After announcing the new EXR sensor at photokina in 2008, the F200 EXR is the first camera to be released bearing it.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Specifications
- Zoom: 5x optical
- Resolution: 12Mp
- Sensor size: 1/1.6in
- Sensor type: CCD EXR
- Max. image size: 4000x3000
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO100-3200 (ISO6400 at 6Mp and ISO12,800 at 3Mp)
- Storage: SD, SDHC, xD picture card
- Focus types: Area, multi, centre
- Normal focusing: 45cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 5cm-80cm
- Metering types: Program AE, aperture-priority, manual
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 8sec-1/1500sec
- Flash: Built-in
- Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 97.7x58.9x23.4mm
- Weight: 175g (excl. battery/card)
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Features
Fujifilm have always been avant garde about their sensors. They released the Super CCD in 1999 which, with octagonal pixels, was a mind blowing variant on the traditional rectangular design. Then over the course of a few years they improved on it releasing several generation versions as well as a high resolution model and one to help with high dynamic range.
The new EXR sensor aims to combine the best elements from the HR and SR sensors by utilising a new colour filter
The rear is dominated by a 3in LCD screen. Other functions are shunted to the right and could be bigger.
The lens is 5x optical with a 28mm wide angle view.
The top is sparse of buttons which means there's more clustered on the back.
When EXR mode is selected, you are actually able to switch between modes of how you want the sensor to react by choosing between HR (High resolution priority), SN (High ISO/Low noise priority) and DR (Dynamic Range priority.
HR mode is designed to make the best out of the resolution which will be best for macro work although with a close focusing of 5cm, this might be contradictory. The performance section will shed some light on it while the noise test area will be a great place to try out the SN mode which is designed to produce the best quality images in low light. The third option, DR, which helps with high contrast areas.
This third option is particularly interesting as Lisa Graham, Communications Co-ordinator for Fujifilm UK said: “It works by taking two photographs with one slightly under exposed and one slightly over exposed. It then merges them together to create a final image with an expanded dynamic range.”
Clever stuff indeed and it's certainly exciting news but could it spell the end of HDR photography? Well, HDR is designed for this very purpose, but it also has that kind of ethereal quality that can't be got from any other way of taking pictures. With the camera taking the control away from you it takes all the fun away but then the camera could be used by those who want the higher dynamic range.
Fujifilm haven't just limited the sensors capabilities to the EXR mode though, they've also tied it into the scene recognition system. This feature is now widely used in many compacts and will essentially see what you're taking a picture of and change the shooting mode to suit it. The F200 will now take it one step further and select the correct EXR mode to suit the scene being photographed.
It's a relatively large compact by today's standards but it's not unattractive. A large lens sits on the front which is necessary to house the 5x optical capability and is contradicted by a tiny flash sat in the top left corner.
Modes and buttons have been removed from the top plate and only the power button, shutter release and zoom are now found there. Everything is on the back down the right hand side of the large 3in LCD screen. A screen this size along with all those dials and buttons could explain the size of the camera.
A small mode dial accesses the areas most used on the camera such as the auto, manual and program modes as well as the natural, natural with flash and new EXR mode. Interestingly, the old FinePix button has been retained and still works in the same way as a function button on other cameras giving access to frequently used features such as ISO, image size, quality and film simulation. Film simulations are still pretty basic with only a colour, black & white and sepia types but the colour has now been reclassified to Provia. This is an idea that was championed on the Fujifilm FinePix S100fs with different Fuji film types and I think giving them a name is an easier reference. In manual mode the film simulations are expanded to include vivid (Velvia) and soft (Astia) film types.
White balance appears to be better with the flash and it certainly hasn't bleached out the subject. I even chose a reflective item to really stick the boot in but it's coped admirably.
Fujifilm are also shouting about the flash on the new F200 EXR which will be interesting to test as they say it has so much control over light output that you can take macro shots using the flash and it won't bleach the colours. Natural light and flash has always been a popular mode and that's why it's still sat on the mode dial unlike the others which are relegated to the menu systems. It works by utilising the ambient light available and adding a soft fill flash to merely boost the light instead of taking over and burning out highlights.
The F200 EXR also boasts the highest sensitivity of any compact with a maximum setting of ISO12800. This is only at 3Mp, but they have to control the noise that will be generated any way they can. Pixels get hot while they're being used and this creates a type of noise that affects neighbouring pixels. By reducing the resolution, this spaces out the pixels meaning they're less likely to affect others. I don't think it's a bad thing as a lot of pictures will look pretty good from a 3Mp resolution.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Build and handling
The glossy casing covers what feels like a seriously solid camera. I think all larger models tend to be more solid in their feel and I also think that a squarer camera has a bulkiness to it that smoother, more organic cameras don't have.
Buttons are firm enough although a little on the small side considering the amount of space available. The dial rotates with solid clicks but can be a little tricky to move round sometimes which is annoying. The buttons are taken from a smaller model and it looks like the camera could have had about a centimetre chopped off the height if they were moved around a bit. Seeing as that hasn't happened, I don't see why they couldn't be made bigger. It probably boils down to cost with pre-made button moulds being cheaper than remaking larger versions just for this camera.
Fujifilm have always had a clean and easy to use menu system but recently, they've done a bit of jiggery pokery to it making it more difficult to understand. Metering could quite easily be called metering but is called photometry instead. It's an unnecessary change that will simply baffle the users that Fujifilm aim their cameras at. Other changes that I feel are unwelcome are the limited features available in the FinePix button such as metering and focus functions.
