The Imaging Resource
Fuji FinePix A200 Digital Camera
|High, 2.0-megapixel CCD|
|Good prints to 5x7, adequate 8x10s|
Suggested Retail Price
Universally known for great color and performance, Fuji has also made a name
for itself in the digicam arena by offering consumers digicams of consistently
good quality at very affordable prices. Maintaining a good balance between
quality and portability, Fuji's FinePix digicam line is populated with compact,
travel-worthy digicams that take great pictures. The new A200, positioned
at the entry level point-and-shoot end of the FinePix line, features a 2.0-megapixel
CCD and a pared-down user interface perfect for novices. Although the A200
has only a fixed-focal-length lens and less image control than many of the
FinePix digicams, its point-and-shoot simplicity will appeal to a wide audience
of consumers, especially at its very low retail price.
With a suggested retail price of $149 (even cheaper at some discount Internet sites), the Fuji FinePix A200 is definitely a bargain for an entry-level digicam. Small, compact, and very lightweight, the A200 features a 2.0-megapixel CCD, full automatic exposure control, and point-and-shoot simplicity. The A200's CCD captures enough information to print photos as large as 5x7 inches with nice detail and 8x10 inches with acceptable detail. At the same time, lower-resolution settings are available for email attachments or online image use. The camera's dimensions are small enough for larger shirt pockets, at 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches (99 x 65 x 41 millimeters), and the all-plastic body is very lightweight at just 6.7 ounces (190 grams), including batteries and memory card. The fixed-focal-length lens and built-in lens cover keep the A200's front panel fairly smooth, allowing the camera to easily slip into a pocket or purse.
The A200 features a 5.5mm fixed focal length lens (equivalent to a standard wide-angle 36mm lens on a 35mm camera). Aperture is automatically controlled, with settings of f/4.6 or f/9.5. Focus is also fixed, ranging from 2.6 feet (80 centimeters) to infinity, in normal mode, with a Macro setting ranging from 3.1 to 5.1 inches (8 to 13 centimeters). The camera does offer as much as 2.5x digital "zoom," but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it only records the center pixels of the CCD image. (Fuji's approach makes more sense to me than most, as they simply limit the amount of digital zoom that's available based on the current resolution setting. The camera never resizes the image, but rather lets you "zoom" until the area that's cropped from the CCD array matches the currently selected image resolution. Thus, no digital zoom is available at maximum image size, and the maximum 2.5x zoom is only available at the smallest resolution setting.) For framing shots, the A200 offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. (As is often the case, the optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing only 82% of the final frame, while the LCD is very accurate.) A limited information display reports camera settings on the LCD monitor, and a framing guideline option displays an alignment grid. The grid divides the image area into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up tricky subjects.
Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, despite the A200's selection of Auto and Manual exposure modes. The "Manual" setting simply expands the Record menu to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance options. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second, but the LCD display shows reports neither the shutter speed nor the lens aperture setting. To determine exposure, the A200 employs a TTL (through-the-lens), 64-zone metering system, which evaluates readings taken throughout the frame to calculate exposure. The camera's Exposure Compensation setting lets you increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 EV units in one-third-step increments. (Each full EV unit corresponds to a doubling or halving of the exposure.) White balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Incandescent presets. Although it's not adjustable, the A200's sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100, sufficient for most situations.
The A200's built-in flash is rated as effective from 2.6 to 9.8 feet (0.8 to 3.0 meters), a range that was validated by my own tests. The flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow-Synchro modes. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between a full press of the Shutter button and the actual opening of the shutter, helpful in self-portraits or group photos. The A200 also features a Movie mode, which captures movies without sound at either 320 x 240- or 160 x 120-pixel resolutions. Maximum recording times vary, depending on the resolution and amount of available memory space, with a maximum of 20 seconds at 320 x 240 pixels, and a maximum of 80 seconds at 160 x 120 pixels.
