Fujifilm F200EXR Review

 
Camera Reviews / Fujifilm Cameras i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.6"
Lens: 5.00x zoom
(28-140mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-12800
Shutter: 8-1/1500
Max Aperture: 3.3
Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
(98 x 59 x 23 mm)
Weight: 6.9 oz (195 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 02/2009
Manufacturer: Fujifilm
Full specs: Fujifilm F200EXR specifications
12.00
Megapixels
5.00x zoom
1/1.6"
size sensor
image of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR
Front side of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR  digital camera Back side of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR  digital camera Top side of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR  digital camera Left side of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR  digital camera Right side of Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR  digital camera
Imaging Resource rating

3.5 out of 5.0

Fuji FinePix F200EXR
Overview

Overview by Mike Tomkins
Review by Mike Pasini and Zig Weidelich
Date Posted: 09/15/09
Updated: 09/26/09 (Expanded 6MP test results, updated Conclusion)

The Fujifilm F200EXR is a digital camera with a standard appearance, but a unique sensor. You can either shoot in the native 12-megapixel resolution, or have the camera decide when to drop into a few lower-resolution modes that take advantage of the sensor's special ability to see in very low light. Fujifilm first described the technology at Photokina 2008 and called it the Super CCD EXR image sensor. This new imager combines some of the attributes of Fujifilm's past sensor designs into a single chip to offer the photographer a choice -- to opt for high resolution when lighting allows, or trade away some resolution for improvements either to the sensitivity, or to dynamic range in less than optimal lighting.

The Super CCD EXR chip retains the 45-degree octagonal pixel array that's the hallmark of Super CCD sensors, and that allows maximum resolution on the horizontal and vertical axes. Where the EXR design most obviously differs from past Super CCD designs is in the arrangement of its Color Filter Array. Diagonal stripes of green pixels are interspersed with stripes of red and blue pixel pairs.

The new arrangement does mean that the horizontal / vertical gap between adjacent red and blue pixels may be increased, thanks to the staggered layout. However, it also brings with it a reduction in the corresponding gaps between green pixels. Since the human eye is more sensitive to green light than to red or blue, the resolution is retained where it is most needed. This isn't the reason for the change though. By changing its Color Filter Array layout, Fujifilm has allowed itself two potential improvements, useful in low light or high-contrast situations respectively.

The Fujifilm F200EXR couples its imager to a 5x optical zoom lens that yields focal lengths from a useful 28mm wide angle to a 140mm telephoto equivalent. Images are framed and reviewed on a 3.0-inch LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution, and the F200EXR includes Fuji's Face Detection 3.0 technology, capable of detecting up to ten faces in a scene and taking account of these when calculating focus, exposure and white balance. Images are stored on SD, SDHC, or xD cards, or in 48MB of built-in memory. Power comes from an NP-50 lithium-ion battery.

The Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR goes on sale from February 2009, priced at about US$400, but retailing for about $350 online.

 

Fuji F200EXR User Report

by Mike Pasini

"Oh dear," I said as I held the Fujifilm F200EXR and looked at the Mode dial.

The first shots I take with any digicam I review are in Program mode. I avoid the green Easy modes because I'm not going to get up to speed very quickly doing nothing to the camera. But this was something different. I could tell that my defaulting to Program wasn't going to work. This camera has "EXR" in the name, so I'm going to have to explore the EXR mode to really get to the crux of the Fujifilm F200EXR.

You might think I should have said, "Great! EXR mode!" instead of "Oh dear." But this is a choice I never want to make. I don't want equivalents staring me in the face. I want a hierarchy of choices. Green Easy or Scene or Program or Manual, say, going up the chain.

How was I supposed to decide between the Fujifilm F200EXR's Program and EXR?

EXR. In an otherwise thin manual that illustrates things you already know how to do (like insert a battery), EXR mode is explained on two pages. They're required reading. So I read them.

"Oh dear!" I repeated.

At first glance, EXR mode is something like an intelligent Auto that can identify up to six different shooting situations or scenes and set the camera up for you. The scenes it can recognize are Portrait, Landscape, Night Landscape, Macro, Backlit Portrait, and Night Portrait.

But that's only if you've set up EXR mode to do that. Oddly enough, it performs other tricks, too.

That's because it's not just a mode but the name of the sensor itself. It's a new sensor, called the Super CCD EXR. Fujifilm has always engineered its own sensors, developing unique designs to approach the analog characteristics of film with particular attention to extending the dynamic range of the capture.

