Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR review
Bridging the gap between a compact and DSLR, superzooms combine much of the versatility of the latter in a smaller package, although the design is something of a compromise. With a physically smaller sensor, picture quality at high ISOs can't match that of a DSLR. Noise and clipped shadows and highlights are common when shooting in anything but perfect conditions, but Fuji's S200EXR promises to change that.
Blown highlights and blocked shadows, typical of the limited dynamic range of little fingernail-size sensors, are curbed by two separate exposures, while unsightly noise is reduced by clever pixel binning. The downside to this is that the 12 million-pixel resolution of the EXR CCD is halved, but the resultant colour blotching is lessened. In normal lighting, the sensor uses all 12 million pixels for highly detailed images.
If all this sounds rather complicated, the S200EXR can simply be used in the point-and-shoot EXR Auto mode, letting the camera decide which sensor setting to apply, as well as selecting the most appropriate scene mode. You're kept informed at all times, but don't have much control.
Fortunately, each of the three modes can be selected manually, although it's not made clear in the menu or the printed manual when using the manual priority or various scene modes. You can, for instance, choose the Dynamic Range mode easily enough, but you're left wondering if the High-ISO and Low Noise mode works at other times. And looking at the file sizes and noise, it appears not. It's pretty confusing and intimidating even for advanced users.
Still, we like the Film Simulation Bracketing (FSB) mode, where three consecutive shots record different colour and tone, aping the look of Provia, Astia and Velvia film. Each can be set manually, across the whole range of exposure modes. Those punchy greens and reds of Velvia are a welcome sight, but out-of-camera Jpegs are very soft and require additional sharpening in an image editor.
Two other modes are worth seeking out, too. Pro-Focus takes two snaps and combines them to give that shallow depth-of-field effect that's easy with the large sensors and wide apertures of DSLRs. Another, Pro Low-Light, takes a series of four-snaps and combines them to give low-noise images, but it's a confusing option when you can use EXR mode at your fingertips.
Fortunately, the S200EXR has a Raw capture option to wring the best quality out of the files using a Mac. The option is difficult to find in the menu, though. We also saw some barrel distortion at the wider end of the 14.3x IS zoom and there's some fringing, but we've few real complaints about picture quality.
The real stars of the show here are the sensor and lens. If we've any misgivings it's that the electronic viewfinder is no match for the detailed 2.7in screen below, although that now is no longer the flip-out type of the original S100FS. It's also worth noting that the camera's body is larger than some of the latest entry level DSLRs.