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Fuji Finepix F200EXR Review: first impressions

Sunday 12 April 2009, by Phi, 8259 Views

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For a long period I have been happy with my Fuji Finepix F30 camera and no new camera caught my interest which was quite unusual because I have always been somehow unhappy wih my previous cameras. Here comes the Fuji F200EXR, how does it compares ?


THIS REVIEW IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION - ONLY FIRST IMPRESSIONS FOR NOW

Context

Fuji Finepix F30

The Fuji Finepix F30 was almost perfect. The picture quality was really extraordinary, both for low ISO outdoors pictures or high ISO indoors pictures. I think my best photos have been taken with my F30, very good colors and details, but still natural (unlike Kodak cameras or Sony).

For me, the main drawbacks of the Fuji F30 were the following:
- wide angle at 36 mm was not wide enough
- you have to set manual settings to have good photos with this camera. And it’s not always easy (for example no AUTO ISO (800) setting with the F30 unlike the F31fd)
- good photos with flash are difficult with this camera, whereas photos without flash are not always possible as there is no IS system on the F30

Where to buy Fuji Finepix F200EXR ?

So I was interested when I learned about the new F200EXR, which includes a high iso and low noise 6 MP SN mode which might match the quality of the F30 or F31fd.

As of today, April 12th 2009, the Fuji F200EXR is still not available in France, and was listed at about 330 - 350 euros and only the black one seems to be available for pre-order.

Since March I have been holding out waiting for its availability, but in the end of March I couldn’t wait any longer and ordered my silver F200EXR from Japan for around 275 euros, which was more expensive than other offerings in Hong Kong for example (as low as 230 euros), as silver F200EXRs seem only available from Japan ebay sellers for now.

A small parcel from Japan

What’s inside ?

I received it around 10 days later which was average, (had to sent several emails to the seller to speed up the process, Hong Kong sellers are shipping it faster with bonuses). I expect French import duties will follow in addition to the 275 euros paid.

Contents

F200EXR box is small

The box received was very small, I was surprised about how small it was.

The main contents of the box are the following:
- the Fuji Finepix F200EXR camera
- 1000 mAh NP-50 battery
- wristband
- battery charger
- USB and video cable (proprietary F200EXR connector)
- software and small manual

Contents

Fortunately I could set the camera to english instead of Japanese, and the F200EXR manual is available in French or English on the internet.

The important things are the following:
- there is no memory card provided with the camera
- the USB cable is proprietary and is less practical as the F30 one because it includes video which means it’s quite bulky
- the battery is of far smaller capacity than the F30 one: 1000 mAh versus 1800 mAh

F200EXR and its older brother

On the camera build:
- I prefer silver one because the black one has silver barrel as well as silver plating so it is not uniform black. In theory, silver cameras could make better photos as black cameras are more prone to heating (and associated hot pixels).

It fits in my old Concord Eye-Q bluetooth camera pouch

- It is around the same size and shape as the F30, a little slimmer but larger, but I really think it’s more uglier as its design is less balanced than the F30.

I was desperate to charge it, I didn’t have an adaptator for Japan mains to Euro mains - I just put it in direct contact to the mains outlet

At last an euro mains adaptator, I had to find it on internet for 2,49 euros because I needed one without a rim for it to fit

Battery

Battery life is pretty bad:
- 2 bars out of 3 after 176 photos
- 1 bar out of 3 after 182 photos
- empty after 213 photos

My F30 managed 572 photos, which was boosted to 693 photos when I lowered the LCD brightness by one notch.

In summary when you have 2 bar out of 3 you can count only on around 30 more photos as it goes down very quickly after that.

Battery charging seems to take 3 hours which is quite a lot for that small battery.

On the second run, with LCD brightness lowered by one notch, I managed to take 238 photos, an 11% improvement. I think it is worth it as LCD is not that great to start with anyway. Third run: 241 photos, I guess it’s the best we can have with the standard battery.

I have bought a long life battery on Ebay: 1400 mAh versus 940 mAh.

It is a Kodak Klick K7004 replacement battery

It’s written 1400 mAh on the battery

Unfortunately, it only goes up to 215 photos with LCD brightness lowered by one notch which means it is 10% less efficient than the standard one when it should have been 48% more efficient and yield 350+ photos. It is consistent with the charging time which is less than 2 hours.

I have another, perhaps this one would be better but I don’t bet on that, that’s ebay for you. For the second battery, only goes up to 173 photos, 26% less efficient.

Memory Card

Start-up time with a 1 Gb type M XD Card are similar to my F30, around 2 seconds which is OK.

Start-up time with a SanDisk Ultra II 16 Gb SDHC card is still around 2 seconds, moreover image reviewing seems to be up to twice faster than XD Card - so switching to SDHC is recommended. The Sandisk card speed is 15 Mbps read, 9 Mbps write.

