Fuji Finepix F200 EXR Review
The Fuji Finepix F200 EXR brings the first EXR sensor to the market. This is a novel sensor designed to capture high-resolution images, low-noise or high-dynamic-range images, depending on one of its three operating modes. Unlike the 12 megapixels high-resolution mode, the enhanced mode capture 6 megapixels images with up to 800% more dynamic range than any ultra-compact camera can in a single exposure.
Sporting a stabilized Fujinon 5X wide-angle optical zoom lens, equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm terms, the F200 has a almost complete set of manual exposure modes, a rarity among ultra-compact cameras. Between all its different modes, the F200 EXR covers an ISO range from 100 to 12800, with ISO 3200 achievable at its maximum resolution of 12 megapixels.
The Fuji Finepix F200 EXR's major features include:
- 12 Megapixels SuperCCD EXR sensor.
- 6 Megapixels high-dynamic-range mode.
- 6 Megapixels low-noise mode.
- 5X wide-angle optical zoom, equivalent to 28-140 in 35mm terms.
- CCD-shift image stabilization.
- ISO 100 to 3200 at full-resolution, 6400 at 6 megapixels and 12800 at 3 megapixels.
- Auto ISO with a maximum of 400, 800 or 1600.
- Automatic and manual dynamic-range, selectable between 100%, 200% or 400%
- Automatic dynamic-range expansion up to 800% in 6 megapixels high-dynamic-range mode.
- 1/1500-8s Shutter-speed range, only 1/1000-8s manually selectable.
- Automatic, aperture-priority and manual exposure modes.
- Multi-segment, average, spot and face-detect metering.
- Exposure compensation -2..+2 stops in 1/3 EV increments.
- Automatic white-balance, preset white-balance and custom white-balance.
- Provia, Velvia, Astia, B&W and Sepia film-simulation modes.
- 1.4 FPS continuous shooting at 12 megapixels, keeps first or last 3 images.
- 5 FPS continuous shooting at 3 megapixels, keeps first or last 12 images.
- Unlimited 1 FPS continuous shooting at maximum resolution.
- 2s or 10s self-timer.
- 640x480 30 FPS movie-mode, up to 2 GB.
- Built-in flash with auto, forced-on, forced-off, red-eye and slow-synchro modes.
- 3” LCD 230K Pixels.
- Lithium-ion battery operated.
- Support for xD and SD-HC cards in single combined slot.
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Fuji F200 is a general-purpose camera suitable for typical travel and social photography. The wide-angle to medium telephoto 5X optical zoom lens offers a flexible range suitable for landscape, architecture and portrait photography. In addition to the well-known high-ISO capability of Fuji F-series cameras, the F200 EXR adds greater capacity for outdoor scenes due to its new sensor design which can capture scenes of greater-than-before dynamic-range.
The full ISO range on this digital camera goes from 100 all the way to 12800. Only ISO 100 to 3200 are available at 12 megapixels. ISO 6400 is available at a very useful 6 megapixels and 12800 is available at the sufficient-for-small prints resolution of 3 megapixels. Note that very few cameras other than SLRs can produce usable images above ISO 800, we report on that on page 2. A complex interaction between various features means that not all combinations of ISO, dynamic-range and modes are available, this is discussed in details a bit further.
The Fuji F200 EXR is one of the first ultra-compacts to feature expanded dynamic range. This is achieved via a special sensor design which allows to read half of the photosites partway during the exposure. This is similar to the taking of multiple exposures for merging images into an HDR image. The difference being is that the full exposure taken exposes for the darkest scene details. When the sensor is read in this way the dynamic range goes to 800%, which equals 3 extra stops, but image resolution drops to 6 megapixels because one half of the photosites are used to complement the other half. Outside of this mode, this digital camera can control dynamic range between 100% and 400% by using clever processing while producing a full 12 megapixels image. Specifically, the F200 can retain 2 more stops of highlight details than what is usually possible. The trade-off is that the extra dynamic range is obtained by boosting sensitivity, therefore, this approach tends to increase noise in the image.
With a shutter-speed range going from 1/1500s to 8s, the extremes of fast action and low-light do not get all covered, but most situations do. Social photography is the strong point of the Fuji F200 with high-ISO and a wide-angle lens which make an ideal combination for indoor parties. Still, very low-light captures are possible as long as the F200 can be convinced to focus, given a maximum ISO of 12800 and shutter-speed of 8s.
