Review by Matt Grayson
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Specification
- Zoom: 14.3x optical
- Resolution: 12Mp
- Sensor size: 1/1.6in
- Sensor type: Super CCD EXR
- Max. image size: 4000x3000
- File type: JPEG, RAW
- Sensitivity: ISO100-12800
- Media type: Internal, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Normal, macro, supermacro
- Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 10cm-3m (macro), 1cm-1m (supermacro)
- Metering types: Programmed AE, aperture-priority AE, shutter-priority AE, manual
- Exposure compensation: +/- EV in step increments
- Shutter speed: 30sec-1/4000sec
- Flash: Built-in (wide: 0.3m – 7.2m, tele: 0.9m – 3.8m), hotshoe
- Monitor: 2.7in LCD monitor, 230,000dot (73,000px)
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 133.4x93.6x145mm
- Weight: 820g (excl. batteries and card)
For £364, the Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR will give you 12Mp on an EXR sensor, simulations of Fuji film, 1cm macro and a 2.7in LCD screen. The Canon Powershot SX20 IS costs around £315 offering a similar 12Mp resolution, higher 20x optical zoom, 2.5in LCD screen and USM lens. Alternatively, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 at £259 also has a 12Mp resolution along with an 18x optical zoom, 2.7in LCD, 1cm macro and sports a Leica DC-Vario Elmarit lens.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Features
The newer version doesn't have the pivoting screen seen on the S100fs.
The Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR is the replacement to the popular S100fs
which ePHOTOzine reviewed in May 2008. In that time they've developed the new EXR sensor which allows multiple uses to be employed such as high resolution, high ISO with low noise and an expanded dynamic range feature.
On the outside, the camera looks identical to the previous model although, for some reason, they've decided to do away with the useful pivoting screen that the S100fs boasts. ePHOTOzine managed to speak to Theo Georghiades, Business Manager for the Digital Product Team at Fujifilm UK and he said: "When manufacturing a product you have to analyse the cost and benefit to the consumer for all features. We decided that a high contrast LCD would be more beneficial than the tilting aspect as the S100fs.
In other areas, the resolution has been cranked up to 12Mp from 11Mp and the new camera is also fitted with the brand new EXR (albeit smaller) sensor with RP technology to aid resolution, noise control and dynamic range. The same length zoom has been installed on a slightly shorter lens but because of the shrinkage in sensor size, the range has also differed by a few millimetres starting from 30.5mm and stretching to a personal space invading 436mm.
Viewing the new camera from the top, it appears to be identical to the previous model although the command dial has been rearranged to include the new EXR option. It means that the previous option of having two scene modes available to you has been scrapped for a single one.
Styled on a DSLR, there are buttons to operate key areas situated down the left side of the body. These are also transferred over from the previous model, but the image stabilisation button has been replaced with white balance. I asked Theo why this was and he said: "The decision to put a WB button in place of the IS button was a result of global research Tokyo gathered, which showed that White Balance control with easy access would be more beneficial to users."
Going into the modes on the command dial, the EXR mode offers three options which prioritise different modes depending on the type of photograph you're taking. High resolution priority will ensure you get the smoothest, highest detailed image available in the light that you have available. High ISO, Low noise uses high ISO levels to capture the image then employs a system called “pixel binning”. It's an interesting feature which changes the arrangement of the colour filter.
An illustration of the new EXR CCD and how the pixels are laid out.
Instead of the usual red, green, red, green and blue, green, blue, green formation, the new sensor uses a full line of green pixels then a line of two blue and two red side by side. When the camera takes a picture, it uses two similarly coloured pixels to create one, bigger pixel. Therefore, because the colour capture area is larger, more light can be captured, increasing the sensitivity of the sensor.
My initial thought was if the system uses two pixels to create a single pixel of information, does this half the resolution? "Yes it does,"
said Theo. "In SN mode the EXR sensor joins pixels to create a resolution of 6 million pixels, so resolution is dropped."
The problem that Fujifilm had with this technique was that some pixels got fooled as they're sat closer together and this means that they could possibly record the wrong colour. So they devised a system called "Close Incline Pixel Coupling" to deal with the problem. This is the method that combines the double pixels as one to prevent the false colours being generated.
I'm impressed that Fujifilm have opted for a higher resolution EVF with 200,000dot. It's only a fraction lower quality than the screen on the back as the pixel count difference is around 10,000px. Switching between EVF and LCD is done using the dedicated button on the back of the camera. It's not the easiest of buttons to use. If you've taken an image through the viewfinder and want to view it on screen, you have to wait for around five seconds before the camera will even think of letting you do anything. It's the time taken while the camera processes the image and saves it to card and I think this is a long time considering most people using the camera will be current or ex-DSLR users, who'll be used to a more instant review time. One area where Fujifilm could improve the way the EVF/LCD works is to only use the EVF for taking pictures and have all information and playback displayed on the LCD on the back of the camera. This way, there's no waiting for the image to download before switching over to LCD then having to press playback.
This may sound picky about what's a relatively small time period, but if you have only a few seconds to check your image and get back to shooting, you may not have five seconds to spare.
Luckily, despite the dropping of the “fs” from the name, the S200 EXR still retains the film simulations that the S100fs first showcased. They simulate having a proper film from Fuji in your digital camera by emulating the effect of whichever film you choose. It does it by altering the colours of the image such as desaturating slightly for Astia or punching colours out for Velvia. FSB (film simulation bracketing) mode on the command dial will take three photographs in quick succession in each colour mode so you can choose your favourite and discard the others.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Build and handling
Build quality is the same as the S100fs so while I'm impressed with the quality of build and the smoothness of the zoom barrel, I think the battery door could do with toughening up. The command dial isn't as big as the previous model and is easier to operate although they've retained the small, jagged wheels for metering a focusing selections which aren't easy to use.
