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Fuji FinePix S200 EXR Challenge

The Fuji FinePix S200 EXR is taken to Chester Zoo to see how it copes with various challenges thrown at it.

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Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR three quarter viewChester Zoo is the most-visited wildlife attraction in Britain and, like many zoos, it attracts thousands of camera users who go along and record their day. Sadly, many compact camera owners will often be disappointed with the quality of pictures. With this in mind Peter Bargh went along with the FinePix S200EXR; Fujifilm's answer to the problem.

Compact cameras are great for slipping into a pocket or handbag, but when it comes to taking anything other than snapshots users soon start to experience limitations. The alternative is usually an SLR but, as you may have found out, this comes with jargon, complex accessories and the possible stigma of being labelled an “amateur photographer”.

The FinePix S200EXR hybrid camera bundles SLR flexibility with compact camera ease-of-use. It has a Fujinon 14.3x optical zoom lens which is far bigger than anything that comes as standard with an SLR. To get this range on an SLR you would have to buy an additional lens that not only adds to your cost, but also to the weight and bulk.

The lens covers wide-angle, which is useful for group shots or, on this adventure, larger animals such as giraffes and elephants. It progresses through a mid range for portraits of orangutans and shots of meercats and seals, through to a super telephoto for close-ups of the cage birds and distant smaller animals/reptiles. There's also an incredible 1cm macro mode for use in the butterfly house or shooting flowers around the grounds.

With this zoom range and a host of features you're more likely to obtain a more professional-looking shot than you would with a compact camera.

The lens is just the physical aspect, the other huge feature hidden underneath the bonnet of this camera is the Super CCD EXR sensor. This delivers a balance of High Resolution, Wide Dynamic Range and High Sensitivity with low noise, and when EXR Auto mode is selected it automatically assesses the scene and sets the priority to ensure the right technology is used to deliver the best shot. For those who prefer manual controls the sensor can also be switched manually to force it to use a particular priority.

Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR Specifications

Lens 14.3x optical zoom
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), hot-shoe
Monitor 2.7in LCD monitor, 230,000dot (73,000px)
Interface USB 2.0
Power Lithium-Ion NP-140 battery
Size 133.4x93.6x145mm
Weight 820g (excl. batteries and card)

Let's look at a few examples of how the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR and its Super CCD sensor makes life at the zoo much easier.

Fences

Portrait of lion taken with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXRFirst off, animals are usually behind glass or fences. Zoos continue to improve visitor safety, but it makes life harder to obtain good photos. A typical example is the lion enclosure. In the past you would have been able to poke your nose through the fence while watching the animal roam and your only protection would be a sign saying "Take care, these animals are dangerous". These days there's a wooden fence more than arms length from the cage. While you're not going to lose a finger you are likely to lose the shot.

Everything you take from the outer fence will show the inner cage as a horrible mesh in front of the animal. With the FinePix S200EXR Portrait of lion taken with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXRyou can switch the electronic viewfinder from the eyepiece to the rear LCD. Then, thanks to the bright 2.7in display, you can view at arms length, positioning the camera so the lens is pointing through a gap in the fence and take the shot.


In this example the tight criss-crossed cage is still an obstruction, but by shooting at a wide aperture and at arms length you can get a decent shot. With a little jiggery- pokery with an image editing program that decent shot turns into a mighty fine lion portrait.

The Long Lens

I was able to use the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR's lens at the wide setting to get full length shots of the giraffes, but here I decided to extend the lens to the telephoto setting and create an interesting abstract, making use of the animal's wonderful pattern. It's the versatility of this 14.3x lens that offers so many more creative options.

Abstract giraffe using the telephoto on the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR

Sometimes a longer lens can be useful for big animals. In this example I was able to shoot from the other side of the elephant enclosure. Although it wasn't busy on the nearer viewing platform it could have been and I would have struggled to get a shot.

Elephants using the telephoto on the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR

Macro

I enjoy visits to butterfly houses and the Chester one, like most others, is very humid, so going from a cold outdoors to the tropical interior causes any camera to steam up. I was quite pleased at the speed the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR acclimatised. I had one chap approach me and ask how I'd solved the problem... and he'd been in around 10 minutes longer. This speedy recovery will have been assisted by the multi-coating technology on the Fujinon lens.

Close up of butterfly taken with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR

While in the butterfly house I took the opportunity to use the FinePix S200EXR's Pro Low-light mode as the conditions were quite dark under the leafy canopy and the butterfly was still (otherwise this feature wouldn't have worked). It takes four shots in quick succession and combines them to provide a low noise and sharp result that would normally suffer from camera shake and lots of noise.

Lizard taken using Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR's Pro Low-Light mode


I also used Pro Low-light mode while shooting at the 436mm setting on this lizard. The shutter speed was 1/6sec even at ISO1600 and with the lens at the widest aperture setting. What's impressive here is that my partner was shooting on £2,000 worth of Nikon kit and couldn't get as sharp a shot because of the dim conditions.

Aquariums

The Aquarium is a tricky place for cameras. There's not a lot of room, the interior is dark and while the tanks are bright, they're not bright enough to allow a fast shutter speed. You have two options, increase the ISO or shoot by panning and hope for either a creative effect or a well-panned fish against a blurred background. Using the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR in EXR Auto mode sees it automatically adjust the ISO, set the correct white balance and balance the bright light with the background. If the subject is close, as in this case, it will even switch to macro mode. All you have to do is shield the glass so you don't get reflections that would reduce contrast.

Fish taken with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR


Face Detection

In dull weather, like our day, the owl cages can be very dingy. These two Spectacled Owls would have caused problems for most cameras. The Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR Auto was set to EXR mode and it was here that the high sensitivity and low noise priority kicked in. The camera automatically increased the ISO to 1600 and the zoom was on the full extension to fill the frame with the small birds, who were perched at the back of the cage. Face detection locked on to the left side owl to ensure sharp focus.

Owls at high ISO with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR


Shot using the Pro Focus mode on Fujifilm's FinePix S200EXRPro Focus
Most compact camera owners are probably not going to have a clue about Layer Masks and Gaussian blur tools of image editing programs so will never have the opportunity to apply softening techniques to give a lovely blur to the background of a portrait.

Fujifilm have added a new feature called Pro Focus Mode. This focus-bracketing mode emulates the gentle, out-of-focus background look of a DSLR when shooting portraits or macro subjects. A single press of the shutter first takes an exposure focused on the main subject, then additional exposures at different focus points. This produces a final image emphasizing the sharply focused subject against a soft, out-of-focus background. The Pro Focus mode was used on this statue of Noah and the Four Winds in the grounds of the Zoo.

As you're wandering around a zoo you'll come up with photo opportunities like this colourful leaf on the wet stone. I switched the camera to Macro mode to fill the frame.
 

Leaf close up with Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR
 

So you can see that the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR coped with a number of challenges admirably. This was on a typical British Autumnal day - wet and overcast. These conditions meant the camera got wet and it coped well. It was subject to humidity and it soon acclimatised. The light was dull, yet it managed to pull out some bright pictures thanks to the Super CCD EXR Sensor. It was as easy to use as a compact camera, but gave me the versatility of an SLR.  

Look here for more details of the Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR and its technologies.

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