The FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR is a 12Mp compact camera equipped with the company's new Super CCD EXR chipset. The plus-sized sensor has some very interesting tricks up its sleeve, including the ability to reduce noise by grouping pixels together, and a D-range Priority mode that captures the same image twice and then merges the results for improved dynamic range. What's more, all you have to do is press the shutter release button and the FinePix F200EXR will do the rest.
We were naturally expecting some teething issues with this new technology, but FujiFilm has managed to pull off a flawless debut.
The FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR's 1/1.6in CCD sensor comes with three inbuilt EXR modes - HR/Resolution Priority (which captures images at the maximum resolution of 12Mp), SN/High ISO & Low Noise (which fuses pixels to reduce graininess) and DR/D-Range Priority (a dual capture mode that increases the amount of detail visible in highlights). All three modes can be selected from the menu, or you can elect to keep the camera on auto, where it will attempt to choose the best EXR mode for a given situation. (Alternatively, you can also turn EXR off altogether.)
While they may sound gimmicky, we found the EXR modes to be hugely beneficial. The HR/Resolution Priority mode is pretty self-explanatory - it's in essence a superfine quality mode, as found on most compact cameras.
We were nevertheless impressed by the results. When we used the HR mode in a sunny outdoor environment, our photos were among the sharpest and most vibrant we've seen from a camera in this price range. Our test shots struck a nice balance between crisp details and image softness.
No doubt these impressive results were helped by the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR's enlarged sensor. At 1/1.6 inches, it is nearly twice the size of the average compact camera's CCD. The 28mm wide-angle lens does a reasonable job of fitting everything into the frame, though we did encounter some significant barrel distortion at the wide end. Coloured fringing was also evident in complex areas (such as the leaves on interlocking tree branches), though this was only noticeable when we zoomed into the affected area. Despite these minor issues, the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR is easily one of the best point-and-shoot cameras we've tested.
The FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR's SN mode is also very useful. By fusing pixels together (and thus enhancing the colour signal) it effectively doubles the camera's maximum sensitivity level, which translates to less noise when shooting in dim lighting. This has allowed FujiFilm to extend the camera's ISO sensitivity to a frankly ridiculous ISO 12,800.
(Unsurprisingly, results were a featureless blizzard at this setting, which also suffered from a 3Mp resolution.) While it won't work miracles, the EXR sensor definitely produced better results at higher ISO settings than other compact cameras. This makes it an excellent choice for nocturnal socialities who want to chronicle their nightlife.
We were equally impressed with the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR's D-range Priority mode. As mentioned, this handy tool captures two simultaneous photos of your subject at high and low sensitivities, and then combines them for a broadened dynamic range. This helps to produce higher quality photos, with high-contrast areas, such as shadows and bright areas, retaining full detail.
Anyone who is serious about photography will be familiar with this procedure, which usually involves taking two photos manually and then merging them with editing software. The FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR eliminates the hard yards for you; it's all done in-camera and it's completely automatic to boot.
It's important to note that both the SN and DR modes only capture images at half the camera's resolution (6Mp). However, in both cases the trade-off is definitely worth it. The improved noise reduction and dynamic range that these modes offer far outweigh any perceived losses in fine detail. Provided you don't excessively crop your photos or make poster-sized prints, the difference is pretty negligible.
In stark contrast to its exciting specifications, the FinePix F200EXR's appearance is disappointingly pedestrian. The subtle silver finish may be inoffensive - even classy - but it's also on the wrong side of plain. On top of this, its dimensions - 98x59x23mm - are surprisingly bulky for a compact camera, to the point of making it look old and outdated. If you want a camera that can double as a fashion accessory, the FinePix F200EXR will fail to impress; this is disappointing, given its premium price tag. This is probably the one area in which the camera is trumped by its rivals. It's not ugly per se, but it's big, bland and boring.
We also weren't fond of the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR's user interface, which suffers from a complicated menu layout and undersized directional pad. On the plus side, there are oodles of modes and features, including face detection, manual exposure, adjustable aperture and shutter speeds (ranging from 8 seconds to 1/1500th of a second), 15 scene modes, five film simulation modes (including Velvia/Vivid for richer tones in landscapes), nine white balance settings, a 5 frames per second continuous shooting mode and VGA/QVGA movie recording. There are also multiple playback modes, including fade-in face detection, which automatically zooms into faces during slideshows.
Powering up the FinePix F200EXR took just under 3 seconds, which is pretty lethargic by today's standards. Shot-to-shot times averaged around 2 seconds sans flash, which is also a bit on the slow side. With the flash enabled, this bloated out to a positively glacial 4.3 seconds between shots.
If you care about taking great looking photos with a minimum of fuss, the FujiFilm FinePix F200EXR is definitely worthy of consideration. It might not be the sexiest camera on the market, but its superior imaging performance makes up for this superficial shortcoming. Highly recommended.