With the Fujifilm F200EXR's sensor, though, Fujifilm has aimed for mimicking how the human eye sees the world, rather than how film sees it. And how does the human eye see the world?




According to Fujifilm, "we have reached a conclusion that 'the human eye adjusts its resolution and sensitivity according to brightness.'" Sensitivity? Sure, we squint. Our pupils dilate. But resolution?

Fujifilm is famous for that argument. Even early in the digital camera game, its honeycomb Super CCD sensors didn't quite translate into megapixels like other cameras. And the Fujifilm F200EXR with its eighth generation Super CCD is no different. Fujifilm flatly claims, "there is no direct correlation between a 'higher pixel count' and 'better resolution camera.'"

Conventional wisdom has only recently realized that more megapixels doesn't mean a better image. But that doesn't mean more megapixels doesn't mean more resolution.

The problem with image quality on digicams with lots of megapixels on their tiny sensors is noise. Plain old electrical interference. Even ISO 400 is ugly on some of them. But that doesn't mean they don't have more resolution than lower resolution digicams.

Oh dear.

Fujifilm has a Web site devoted to this topic if you want to debate it. There you'll see the diagonal array of tightly packed photosites featured on the EXR sensor. Rows and columns still but at an angle.

The company summarizes the advantages of the EXR as offering:

  • Fine Capture technology for high resolution,
  • Pixel Fusion technology for high sensitivity with low noise, and
  • Dual Capture technology for wide dynamic range.

In short, the Fujifilm F200EXR's sensor can behave in different ways, writing a larger file with more detail in the image or binning pixels to eliminate noise or configuring the sensor and image processor to capture a wider range of highlight and shadow detail than it would otherwise. It configures itself differently to capture a bright scene, a dark scene or a high-contrast scene. It's this flexibility that Fujifilm is referring to when it says the EXR system mimics human vision.

And these options lead to the four EXR modes the manual takes pains to explain:

  • EXR Auto: the intelligent Scene mode
  • Resolution Priority: maximizing detail with the largest image size
  • High ISO & Low Noise: binning pixels to reduce noise in images taken at high sensitivities
  • D-Range Priority: saving highlight detail while retaining shadow detail

When you select EXR mode on the Mode dial, you have to pick one of these options. How do you decide? Well, if you can't decide, you set it on Auto. If you want a 4,000 x 3,000 image so you can capture fine detail, you want Resolution Priority (otherwise you get 2,816 x 2,112 pixels, depending on the aspect ratio). If you're shooting at a high ISO to get the shot, you want High ISO & Low Noise. And if the scene has a lot of contrast (like a walk through the woods at noon), you want D-Range Priority.

What's really going on?

In Resolution Priority, all the pixels on the sensor show up in the image file. In High ISO & Low Noise, pairs of pixels are binned together to minimize noise at higher sensitivity, which therefore delivers a file half as big as Resolution Priority. Also delivering a file half as big is D-Range Priority, which pairs pixels like High ISO but clocks them differently so one is exposed for the full shutter time to capture the shadow detail and the other is exposed for only a quarter of it to snag the highlight detail only.

Other cameras do stuff like this, of course, if not quite at the sensor level.

  • Most camera manufacturers now offer some form of intelligent Scene recognition. The Fujifilm F200EXR can be slow to recognize a scene, though.
  • The Image Size option on any camera lets you decide if you want full resolution images, other aspect ratios or binned pixels for small images with less noise.
  • At some shutter speeds, digicams automatically enable noise reduction processing in their image processors, somewhat reducing resolution. Some cameras let you disable this.
  • Dynamic range optimization is an old story, too. Sony has its Dynamic Range Optimizer, Nikon D-Lighting, Canon i-Contrast. They tend to be a setting you enable and forget about because they work so well.

But in all those cases, you have to set the camera to take advantage of the feature. In EXR mode, you can tell the Fujifilm F200 how to behave or let it decide automatically based on the scene.

The big surprise may be later when you don't have quite as many pixels as you may have thought you were capturing. To see if that matters to you, take a look at our gallery images. For me, a 6-megapixel image is something of the sweet spot for imaging, so I don't mind not getting a 12-megapixel image.

Look and Feel. In other respects, the Fujifilm F200EXR looks like any other compact digicam. The flared shoulders aren't quite as flared as they appear in some photos, I should note. The chrome accents are tasteful and help the Fujifilm F200EXR appear less boxy than it is.

