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Fuji just launched an interesting pair of flagship ultra-compacts that feature a hybrid autofocus system that can phase-detect and contrast-detect using a redesigned EXR sensor. It is claimed that this lets these fixed-lens cameras focus as fast as a DSLR while keeping all the amazing features of EXR sensors, including extended dynamic range and low-noise imagery.

The Fuji Finepix F300EXR introduces a new 15X ultra-wide angle lens equivalent to 24-360mm using a folded-optics design and the new 12 megapixels EXR sensor with phase-detection. There is also a new stabilization system and high-resolution 3″ LCD with 460K pixels too. The controls have been greatly revised and an inclinded mode-dial gives direct-access to the camera’s full-manual controls. This model features 360-degree motion panorama function. The F300 EXR can also record 720p HD video which the previous F200 EXR could not while the F80 EXR did. In gaining the new lens and controls, the F300 EXR gained some thickness (now at 1.3″) and weight and no longer falls into the ultra-compact category.

Its sibling the Z800 EXR actually falls in the ultra-compact group with a 0.8″ thick body and a 3.5″ touchscreen LCD. This one shares the same 12 megapixels hybrid-focus EXR sensor with the F300 EXR but features an internal 5X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 35-175mm. This is a strictly point-and-shoot model with no manual controls but it does retain all the EXR-modes to choose between dynamic-range, low-noise or resolution.

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