Fujifilm S200EXR Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.6"
Lens: 14.30x zoom
(31-436mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 100-12800
Shutter: 30-1/4000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.3 x 3.7 x 5.7 in.
(133 x 94 x 145 mm)
Weight: 29.5 oz (835 g)
MSRP: $600
Availability: 08/2009
Manufacturer: Fujifilm
Full specs: Fujifilm S200EXR specifications
12.00
Megapixels
14.30x zoom
1/1.6"
size sensor
image of Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR
Front side of Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR digital camera Back side of Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR digital camera      

The Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR is an SLR-like fixed lens camera based around a 1/1.6" Super CCD EXR image sensor with a resolution of twelve megapixels, capable of yielding images with maximum dimensions of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels. The Super CCD EXR sensor debuted in the F200EXR compact, and the S200EXR marks the first time it has been offered in an SLR-like body, albeit with a fixed lens. The S200EXR's sensor offers the ability to trade off image resolution for increased sensitivity or dynamic range (more on that in a moment), and resides behind a whopping 14.3x optical zoom lens that offers focal lengths from a 30.5 mm equivalent wide angle to a 436mm equivalent telephoto. The S200's maximum aperture varies from F2.8 at wide angle to F5.3 at telephoto, and mechanical image stabilization is available to help fight blur from camera shake. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 3,200 equivalents ordinarily. Half the resolution to six megapixels, and ISO 6,400 equivalent becomes available, while halving again to three megapixels yields the Fujifilm S200's maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800 equivalent. Images are framed and reviewed either on a 230,000 dot, 2.7" LCD display with 160-degree viewing angle, or on a 200,000 dot, 0.2" LCD electronic viewfinder.

The Super CCD EXR chip retains the 45-degree octagonal pixel array that's the hallmark of Super CCD sensors, and which 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, as shown in the diagram below. 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 new layout allows for improvements in pixel binning - the technique of combining multiple pixels on-chip, effectively trading away image resolution for improved sensitivity. Obviously, pixel binning relies on the combination of multiple pixels that have the same color filtering. With the previous filter array, the distance between adjacent pixels of the same color was quite high, potentially resulting in color artifacting along high-contrast edges or areas of high detail when the pixels were combined. With the rearranged array, Fujifilm has simplified its pixel binning (shown in the diagram below) and ensured that there will always be an adjacent pixel of the same color. This goes a long way towards reducing pixel binning artifacts.

Alternatively, the new CFA layout and the sensor's ability to read out half the pixels during an ongoing exposure combine to allow a Super CCD EXR-based camera to offer improved dynamic range (as shown in the diagram below). The function works in a way that's very reminiscent of Fujifilm's Super CCD SR and SR-II sensors. The initial Super CCD SR design placed two photodiodes of differing sizes at a single photosite, sharing a color filter and microlens. One photodiode had greater light gathering area and increased sensitivity, and was responsible for capturing all but the highlight areas of the image. The other had a smaller area and one quarter the sensitivity, and was used to capture the highlight areas. The results were combined in-camera to yield a single image with improved dynamic range. The Super CCD SR II took the smaller of these two photodiodes and placed it in the gap between pixels, giving it a separate microlens of its own. For Super CCD EXR, Fujifilm has done away with the secondary low-sensitivity photodiodes altogether, instead reading data off the sensor twice. Half the pixels are read out during exposure, and the remaining half at the end of the exposure. The results are combined into a single image in-camera, with increased dynamic range. The effect is somewhat like that of HDR (high dynamic range) photography, where multiple images are captured and combined into a single image - except that it is achieved in-camera without the intervention of the photographer, and the exposures happen concurrently.

On top of the standard Program exposure mode and a healthy selection of approachable scene modes, the Fujifilm S200EXR offers aperture- and shutter-priority modes as well as the ability to shoot completely manually. The S200EXR uses a 256-zone metering sensor, and shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds. There's also a bulb mode, although this has the same 30 second limitation. Apertures range from F2.8 at wide angle or F5.3 at telephoto to F11 in 1/3EV steps. Autofocusing is via contrast detection operating on data streamed from the camera's image sensor, with three options available - area, multi or center AF. The Fuji FinePix S200EXR does include an AF assist lamp to help with autofocusing in difficult lighting, and it is also possible to focus manually if desired. Macro focusing is possible to as close as 0.4" / 1 cm. A built-in popup flash is included which offers seven operating modes, and the Fuji S200EXR includes a hot shoe for external flash strobes. The S200EXR also offers a VGA (640 x 480 pixel) video mode with a rate of 30 frames per second. Videos include sound, and are saved as Motion JPEG-compressed AVI files.

Among the more unusual functions on the Fujifilm S200EXR are its Pro Focus and Pro Low-Light modes. When using the Pro Focus mode, the S200 combines either two or three consecutive shots to yield a single image with a sharply focused main subject, and a blurred background. The mode answers one of the main criticisms of small-sensor cameras compared to DSLRs with their relatively larger sensors, which is that depth of field can be too great making it difficult to separate your subject from the background. With that said, the Pro Focus mode will obviously require a relatively static subject to function well. The Pro Low-Light mode meanwhile combines four high-ISO sensitivity exposures into a single image with reduced noise levels as compared to a single longer-exposure high ISO shot. Another less common capability is the Fuji S200's film simulation mode, which offers five settings that mimic a variety of film types - Velvia (vivid), Provia (standard), Astia (soft) plus Black & White and Sepia. The Fujifilm S200 also offers several bracketing modes which capture multiple shots while varying a specific setting. The variables that can be bracketed include exposure (three frames), dynamic range (three frames with 100, 200, and 400% dynamic range), and finally film simulation (three frames with Velvia, Provia and Astia types).

The Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR stores its images as JPEG or Raw files in either 47MB of built-in memory, or on Secure Digital cards including the faster and higher-capacity SDHC type. A new capability is that the S200EXR can simultaneously capture each as both Raw and JPEG file types. It should be noted, though, that the bundled FinePix Viewer application will not be able to decode the S200EXR's Raw files even though it ships with the camera. Fujifilm has stated that an update will be available in November 2009 to enable processing of S200 Raw files, which will leave owners relying on there being a third-party solution if they want to process Raw images for the first three months after camera ships. Power, meanwhile, comes from an NP-140 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, and Fuji states that battery life has improved by almost 50% since the FinePix S100FS, with the S200EXR capable of some 370 shots on a charge. Connectivity options include standard-definition NTSC/PAL video and USB 2.0 high-speed data connections

The Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR ships from August 2009, with pricing of approximately $600.

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