A larger screen has been used on the S200 EXR which is probably the reason behind the lack of a swivelling variety but although it's a brighter screen designed to still be able to use at low angles, I don't find it that easy to use. The camera can only be used at a minimum of knee height according to the Fujifilm website's illustrations. I like to go lower than this so it'd mean I have to lay down.
The menu is as easy to use as you'd expect from Fujifilm but even if you're a loyal company user, it's worth getting the manual out to see what all the new menus do. The lack of the FinePix button will complicate matters and only confuse some people but in the review of the F70 EXR, it's felt that there are too many menus on the camera.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Performance
I like the way the EXR processor handles colours and it's worked really well on the S200 EXR. Primary blue is certainly more boosted than I found on the Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR suggesting a shift back to traditional handling of colour, but instead of yellow drifting into the background like it would normally do, it's bold and proud. Interestingly, the colour that's different is the forest green tile.
It's a darker, deeper colour than I'm used to seeing although not unpleasant. There are nice colours in the pastel set down the left side of the brown, orange and blue tiles. I also like the balance of the mono tiles.
Lots of detail in the image and a balanced skin tone makes a good result.
Adding flash has discreetly filled in shadows and added catchlights.
Looking at the results of the portrait shots on the screen show a massive amount of detail in areas such as the hair. The skin tone is balanced, not too warm and while shadow areas are present, they're not overwhelming.
Adding a burst of flash and you'd hardly know it's done anything. The only way I can tell is the addition of catchlights and even they're pretty low key.
Following on from the FinePix F70 EXR, the S200 EXR also features the pro-focus mode to pop the subject forward from the background by taking two photographs and merging them to make one picture. The advantage the S200 EXR has is a telephoto lens which will help the effect anyway.
One takes a shot of the subject in focus while the second throws everything out of focus. It then merges into one image with a sharp subject and blurred background.
Pro-focus mode takes two images and merges them to give a sharp foreground with a background that's been pushed further out of focus.
I expected to see more colour in the landscape test shot as I think it's pretty desaturated. It's also pretty noisy which is unfortunate, but there's no indication of chromatic aberration although it is a low contrast day.
I like the level of detail from the camera in the grassy area and the cobbled bricks at the edge of the lock. However, I fear if the noise was lower on this shot, there would've been a lot more detail recorded.
I took a few extra shots with the Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR which I've put in below to show the capability of the camera. I like the detail on the Morgan's grill, I think it looks really sharp. The slow shutter of the waterfall was a killer because it was such a lovely, bright day and I had no filters with me to drop the exposure. It was taken in the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield as was the picture of the red and white flowers and vegetation with the fill-in flash. These pictures don't necessarily show any special features of the camera, but I think they give a good indication of how good the image quality is.
Image of a vintage Bentley. Taken in High Dynamic mode.
The colours of these flowers show the camera copes with contrasting colours.
Adding fill-flash gives more light to the shadow areas.
This badge of a Morgan was taken in high detail mode.
This Morgan shot was also taken in High Dynamic. I love the detail recorded in the grill and headlight although there's a notable amount of CA on the rim of the light.
This shot of a flower had to be vastly under exposed and is the only time I had real trouble with the camera when taking a photograph.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Noise test
This slow shot was problematic with a bright day and no ND filters for help.
Sensitivity of the Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR is capped at ISO3200 and I'm quite pleased with that decision because despite having a really good result in terms of detail, the camera is suffering from noise. If I was to be harsh, I'd say it's in trouble from the start, but I don't actually think the target market will have any problems at the low settings.
There's enough detail in the petals to keep anyone happy and it's really only the very, very mild sharpening on the grey card that irks me. However, there's no blotching or artefacts even up to and including ISO400 although detail in the petals starts to degrade at this setting.
ISO800 sees a boost in noise and even more smoothing out of the detail as noise reduction kicks in to try and stem the damage. ISO1600 is a smudgy resemblance of it's former self and colour has invaded quite aggressively all of a sudden. By the time we get to the top setting, there's hardly any definition in the petals and there are random purple spots bursting out.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Verdict
The ISO100 test.
The ISO3200 test.
For the low angle images of the Bugatti, red & white flowers and plants using fill-flash, while the screen was easily visible, I felt as though I was craning my neck which I wouldn't have to do with a pivoting type. I love the sharpness of the images and I think for general viewing of images, noise levels up to ISO800 are acceptable.
I like what the EXR sensor can do and I also like the new pro-focus modes for portrait and landscapes. I think Fujifilm have shown a lot of spirit recently in the releases of their cameras with the EXR sensor and new 3D technology.
Now they need to keep moving while the spotlight is on them to release more ground breaking technology and they could well become an even bigger contender in the market.
I found it just as easy to use as all other Fuji cameras although the lack of the FinePix button confused me slightly. I'm also surprised to see a film bracketing option still so easily accessible because I wonder how many really use this feature?
I can't argue the image quality, it's very good and I think in the right hands, it'll produce sterling images. At the current price, it's a bit steep compared to other cameras on the market but bear in mind that it's innovative technology and there's a lot more features on it. If you're looking for a camera that can reproduce images that remind you of the heady days of film, then this is the camera to get.
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Plus points
Lovely sharp images
New pro-focus mode works well with telephoto lens
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR: Minus points
I'd prefer an articulating screen
Missing FinePix button can lead to confusion
Jagged wheels are too small
The Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR costs around £364 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Fujifilm FinePix S200 EXR