The Fuji Finepix F200 is capable of dealing with a wide variety of lighting situations in terms of both color and contrast. With its automatic, preset and manual white-balance options, colors can be accurately captured in any situation. Flexible metering options, including spot-metering, allow the photographer to control how the F200 deals with unevenly-lit scenes. The F200 is also equipped with several scene modes. One particular mode deserves a quick mention though: the natural light and flash takes two pictures of a scene, one with and one without flash. This saves time when not being certain which outcome would be better.
The other notable feature of the F200 is a now typical movie mode which records at 640x480 30 FPS up to a maximum file size of 2 GB. That is roughly equivalent to 70 minutes of recording. Sound is recorded during movie recording but the zoom cannot be used.
Like most Fuji digital cameras, the Fuji F200 does not automatically rotate images taken with the camera in portrait orientation. This missing feature is somewhat compensated by a very efficient system for rotating multiple images without exiting and re-entering the menu between each image.
This digital camera is also equipped with the latest in face-detection. Face-detection is now quite common, particularly among small cameras. The basic principle is that the camera tries to recognize faces and sets the focus and exposure accordingly. Both camera-facing and sideway-facing faces are recognized by Fuji's Face Detection 3.0. Fuji goes one step-further by also using face-detection during playback so that the user can verify that face-detection worked. In face-detect mode, the F200 EXR uses a special metering mode to keep faces well-exposed. The same face-detection system can also be used to remove red-eye during playback. This, plus high-ISO capabilities, really emphasize the Fuji F200 suitability as a social photography camera.
The Fuji Finepix F200 EXR differs from its predecessor, the Fuji Finepix F100fd in its button layout, as shown in the image above. The main difference is that the mode-dial replaces the F100d's virtual mode dial while taking up space under the thumb.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
What keeps this digital camera truly secure is Fuji's sturdy wrist-strap which has a tightening element for added security. The camera itself does not have a grip whatsoever. Due to a large rear LCD and new mode-dial, the F200 leaves no room on the rear for the thumb which unfortunately must rest on the mode-dial itself. This occasionally causes the mode-dial to rotate out of its intended position.
The shutter-release and surrounding zoom controller are easy to use and very responsive. Photographs are taken nearly instantly and the lens zooms rapidly from one end of the zoom-range to the other. Also, all other buttons provide instant feedback, unless the camera is writing an image to memory which is indicated by an orange light.
Except for the power button, located on top near the zoom controller, camera controls are located on the rear of the Fuji F200: a mode-dial, 4-way control and 4 buttons. Each of these controls is straight forward. Play enters Playback mode, F enters the Finepix menu, Disp toggles the display mode and Face-detect cycles through face-detect options: off, on or on with redeye.
Directions on the 4-way controller are assigned a function: up activates exposure-compensation, right cycles through flash-modes, down cycles between self-timer (Off, 2s, 10s) and left toggles macro mode. The central button is used to activate the menu system and to confirm menu-selection.
The Finepix menu has up to 6 options: ISO, dynamic range, image size, image quality, white-balance and film-simulation. This is a better selection than with previous Finepix cameras but its too bad metering mode is not there instead of image quality.
The mode-dial contains 8 positions, choosing any mode therefore involves rotating the mode dial and often selecting a specific mode from the menu system. The Fuji F200's headline mode, for example, EXR has 4 specific modes: Auto, HR, SN and DR. Auto selects both a scene-mode and a EXR-mode for each picture. The chosen mode is displayed on the LCD when the shutter is pressed halfway.
The Fuji F200 EXR's capabilities are spread across various modes. This is where things get rather twisted, particularly in EXR mode. In non-EXR modes, the F200 normally uses its sensor's HR (high-resolution) mode, meaning that all photosites are read simultaneously and each one is turned into a pixel. In these modes, this Fuji can be set to output images at 12, 6 or 3 MP. The camera does not give any indication of which EXR mode is used when shooting below 12 megapixels. It does give some hints though by enabling a different set of dynamic-range options when the flash is off. It would be preferable if things were clearly shown.
