When Fujifilm announced the Finepix S200EXR ultrazoom in late July 2009, Fujifans everywhere may have been hoping for a design to close the zoom gap between the 18x of Fuji's top offerings and the 24 and 26x competition. That wait will continue - the S200 is the anointed successor to Fuji's S100fs - but while the S200 has a lens with the identical 14.3x zoom multiplication of the older camera, its 30.5 to 436mm (35mm equivalent) manual zoom lens is a bit longer.
Besides the lens, the two cameras have nearly identical external dimensions and appearance, and both offer a video capability that tops out at a pedestrian 640x480 resolution. Here's the view at each end of the zoom:
But the big news with the S200 is the inclusion of Fuji's new Super CCD EXR sensor and EXR processor, hardware developed by Fuji with the avowed purpose of mimicking the performance of the human eye as closely as possible. In Fuji's own words:
The Super CCD EXR provides superior picture quality, enabling a "3-in-1" sensor combination of Fine Capture Technology (High Resolution), Pixel Fusion Technology (High Sensitivity & Low Noise), and Dual Capture Technology (Wide Dynamic Range). With an innovative color filter array and image processing technology, the EXR ensures an advanced reproduction in imaging with exceptionally balanced quality.
Super CCD EXR technology debuted back in February in the Fuji F200EXR and has also appeared in the F70EXR announced with the S200.
The S200 gets a bump up in resolution to 12 megapixels (up from 11.1 megapixels in the S100) on its 1/1.6" sensor (which is physically a bit smaller than the 2/3" sensor of the S100). Full manual controls return in addition to the usual suite of automatic and specific scene shooting modes and a few interesting EXR technology-driven options that we'll discuss in more depth further into the review. The camera can shoot RAW, JPEG or RAW/JPEG combinations and utilizes SD/SDHC memory media. There is about 47MB of internal memory.
Fuji includes a battery and charger, lens cap and strap, shoulder strap, USB and A/V cables, a basic printed user's manual, CD-ROM complete manual, and CD-ROM software with each camera. There was a cautionary note from Fuji in the box explaining that the bundled FinePix Viewer would not be able to decode RAW files until an update was produced in November 2009, but the version included on the software worked fine, so perhaps Fuji is ahead of schedule with their RAW processing in the S200.
BUILD AND DESIGN
While ultrazooms typically look like slightly downsized DSLRs, the S200 dispenses with the downsized part - its overall dimensions of 5.3 x 3.7 x 5.7 inches are practically identical to the Nikon D3000 with an 18-55mm kit lens: 5 x 3.8 x 5.6 inches. The S200 actually outweighs the Nikon by about 5 ounces, probably not completely surprising once you remember that the S200 lens has about 353 more millimeters of focal length than that kit lens.
The body is of composite materials that appear to be of comparable quality with the better entry-level DSLRs. Overall build quality looks to be solid.
Ergonomics and Controls
The S200 has a deeply sculpted handgrip-style body with a patch of nicely tacky rubberized material wrapping around the front of the grip. There is adequate clearance for the fingers from the lens barrel and the shooting finger falls naturally across the shutter button.
The body is festooned with buttons, dials and switches everywhere but the camera bottom and grip area, but Fuji has managed to install them in such a way as to minimize the possibility of activating one by mistake. The S200 has a nice overall feel.
Menus and Modes
The S200 has an abundance of menus (and sub-menus), but they are largely intuitive. One surprise was that the selection of JPEG, RAW or RAW/JPEG as the shooting format is made in the setup menu rather than the shooting menu.
Otherwise, selecting a shooting mode via the mode dial brings up that mode, and the menu button will then display available options. For example, selecting "EXR" on the mode dial and then pushing the menu button gives you page 1 of 3 in the EXR shooting menu for the "HR" (high resolution) mode (simply because HR happened to be the EXR mode that was last selected).
The arrow pointing to the right next to the "HR" icon indicates there are other EXR modes available, and scrolling to the right with the selector button gives us those options.
After keeping "HR" as the EXR mode by pushing the menu button again, we are returned to the first page of the HR mode shooting menu (menu 1 above), and by scrolling up or down we find two additional pages of settings in the HR menu.
The menu process remains essentially the same for every shooting mode selected via the mode dial, and in the case of the manual modes, user-established settings may be varied from mode to mode. For example, you may set ISO to 100 in aperture priority mode, but set another value for shutter priority and the camera will keep the settings for each mode. Automatic shooting modes such as the specific scenes have fewer user inputs available, but those may be varied from mode to mode as well. Changing the default settings on the various modes can be a time consuming exercise depending on the number of modes and actual changes involved, but the S200 offers users a great deal of flexibility to tailor images to their liking.
There are 11 primary shooting modes:
The user can also select any of the three options manually, and have the auto and program auto inputs available. However, image size is limited to a maximum of 6 megapixels for both the high ISO/low noise and d-range priority modes (whether selected via auto or manual means) - the resolution priority mode retains the full 12 megapixel image size.
The 2.7 inch LCD monitor is of about 230,000 dot composition and adjustable for 11 levels of brightness. The monitor is generally good outdoors but can be overwhelmed by the right combinations of bright outdoor light. Coverage is 100%.
The 0.2 inch electronic viewfinder is of about 200,000 dot composition and offers the 100% coverage and 11 level brightness adjustments of the monitor.
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