When Fuji released the Finepix F601 camera in some countries they didn't include the docking cradle for it, making some operations somewhat cumbersome. The solution was the the Fuji CP-FX601 unit, which serves several purposes, and makes the use of your F601 much easier and faster as well as adding the facility to connect to an external device for big screen viewing without the need for a PC.
The unit is a light silver plastic, matching the Porsche designed body of the camera itself. The unit sits on four pads, so as not to scratch any surface, and is designed in such a way that when you place the camera into it, it sits back like a reclining chair. The bottom communication contact of the camera marries up with the protruding contact on the cradle, and fits snugly - it's almost impossible to dis-lodge it or knock it out of the cradle. To remove the camera from the cradle, you'll need to use both hands, as the contact mechanism used requires very slight force.
The front of the cradle has a power button, two lights, one for power the other an access light. The rear has a power socket for the 5V adapter,a mini USB socket and a A/V out socket. The USB socket is used for communication with the PC using a compatible cable (supplied). The A/V out socket is used to send audio or images to an external device - a TV for instance - using the supplied A/V cable. All the sockets are very different, so it's impossible to get them confused, even in the dark.
Nothing would appear to happen, until you place the camera into the cradle, then as long as a battery is in the camera, the camera will begin to charge. No indicators are lit on the cradle, but the charge light on the camera is illuminated. The light will go out once charging is completed, usually in around 5 hours on a fully discharged NP-60 battery.
If no battery is in the camera, pressing the power button on the cradle will illuminate the power light on the cradle, and will start up the camera, - the lens will shoot out. Using the camera like this is not really possible, as the screen is obscured by the back of the cradle - although in theory you could take photographs using the viewfinder instead. Pressing the power button again will turn off the camera.
Turning the camera into PC mode prior to the above operation will set the camera to operate as a web-cam, and assuming you have connected up the USB cable, you can now use it as such in compatible software. We have used it sucessfully in MSN Messenger and Netmeeting. It is a little clumsy to move around, and it is possible to accidentally turn off the power, so it's better to find a space and leave it there. Using the F601 as a webcam, is however a bit of a waste of it's photographic ability in my opinion.
Whilst we generally use a card-reader for image transfer to the PC, the cradle also serves as a device to perform this task. Once the USB cable is in place, and the camera placed into the cradle, pressing the power button will initialise communiation, the access lights will flicker, and your favourite image manipulation software will load up. We use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2, and it works nicely with this. Alternative you can use the Finepix viewer software which is supplied with the F601. You can now access the images on the smartmedia card in the camera, look at them, and copy them to your hard disk for further manipulation, emailing or printing. The camera appears as a removable device using the next available device number - in our case "Removable Disk I:". Pressing the power button on the cradle will close communication with the PC, and the removable disk will vanish.
Connecting up the camera to a TV is simple enough using the A/V cable, although it's pretty short at around 1metre. The other end of the cable has two standard phono type connectors, one for video the other for audio. Pressing the power button on the cradle now should automatically switch the TV to the "camera channel", and you will see exactly what you would normally see on the camera's screen - only a lot bigger. The picture is displayed in either camera mode or playback mode - so you can show the whole family the images or video with sound on a big screen with ease. It's a little cumbersome due to the way the camera sits in the cradle, and the fact that there's no slideshow facility on the camera meaning you have to manually press the buttons on the rear of the camera each time you want to change the picture or move to the next video clip. Having said that, it works well, and the picture is clear and sharp, although obviously not as high resolution as your PC screen will display. In the absense of a PC though, it does a grand job.
The main benefit of using the cradle is that it makes charging the battery and connecting the camera to the PC much more stable. You're less liable to knock the thing off the desk than you are just using the camera itself.
Priced at around £29, it's a wise investment for those of you who bought a 601 without the additional cradle kit. Available through your local Fuji dealer, or any decent camera shop either online or in your high street.