The flare helps grip the camera, providing not just shoulders but hips. Your thumb wraps over the Fujifilm F200EXR's Mode dial which stands off quite a bit from the back panel to a ring of bumps that help you hold on.

The Fujifilm F200EXR is not a light camera, but it isn't heavy either, easily fitting into a pocket or purse.

The front is dominated by the 5x Fujinon zoom lens ringed in chrome. The microphone is around 7 o'clock on the lens opening where you won't obscure it. A small autofocus-assist illuminator sits just between the lens and the very small flash, which is (careful!) just below the Shutter button on the top deck.

The speaker is on the bottom of the camera (sensibly bouncing the sound off whatever the camera is sitting on). A plastic tripod mount is next to it with the hinge to the battery/card compartment snugged up right against it.

Controls. The large chrome Shutter Button is ringed by a Zoom control that zoomed so fast that it was unusable. Zooming is how you compose your image and it was impossible to do it with any precision on the Fujifilm F200EXR. To the left of those two controls is the Power button, which sits next to an empty spot in the chrome trim that really looks like it should be doing something important, like light up.

The knurled Mode dial is right where your thumb grabs the camera. Unfortunately, it's easy to dislodge from its setting. I often found I had, in the course of shooting, changed the mode.

The Playback button, a tiny little thing just above the small four-way navigator, also powers the camera on and off in Playback mode (Hurray!).

Next to it above the navigator is the infamous Fujifilm photo mode button, which accesses mode-specific options. System options are accessed from the Menu button in the middle of the four-way navigator.

Below the navigator are two more miniscule buttons. The Display/Back button and the Intelligent Face Detection/Red-Eye Removal button.

The navigator itself is rather small with what has to be the largest gap I've seen between the button and the shell of the body. Some play is necessary to accommodate button presses, but not great fit and finish. This can be an issue in harsh surroundings like the beach where sand can easily get into the camera.

The navigator buttons do double duty. Up is EV compensation or Erase in Playback mode. Right cycles through the Flash modes. Down handles the self-timer. Left toggles Macro mode.

Mysteriously, the manual insists that the USB port on the right side of the camera is for USB, AV, and HD devices. The mystery is HD. The Fujifilm F200EXR doesn't shoot HD video (just 640 x 480) so the reference must be to stills.

The 3-inch LCD has a high-resolution 230,000 dots but Fujifilm doesn't waste them on the large fonts in their menu system (ahem). So the menus look pretty ratty but the images are nice.

Lens. The Fujifilm F200EXR's Funjinon 5x optical zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent range of 28-140mm. At wide angle, the maximum aperture is f/3.3, with a maximum aperture of f/5.1 at telephoto. Minimum apertures are f/9.0 at wide angle and f/14.0 at telephoto.

At 4.4x digital zoom and the Fujifilm F200EXR can reach 22x from its 28mm starting point. In Macro mode, the F200EXR can focus from 0.2 to 2.6 feet in wide angle and 1.6 to 3.3 feet in telephoto.

The Fujifilm F200EXR uses CCD-shift optical image stabilization to minimize the effects of camera shake at telephoto focal lengths and during slow shutter speeds in dim light.

Modes. Shooting modes on the Fujifilm F200EXR are not quite as clear-cut as you might hope.

There is the simple Auto mode (but it isn't green, it's red), which lets you change ISO, Image Size (4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 aspect ratios in Large, Medium, or Small file sizes), Image Quality (Fine or Normal), and Film Simulation (Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, Black & White, and Sepia. That's more fun than you can usually have in Auto.

Programmed Auto adds Dynamic Range (Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%), and White Balance. But the only "programming" you can do is adjust EV (something you can't do in Auto).

Manual actually gives you independent control of the aperture and shutter settings. Pressing the EV key displays the current settings in the lower left corner of the screen with an exposure scale in the lower right corner. You use the Left/Right keys to change the shutter speed and the Up/Down keys to change the aperture. This wasn't quite as much fun as it sounds, since your aperture choices are just two: either f/3.3 or f/9.0 at wide angle or f/5.1 or f/14 at telephoto.

Apart from Scene modes, the Fujifilm F200EXR offers a Natural Light setting and a Natural Light & Flash setting on the Mode dial to deal with low light situations two way. Natural light turns off the flash. Natural Light & Flash takes two consecutive shows, one without and the second with flash right away.