First pictures

All pictures are at 6 Mpixels unless stated otherwise.

JPEG - 2.4 Mb

Sephora Get Nude french advert (ISO 400 1/450s)

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

H&M french advert (ISO 400 1/300s shade WB and Velvia film)

JPEG - 2.4 Mb

French restaurant starter: croustillant de chèvre et ricotta, tomates confites basilic et mesclun d’hiver, sorbet fraîcheur au poivron rouge et piment d’Espelette (ISO 400 1/7 s, it was delicious 8-))

JPEG - 2.3 Mb

Painting, beautiful paintings in this shop but very expensive (ISO 400 1/420s shade WB and Velvia film)

JPEG - 4.5 Mb

Statue at Church (12 Mpixels ISO 400 1/420s)

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Angel, the IS of the F200EXR really works (ISO 1600 1/8s)

JPEG - 4.5 Mb

Inside Church, some purple fringing, IS (ISO 400 1/6s)

JPEG - 4.4 Mb

Place, impressive on details (12 Mpixels ISO 200 1/350s)

JPEG - 1.6 Mb

Marriage store, nice reflections of Saint Augustin church on the window (ISO 100 1/280s)

All around, not bad results, but you have to use manual settings to get good pictures from this camera.

Operating the F200EXR

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Auto ISO

JPEG - 2.7 Mb

Tube picture (ISO 1600, 1/120s)

The camera picked ISO 1600 and shutter speed of 1/120s, wholly unnecessary.

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Tube picture, manual settings (ISO 400, 1/20s)

At ISO 400 and 1/20s the picture is good enough, I believe I could have lowered shutter speed to 1/10s with no problem thanks to the IS.

The F200EXR boosts ISO unnecessarily and to have the best pictures you must manually set ISO or maximum ISO.

I believe that the ISO can be set to Auto ISO (400) for most pictures, inside or outside, as long as the subject is not moving.

Is there a difference between 6Mpix Program and EXR SN mode ?

I was disappointed on F200EXR ISO 800 performance compared to the F30 (see next paragraph), so I hoped at first that it was because I used 6 Mpix Program mode instead of EXR SN mode.

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Kitchen ISO 800 EXR SN mode

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

Kitchen ISO 800 6Mpix program mode

Unfortunately I don’t see any significant difference between the two modes, I don’t even know anymore if I didn’t mix the two pictures. In doubt you can still use EXR SN mode and hope it is somewhat better but I really can’t tell the difference

I have taken other pictures in the two modes, and the ones taken with EXR SN mode have the SN logo when reviewed in the camera whereas the ones at Program 6Mpix mode don’t. So for the camera it’s not the same so perhaps one should stick to EXR SN mode in case it’s better.

White balance

I find the white balance somehow better than the F30 (less cold). However, as for the F30 you can set the white balance to shade for a warmer picture, which might be better than Velvia film setting which is a bit too much.

Film Mode

JPEG - 18.9 kb

Standard film mode

JPEG - 19.6 kb

Astia film mode: supposed to be softer but the colors are actually more saturated than standard

JPEG - 19.9 kb

Velvia film mode: a bit too much

There is a program error in the camera: the Astia soft film mode is actually more saturated than standard, they must have switched Astia and Standard film mode. Because of this, the best setting for my tastes is Astia film mode which should be selected by default.

Flash

There is a major problem with flash pictures:

JPEG - 2.4 Mb

Reddish shadows around Vittel bottle, Ducros garlic, salt and coffee cups

JPEG - 103.8 kb

I think it is more obvious in this crop: around the arm, the Coca Cola bottle, the glass and the tropicana orange juice

All flash pictures have a red shadow around items which looks unnatural. It is far worse around people: it means that flash is basically unusable with the F200EXR.

I hope that my F200EXR is a lemon and that it is not a problem with the position of the flash and the color of the flash. Unfortunately, as I have bought it in Japan with no international warranty, that means I won’t be able to exchange it for another camera.

According to Noam Daguerre on dpreview forum:

No lemon. When using flash, camera defaults to color balance for xenon light which is very blue like daylight. Shadows (areas not lit by the flash) are reddish because lit by warn artificial light. Bet it doesn’t happen when the ambient light is from a window rather than a light fixture. An easy fix when it does happen? Sorry, can’t think of one.

JPEG - 11.7 kb

Flash and artificial light

JPEG - 11.9 kb

Flash, no artificial light: black shadows

The answer must be correct: without artificial light, the shadows are black and looks natural.

JPEG - 11.3 kb

Slow flash and artificial light: reduced effect

I guess the effect is so strong because the F200EXR flash is somewhat stronger than average and/or the default white balance is too blue (which I have already noticed on outdoors pictures). The only way to soften a little the effect is to use slow flash which weaken a bit the flash - for me it’s simple: no flash indoors, as with the F30.

TO BE COMPLETED

How it compares against the F30 ?

Obviously, I just bought it to replace my Fuji F30, so what interests me is the simple following question: can I replace my F30 or the new F200EXR ?

On image quality:

JPEG - 2.5 Mb

F200EXR Kitchen ISO 800 EXR SN mode 1/70s

JPEG - 2.8 Mb

F30 Kitchen ISO 800 1/80s

- sorry, no contest here, my opinion is the F30 ISO 800 setting is around the same quality of the F200EXR 6 Mpix high ISO setting of 400. Please note however that the F30 is different from the F31fd where noise is less smoothed out, so perhaps the overall quality is the same, but as I prefer the picture to be smoothed at the expense of details. In my mind F30 ISO 800 = F200 EXR ISO 400.
- more bad news: the aperture for the F200EXR is 3.3 whereas the aperture of the F30 2.8. For me it seems almost as I lose another stop because of this (ie I could take a picture in 1/15 s at ISO 400 with F30 whereas with the F200EXR I should take it at 1/15 s at ISO 800 or at 1/8 s at ISO 400)
- so somehow with the F200EXR I almost lose two stops compared to the F30

but

thanks to the F200EXR IS, I find I could easily win back the two stops loss: ie I can take a picture at 1/8 s or 1/4 s whereas it would have been blurred at 1/30s or 1/20s with the F30.

So all in one I can have the same picture quality as my F30 with my F200EXR as long as my subject is not moving too fast (great for adults, still life or landscape), that’s not too bad.

I have found I can even do indoors pictures without flash if the subject is still enough, which I could not do with the F30 in some cases.

From 2.8 to 3.3 the loss is one third to one half stop, not one full stop, however more often than not it means going from ISO 400 to ISO 800.

Other cons:
- video with the F200EXR is horrible (really horrible). I don’t care about HD or stuff like that, but the video doesn’t seem to use the high ISO capability of the F200EXR unlike the F30, so for the same video: F30 seems to use F30 ISO 800 which is silky smooth, F200EXR seems to use bad mobile phone ISO which gives *lots* of noise (I guess that’s the two stops loss I told you about on image quality). On bright daylight outside it might not be so noticeable, but indoors I think it’s unusable.
- LCD quality is worse: the resolution is supposed to be the same, but it looks higher on the F30, moreover visible angles are really narrower on the F200EXR which means on bright daylight you don’t see much.
- the USB dongle is bulkier because it includes the video cable
- battery life is far lower (see contents)
- I don’t like the external battery charger which is bigger than the camera, I prefer the camera charger which would have been even more necessary due to the short battery life (ie need to wait for the battery to recharge to download photos for example)
- the camera is prone to accidental start-ups
- the camera is uglier (see contents)

Some pros:
- image quality can be equivalent to F30 thanks to IS
- Wide angle at 28 mm is great and is a very significant advantage to F30, even if barrel distorsion at the wide angle is noticeable
- 12 mega pixels pictures are great when you can shoot at low ISO
- EXR setting basically gives me an additional customized setting in addition to P mode and Auto mode. Moreover coming from F30 gives me an additional AUTO ISO (800) mode which is useful
- Face detection which was not included in the F30 (however it seems to miss around half of the faces on average)
- SD card can be used (no more waiting for the ultimate 4 GB XD Card!).

Conclusion

Pros:
- Wide angle
- Very good image quality with fair high ISO quality
- Good color and useful film modes
- 12 Mpixels mode useful at low ISO
- DR modes
- IS
- Menus are in improvement from F30 (white balance in F menu, keep settings in different modes)
- SD Card up to 16 Go for 5280 pictures!

Cons:
- very average battery life
- lens has distorsion at wide angle, it is better to zoom a little, for example for portraits
- bad LCD, worse than F30, almost unusable under sunlight
- high ISO is more noisy than F30
- horrible video modes
- flash balance is a little too blue (which means shadows are red with indoors light)

TO BE COMPLETED

Useful Links

Portal Pacher Review of Fuji F70 EXR Review of the new Fuji F70 EXR with 27 - 270 mm zoom

Portal Pacher review of Fuji F30 My old review of Fuji Finepix F30

DP Review Fujitalk forum

F200EXR review by dcresource

DP Review F200EXR beta gallery

F200EXR review by PC Advisor

F200EXR review by Photo Review

F200EXR review by Les Numériques French test

French forum Chasseurs d’Images thread on F200EXR

F200EXR EXIF information

Portal Pacher review of Fuji F11 My old review of Fuji Finepix F11 with side by side pictures with Canon A95, Sony V1 and Nikon D70.


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