The A200 stores image files on an xD-Picture Card, and comes with a 16MB starter card. You'll want to purchase a larger size fairly soon, given the A200's maximum 1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution. (The xD-Picture Card itself is very tiny, rivaling the popular SD memory cards in size.) The A200 uses two AA-type batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH, and an optional AC adapter is available. A set of single-use AA alkaline batteries comes with the camera, but I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The A200's power consumption is lower than many competing models, and a freshly charged set of high-capacity NiMH batteries should give you two and a half to three hours of operating time, even in the camera's highest power drain mode.
Although basic in its offerings, the A200 is an excellent option for novice users who want to try digital imaging without investing a lot of money. The 2.0-megapixel CCD is great for printing snapshots and slightly larger photos, and the Fuji name ensures good color and quality.
- 2.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
- 36mm (35mm equivalent) fixed-focus lens.
- 2.5x digital zoom.
- Automatic exposure control.
- Adjustable white balance with seven settings.
- Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 100.
- Apertures from f/4.6 to f/9.5.
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second.
- Built-in flash with five modes.
- xD-Picture Card storage (16MB card included).
- Power supplied by two AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
- Interface software and USB drivers included for Windows and Macintosh computers.
- Movie mode (without sound).
- 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
Lightweight, portable, and easy to use, the Fuji's FinePix A200 is an excellent point-and-shoot digicam for novices just getting their feet wet in digital photography. Although exposure remains under automatic control at all times, you can adjust Exposure Compensation and White Balance. A simple, straightforward user interface means little or no downtime for learning, and makes the A200 good for shooting on the fly. Its 2.0-megapixel CCD captures good-quality images (for printing as large as 5x7 inches) with nice color and clarity. With a list price under $150, it's one of the most affordable cameras out there that's still capable of delivering good-quality photos.
Measuring 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches (99 x 65 x 41 millimeters), the A200 is small enough for most larger shirt pockets and fits easily into most purses. Although compact, the A200 fits into the hand well, and the included wrist strap provides some extra security. Loaded up with batteries and memory card, the A200 weighs a mere 6.7 ounces (190 grams), thanks in part to the all-plastic camera body and uncomplicated lens design. Because of the A200's straightforward design, external controls are limited and the LCD menu system is short and sweet.
The A200's front panel has gentle curves with no real protrusions to snag on pockets. Because the lens is fixed, the front panel remains smooth even while the camera is powered on. A shutter-like lens cover protects the front of the lens when closed, and quickly retracts when the camera is powered on. (The sliding Power switch is connected directly to the sliding lens.) Also on the front panel are the flash, flash sensor, self-timer lamp, optical viewfinder window, and the Macro/Infinity focus switch. A slight, sculpted ridge provides a finger grip on the far side of the front panel, with a shiny silver finish.
The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds only the eyelet for the wrist strap. At the very bottom of the right panel, the edge of the memory card and battery compartment door is visible.
The opposite side of the camera features the USB and DC In connector terminals, both uncovered. (I have to say that I'm always a little nervous when I see open connector sockets like this, concerned that dirt and/or moisture could enter the camera body through them.)
On the A200's top panel are the Power switch and Shutter button, the latter ringed by a small Mode dial.
The few remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, sharing space with the optical viewfinder, an LED status light, and the LCD monitor. The Display, Menu/OK, and Back buttons line the right side of the LCD monitor. A Four-Way Arrow pad just above these controls digital zoom and navigates through the LCD menu.
Finally, the A200's bottom panel is nice and flat, with the plastic, threaded tripod mount just off-center. The shared xD-Picture Card and battery compartment is adjacent, with a hinged door that slides out before opening. Although I typically prefer to have access to the battery and memory card compartments while a camera is mounted to a tripod, I doubt this issue will come into play much on the A200, given its portable nature.
With full automatic exposure control and only a couple of manual adjustments available, the A200's user interface is very straightforward. The Mode dial instantly sets the camera mode, and remaining external controls are limited to digital zoom and menu display. Although you'll have to get into the LCD menu system for basic adjustments, the menu screens are simply laid out, and feature only a handful of options each. Thus, most users should be able to start shooting with the camera right out of the box.
