Slim / Ultra Compact Camera Group Test (Q4 2008)
Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
10.0MP | 33-165mm (5X) ZOOM | $250
FujiFilm has been making thin, deck of cards-shaped cameras with non-extending periscope ('folded') lenses for several years now. The Z200fd, introduced in May '08, tops the company's 'Z' range, offering more grown-up styling and a more sophisticated feature set than the Z20fd we reviewed in our Budget Compact roundup. The Z200fd ups the zoom range to 5x and extends its face detection mode by adding 'couple' and 'group' self-timer modes that recognize when two or more faces are close together (with adjustable levels of proximity represented by a number of hearts in couple mode). The Z200fd is compatible with the clever but not widely used IrSimple standard for Infra-red file transfer. It's also one of five cameras in this test to offer image stabilization (in this case by moving the sensor to compensate).
- 10.1 effective Megapixels
- 33-165mm equiv lens with 5x Optical zoom and up to 5.7x Digital Zoom
- 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 dot resolution
- Dual image stabilization (Including CCD-shift stabilization)
- ISO sensitivity up to 1600
- VGA movies at up to 30fps
- Face detection of up to 10 faces, Self-timer, Group timer and Couple timer mode.
- 3 shooting modes, 16 scene modes
- In-Camera Editing
- 52MB internal memory
- Available in Silver, Pink, Black, and Red & Black
- Optional Accessories available
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The Z200fd presents a cool, sophisticated face to the world - the camera's front is a rich, glossy black with a slim silver sliver defining the edge of the lens cover. Unfortunately, the back seems to have come from a different camera altogether: it's as bright and curvy as the front is dark and square. Which is a shame, because the front does look pretty stylish, and we suspect your subjects will be impressed when the 'Z' on the front of the camera lights up when you slide it open (even though it's completely pointless, we still can't bring ourselves to disapprove of it).
The lens cover slides diagonally to the bottom left of the camera, another cute touch (once you get used to it), at which point the silver strip on the edge of the cover gives you the vaguest semblance of a grip to hold onto. The interface, something Fujifilm has rarely been praised for, verges on the unusable side of eccentric in its latest high end compacts. In automatic mode this is no problem, but the 'manual' mode is a deeply frustrating affair.
In order to change any key shooting setting (ISO, Exposure compensation or White Balance, for instance), you have to press the menu button, rotate the mode dial/four-way-controller to select 'Menu,' press the menu button again, then navigate to the option you want to change. And, despite being positioned in the menus as its own mode, the contents of the menu are dependant on the shooting mode you were last in. At its worst, it's possible to navigate to the menu, discover the option you want to change isn't available and have to find your way to a different mode, then back to the menu, before you can finally change the setting you were originally looking for. Only to find your subject has got bored and gone home.
We can understand manufacturers wanting to keep inexperienced users from changing settings they maybe shouldn't, but there are better ways to avoid this than making the camera so annoying that anyone with an iota of knowledge ends up banging his or her head against a wall in frustration.
Image quality and performance
Bright, sharp, contrasty images are the order of the day with the Z200fd, with blue skies, green foliage and reds boosted to achieve that 'consumer friendly' look (the saturation isn't the highest here, but it's getting there). In absolute image quality terms - particularly at a pixel level - the Fujifilm sits in the lower half of this group, thanks we suspect to the rather ambitious 5x periscope lens (folded zooms always compromise optical quality), which shows edge softness, chromatic aberration and purple fringing. In prints however you're not going to see these small differences in resolution or mild fringing.
What you will see are the rather odd colors; in our daylight tests the sky blue was boosted so much it ended up looking turquoise, something not helped by the slightly cool white balance the camera chose. In less demanding conditions or when there's not such a huge expanse of sky, the color rendition was less worrying, but the Z200fd often produces results that are far from 'natural'. It's also worth mentioning that the Z200fd was one of the worst offenders in our group for 'accidental finger in front of the lens' problems - such is the problem with putting the lens right in the corner of the camera and providing little on the body itself to hold onto.
Once you get over IS0 200 the Z200fd fares no better, nor any worse, than most of its competitors, though at the highest ISO settings Fujifilm does apply an awful lot of noise reduction, meaning you get clean(ish) but detail-free results - and it doesn't even get rid of all the noise. Flash was, as with the Z20fd, disappointing, with washed out faces and an unnecessary leap to ISO 400 even with subjects only a few feet away.
Camera performance is something of a mixed bag too; focus speed is excellent, but startup speed and shot to shot times are some of the worst in the group, and there are some aspects of playback (magnifying images, for example) that are painfully slow. You wouldn't necessarily feel the Z200fd was slow in use unless you directly compared it with the best cameras in this group, and for everyday snaps the fast focus and relatively low shutter lag help compensate for the less impressive performance aspects.
The Z200fd is a camera that, in the words of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, 'could'a been a contenda', but falls short in some key areas. It's got the looks, it's got a great screen and it's got a good range of features (including an impressive 5x zoom), but there are some serious question marks over its image quality and its inability to consistently deliver acceptable results with point and shoot ease. The user interface is awful enough to put most users off ever exploring the wealth of features, the flash exposures disappointing and the color rendition less than perfect.
Fujifilm has an enviable reputation for making compact cameras that, whilst lacking glamour, offer superb image quality and class-leading low light performance, thanks to the wonders of its SuperCCD sensor. Unfortunately in recent years the company has taken to using cheaper off-the-shelf conventional CCD sensors in many of its cheaper cameras. The problem with this is that without the Super CCD advantage the rather pedestrian aspects of Fuji's compacts (such as the user interface and overall speed of operation) are far less forgivable, and negate the biggest (often only) argument for buying a FinePix over one of the less expensive cameras here. Try as we might, we simply couldn't justify recommending it just because it looks cool and has a Z that lights up when you turn it on.
- We like: Styling, screen, focus speed, zoom range
- We don't like: Patchy image quality, horrible user interface, handling (finger over lens issues)
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Canon PowerShot SD790 IS
- 3 Casio Exilim EX-S10
- 4 Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
- 5 Nikon Coolpix S210
- 6 Nikon Coolpix S60
- 7 Olympus Stylus 1040
- 8 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37
- 9 Pentax Optio S12
- 10 Sony Cyber-shot T700
- 11 Studio comparison
- 12 Studio comparison
- 13 Real world comparison
- 14 Real world comparison
- 15 Conclusions and ratings