote about camera has been a Contax G2 since 2008 but there are times my Rollei Prego 90 gets a more likable image. Imperfection isn’t always a bad thing. The feature set on the Rollei is pretty extensive so I can use it in virtually any lighting situation. I shot a personal project back in 2008-2014 titled “Drive Time”. Images shot from my van drivers seat of assorted subject matter whilst driving to town. A P&S camera fits this type of work perfectly. The key to getting the most out of a P&S is knowing all it’s features and when to use them. They can be a photographer’s Swiss army knife.

    Best on your upcoming exhibition.

    1. Gaston Welisch

      Thanks Bill! I actually have a Rollei Prego 90, but while I love the ergonomics and the images it is just a bit too big as a pocket camera – perfect for storing in you car though! Totally agree about imperfection, especially with 35mm, a bit of character is always pleasant. The image shouldn’t be “fuzzy”, but a bit of smearing in the corners, vignetting, etc… can work great. It’s a delicate balance! Hope you’re enjoying your Contax G2. 🙂

    2. Have any of you actually figured out how to use the exposure compensation on the Prego 90?
      Not the +1.5 button, that one is easy. But the +-3 one where you have to use the menu settings. The implementation seems so bad that I’m wondering if I’m doing it wrong? You can’t turn off the flash as it only lets you set exposure compensation in auto mode (!!?). This must be one of the strangest design decisions I’ve ever seen. Also it resets after every shot. Am I missing something here?

      1. Mats, I was gifted my Prego in 2008 without an owners manual and I’ve never tried to figure out the exposure compensation. Because of your question I just purchased an owners manual online from KEH. I do know it resets itself after each shot because I like to use the Bulb setting. If I’m in a difficult lighting situation I will use fill flash, slow sync flash or bulb to compensate. Honestly, I use the G2 for the vast majority of backlit shots and engage the exposure lock feature it has. Sorry I can’t answer your question fully.

      2. I hope you see this Mats. I just received my owners manual and here are the instructions for accessing the exposure compensation, +-3EV.

        Depress the flash mode button and it will activate the +- in the display. Depress and hold the flash button again and the +- will begin to blink. A set of numbers(0.0) will appear to the right of the +-. While still depressing the flash mode button press either the tele(+) or wide(-) button to set the desired compensation.

        I tried this several times with my camera to get the hang of it. Hope this gets you going. The manual shows how to activate other interesting features so my recommendation is to get a copy of the manual.

        1. Hi Bill, I tried to reply earlier but the comment just stayed at “awaiting moderation” for many days and then disappeared. Something that seems to happen quite often at this site.

          What I wrote is that I already have a copy of the manual. It’s available online as a PDF. But as far as I have been able to figure out, you can not “leave” the autoflash mode while setting exposure compensation. So if the camera thinks the light is too low it will fire the flash regardless of you setting exposure compensation. This is the implementation I couldn’t get my head around. Have you been able to activate the exposure compensation in flash cancel mode? If so that would be great.

          Anyway, big thanks for getting back to me after receiving the manual! It’s a very feature packed camera for sure, and the only comparable camera that matches it in the non-premium category is the Pentax 928. That one lets you set exposure compensation that lasts for the whole roll. Even if you power it off.

  4. Hi Gaston!
    This is a wonderful review! I agree with a lot of the other folks here, P&S cameras are extremely underrated! I’ve been using a Leica Minizoom I discovered in my mom’s closet. These things can be such wonderful pocketable-powerhouses; some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken have been with the Minizoom!

    Thanks for writing, this was great!

  5. Some of these newer point and shoot cameras really do shine. Very good review – and a call out to all the underappreciated P&S cameras out there languishing in someone’s drawers!

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