Fuji FinePix F200EXR Review
Look and Feel
The FinePix F200EXR is a compact (but not tiny) camera made of a mixture of plastic and metal. Its gentle curves are a nice change from the boxy F-series cameras of years past. Build quality is good overall, though the door over the memory card / battery compartment opens way too easily (it needs a lock). Its design has changed little from the F100fd, with the most notable differences found on the back of the camera. Gone is the scroll wheel, with just the traditional four-way controller remaining. The F200 also has a mode dial that was missing on its predecessor.
Ergonomics are decent, with the most important controls within reach of your fingers. I don't like how your finger rests on the mode dial, though -- I found it quite easy to accidentally change your shooting mode. The buttons on the back of the camera (especially the four-way controller) are awfully small, as well.
Now, here's a look at how the F200EXR compares to other camera in its class, in terms of size and weight:
While all of the cameras in the above table are about the same size, the F200EXR is the heaviest of the bunch. It's the same size as its predecessor, and just a tad bit heavier.
Alright, now let's begin our tour of the camera, beginning with the front.
The FinePix F200EXR uses the exact same 5X optical zoom lens as its predecessor. The lens has a maximum aperture range of F3.3 - F5.1, which is on the slow side. The focal range of the lens is 6.4 - 32 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 140 mm. The lens is not threaded, and thus conversion lenses and filters are not supported.
At the back end of that lens is Fuji's SuperCCD EXR sensor. I told you a little bit about it at the start of the review, but I wanted to expand on how it works, and what it can do for you. First, a little history. In years past, there were two types of SuperCCD sensors: the HR was for high resolution shooting, and the SR for high sensitivity. Both sensors had unique hexagonally shaped pixels; the HR used the special, high density arrangement of the pixels to produce very high resolution photos, with better high ISO performance than a conventional sensor. This sensor is still used in a number of Fuji cameras. The SuperCCD SR sensor had two separate photo sites: one large "S-pixel" for high sensitivity, and a much smaller "R-pixel" for dynamic range. The camera combined the output from both of these pixels to produce photos with high sensitivity and improved dynamic range. Fuji currently uses this sensor in their FinePix S3 Pro digital SLR.
Pixel layout on the SuperCCD EXR; Image courtesy of FujiFilm
The SuperCCD EXR is Fuji's attempt to combine the two sensors into one. Like both of the old sensors, the photo sites here are hexagonal. There are two photo sites per color, but now they're all the same size. If you're shooting in the default high resolution (12 Megapixel) mode, the camera doesn't do anything fancy with the pixels, aside for some interpolation to get the pixels into the horizontal/vertical orientation needed for the final photograph.
High sensitivity / low noise; image courtesy of Fujifilm
If you're shooting with the high sensitivity / low noise mode, the camera does something called "pixel binning". Simply put, it takes two adjacent pixels of the same color, and combines them into one. That means that the resolution goes down 50%, but with all that extra data being captured, your photos end up with less noise. Fuji also says that their unique pixel layout reduces the amount of "false color" that may be generated by traditional pixel binning.
High dynamic range; image courtesy of Fujifilm
The last trick the SuperCCD EXR can do is take photos with high dynamic range. On the SuperCCD SR, this was accomplished by having the S and R pixels. The concept is the same here, except now the pixels are all the same size. One set of the pixels overexposes the image, while the other underexposes. The camera's image processor performs some magic, and the two exposures are combined into a single image, with optimal dynamic range. As with the high sensitivity mode, the highest resolution you can use here is 6 Megapixel.
Selecting an EXR mode
You can select one of the three EXR modes I just mentioned, or you can let the camera decide for you. I'll give you some comparison shots of the EXR sensor in action a bit later in the review.
Getting back to our tour now, let's talk about the FinePix F200's sensor-shift image stabilization system. You'll need this to help counter the effects of camera shake, a phenomenon caused by tiny movements of your hands which can blur your photos. The camera senses this motion, and the sensor is shifted to compensate for it. While this won't freeze a moving subject or allow for one second handheld shots, it will let you take sharp photos at shutter speeds that would be otherwise unusable. Want proof? Look at these:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
Both of the photos above were taken with a shutter speed of 1/13 of a second. As you can see, the IS system did its job, producing a noticeably sharper photo. While Fuji doesn't make it clear in the manual, I'm pretty sure that you can't use the image stabilizer while recording movies.
To the upper-left of the lens you'll find the F200's built-in flash. This flash has average strength, with a working range of 0.6 - 4.3 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.8 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). You cannot attach an external flash to the camera.
Just to the right of the flash is the AF-assist lamp, which the camera uses as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
It's hard to see here, but to the lower-left of the lens is the camera's microphone.
The first thing to see on the back of the camera is its 3-inch LCD display, up from 2.7" on the FinePix F100fd. While the screen is larger, the resolution remains the same: 230,000 pixels. Outdoor visibility was good (but not spectacular), and in low light, the screen brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject fairly well.