Satisfyingly for me, the F200 EXR takes a Li-Ion battery which is my battery type of choice. There are powerful arguments for AA batteries being used in cameras such as availability if they do run out. However, I think in this day and age with more Li-Ion batteries being used, our mind-set has changed to a more resonsible one and we now prepare more if we're going out by charging the battery beforehand. The chances of it running out are minimal.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Performance
Shutter lag sits at the 0.08sec setting which is about standard for a compact and I'm starting to think that it's maybe as fast as it's going to get. Start up time from power up to being ready to shoot is around three seconds while actually focusing on a subject and taking a picture adds a further couple of seconds to the overall result.
In burst mode, the camera has several options. Top3 takes three photographs in quick succession and will be done in under a second and a half. Final3 does the same thing but instead of just taking three pictures and stopping, it keeps taking pictures but only holds the last three in its memory buffer. When you release the shutter, it records the final three that were taken. This is great if your reactions aren't all that good.
I'm really impressed with the colour test chart. Although primary blue is a little too saturated for my tastes, the warmer tones such as red and yellow are balanced while the earth brown and forest green are rich.
There's more colour in the pastel tiles that run down the left side of brown, orange and blue than I've seen in a long time and the skin tone tile isn't too pink. It's a lovely result that should give some appealing and precisely coloured images.
I took four portrait images because there are a couple of modes I want to try on skin. In portrait mode, the skin isn't too warm and the white balance has coped with being outside in shade nicely. There's good detail in the hair and the skin tone is even. Another mode that the scene menu has is portrait enhancer. It's a feature that's been present on Fujifilm cameras for a while but it looks like they've been working on it. In my review of the Fujifilm FinePix F60fd back in December, I commented that the enhancer system was clever but not perfect. That's still the case but to a lesser degree.
Portrait mode isn't as warm as some other compacts will do. White balance looks ok from the auto setting.
Switching to Enhanced mode smooths out any blemishes in the skin and is an improvement on other Fuji models.
Adding flash removes shadows from the ambient light but creates one on the wall. This is because of the oblique direction of the light.
Program mode isn't showing too many differences except I had to manually set the white balance to compensate for the blue cast.
Program mode loses a fraction of warmth but only when viewed at full magnification. It's barely traceable even then and there's no difference in the images apart from that. I did override the white balance to shade as the image was very blue in AWB. Adding a flash has cooled the image significantly. I would have adjusted the white balance to compensate but there isn't one for flash on the F200 EXR which is unfortunate. There's a large shadow behind the subject on the wall which is only so wide because of the position of the flash on the camera.
It's the lesser of two evils as placing the flash nearer the lens would add to the possibility of red-eye. Small catch lights have been added and shadows have been filled nicely.
I shot the landscape test image on a decent day with a mixture of sun and clouds. The sun catching the white bars has thrown up some colour fringing but what is worse is that the landscape mode has chosen a sensitivity of ISO400. It means noise is poking through which isn't a good thing for landscapes and detail is being lost.
While I was there, I noticed the gates had been left open so i took the opportunity to take a shot down the length of the lock. I used the DR mode in the EXR menu to see if it worked any and it has brought out some more detail in the underside of the balance beam.
One thing I noticed was the image size on the DR image is 2816x1864 compared to the 4000x2664 of the image taken in program mode. It's nearly half the size dimensionally and it appeared to do this automatically. I asked Fujfilm the reaon behind this and they've yet to answer but I'll add it to the review as soon as they reply.
The landscape image has good colour and gives a nice 3D effect but the fringing and noise are a problem.
Despite a close focusing of only 5cm, this macro image actually looks quite nice. Probably because I took it.
Using the dynamic range mode in the EXR menu adds detail to the darker areas.
Compared to not using it which is definitely darker.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Noise test
Noise is dealt with very well at low ISO which is the mark of good hardware and a larger sensor. It's not until ISO400 that it starts to become evident on the image but it then starts to deteriorate as the sensitivity increases.
By ISO1600 nearly all detail in the petals has disappeared and aggressive noise is invading all areas of the image. At ISO3200 colour noise is starting to break down the image to a point that makes it difficult to look at.
At ISO6400 the resolution drops to 6Mp and even though noise does increase, it does so at a steadier rate than if the resolution were doubled. Halving the resolution again allows you to choose ISO12800 which is pretty shocking but it's good that they've at least included it. They could've quite easily left it where it was but by adding this setting, it's pushed the benchmark up. In turn, other companies will copy and improve meaning better images at low light as technology progresses.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO3200 test.
The ISO6400 test.
The ISO12800 test.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Verdict
The principle ideals of the camera seem excellent, its features are ahead of anyone else and Fujifilm are once again proving themselves as market leaders in the sensor development field.
I can't help but feel that this sensor has been somewhat wasted on a compact? Some of you may disagree including any Fuji employees but I think that this technology would be untilised more by a keen photographer who uses a DSLR. It would be a good excuse to get another Fujifilm DSLR on the market too.
I wonder how Fujifilm will develop this film with the release of the Spheron VR camera that was showcased at Focus 2009. It's a long way off production on the same scale as Fuji cameras but the technology is evolving at an exciting rate.
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Plus points
Innovative sensor design
Large LCD screen
5x optical zoom
28mm wide lens
Advanced face detection
Wider sensitivity options up to ISO12,800
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR: Minus points
Slow at processing EXR images
EXR image size is smaller
Jargon needs busting
Noise comes in a bit too early
For the new EXR sensor, I've awarded the Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR camera our fabled Cutting Edge award.
The Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR will cost around £279 and is available from Warehouse Express:
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR