The first digicam with the new Super CCD EXR sensor, which promises dynamic range expansion.Fujifilm's FinePix F200EXR introduces a brand new image sensor. Significantly larger than the standard '1/2.3-inch' type (6.16 x 4.62 mm) chip, the new Super CCD EXR sensor measures 8.08 x 6.01 mm. With an effective resolution of 12 megapixels, this sensor represents the latest generation of Super CCD technology. Designed primarily for point-and-shoot photographers, the F200EXR relies mainly on automated exposure controls. . . [more]
Fujifilm's FinePix F200EXR introduces a brand new image sensor. Significantly larger than the standard '1/2.3-inch' type (6.16 x 4.62 mm) chip, the new Super CCD EXR sensor measures 8.08 x 6.01 mm. With an effective resolution of 12 megapixels, this sensor represents the latest generation of Super CCD technology. Designed primarily for point-and-shoot photographers, the F200EXR relies mainly on automated exposure controls.
The F200EXR's 5x optical zoom lens covers a focal length range equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm format and the camera is equipped with CCD-shift image stabilisation, which combines with ISO-boosting to maximise the chances for blur-free shots. ISO-boosting can be switched off in manual mode.
Supplied with the camera are two CDs, one containing a reasonably comprehensive user manual (an abbreviated version is provided in printed form) and the other FinePix Viewer for Windows and Macintosh. FinePix Viewer is a fairly basic image viewer, editor and slide show program that will also help users to upload images from the camera to a computer. It also offers some batch processing facilities (renaming, re0sizing, rotation and format conversion).
Build and Ergonomics
Small enough to slip into a jacket pocket (although a bit big for shirt pockets), the F200EXR is solidly built with a metal casing that comes in silver or black. The lens retracts into the camera body, extending 25 mm when the camera is powered up and about 40 mm with the lens fully extended. The only other items on the front panel are a tiny flash and a LED that doubles as an AF illuminator and self-timer lamp.
Front view of the black version of the FinePix F200EXR. (Source: Fujifilm.)
Two thirds of the rear panel is covered by a 3.0-inch TFT colour LCD monitor which has a comparatively low resolution of 230,000 dots (a missed opportunity here with VGA monitors becoming increasingly common). No viewfinder is provided. Right of the monitor is a small mode dial with eight click-stop settings: EXR (Extended dynamic range), Auto, Natural Light & Flash, P (Program AE), Manual, Movie, Scene Position and Natural Light (flash is turned off).
Rear view of the silver version of the FinePix F200EXR. (Source: Fujifilm.)
Below the mode dial are the playback and F (photo mode) buttons and under them an arrow pad with a central Menu/OK button and selectors for exposure compensation, flash, self-timer and macro modes. Further down are the Display and Face detection/red-eye removal buttons. These buttons are all quite small but responsive enough to prevent few problems for average users.
The top panel is sparsely populated, with only a small on/off button and a large, circular shutter button surrounded by a zoom lever. A combined battery and card compartment is located in the base of the camera. Alongside it is a plastic-lined tripod socket that is just off-centre and a six-hole speaker grille.
Top view of the FinePix F200EXR in black. (Source: Fujifilm.)
No provisions are made for finger rests beyond an arc of dimples left of the mode dial, which provide some grip for your thumb. Fortunately, the camera is small and slim enough to be operated one-handed, although it's safer to use both hands.
New Sensor Technology
Fujifilm is claiming the Super CCD EXR sensor in the F200EXR as "the world's most versatile photographic sensor". It's been developed with the aim of adapting its responses according to the scene being photographed. Three new technologies have been used to achieve this objective.
* Pixel Fusion Technology changes the arrangement of the colour filters to produce pairs of same-colour filters. When the signal is processed, these pairs are combined, effectively doubling the area of each colour signal. The effective sensitivity is twice the normal level, making 'dark noise' relatively small. This enables higher sensitivity settings with reduced noise and false colour interference.
The new arrangement of colour filters over the sensor's photosites sees the red and blue filters in pairs while the green filters are in parallel diagonal lines. (Source: Fujifilm.)
Sensor data is processed in colour pairs to double the effective sensitivity of the sensor without significantly increasing background noise. (Source: Fujifilm.)
This is quite different from traditional systems, which used pixel binning to reduce noise at high sensitivity settings. Pixel binning combines signals from a cluster of between four and nine neighbouring photosites, effectively producing one large 'super pixel', which collects more light with less background noise. Unfortunately, since the photosite data are combined in square blocks, the distance between same-coloured photosites is relatively large and false colours can be generated. Fujifilm's new Close Incline Pixel Coupling prevents this from happening.
* Dual Capture Technology simultaneously records two images of the same scene: one taken at high sensitivity and the other at low sensitivity. This technology is an evolution of Fujifilm's earlier 'S pixel' and 'R pixel' system in the Super CCD SR sensors, in which different photosite areas were used for high and low sensitivity capture.
It also uses a system developed for Super CCD HR, where shadows were gradually adjusted while raising the sensitivity of signal processing while highlights were softened to prevent over-exposure. Unlike the SR system, the imaging elements are the same (large) size, which means the potential for widened dynamic range is even greater. However, when the images are merged, the result is a 6-megapixel image.
A conceptual diagram showing how Dual Capture Technology widens the effective dynamic range of the Super CCD EXR sensor. (Source: Fujifilm.)
* Fine Capture Technology uses data from all photosites to take advantage of the optimised signal processing of the new RP processor to create an image with the highest possible resolution quality. It claims to be particularly effective when light is full and even.
Although 6-megapixel resolution will be perfectly adequate for most potential users of this camera, it compounds the difficulties of comparing shots with and without dynamic range expansion. For point-and-shoot photographers who never make prints larger than postcard size, such comparisons will be irrelevant and they can leave the camera set to EXR mode for all shots they take.
For photo enthusiasts, the situation is quite different and it's a pity FujiFilm put this sensor into such a basic camera for its launch and restricted the control users have over the associated image processing. We can understand the company's strategy: it enables them to produce predictable results. But it would have been nice to have a wider aperture range plus P, A, S and M shooting modes and give photographers more scope to explore the sensor's potential advantages at different ISO settings.
Coupled to the sensor is a new EXR Processor, which processes data from the sensor to provide an extended dynamic range in contrasty images and also supports sensitivity settings of up to ISO 12,800, although at reduced (3M) resolution. In addition, it equips the camera with an improved Face Detection system (which includes auto red-eye removal), Scene Recognition capabilities and five Film Simulation modes.
The FinePix F60fd was the first digital camera to introduce SR AUTO (Scene Recognition AUTO) mode and the F200EXR takes it a step further by combining Scene recognition technology with EXR technology. Film Simulation has also been offered in previous FinePix models but the F200EXR is the first to introduce sub-sets of existing modes. Velvia/ Vivid mode is provided for richer colours in landscapes. Provia/ Standard mode is designed sharp, standard photography, while ASTIA/Soft mode delivers fine, smooth tonality. Two monochrome modes are available: Black and White and a new Sepia mode for a warm-toned period look.
Image files can only be captured as JPEGs, with three sizes and two compression levels available. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
4,000 x 3,000
2,816 x 2,112
2,048 x 1,536
4,000 x 2,664
2,816 x 1,864
2,048 x 1,360
4,000 x 2,248
2,816 x 1,584
1,920 x 1,080
Only two resolutions are offered for recording movie clips: VGA (640 x 480 pixels) and QVGA (320 x 240 pixels), both at 25 frames/second. A 2GB memory card can store 29 minutes of VGA video or 59 minutes at QVGA resolution.
Few settings can be changed in movie mode, which is restricted to centre focusing and multi pattern metering. You can't utilise any of the dynamic range or white balance settings - or the film simulation modes. Sensitivity can't be adjusted. The dual image stabilisation operates as does the AF illuminator and you can adjust operating sounds to some extent. However, the zoom function cannot be used during movie recording.
The EXR mode setting on the F200EXR provides four new mode selections:
* EXR Auto, an auto exposure mode that provides little control over other camera settings. You can't set individual ISO values or the Velvia and Astia Film Simulation modes. The large image size is also blocked leaving you with the M and S settings (at all three aspect ratios), although you can still choose between Fine and Normal compression. Photometry (metering) is locked on multi-pattern. Continuous AF is selected by default with other AF modes inaccessible.
* Resolution Priority (HR) mode uses all 12 megapixels and Fine Capture Technology. It is designed for use with subjects that are evenly lit with a normal brightness range and will provide the maximum amount of detail. The large image size is available in this mode, along with most other camera settings, although ISO settings above 800 are blocked.
* High Sensitivity and Low Noise mode (SN) takes advantage of Pixel Fusion Technology to produce low-light photographs with minimal noise and grain. Most camera settings are available in this mode, although image size is restricted to M and S settings (at all three aspect ratios). ISO can be set to 1600.
* D-Range Priority (DR) mode uses Dual Capture Technology to record the scene with a wider dynamic range. Five settings are available in this mode: Auto, 100%, 200%, 400% and 800%. Once again, image size is restricted to M and S settings and flash and ISO adjustment are blocked. All of the white balance and film simulation settings remain accessible and you can use the macro, flash and exposure compensation adjustments. Some restrictions are placed on continuous shooting in the EXR modes, with the Top 12 and Final 12 high-speed burst modes blocked but other settings accessible.
The F200EXR also provides a fully automatic shooting mode, which sets ISO, white balance, metering and focusing automatically but allows users to limit the sensitivity range to a maximum of ISO 400, 800, 1600 or 3200 and supports most flash settings and macro focusing. Exposure compensation is blocked in this mode and the Top 12 and Final 12 high-speed burst modes are unavailable. Metering and AF patterns are also non-adjustable.
The P (Program AE), A (Aperture-priority AE) and M (Manual) modes allow most camera settings to be adjusted. However, the A mode only supports two aperture settings: wide open and stopped down, which makes it less useful than you might imagine. In manual mode both apertures and shutter speeds are adjustable, the latter in 1/3EV steps from 8 seconds to 1/1500 second, which will cover most users' requirements. A line on the LCD monitor shows the position of the exposure setting in this mode.
Fifteen Scene pre-sets are provided, all setting the camera for full-auto operation. The same applies with the Natural Light and Natural Light and With Flash modes. The former is a quick way to switch off the flash but also provides a largely uncontrollable sensitivity boost (you can set the maximum ISO as low as 400 via the camera's menu system).
The latter takes two shots when the shutter button is pressed; one with flash and the other without (provided enough memory is available for two shots). It's handy for backlit portraits and other subjects in difficult lighting where photographers are uncertain whether to use flash.
Pressing the Playback button displays the last picture taken. The F-Mode and Menu buttons can then be used to select the various functions. The former offers three settings: Slide Show, Display Aspect and Print Order (DPOF).
Five slideshow settings are provided: Normal with direct transition from image to image, Fade-in with fade transitions between frames, Normal Face Detection and Fade-in Face Detection, which are the same as the Normal and Face Detection modes, except the camera zooms in on faces selected with Intelligent Face detection.
The multiple slide show mode displays several pictures at a time.
Display Aspect is designed to enable users to match the display aspect to a TV set when an optional component video cable is connected. On a 16:9 screen, the top and bottom of the frame are cropped to fill the screen. With 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratios, the entire image is displayed with black bands or a frame covering the remainder of the screen.
Pressing the Menu button lets users rotate, protect, copy and erase images. They can also add voice memos to still images or create copies correcting red-eyes from flash exposures. Other playback functions include trimming, which uses the zoom lever to determine how much of the image is cut off and re-sizing, which can create VGA- or QVGA-sized copies of selected shots for uploading to websites.
The anticipated differences produced by the expanded dynamic range modes weren't immediately obvious in most of Photo Review's test shots, largely because we expected most improvements to be in the shadowed areas. But when we compared the highlight areas in images captured at full resolution with the Program AE mode with those taken with D-Range Priority, we could clearly see there were blown-out highlights in the former shot and not in the EXR mode shot with the 800% D-Range Priority setting. Little difference could be seen in shadow details. Two sample images - plus enlarged crops are shown below.
The above photograph was taken in the Program AE mode, which produced a more attractive reproduction of the shadow details. 6.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/19 second at f/3.2.
A crop from this image clearly shows blown-out highlight areas.
Shooting in the EXR mode with D-Range Priority set to 800% brought out details in highlight areas that were largely blown-out in the P-mode shot above. 6.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/47 second at f/3.2.
Highlight details are restored with D-Range Priority processing.
The amount of dynamic range compensation applied changed with the D-Range Priority setting. In the Auto and 100% modes it was very subtle so, for high-contrast, high-dynamic range scenes, the full 800% setting will usually be required to provide adequate highlight recovery.
Imatest showed overall resolution to be below expectations for a 12-megapixel camera, particularly with the lens at longer focal length settings. Noticeable edge softening was also revealed at wide apertures and also with the lens stopped down at shorter focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our tests with both aperture settings for a range of focal lengths.
Not unexpectedly, resolution declined as sensitivity was increased, with a significant drop at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800, where capture sizes (and, therefore, resolution) are progressively reduced. The differences between centre and edge resolution were confirmed with these tests, as shown in the graph below.
Lateral chromatic aberration was moderate at all focal length settings and we observed some coloured fringing in test shots taken with and without dynamic range expansion. Crops of 100% from the images reproduced above are shown below to demonstrate the degree of fringing in each of these modes.
Coloured fringing without dynamic range expansion.
Coloured fringing with 800% dynamic range expansion.
Colour accuracy was fair in our Imatest assessments and saturation was around average levels for a present-day digicam. Imatest showed elevated saturation in reds and slight colour shifts in skin hues. Most other hues were close to the correct position.
Backlit subjects were competently handled and extreme backlighting produced little flare, even with the non-EXR shooting modes. The autofocusing system was reasonably fast and usually accurate with subjects that were centrally located. However, with the default Centre AF mode, subjects that were only slightly off-centre were slightly soft, as shown in the illustration below.
Centre AF mode; D-Range Priority 400%; 20mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/79 second at f/13.
Digital zoom shots were better than average for a small-sensor digicam. Close-up performance was good - but not spectacular, largely because the lens will only focus to 5 cm at the Wide position (and 50 cm for telephoto).
The flash required an ISO setting of 400 before it was capable of illuminating an average-sized room, regardless of the shooting mode selected. The best balance of flash and ambient light exposure was obtained at the ISO 400 and 800 settings. Low-light shots with and without flash were clean and noise-free up to ISO 800 but graininess and blotches were quite visible by ISO 1600. Shots taken at ISO 3200 and higher sensitivities were seriously noise-affected.
Movie quality was pretty much as you'd expect for VGA and QVGA capture and the accompanying audio quality was fairly ordinary. When played back through the camera the small microphone in the base of the camera delivered limited clarity and you have to be careful not to cover it with a finger or by setting the camera down on a table or desk. Playback through a computer was only a little better.
The test camera took approximately 1.5 seconds to power-up ready for shooting and shot-to-shot times averaged 2.1 seconds without flash and almost four seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.45 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took an average of 2.2 seconds to process each high-resolution image.
With the normal continuous shooting mode, three shots were recorded at intervals of 1.25 seconds, after which the capture rate slowed to intervals of approximately two seconds. Swapping to 'Top 3' and 'Final 3' modes increased capture rates to 0.6 second between shots, while with the 'Top 12' and 'Final 12' modes recorded low-resolution images at intervals of 0.2 seconds. It took seven seconds to process a burst of three shots in the Top/Final 3 modes and 7.5 seconds for burst of 12 shots in the Top/Final 12 modes.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for a well-built, slimline digicam with moderate zoom, good wide-angle coverage, image stabilisation and plenty of point-and-press shooting modes.
- You can cope with using the monitor for shot composition and tolerate relatively small control buttons.
- You want to record shots with a wide dynamic range, particularly with respect to highlight detail, and can tolerate high levels of automation to achieve this objective.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You require a full suite of adjustable controls.
- You want to shoot raw files (this camera is JPEG only).
- You require high-quality images in dim lighting (above ISO 800 quality deteriorates rapidly).
- You want to shoot widescreen or high-definition video (the FinePix F200EXR can't).
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up. 6.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/93 second at f/3.3.
Digital zoom. 32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/169 second at f/5.1.
6.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/93 second at f/3.3.
32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/169 second at f/5.1.
6.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/229 second at f/8.9.
Crop from the centre of the above image, enlarged to100%.
Crop from the corner of the above image, enlarged to100%.
6.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/177 second at f/8.9; Auto D-Range Priority.
6.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/91 second at f/8.9; Program AE mode.
Flare; 6.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/3.2; Program AE mode.
8.1mm focal length, ISO 100, 1 second at f/3.5.
8.1mm focal length, ISO 12800, 1 second at f/9.8.
28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/4.9.
28mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/4.9.
28mm focal length, ISO 12800, 1/68 second at f/4.9.
Image sensor: 8.08 x 6.01 mm Super CCD EXR sensor with 12.0 megapixels effective
Lens: Fujinon 6.4-32.0mm f/3.3-5.1 zoom lens (28-140mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 5x optical, up to 4.4x digital
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies – AVI (Motion JPEG) with sound (WAV)
Image Sizes: Stills: 4:3 4,000 x 3,000, 2,816 x 2,112, 2,048 x 1,536; 3:2 4,000 x 2,664, 2,816 x 1,864, 2,048 x 1,360; 16:9 4,000 x 2,248, 2,816 x 1,584, 1,920 x 1,080; Movies: VGA / QVGA at 30 frames/sec. with monaural sound
Shutter speed range: Auto mode: 1/4 to 1/1500 sec., All other modes: 8 to 1/1500 sec.
Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay
Image Stabilisation: CCD-shift type
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: Auto focus (Area, Multi, Centre), Continuous AF; range – 45 cm to infinity; Quick AF approx. 1 m to infinity (wide-angle); macro to 5 cm
Exposure metering/control: TTL 256-zones metering; Programmed AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual modes
Shooting modes: Auto, EXR, Natural Light, Natural Light & with Flash, SP, P, M, Movie; 15 Scene presets
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400*, 12800* (* at reduced size)
White balance: Auto, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm white), Fluorescent light (Cool white), Incandescent light, Underwater lighting; Custom
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro; red-eye removal available; range 60 cm to 4.3 metres
Sequence shooting: Max. 1.4 fps at full size; 5 fps at S size
Storage Media: Approx. 48MB internal memory plus xD-Picture card and SD/SDHC expansion slots
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT colour LCD monitor; approx. 230,000 dots
Power supply: NP-50 Li-ion battery
Dimensions (wxhxd): 97.7 x 58.9 x 23.4 mm
Weight: Approx. 175 grams (without battery and card)
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