In Record mode, the A200's LCD display works as a viewfinder. The DISP button lets you choose between no display (LCD off), a basic display, or one with an grid of horizontal and vertical lines overlaid on the frame, to help you align the camera with your subjects. (The screenshot here shows the viewfinder display with the grid in place.)
Mode LCD Display
In playback mode, you can choose to see either the images by themselves, or with the image number and date of capture overlaid on it.
Focus Button: On the front of the camera, just below the lens, this button sets the focus range to Macro or Normal.
Mode Dial: Surrounding the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this dial sets the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Record, Playback, and Movie.
Shutter Button: Located on the camera's top panel, this button fires the shutter when pressed. Because the A200's lens is fixed-focus, there's no half-press option to set focus and exposure, as with more advanced models.
Power Switch: To the left of the Shutter button, this sliding switch turns the camera on and off. It also opens and closes the sliding lens cover.
Four-Way Arrow Pad: In the top right corner of the back panel, this large rocker button features four arrows for navigating through menu screens and captured images. In Record mode, the up and down arrows control the 2.5x digital zoom. In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images, while the up and down arrows control digital enlargement (a maximum of 10x, depending on the resolution).
Display Button: Directly to the right of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD monitor's display, and also toggles the framing grid. It also lets you disable the LCD monitor, saving battery power when framing images with the optical viewfinder. In Playback mode, this button controls the information overlay, and enables a nine-image index display mode.
Menu/OK Button: Just below the Display button, this button pulls up the settings menu in Playback, Record, or Movie modes. It also serves as the "OK" button, to confirm any menu selections.
Back Button: Beneath the Menu/OK button, this button backs out of camera menus without making changes.
Camera Modes and Menus
Still Image Record Mode: Marked with a red camera icon on the Mode dial,
this mode allows the camera to capture still images. Exposure is automatically
controlled, although a "Manual" option in the settings menu increases
the menu selections to include Exposure Compensation and White Balance. Pressing
the Menu button displays the following options:
- Quality: Sets the image resolution and quality to 2M Fine (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), 2M Normal (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels), or 0.3M (640 x 480 pixels).
- Flash: Puts the flash into Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Synchro modes.
- Self-Timer: (Auto mode only, not shown in the screenshots above) Activates the 10-second Self-Timer.
- Exposure Compensation: (Manual mode only) Adjusts the overall exposure from -2.1 to +1.5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
- White Balance: (Manual mode only) Sets the white balance
to Auto, Outdoors, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool
White Fluorescent, or Incandescent.
Menu: Activates the Auto or Manual menu selections, adjusts the LCD brightness,
and offers the following setup menu options:
- Postview: Turns the post-image capture review screen on or off.
- Power Save: Turns the power save option on or off. If on, the camera will shut down after 30 seconds of inactivity.
- USB Mode: Sets the USB mode to DSC or PC Cam. PC Cam mode lets Windows users use the A200 as a webcam.
- Date & Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
- LCD: Turns the LCD monitor on or off. If on, the LCD monitor automatically comes on whenever the Mode dial is set to the Still Image Record position. If off, you must enable the display via the Display button.
- Beep: Enables the camera's beep sounds, with options for Low, High, or Off.
- Language: Sets the menu language to English, German, or French.
- Reset All: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
Playback Mode: The traditional green playback symbol marks this mode on the Mode dial. Here, you can review captured images and movies, as well as manage files and set up images for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:
- Erase: Deletes the current frame, all frames, or formats the xD-Picture Card.
- Protect: Write-protects the displayed image, preventing it from being accidentally erased or manipulated (except via card formatting). Also removes protection, and offers options to protect or unprotect all images on the card.
- DPOF: Marks frames for printing on DPOF devices, with an option to include a date and time overlay.
- Setup Menu: Displays the same settings as under the Record menu,
minus the Auto and Manual exposure options.