Scene modes include Portrait, Portrait Enhancer (smooths skin), Landscape, Sport, Night with high ISO, Night (Tripod) with slow shutter, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Underwater, Museum, Party, Flower, and Text.

Movie mode offers only 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 AVI captures, both at 30 fps, with monaural sound but no zoom. Cameras that don't offer an HD 16:9 video mode seem almost retro to me. The 4:3 of a 640 x 480 just doesn't cut it any more for me.

Click to view movie. AVI player required.

VGA Movie. A 4.5MB file lasting 4 seconds. No zoom, monaural audio. (Click to download AVI file.)

Playback offers a rudimentary slide show option with fade-ins (quite good enough for me, actually, but a disappointment if you're coming from a Sony digicam).

Images aren't rotated automatically by the camera, so you'll have to do that yourself if you like shooting in Portrait mode (like I do). You can rotate in camera or using your computer (which would be the fast way to do it).

Menu System. Pretty ugly. It takes too many key presses to access frequent options like Formatting the memory card. It's not on the Playback menu near Erase. It's further away on the Setup menu.

The buttons are, on the contrary, far too efficient, changing options when you press them. Tap the Left button, for example, and you're in Macro mode, rather than displaying your options for Macro focusing.

Fujifilm's menu system works just about backwards from everyone else. The standard game is played with a Menu button that accesses the main settings and a Function button in the middle of the navigator for the settings that change from shot to shot that aren't on a button.

Fujifilm instead uses the Function button for the Menu button and the Photo button for the Function button. This probably only aggravates reviewers, but aggravated reviewers can be dangerous.

Storage & Battery. With 48MB internal memory, the Fujifilm F200EXR can store 10 high quality images and about 43 seconds of video in a pinch. But for normal use, the camera supports both xD-Picture cards (up to 2GB) and SD/SDHC memory cards (up to 8GB). A 2GB SD card will hold about 410 high quality images or 29 minutes of high quality video (640 x 480 at 25 fps). The Fujifilm F200EXR is powered by a rechargeable NP-50 lithium-ion battery. Fujifilm reports a CIPA rating of 230 shots for battery capacity. An AC power adapter AC-5VX is also available, requiring the CP-50 DC coupler.

Unfortunately, the battery has a symmetrical design, so it's easy to put it in the wrong way. You can't seat it that way because there's a notch at the bottom that has to be orientated correctly, but you really do have to train yourself to look for the big printed arrow on the battery to get it in right.

The manual (I really did read it) makes an interesting observation about battery power and the internal clock. It's rare to find a digicam that does not have some kind of rechargeable clock battery (some replaceable, too) so the clock can keep time when you remove the battery. But few manufacturers tell you how long that battery will keep the clock ticking. Fujifilm says that if you keep a battery (or AC adapter) in the camera for about four days (presumably to fully charge the internal clock battery), you can remove it for about seven before resetting the clock.

Shooting. If you've been reading between the lines, you may have detected my disappointment with the Fujifilm F200EXR. It seems like it's getting harder and harder to like compact digicams even though they're improving and improving.

Certainly the F200EXR offers a different approach to the traditional issues in digital photography. Tackling both noise at high ISO and blown out highlights in an innovative way is something I really looked forward to.

I took the camera on a couple of walks and did some around-the-bunker shooting as well. Many of the gallery shots are paired Program and EXR comparisons.

Apart from the drunken zoom control, using the camera was simple. Turn it on, aim it, zoom, rezoom, tap that zoom again, back up a bit, fire.

I did have trouble leaving the Mode dial alone. My thumb sat right across it and inevitably would move the dial halfway to the next setting underneath. That didn't always reset the mode, but it was unnerving. Bad place for a Mode dial.

The menu system was equally annoying. Which menu something might be found in seemed almost entirely arbitrary. Why, for example, are the EXR options under Menu on the navigator instead of the Photo mode button like other shooting options?

But for the most part, I didn't bother with the menus. I just aimed and fired and changed modes to fire again.

Right away, right there on the LCD, I could see EXR improved the shot. Look in the Makernotes section of the Exif page for the EXRMode setting to see how I set the camera.

The sequence of orange wildflowers runs the gamut. The first one was shot in EXR in Auto (which selected High Resolution). The second was set with High Resolution explicitly (hence Manual EXRAuto). They're nearly identical at about 3-megapixels each with a 4,000 x 2,248 file size. The third image (same flower) was shot with Signal to Noise priority and is, consequently a smaller file at 2-megapixels and 2,816 x 1,584. That's the same as the fourth, which is set for Dynamic Range priority, and shows the green foliage a bit lighter than the other three.

