Review, the Fuji Finepix F200EXR

Every image in this week’s column was captured with a point and shoot compact in automatic mode!  The New Fuji Finepix F200EXR.

The holy grail of compact cameras is a small and lightweight camera that comfortably fits and rides in a pocket or purse, and allows you to capture any scene your eyes see with relative ease.  The Fuji Finepix F200EXR comes closer to meeting this standard than any point and shoot on the market.

3 - 4 years ago Fuji released the Fuji Finepix F30 and F31, 6 megapixel boxy compacts with an exceptional ability to capture high ISO images only rivaled by DSLRs.  No other compact could even come close to this performance.  Since, I’ve used my F30 and F31 when out at night with friends when I didn’t want to lug the big cameras and I wanted to shoot without any flash or external lighting.  I’ve captured thousands of such snapshots and nothing else in the compact class has ever come close to these two cameras.  Until now.

I started a high ISO comparison between the Fuji F30, F31, Canon G9, Casio FX-Z750, Olympus C-5050, and two other older point and shoot compacts.  It quickly became apparent that the Fuji F30/F31 still retained the high ISO low noise crown, but just barely.  None of the other cameras were in the same league.  Instead of posting crops of the noise and boring you, I thought instead I’d share some real life images and talk about what makes the F200EXR special in regards to each image.

Keep in mind that none of the images in this week’s column were shot using flash.  All were shot in EXR automatic mode.  EXR auto mode is a brand new technology, there is nothing else like it out there.  The camera automatically senses wide dynamic range scenes, low light scenes, and scenes suitable for low ISO high resolution 12 megapixel images.  If the F200EXR senses a wide dynamic range the camera takes two images at once and combines them for up to a 800% improvement in dynamic range.  If it senses a low light scene it “pixel bins” which essentially splits its 12mp in two, combines the pixels into bigger 6mp pixels, which provides a much higher sensitivity in low light and much less noise (grain).  If it senses a well balanced scene the F200EXR captures a full 12mp image with high detail. 

In Automatic EXR mode this camera "thinks" for you, and takes great photographs which is exactly what I want my point and shoot compact to do.  Like everyone else, when not working I just want to take great snapshots and not worry about camera settings.  So, when I buy a point and shoot compact I expect to use it 99.9% of the time in automatic mode, so I want the best automatic mode possible.  The Fuji Finepix F200EXR qualifies.

This image was captured at night and the camera selected the low light mode, binned the pixels, and produced a wonderfully balanced 6mp image with very little noise at ISO 1600

This image was captured at night and the camera selected the low light mode, binned the pixels, and produced a wonderfully balanced 6mp image with very little noise at ISO 1600

How good is the low light mode?  This image was captured indoors with no flash at ISO 800 with great detail, low noise, and accurate color.

How good is the low light mode?  This image was captured indoors with no flash at ISO 800 with great detail, low noise, and accurate color.

In this scene of apples the camera automatically selected the high resolution mode and captured this beautifully detailed ISO 400 image showing great depth of field.  The cameras lens was just an inch or so from the closest apple.  If digital cameras are going to have problems with color the problems will usually appear in the reds.  The reds with the Fuji Finepix F200EXR are outstanding!

In this scene of apples the camera automatically selected the high resolution mode and captured this beautifully detailed ISO 400 image showing great depth of field.  The cameras lens was just an inch or so from the closest apple.  If digital cameras are going to have problems with color the problems will usually appear in the reds.  The reds with the Fuji Finepix F200EXR are outstanding!

The sun was exceptionally bright and this young lady was making flower strings in the deep shade under an awning.  The LCD was bright enough to enable me to hold the camera down low without bending over and still see to compose the image.  The camera selected the wide dynamic range mode and ISO 100.  Notice the very wide dynamic range from the almost blown out sky to the deep shadows?  Most much more expensive DSLRs can’t do this.

The sun was exceptionally bright and this young lady was making flower strings in the deep shade under an awning.  The LCD was bright enough to enable me to hold the camera down low without bending over and still see to compose the image.  The camera selected the wide dynamic range mode and ISO 100.  Notice the very wide dynamic range from the almost blown out sky to the deep shadows?  Most much more expensive DSLRs can’t do this.

Another low light scene automatically selected.  ISO 1600.  This was taken in the underground parking garage where I parked the car.  Notice the accurate colors and relatively noise free image?  No flash on any of these images!  Fantastic!

Another low light scene automatically selected.  ISO 1600.  This was taken in the underground parking garage where I parked the car.  Notice the accurate colors and relatively noise free image?  No flash on any of these images!  Fantastic!

Holding the camera down low it allowed me to compose without bending over, selected the high resolution mode, and rendered perfect skin tones with very little noise at ISO 400.

Holding the camera down low it allowed me to compose without bending over, selected the high resolution mode, and rendered perfect skin tones with very little noise at ISO 400.

I know, you’re going to say that at high ISOs the colors will be washed out and the image full of noise.  The camera selected the low light mode, ISO 1600, and produced this extremely colorful image of flowers which were in the shade!

I know, you’re going to say that at high ISOs the colors will be washed out and the image full of noise.  The camera selected the low light mode, ISO 1600, and produced this extremely colorful image of flowers which were in the shade!

Selecting the high resolution mode the camera rendered perfect skin tones and high detail at ISO 400.

Selecting the high resolution mode the camera rendered perfect skin tones and high detail at ISO 400.

The camera can select an ISO all the way to 12,800 but I suspect the image quality would fall off greatly.  In this scene the camera selected ISO 3200 and produced an image relatively noise free with a very wide dynamic range.

The camera can select an ISO all the way to 12,800 but I suspect the image quality would fall off greatly.  In this scene the camera selected ISO 3200 and produced an image relatively noise free with a very wide dynamic range.

Overall I really like the Fuji Finepix F200EXR and it is now my default point and shoot camera.  It is small and light enough to easily ride in my pocket.  The battery on its first charge only provided about 300 images, but I was playing with it a lot because it was new.  I estimate about 400 images in subsequent charges.  The lens is very sharp and I love the wide end at 28mm (35mm equiv).  The F200EXR accepts both SD and XD cards.

Startup time runs close to three seconds, longer than I’d like.  However, the F200EXR achieves focus quickly and its shot to shot time is very quick.  It saves images and lets you get back to shooting in very short order.  The LCD is bright and accurate and the controls are very intuitive and user friendly.  I haven’t even opened the manual and I doubt I ever will.  Everything is at your fingertips, intuitive, and quick to deploy.

The Fuji Finepix F200EXR retails for $399 USD, but you can find them much cheaper if you shop around.  I got mine at the PIX2009 camera show at the Siam Paragon for baht 10,700 ($304) including (2) 2gb Kingston SD cards, a case, cleaning cloth, tripod (cheap), LCD screen protector, extra software, and some other stuff.  Were you at PIX2009?

If you’re in the market for a new compact point and shoot you can’t go wrong with this one.  I predict the Fuji Finepix F200EXR will be a runaway success.  The only question is will it reach the cult status of the F30 and F31 which preceded it?