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Fuji FinePix F200EXR Review

How Does it Compare?

The Fuji FinePix F200EXR is a capable compact camera whose best trait is its ability to take better high ISO photos than other cameras in its class. It also the ability to capture more details in bright areas of your photos, though it doesn't do much to boost detail in shadow areas. Throw in a 5X, wide-angle lens, a 3-inch LCD, limited manual controls, and generally snappy performance, and you've got a camera that's worth taking a close look at. The F200EXR isn't perfect though: images are soft at full resolution, there are only two apertures available at any one time, you can't use image stabilization in movie mode, and battery life is below average. Despite that, the F200EXR is worth your money, especially if you take a lot of low light photos.

The FinePix F200EXR shares much of the same design of its predecessor, the F100fd. The camera is well built, though the door over the memory card slot really needs a lock, and I'm never a fan of plastic tripod mounts. The F200EXR is a small (but not tiny) camera with a 5X, 28 - 140 mm lens and sensor-shift image stabilization. The lens is a bit on the slow side, with a maximum aperture range of F3.3 - F5.1, though that's not uncommon for cameras in this class. The image stabilizer does a good job with reducing blur in still photos, though you cannot use it in movie mode for some reason. On the back of the camera is a 3-inch LCD display (up from 2.7" on the F100fd), with 230,000 pixels. The screen has decent outdoor and low light visibility. As with all cameras in this class, there's no optical viewfinder to be found on the F200EXR.

The camera has be fully automatic, and there's a decent (but incomplete) set of manual controls, as well. The F200 has a regular automatic mode, plus an EXR mode, which is how you'll access the three different sensor modes: resolution priority, high sensitivity & low noise, and dynamic range priority. Resolution priority is the standard 12 Megapixel mode -- nothing fancy there. High sensitivity & low noise cuts the resolution in half, but gives you high ISO shots that easily best the competition. Dynamic range priority also lowers the resolution, and it helps to bring back highlights that were overexposed to the point of being "clipped". Unfortunately, the DR priority mode does little to improve shadow detail. If you don't know what of those modes to choose, just use EXR Auto and let the camera figure it out for you.

If you want manual controls, you'll have to give up those EXR modes (though you can sort of replicate them in other modes), but you do gain the ability to adjust the aperture and shutter speed. Well, sort of. Since the camera is using a neutral density filter, you can only select from two apertures at any one time. The F200EXR doesn't have a manual focus feature either, and while I'm at it, how about support for the RAW format? The F200 has an elaborate face detection system, which can detect faces at any angle. It can reduce redeye automatically as the photo is taken, as well. The camera's movie mode is nothing to get excited about: it's a simple VGA mode with no use of the optical zoom or image stabilizer.

Camera performance was a mixed bag. The FinePix F200EXR is a bit slow to startup, with a time of 2.1 seconds. Focusing speeds were very quick though, rarely exceeding a second, even in low light situations. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal (even if you're using the flash). The F200 won't win a gold medal for its continuous shooting performance. At full resolution, the fastest it will shoot is 1.6 frames/second, and only for three shots. If you don't mind lowering the resolution to 3 Megapixel, you can shoot at over 4 frames/second. The F200EXR's battery life is below average for the compact class.

Photo quality was very good in most respects. At the normal, full resolution setting, the F200EXR's photos are well-exposed (though there's some highlight clipping), with pleasing, vivid color. I do feel that images are on the soft side, though, and some fine details aren't as crisp as I'd like. Don't be surprised if you see some jaggies or other weird artifacts, either -- they seem to come with the territory on SuperCCD-based cameras. Noise levels are low through ISO 800 in good light, and ISO 400 in low light -- a full stop better than the competition. Switch into high sensitivity and low light mode and you'll get even better results, though you won't be able to adjust many settings on the camera, and the resolution is "only" 6 Megapixel (more than enough for most purposes). The other EXR mode, dynamic range priority, helps reduce a lot of the highlight clipping that can appear. Regardless of the sensor mode you're using, purple fringing levels were fairly low.

There are a few other things to mention before I wrap things up. You won't be able to access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod, though kudos to Fuji for supporting both SD/SDHC and xD cards (Olympus, are you listening?). The included Mac software leaves much to be desired, especially compared to the Windows version. Finally, the full manual is only available on CD-ROM, and it's not terribly detailed.

Thanks to its new SuperCCD EXR sensor, Fuji has created arguably the most capable low light compact camera since the FinePix F30 and F31fd. Sure, the camera needs some improvement in some areas, and I'd love to see the sensor in a more "prosumer" body (and Fuji has hinted that this will happen), but for a go-anywhere camera that can handle low light with ease, the FinePix F200EXR is well worth checking out.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
  • Low light performance a full stop better than other compact cameras
  • 5X wide-angle zoom lens in a compact, stylish body
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • 3-inch LCD with good outdoor / low light viewing
  • Dynamic range priority mode restores clipped highlights (but does little for shadow detail)
  • Many manual controls
  • Automatic scene and EXR mode selection
  • Good autofocus performance
  • Elaborate face detection system
  • Redeye not a problem thanks to auto removal feature
  • Memory card slot supports both xD and SD/SDHC cards
  • Optional underwater case

What I didn't care for:

  • Images are soft at full resolution, with some detail smudging; some SuperCCD artifacting, as well
  • Only two apertures to choose from at a time; lens a bit slow
  • EXR modes require dropping the resolution, giving up manual controls and menu options
  • No optical viewfinder
  • No image stabilization in movie mode
  • Below average battery life
  • Door over memory card / battery compartment needs a lock; compartment inaccessible when camera is on a tripod
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Very basic Mac software included, especially compared to the Windows equivalent
  • Full manual only available on CD-ROM (and it's not terribly detailed, either)

Some other cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z400, Nikon Coolpix S560, Olympus Stylus 7000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25, Samsung SL820, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the FinePix F200EXR and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.