I’ve had the Fuji Finepix S200EXR since early October 2009. I got it just in time for Abby’s family reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma. I got it primarily as a hiking camera, as a replacement for my dying Minolta DiMage 7i. In addition to some walk-around shooting, I’ve shot three major events with it, the reunion, Scent of the Desert, and Circle of Dust.
This type of camera was once called a “prosumer,” since it was thought of as the bridge between big, expensive (at the time) professional digital SLRs, and small, more affordable consumer point-and-shoot cameras. In recent years, though, that gap has disappeared with the introduction of cheaper and cheaper DSLRs, and as a result, the “prosumer” became less popular, and those that remained were re-branded “crossovers.”
My wife Abby has a D70s, but seldom changes lenses; two years ago we got her an all-in-one zoom. The crossovers seem to address this purpose perfectly, with compact designs featuring lenses with huge zoom ranges. That’s why I like them for the trail; it reduces what I have to carry to just one camera, plus extra cards and batteries. This is particularly important on really long trails, on which I am limited in how far I can hike by how much water I can carry.
Of course, crossover cameras are a compromise. The imaging sensors are smaller than DSLR sensors, which results in more noise, which isn’t a problem at ISO 100. At ISO 800 and above, however, the noise is quite noticeable. On the Minolta, ISO 800 was the top of the scale, and the images were essentially unusable. The Fuji’s images are cleaner at the higher ISOs, but only thanks to more modern noise reduction.
Another compromise these cameras make is the lack of truly wide wide-angle capability. My Minolta gave me the “equivalent” of about 28mm, which is regarded as a pretty standard wide angle lens. The Fuji isn’t quite that wide, at an equivalent of 30.5mm. I found in the field that for the most part, I was able to work with this limitation. I was able to express those near-far relationships with the 30.5mm setting, and for broad overviews, I got proficient with shooting two images side-by-side to combine later in Photoshop’s Photomerge function.
The lens zooms in to an equivalent of 436mm, which is impressively telephoto. Vibration reduction is built in and always on automatic, and seems to help with handheld shooting. I found, though, that it occasionally leads me into a false sense of security, and my longer handheld stuff is sometimes trashed by camera movement. There is a viewfinder warning, a little yellow camera symbol with vibration marks around it and an exclamation point.
Overall, sharpness with this lens is good, but it appears to me that with 12 megapixels crammed into such a small sensor, the camera may be approaching the Nyquist limit, meaning that it’s physically impossible to extract any more meaningful sharpness from a sensor of this size. At longer telephoto settings, there is some spherical aberration and loss of contrast, but I was able to address those problems in Photoshop without too much fuss.
One feature of this camera that I have been unable to explore is its CCD-RAW capability. The version of Photoshop I have, CS3, doesn’t support the files from this camera, and the software furnished by Fuji is, quite honestly, terrible, taking upwards of three minutes to perform any edits at all. Instead of RAW files, I’ve been shooting JPEGs, and the camera makes pretty good ones.
The feel and handling of the camera are excellent. While it is smaller in my hands than the DSLRs I use at work every day, it still fits my hands nicely. Abby, whose hands are smaller and thinner than mine, likes its feel as well. It appears to be very well made, with alloy construction in key areas. The lens is smooth and easy to zoom, with a big, grippy ring.
One thing that really shines with Fuji cameras in general has always been color, and the S200EXR is no exception. This camera features several film simulation modes, including a mode that emulates their legendary photographic slide film, Velvia. In this mode, colors absolutely pop, yet don’t seem artificial at all. During the mid-day periods of my hikes when the sun is shining, I usually have a polarizing filter on the lens, and the sensor responds well to that combination, giving me the deep blue skies and sparklingly bright clouds that express the high desert skies.
In conclusion, this camera fills a fairly specific niche, and it fills it very well. I am happy I have it, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.