That's not a great test of the noise/detail trade-off because it's a sunny shot taken at ISO 100. Enter the dolls. These were Signal to Noise priority shots, binning pixels to reduce noise while maintaining color and detail. Now, you can whine about them being only a 6MP image if you want, but look at the full resolution image. You can clearly see the cracks in the first doll's face, the painted eyelashes are sharp, and the texture of her white blouse is well detailed. The shadows do show some mottling but it doesn't bother me. The second doll was nearly in darkness. There's more color in the photo than I saw at the scene, but it's a believable color with detail in her dress pattern maintained. And her face, too.

Perhaps the most stunning setting of the doll shots, however, is the ISO. Fujifilm isn't shy at all about popping up to ISO 1,600 in EXR's Signal to Noise priority mode. The glass clown required similar magic indoors on a very dull day. The colors are rendered true and the image holds up well.

The first and last shots I took with the Fujifilm F200EXR were macro shots. I did enjoy shooting macro with the camera, even though at wide angle, there was noticeable distortion. Things like the shot of the frame show this dramatically -- and perhaps unfairly. But there's some serious optical distortion to contend with. On a subject like the purple orchids, it doesn't come into play. It's a little hard to believe those were shot at ISO 400 on a digicam, but the Fujifilm F200EXR captured them very nicely.

As an imager in difficult light, the Fujifilm F200EXR showed some stuff, but the user interface--especially the zoom--made using the camera unnecessarily difficult.

 

Fuji F200EXR Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft lower right
Tele: Slightly soft in Center
Tele: Soft lower right

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Fuji F200EXR's zoom is quite soft in the corners, but the softness doesn't extend very far into the frame. The center is very sharp. At the telephoto end, corners aren't quite as soft, but the center isn't quite as sharp as wide-angle. Again, corner softness doesn't extend far into the frame, in either case.


Wide: Lower than average barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: Average pincushion; slightly noticeable

Geometric Distortion: The Fuji F200EXR's lens showed lower than average barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.4%), and about average pincushion distortion (0.2%) at telephoto. The effect is slightly noticeable in both cases.


Wide: Moderate
Tele: Moderate

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration is moderate and bright at both wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings. Blurring in the corners exacerbates the effect a bit.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Fuji F200EXR's Macro mode is quite good, capturing a sharp image, albeit with the usual corner softness see from most cameras we test at these distances. Minimum coverage area is 2.4 x 1.8 inches (61 x 46mm). The F200EXR's flash is partially blocked by the lens at the most extreme close-up, however the area not blocked is properly exposed, so the flash did a good job of throttling down.


 

Fuji F200EXR Image Quality


Color: The Fuji F2000EXR oversaturates some red tones a fair bit, and blue and green tones just slightly. The oversaturation of reds is quite typical of consumer digital cameras. However, bright yellows are actually a little undersaturated. Overall saturation still looked good and pleasing throughout most of our test subjects. The Fuji F200EXR's skin tones were a little pinkish, though still natural looking. The FinePix F200EXR showed some minor color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects. Notably, it pushed cyan toward blue (presumably for stronger blue skies), and magenta toward red, but hue was quite accurate overall.


Auto WB: Very warm, reddish cast
Incandescent WB: A bit too warm
Manual WB: Good

Incandescent: Auto white balance resulted in a rather warm, reddish image. The Incandescent white balance setting was better, but still a bit too warm for our tastes. Manual white balance was the most accurate, but a touch cool.

White balance for a scene like this is very much a matter of personal preference: We like to see just a bit of the color of the original light source, without the image looking noticeably tinted. Others may in fact prefer a stronger tint, as being more evocative of the original lighting.


HR Mode (12MP)
100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200
6,400
12,800

ISO: Noise and Detail,
HR Mode
: These crops are from shots taken with the Fuji F200EXR HR (High Resolution) mode at full 12-megapixels.

Detail is good at ISOs 100 through 400, if not great, with soft detail and noise reduction artifacts beginning at ISO 400. ISO 800 is fairly noisy, but the "grain" is small, leaving some pretty decent levels of detail for a compact digicam. Detail goes south quickly at ISO 1,600 and above though. There's so much noise reduction going on at 3,200 and above, that there is little point to them. Saturation is good up to ISO 1,600, but images become a little dull and washed out at higher ISOs. Chroma (color) noise is fairly well controlled throughout the usable range. See Printed results below for an idea of what print sizes you can expect from each ISO.


