Fujifilm Finepix F200 EXR Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Good all-round performance
- Pleasant, unobtrusive user interface
- EXR modes perform well (particularly the dynamic range mode)
- EXR Auto mode makes it easy to get the best out of the sensor
- High ISO performance up with the better compacts on the market
- Dynamic range amongst the best we've ever seen
- Good build quality and handling
- Fast, generally reliable focus
- Reliable exposure / metering
- Good flash performance
- Large clear screen
- Large variety of scene modes
- Usable results at ISO 1600
- Efficient red eye removal
- Film simulation modes give some simple, generally sensible image pre-sets
Conclusion - Cons
- EXR performance doesn't justify a major price premium over more conventional rivals
- Unpleasant noise reduction smearing, particularly in 12MP mode
- Occasional unexpected artefacts
- No histogram for assessing exposure
- Limited aperture selection severely reduces usefulness of manual mode
- No orientation sensor (All shots have to be manulaly rotated)
- Not the fastest camera out there
- Burst mode limited to 3 shots
- Unimpressive movie mode by contemporary standards
- Auto mode with flash defaults to ISO 800 - even when it doesn't need to
- Image stabilization not hugely effective (though still nice to have)
- No optical viewfinder
- Rather average battery life
Followers of Fujifilm's compacts will see the F200 EXR as sitting in the shadow of the much sought-after F30 and F31fd, but for the wider market it's undoubtedly a much improved camera. It may not quite match the F31fd's noise performance at ISO 800 and upwards (or indeed its impressive battery life), but it's got a much nicer user interface, a considerably more flexible lens and accepts a wider range of memory cards. Also, as our comparisons against the Panasonic LX3 and Canon SD 960 IS show, the rest of the market has improved enough (particularly in terms of sophistication and subtlety of noise reduction), that just matching F31fd performance isn't enough to make the F200 stand out.
Thankfully, the F200 EXR proves itself to be a very pleasant camera to use. You can leave the dial set to EXR, and it'll do all the thinking for you - produce reliably good images without you having to understand color filter arrays or worry about what's going on behind the scenes. The way the EXR Auto system works lends itself particularly well to users that don't want to post-process (nor worry about what post-processing is), but just want clean photos from family get-togethers and holiday snaps with fewer bleached-out white skies. There are also some nice simple-to-use touches such as the unique-to-Fujifilm favorite 'Natural light and flash' mode that makes getting a good low-light shot easier.
Alternatively you can specify which EXR mode the camera uses, adjust more of the settings and take a bit more control of your shooting. If you choose to do this, there are enough inter-dependant settings to make it worth occasionally checking what the camera's up to (it's not impossible to find that you've taken a 6MP image using the 'High Resolution' mode, or limited the DRange to 100% in 'Dynamic Range' mode), but on the whole it's a camera that can be trusted to help rather than hinder your photographic ambitions.
So it's both a camera for the family and one that a keen photographer can enjoy and get some great results out of. Those enthusiasts may find it's more of a 'carry with you at all times' all-rounder than a dedicated 'I want to go out shooting with something that handles like my DSLR' camera though. The limited aperture choice (two at each focal length) will frustrate some users, even though specialist/niche cameras such as the Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3 don't really give much greater control over depth-of-field despite offering full aperture control.
Ultimately, even without the EXR modes, the F200 is a nice and well-specified camera. It's built around a very useful lens (28-140mm is not a range you'll find matched by other cameras this small), and offers image quality at least up to the standards of its contemporaries. And the EXR modes are worth having - the high-ISO 'SN' mode may not be world-beating, but the dynamic range mode is astonishingly capable if you're happy with the 6MP output (which is plenty for most applications).
The question is whether this is enough to make it stand out over more conventionally-designed quality compacts. So long as the price is in line with the competition, we have no qualms about recommending the F200 highly. While it's not the breakthrough camera we hoped it might be, we have to award Fujifilm full marks for cleverness (and hope it is able to develop this technology even further). The F200 EXR is not earth-shattering, but it's at least as good as its peers and occasionally better.
|Detail||Rating (out of 10)|
|Ergonomics & handling||8.0|
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