A Look Back: The Fujifilm S200EXR Digital Camera

This might be my favorite image I made with the Fujifilm S200EXR, shot into a setting sun looking down Interstate 40 in New Mexico in March 2011.
This might be my favorite image I made with the Fujifilm S200EXR, shot into a setting sun looking down Interstate 40 in New Mexico in March 2011.
Your host uses the camera in this article, the Fujifilm S200EXR, in March 2011, in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
Your host uses the camera in this article, the Fujifilm S200EXR, in March 2011, in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

In 2009, I was hungry to get my hands on a bridge/crossover camera that would change my game when I was hiking, camping and exploring, mostly in the desert southwest. It was intended to replace my aging Minolta DiMage 7i. I knew from experience that portraiture and sports action photography weren’t in my list of top features sets, nor was the weight and complexity that comes with such endeavors.

In October 2009, I bought a Fujifilm S200EXR digital camera.

The Fujifilm S200EXR is a beautifully made camera that feels great in-hand.
The Fujifilm S200EXR is a beautifully made camera that feels great in-hand.
The S200EXR is a sexy, sturdy camera with some decent image potential.
The S200EXR is a sexy, sturdy camera with some decent image potential.

I wanted a one-camera solution for times where I wanted to get away, far enough that I felt lost and alone. Part of this strategy was that I needed to carry less; less gear, less weight, less photography equipment. A single compact camera with a versatile lens could do that, since trying to carry many lenses and the accessories can clutter such a strategy. For every lens or flash or pouch or tripod I could leave behind meant more water and food and shelter I could actually carry, thus travel farther and photograph more.

My idea of a perfect hike is one on which I see very few people and lots of our beautiful land, like the Peek-a-Boo trail at Canyonlands National Park.
My idea of a perfect hike is one on which I see very few people and lots of our beautiful land, like the Peek-a-Boo trail at Canyonlands National Park.
The S200EXR has a 16:9 mode, and a fairly decent black-and-white rendering engine. This image is at Angel Peak in New Mexico in April 2011.
The S200EXR has a 16:9 mode, and a fairly decent black-and-white rendering engine. This image is at Angel Peak in New Mexico in April 2011.
I started photography in the film era, when a decent film camera, a Nikon or Canon or Hasselblad, could be expected to last almost indefinitely. In fact, all my film cameras were working fine from when I bought them in college or early in my career until I sold them in the early 2000s as I migrated to digital. It’s frustrating that we regard a perfectly working digital camera as “outdated” after four years in the case of the S200EXR, or seven years for the DiMage 7i. Ken Rockwell dubbed this concept “futuretrash“.
This S200EXR has a fully-functioning PASM exposure mode dial with two user-programmable user settings, labeled C1 and C2.
This S200EXR has a fully-functioning PASM exposure mode dial with two user-programmable user settings, labeled C1 and C2.

As with all Fujifilm USA products, the S200EXR  is built to excellent, precise standards, and is a great-looking camera.

In fact, in recent years, Fuji has positioned itself as an innovator and leader, particularly in mirrorless. Last year they introduced the GFX 50S, a medium format mirrorless camera that I would absolutely love to use.

Some of the S200EXR’s positives are…

  • Great handling, especially that it has a standard PASM exposure mode dial, a real zoom ring (as opposed to motorized or “zoom-by-wire”), and an electronic viewfinder augmenting the back-of-camera monitor.
  • Controls like exposure compensation, ISO, and white balance are on buttons on the body instead of buried in menus. Although you have to re-memorize where they are when switching from Nikon or Canon, once you do, your can get right to them.
  • The Fuji Velvia slide film simulation mode creates absolutely gorgeous color.
The color capability of the S200EXR shines in this Sedona, Arizona image from October 2011.
The color capability of the S200EXR shines in this Sedona, Arizona image from October 2011.
Another excellent example of the bold, saturated color the S200EXR can produce is this image of The Devil's Golf Ball on Utah's Kane Creek Road.
Another excellent example of the bold, saturated color the S200EXR can produce is this image of The Devil’s Golf Ball on Utah’s Kane Creek Road.
  • The 30.5mm "equivalent" wide angle end of the lens on the S200EXR just isn't quite wide enough.
    The 30.5mm “equivalent” wide angle end of the lens on the S200EXR just isn’t quite wide enough.

    Solid grip and body; this camera feels good in my hands. It’s a good-looking camera.

  • The lens is sharp at most focal lengths and focuses reasonably fast.