SN Mode (6MP)
100
200
400
800
1,600
HR Mode downsized to 6MP
100
200
400
800
1,600

ISO: Noise and Detail,
SN Mode:
These crops are from shots taken with the Fuji F200EXR SN mode at 6-megapixels. (We suspect SN stands for "Signal-to-Noise" ratio, but Fuji calls it "High ISO & Low Noise.")

As you might expect by the name of the mode, noise in SN mode is reduced and detail is quite good up to ISO 800 this time. We estimate just under a stop of improvement in noise over the HR versions.

To see if there was any advantage of shooting in SN instead of simply downsizing 12-megapixel HR shots to the same 6-megapixel resolution, we've included crops downsized in Photoshop using bicubic sharper interpolation. As you can see, there's not a huge difference compare to the SN crops, but there definitely is some improvement to be seen. The downsized images are a bit sharper due to the interpolation, but show a bit more noise. Still, the differences are small enough that we'd be tempted to shoot in HR mode, and apply some noise reduction via post processing. For the average consumer without access to noise reduction software, though, the image improvement at high ISOs in SN mode is probably worthwhile. (And, contrary to the megapixel race we've seen in recent years, 6 megapixels is more than enough to make good-looking 8x10 inch prints.)


F200EXR HR (12MP)
F100fd (12MP)
F200EXR SN (6MP)
F30 (6MP)

Demosaicing Errors: Fuji's new Super CCD EXR sensor has a unique photosite layout. (See the Overview and User Report for details.) While it may improve noise and high ISO performance, the amount of luminance detail appears to suffer in the horizontal and vertical directions. The crops at right compare the Fuji F200EXR with the 12-megapixel Fuji F100fd which uses a Super CCD HR with a more conventional color filter layout. Both cameras have very similar (if not identical) lenses. As you can see, the F100fd easily outresolved the F200EXR when it came to the horizontal lines in the bottle label. The second set of crops show the F200EXR in SN mode compared the 6-megapixel Fuji F30. Again, the lower megapixel sensor was able to outresolve the EXR sensor, though the difference wasn't nearly as stark. Similar demosaicing color errors can be seen along horizontal and vertical lines in our F200EXR resolution target shot.


12MP
DR 100%
(ISO 100)
+0.7 EV
12MP
DR 200%
(ISO 200)
+0.7 EV
12MP
DR 400%
(ISO 400)
+0.7 EV

Dynamic Range, 12MP: As mentioned above, the Fuji F200EXR has an expanded dynamic range feature called D-Range priority designed to preserve hot highlights when enabled. At full resolution, it has three settings: 100%, 200%, 400%, as well as an automatic mode. As you can see from the first row of flower crops, it's very effective at retaining clipped highlights in our outdoor portrait shot. As they say, though, there's no free lunch: if you look at the second row of crops, you'll see that highlight retention comes at a cost of some increased noise in the shadows and midtones. (The crops have had levels adjusted equally in Photoshop by setting the highlight slider to 100, to make it easier to see the noise.) This is because the camera raises ISO to 200 and 400 respectively, when using these modes at full resolution. Still, even with the DR 400% setting, noise is low enough that this constitutes a useful exposure mode.


6MP
DR 100%
(ISO 100)
+0.7 EV
6MP
DR 200%
(ISO 100)
+0.7 EV
6MP
DR 400%
(ISO 100)
+0.7 EV
6MP
DR 800%
(ISO 200)
+0.7 EV
N/A
(DR 800% not supported at 12MP)
12MP resized
to 6MP
DR 100%
(ISO 100)
+0.7 EV
12MP resized
to 6MP
DR 200%
(ISO 200)
+0.7 EV
12MP resized
to 6MP
DR 400%
(ISO 400)
+0.7 EV
N/A
(DR 800% not supported at 12MP)