P mode can be used as automatic or aperture priority. A menu option selects between the two. In both cases ISO can be set from 100 to 3200 at full-resolution and up to 12800 at lower-resolutions. Since the Fuji F200 does not actually have a physical aperture, it simulates the reduction of light by slighting a neutral-density filter. This implies that changing aperture does not affect the depth-of-field and that, at any point, only two aperture options exist. This is why there is an Aperture-priority mode but no Shutter-priority mode: there are too few aperture settings for the Fuji to allow the selection of arbitrary shutter-speeds. Because the Fuji Finepix F200 must expose for the brightest image area, all dynamic-range options are not always available. At ISO 100, only 100% dynamic-range can be used, at ISO 200 options for dynamic-range expand to 200%. Between ISO 400 and 3200, up to 400% dynamic range can be chosen. At ISO 6400 and 12800, only 100% dynamic range is supported.
M mode, this time, is actually manual mode. This rare mode among ultra-compacts lets the photographer set aperture and shutter-speed independently, although the 2 aperture settings do not affect depth-of-field due to the lack of a physical aperture. Still, the Fuji F200 has an excellent exposure latitude considering an ISO goes up to 12800 and shutter-speed up to 8s.
Auto, Natural Light and Natural Light & Flash are fully-automatic modes that do not allow ISO, DR, WB or EC to be selected. Auto does allow the ISO limit to be set between 400 and 3200. There are 15 scene-program modes available, all of them full automatic as well. The movie-mode is straight-forwards, supporting 640x480 30 FPS and 320x240 30 FPS. In 640x480, recording time is limited to a maximum of 30 minutes.
There being only one EXR mode seems like Fuji made it an after-thought in this camera's design, rather than a fully-present feature. The EXR mode has 4 sub-modes: Auto, HR (Resolution Priority), SN (High-ISO and Low Noise) and DR (Dynamic Range). Auto-EXR mode is as close to magic as any camera technology ever was. It takes full-control of the camera, including activating continuous-autofocus, scene-mode recognition, auto image size selection, face-detection and disabling EC, WB and ISO settings. Not only that, Auto-EXR drains the battery at super-speed. Still, image aspect ratio can be selected between 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. Image quality, the self-timer and the flash-mode can be set.
HR mode is nearly identical to automatic P mode, the notable difference being that ISO is limited to 800 max. Resolution can be set to either 12, 6 or 3 megapixels with 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratio. It is not clear why 6MP HR mode would be any different than 6MP SN mode. SN mode limits resolution to 6 megapixels and ISO to 1600. This time it is not clear why SN mode cannot use ISO 3200 to 12800, nor can dynamic-range be changed in HR and SN modes, it is fixed at 100% instead.
DR mode allows the selection of dynamic-range from 100% to 800%, which represents 3 extra stops beyond the F200's base dynamic-range. Resolution is limited to 6 megapixels and only automatic ISO settings (400 to 1600 max) can be selected. White-balance, exposure-compensation, macro mode and self-timers can be set as well. The Flash-mode is fixed to off though. Now, it is expected that expanded dynamic-range not be available at high-ISO due to high noise-levels, however it is too bad that DR mode is mutually exclusive with manual controls and that shutter-speeds slower than 1/4s are not achievable in this mode.
The full menu of the Fuji Finepix F200 is organized as a single-level menu system with the last option activating a multi-page setup menu. The 3 ” LCD screen is quite good. The anti-reflective coating really does its job well. Images on the screen are sharp and fluid.
This camera is well constructed with a sturdy plastic body. Both battery and memory are found behind the compartment door. The battery is held in place with a latch so that it does not fall out while changing memory cards. Another nice touch is that the latch is colored yellow, as is one side of the battery to know which way to insert it. The Fuji Finepix F200 comes with a charger for its battery. This is better than in-camera charging which locks down the camera while a battery is being charged.
Like most recent Fuji cameras, the memory card slot accommodates both xD, SD and SD-HC cards, one at the time. Since SD cards are the cheapest form of flash memory and are generally much faster than xD cards, we recommend using SD cards instead of xD ones. SD-HC cards also come in larger capacities than xD cards.
Fujifilm F200 EXR Facts
|12 Megapixels Ultra Compact||ISO 100-3200|
|5X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/1500-8s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|1.4 FPS Drive, 3 Images||Custom white-balance|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 230K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital High Capacity|
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