Mode: Marked by a red movie camera icon on the Mode dial, Movie mode records
movies without sound. Pressing the Menu button lets you adjust the resolution setting (either 320
x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels), and provides access to the camera's main Setup menu. Movie clips are
limited in length to 20 seconds at 320 x 240, and 80 seconds at 160 x 120 pixels.
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.
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See the specifications sheet here.
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the A200's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how A200's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.
- Color: Throughout my testing, the A200 produced good color, with pleasing results in virtually all cases, although it tended to produce a slightly yellowish cast in most situations. Saturation and hue accuracy both seemed pretty good, apart from the minor yellow cast just noted. The A200 had a bit of a hard time with the difficult incandescent white balance in my Indoor Portrait test, but its auto white balance mode nonetheless delivered what I'd consider to be an acceptable image. Overall, a workmanlike job in the color department, not bad for a camera selling at such a low price.
- Exposure: The A200's metering system did a good job throughout my testing. It required about the same amount of adjustment as most cameras I review for the high-key Outdoor Portrait shot, but less adjustment than most for the Indoor Portrait test. Flash exposure on the Indoor shot was a little dim but probably acceptable. Colors on the Davebox target were marred by the overall warm cast, but apart from that were reasonably accurate and appropriately saturated. The camera's tone curve is a tad contrasty, producing snappy photos under lower-contrast lighting, but losing highlight detail under harsh sunlight.
- Resolution/Sharpness: The A200 performed about average for its 2.0-megapixel class on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height horizontally, and around 500 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to about 800 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 950 lines. The A200's lens has trouble holding sharpness across the frame, with a small area in each corner appearing noticeably soft in most of my photos.
- Closeups: The A200 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.22 x 2.41 inches (82 x 61 millimeters). Resolution was high, with good detail in the dollar bill, coins and brooch, but details were slightly soft, and the corners of the frame were quite blurred. (A common failing in digicam macro focusing.) The camera's flash throttled down a bit too much for the macro shot, and its off-center position produced a shadow at the bottom and right sides of the frame. (Plan on using ambient light for close-in macro shots.)
- Night Shots: The A200's automatic exposure control and maximum shutter time of 1/2 second limits its low-light shooting capabilities a great deal. The A200 produced usable images only as low as eight foot-candles (88 lux). The target was visible at the four foot-candle light level (44 lux), but the exposure was quite dim. Since average city street lighting at night corresponds to approximately one foot-candle, you'll most likely need the built-in flash for any night shots.
- Viewfinder Accuracy: The A200's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing about 82 percent of the frame. The LCD monitor was more accurate, though I couldn't get an exact measurement because the bottom measurement line was just barely cut off. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A200's LCD monitor does a good job in this regard.
- Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the A200 is low, as I measured approximately 0.2 percent barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was fairly low, as there was only a small amount of color surrounding the target lines in the corners of the field of view. The most prominent distortion was the rather severe softness in the extreme corners of its images, particularly in the upper left.
- Battery Life: The A200 delivered surprisingly good battery life for a camera powered by only two AA cells. Its worst-case runtime with true (vs advertised) 1600 mAh capacity cells is over two and a half hours. With the LCD turned off, it can run well over four hours on a single charge. Regardless of the A200's long battery life though, I still strongly recommend that you purchase at least a couple of sets (two cells per set) of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger to go along with them. To see which NiMH cells are best, see my battery shootout page. Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.
In the Box
In the box are the following items:
- Fuji FinePix A200 digital camera.
- 16MB xD-Picture Card.
- Two single-use, AA-type alkaline batteries.
- Wrist strap.
- USB cable.
- Software CD-ROM.
- Instruction manual and registration card.
- Larger capacity xD-Picture Card. (I'd recommend 32MB as a bare minimum, 64MB would be preferable.)
- Two sets NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger.
- Soft camera case.
Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
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Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Fuji FinePix A200, or add comments of your own!
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420