Dynamic Range, 6MP:
At 6 megapixels, D-Range priority mode works differently: half the pixels are read out during exposure, and the remaining half at the end of the exposure, thus giving each half different exposures. The results are combined into a single image in-camera, with increased dynamic range and without needing to boost ISO. An additional 800% setting is also available at 6MP. As you can see from the crops at right, highlight retention is similar to the corresponding setting at 12MP, but there is much less noise in the shadow areas, especially at the higher settings, because sensitivity was not boosted as it was in 12MP mode. (Again, the shadow crops have had levels adjusted equally in Photoshop by setting the highlight slider to 100, to make it easier to see the noise.) All DR levels remained at ISO 100, except DR800, which was boosted to only ISO 200. There's a slight increase in noise going from DR 100% to 200% and 400%, but not nearly as much as 12MP mode. What's more, these images are cleaner than 12MP DR images downsized to 6MP (see third row of crops), so it's not just noise averaging at play here. Impressive.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
Click to see F200EXRLL001003.jpg
3 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL001004.jpg
6.5 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL001005.jpg
8 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL001006.jpg
8 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL001007.jpg
8 sec
f3.3
ISO
200
Click to see F200EXRLL002003.jpg
1.5 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL002004.jpg
3 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL002005.jpg
6.5 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL002006.jpg
8 sec
f3.3
Click to see F200EXRLL002007.jpg
8 sec
f3.3
ISO
400
Click to see F200EXRLL004003.jpg
0.6 sec
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Low Light, 12MP: The Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR was able to capture reasonably bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night), at ISO settings of 400 and above. This is due to the 8 second maximum exposure limit of the camera. (We had to use manual exposure mode to access the slowest shutter speed supported.) Noise is reasonably well controlled for a 12MP compact at ISO 400, but there are a lot of hot pixels visible. ISO 800 isn't bad for a compact either, but ISO 1,600 and up are very noisy with lots of noise reduction artifacts and blotches of chroma noise. Not surprisingly, ISOs 6,400 and 12,800 are so noisy, that the camera falls back to 6- and 3-megapixels respectively.

The Fuji F200EXR's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to almost the darkest light level (1/16 foot-candle light level) without any assistance, and in complete darkness with its AF illuminator enabled. Do keep in mind though, that the very long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
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1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
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Low Light, SN Mode (6MP): As mentioned previously, Fuji calls SN mode "High ISO & Low Noise," so we expected great things from this mode in our Low Light test. We were a little disappointed. First, the slowest shutter speed in SN mode is only 1/4 second versus 8 seconds in some other modes. Second, the maximum ISO supported is 1,600 versus up to 12,800 in some other modes (3,200 at full 12MP resolution). As you can see from the table of test shots at right, this combination of limitations prevents the camera from capturing bright images in our low light test, except at ISO 800 at 1 foot-candle, and ISO 1,600 down to 1/2 foot-candle. It's a real shame they limited the shutter speed to 1/4 second, but there's probably a valid technical reason for it. The good news is that SN mode produces relatively clean 6-megapixel images with good color at these high ISOs, something the average compact can't seem to do these days.



Wide: ISO 100
6 feet
Tele: ISO 100
6 feet
Wide: Auto (ISO 800)
14.1 feet
Tele: Auto (ISO 800)
9.2 feet

Flash: The Fuji F200EXR's flash exposure was already quite dim at 6 feet and ISO 100 at wide-angle. At full telephoto, the exposure was even dimmer at 6 feet, the minimum distance we start this test at.

Our manufacturer-specified testing (second set of shots at right) produced bright results at the rated distances of 14.1 feet at wide-angle, and 9.2 feet at full telephoto, but the camera had to raise ISO sensitivity to 800 to achieve the bright results. This is quite typical of subcompact cameras these days, where the manufacturer has chosen to boost ISO instead of equipping the camera with a larger and stronger flash. Unfortunately, this leads to higher noise levels. It's a good thing the Fuji F200EXR is better than average in terms of high ISO noise.


Printed: Testing the F200EXR was a little more complicated thanks to its many modes.

12 megapixel: Starting with the standard 12-megapixel modes, the Fujifilm F200EXR performs just a little below par when compared to other current 12-megapixel digicams, but still not bad. ISO 100 and 200 shots handle enlargement up to 13x19 inches, but fine detail is a little scrambled thanks to the demosaicing errors you can see in the crops above. ISO 400 images are better at 11x14, but quite usable at this size. Even ISO 800 shots are usable, if a little grainy at 11x14. ISO 1,600 shots are a little too soft for 8x10, but better at 5x7. ISO 3,200 shots are passable at 4x6. ISO 6,400 shots are not usable at any size.