As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the FinePix F200EXR. Some people will miss it, while others won't even notice. In other words, it's up to you whether this is a problem or not.
Now let's talk about all those items to the right of the LCD. The first one I want to mention is the mode dial, which is a new addition to the F200EXR. Here are the items you'll find on it:
I've got a few things to mention about those mode dial options before we can move on. First, you can only use the high sensitivity / low noise and dynamic range priority EXR modes *in* EXR mode. In other words, you cannot use the dynamic range priority mode while in full manual mode. You can, however, drop the resolution to 6MP and then adjust the dynamic range manually. Something else the camera can do in EXR mode is select a scene mode automatically. The available options include portrait, landscape, night landscape, macro, backlit portrait, and night portrait.
While the F200 does let you adjust both the shutter speed and aperture manually, there are only two aperture values to choose from at any one time, due to the use of a neutral density filter to control how much light passes through the lens. For example, at wide-angle you can choose from F3.3 or F9, and nothing else.
The scene modes should be self-explanatory, but I should point out that the difference between portrait and portrait enhancer mode is that the latter applies some kind of "skin smoothing" filter to photos.
Underneath the mode dial are buttons for entering playback mode, or activating the F-mode menu. The items in the F-mode menu will vary depending on your shooting mode, but here's the full list:
- ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, Auto, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600, Auto 3200)
- Dynamic range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%, 800%)
- Image size (see chart later in review)
- Image quality (see chart later in review)
- White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent, underwater)
- Film simulation (Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, black & white, sepia)
As you can see, there are many ISO options available on the FinePix F200EXR. The easiest thing to is use one of the Auto modes (which vary depending on your shooting mode). These modes allow you to set an upper limit for the ISO setting so, for example, Auto 800 won't go any higher than ISO 800. If you want to select the ISO manually you can do that too, though the two highest settings lower the resolution to 6M and 3M, respectively.
The dynamic range setting lets you reduce the amount of over or underexposure (AKA contrast) in your photo. This feature has been expanded since the F100fd, now allowing for an 800% improvement in DR (though that setting is only available in the dynamic range priority EXR mode). Unlike on its predecessor, the F200EXR doesn't need to boost the ISO really high to increase the dynamic range, which is due to its new sensor design. Here's a test shot that illustrates the DR feature in action:
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View Full Size Image
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View Full Size Image
The first thing I have to mention is that camera way underexposed the shadows in the various photos I took to test this feature. This particular shot had the exposure compensation cranked up by 1 1/3 stop. As you flip through the images, you can see that the sky turns from a bright (clipped) white to the blue/gray that it was in reality. The buildings do get darker as well, which isn't quite as pleasing, though you are getting a small amount of highlight detail back. I'll have another example of the camera's dynamic range abilities for you later in the review.
The F200's white balance options are fairly standard. One of them is a custom mode, which lets you use a white or gray card, for accurate color under mixed or unusual lighting.
The film modes used to be called "FinePix Color" and are now named after Fuji's various brands of film. These let you adjust the color saturation levels of your photos, ranging from neutral to vivid. Here you'll also find the camera's black and white and sepia modes.
Returning to the tour, let's talk about the four-way controller. You'll use this for navigating the menus, reviewing photos you've taken, adjusting manual exposure settings, and also:
- Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV) + Delete photo
- Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
- Left - Macro (on/off)
- Right - Flash (Auto, flash on, flash off, slow synchro)
- Center - Menu + OK
Under the controller are two final buttons. The one on the left toggles what's shown on the LCD, and also "backs out" of the menu system.
The camera locked onto just one face
The other button activates the F200EXR's elaborate Face Detection 3.0 system. This can detect faces (up to ten of them) from the front, in profile, and even upside down. If you want, you can have the camera remove redeye right as the photo is taken, which can be a big time saver. I got the impression that the F200 is one of those cameras which doesn't handle my test scene well. I can locate faces in real life with ease, and it has no trouble with other photos that I tested it on. But for whatever reason, in this particular test photo, it wouldn't lock on to more than 1 or 2 faces at a time.
On the top of the F200EXR you'll find the power and shutter release buttons, plus the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just one second. I counted fifteen steps in the camera's 5X zoom range.
On the old FinePix F100fd, that dark, trapezoid-shaped item at the center of the photo was an infrared receiver. As far as I can tell, it's just for decoration on the F200EXR.
Nothing to see here.
The only thing on this side of the camera is the cameras one and only I/O port. This port handles USB and video output (both composite and HD). As you'd expect, the F200EXR supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.
In case you're wondering where you plug in the AC adapter: the camera uses a DC coupler, which is essentially a battery with a power cord coming out of it.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
On the bottom of the FinePix F200EXR you'll find the speaker, plastic tripod mount (hidden from view), and the battery/memory card compartment. The reinforced plastic door over this compartment could be a bit more sturdy, and it really needs a locking mechanism. Do note that you cannot access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod.
The included NP-50 battery can be see on the right.