6 megapixel: ISO 100 shots are a little too soft for 13x19 inches, but look good at 11x14. Detail is a little soft, though, just like the 12-megapixel images. ISO 200 and 400 are both still pretty good at 11x14, only slightly softer than 100. ISO 800 is also usable, if a little more grainy, but it's better at 8x10. ISO 1,600 is soft but usable at 8x10, but closer to acceptable at 5x7.

EXR: EXR HR, or Resolution priority produces a good quality 13x19-inch image with slightly less demosaicing error than we saw in the standard ISO 100 shot. The SN or High ISO and Low Noise mode is covered above under 6 megapixel. DR200 and DR400 modes produced good 13x19 and 11x14-inch images, respectively.


 

Fuji F200EXR Performance


Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good for a pocket camera, at 0.51 second at wide angle and 0.49 second at full telephoto. Enabling the flash increased full AF shutter lag to 0.64 second at wide angle, still pretty good. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.171 second, a little slower than average, but still pretty fast.


Cycle time: Cycle time is also relatively fast, capturing a frame every 1.72 seconds in single-shot mode. The F200EX offers a number of continuous modes. Here are results from a few of them: Continuous Long Period captured more than 20 frames at 0.62 frames per second. Continuous Top-3 captured 3 frames at 1.64 frames per second, and Continuous Top-12 captured a 3-megapixel frame every 0.23 second, which translates to 4.37 frames per second.


Flash Recycle: Fuji F200EXR's flash recycles in 7 seconds after a full-power discharge. That's pretty slow, particularly with such a low power output, but again, not unusual among compact camera models these days.


 

Fuji F200EXR Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Amazing high-ISO image quality for a small camera, at 6MP
  • Excellent dynamic range, especially at 6MP
  • Wide-angle 5x zoom in a compact body
  • CCD-shift image stabilization
  • Rich color, even in low-light
  • Large LCD screen provides adequate resolution and good gain up feature for shooting in low-light
  • Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes
  • "Natural Light & With Flash" mode is a great concept
  • Better than average AF speed
  • Good low-light focusing, bright AF-assist light makes it even better
  • Dual media support (SD, xD)
  • Poor resolution, soft detail and demosaicing errors at 12MP
  • 6MP "High ISO & Low Noise" mode limits exposure length, reducing utility in low-light
  • Convoluted user interface with too many menu levels and key presses required
  • Too many modes and options for most users to fathom
  • Imprecise zoom control
  • Only two apertures available; uses ND filter
  • Weak flash (but offset by better than average high-ISO performance)
  • Unimpressive movie modes (no HD, no optical zoom)
  • Mediocre burst performance at full resolution
  • Below average battery life
  • Documentation leaves much to be desired

 

There's some to-die-for technology going on behind the lens of the F200EXR. The pixel-level control of the sensor is well implemented, with even an Auto option that intelligently selects the best exposure method.

The concept reminds us of Shree Nayar's bracketed exposures, which we wrote about in the Sept. 22, 2000 issue of the Newsletter. In fact, that's exactly what it is. Exposing adjacent pixels differently to extend dynamic range. But back then, sensors were not packed with 12 megapixels. In the end, the F200EXR doesn't outperform its predecessors, nor its peers, at least not at 12 megapixels. Of course, the real juice in the Fujifilm F200EXR is when it's performing its dual-readout trick, clocking out half of the pixels early, while exposing the other half longer to extend dynamic range at 6 megapixels. Tests show that this does work well to improve dynamic range, while keeping noise in check. Unfortunately, the camera locks out long exposures in the pixel-binning, 6-megapixel "High ISO & Low Noise" mode, so it's not as useful as we'd hoped in low light. Again, Fujifilm takes high-end technology that enthusiasts would be interested in and limits the capabilities that would please those users.

Add that the Fujifilm F200EXR itself is too difficult to use, with a poor zoom control and a horrible menu system, and it's just not fun to use. And competing technology, while not as glamorous perhaps, is generally more competent at extending dynamic range at full resolution, if not reducing noise.

We're sure that some enthusiasts will still like the Fujifilm F200EXR for those 6-megapixel modes, and we say more power to you. It's just harder for us to recommend the camera to most users looking for a good indoor camera for the reasons already mentioned.

Though we thought for sure that the Fujifilm F200EXR would earn a Dave's Pick, it doesn't quite measure up as a 12-megapixel model, and while image quality at 6 megapixels is very good, its difficult personality keeps it from our top recommendation.

 

Fujifilm F200EXR

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