Some of this cameras negative aspects are…

  • 30.5mm (equivalent) is the widest lens setting, and although there are workarounds, like stitching two images together, it’s often just not wide enough.
Those familiar with Arches National Park in Utah know that from this spot, this is a standard view with a wide angle lens, but with the S200EXR, I actually had to stitch two side-by-side images together to get this view.
Those familiar with Arches National Park in Utah know that from this spot, this is a standard view with a wide angle lens, but with the S200EXR, I actually had to stitch two side-by-side images together to get this view.
  • The electronic viewfinder is, for me, a make-or-break item, since I find shooting from arms-length, the so-called "selfie" distance, for everything, makes it particularly difficult to focus and compose.
    The electronic viewfinder is, for me, a make-or-break item, since I find shooting from arms-length, the so-called “selfie” distance, for everything, makes it particularly difficult to focus and compose.

    The RAW files are huge (26MB) and missing markers, so they require a lot of editing to create what you see in the camera. The S200EXR is one of the few cameras with which I shoot JPEGs.

  • Despite its best intentions in giving us a selectable dynamic range option, the camera actually doesn’t do very well in that regard.
  • The lens has a six-bladed aperture, and makes ugly, fanned-out sunstars.
I love a good sunstar to express brightness and contrast in a scene. As you can see in this image from Chaco Canyon's lonely South Mesa, the S200EXR makes disappointing, softish, fanned-out, six-point sunstars.
I love a good sunstar to express brightness and contrast in a scene. As you can see in this image from Chaco Canyon’s lonely South Mesa, the S200EXR makes disappointing, softish, fanned-out, six-point sunstars.
I love Fuji's style; the S200EXR is a great-looking camera.
I love Fuji’s style; the S200EXR is a great-looking camera.
I used the S200EXR to record the splendor of the San Juan Mountains along Colorado's "Million Dollar Highway" between Ouray and Silverton in October 2009.
I used the S200EXR to record the splendor of the San Juan Mountains along Colorado’s “Million Dollar Highway” between Ouray and Silverton in October 2009.
Abby shoots the iconic Delicate Arch in Utah in 2009. I made this image with the S200EXR. Abby and I got married there in 2004.
Abby shoots the iconic Delicate Arch in Utah in 2009. I made this image with the S200EXR. Abby and I got married there in 2004.

I semi-retired the S200EXR in January 2013, when my wife Abby and I found matching Fujifilm HS30EXR cameras on sale. The new bridge camera did almost everything better than the 200, especially being lighter, smaller, and having a more versatile lens.

For web presentation, I often prefer the 4:5 aspect ratio of cameras like this Fuji over the 2:3 ratio of DSLRs. They seem to command a better portion of the computer screen.

The back of the Fujifilm S200EXR is as handsomely appointed as the rest of the machine.
The back of the Fujifilm S200EXR is as handsomely appointed as the rest of the machine.
One thing superzoom/walkaround lenses seldom do well is render beautiful backgrounds. The "bokeh" created by the S200EXR isn't particularly pretty.
One thing superzoom/walkaround lenses seldom do well is render beautiful backgrounds. The “bokeh” created by the S200EXR isn’t particularly pretty.
The telephoto end of the S200EXR is quite long, and can reach out to create excellent compression of aligned items like these candles in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona.
The telephoto end of the S200EXR is quite long, and can reach out to create excellent compression of aligned items like these candles in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona.
When the "left" selector stopped working on the S200EXR, I could no longer access the setup menu or the macro feature.
When the “left” selector stopped working on the S200EXR, I could no longer access the setup menu or the macro feature.

I still pick up the S200EXR once in a while, but last year I discovered the left button on the four-way selector was dead, meaning I could no longer access the setup menu or macro mode. Fortunately, I had saved two user presents in C1 and C2 on the exposure mode dial, so it wasn’t completely dead. I decided to throw it in my car as a “grab cam,” and it serves me well on occasions when I want to roll down my window and shoot something by the side of the road, like deer, sunsets, or funny bumper stickers.

I made this image on a windy, cold evening near the Squaw Flat Campground at Canyonlands National Park in April 2011.
I made this image on a windy, cold evening near the Squaw Flat Campground at Canyonlands National Park in April 2011.
The author poses with the S200EXR under a boulder at City of Rocks State Park in southern New Mexico in November 2010.
The author poses with the S200EXR under a boulder at City of Rocks State Park in southern New Mexico in November 2010.

Finally, a camera is just a fetish object if you don’t use it, so I am happy to include many of my favorite images made with this camera.

Despite the fact that is regarded as outdated and that one of the controls on it is broken, it’s still a camera I was glad to have experienced.

I know I said earlier in this post that my I-40 in New Mexico shot was my favorite I made with the S200EXR, but this image, shot at The Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park in October 2010, exactly at sunset, may be my actual favorite. That's one of the difficulties of editing: picking a favorite from so many images.
I know I said earlier in this post that my I-40 in New Mexico shot was my favorite I made with the S200EXR, but this image, shot at The Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park in October 2010, exactly at sunset, may be my actual favorite. That’s one of the difficulties of editing: picking a favorite from so many images.
Another one of my favorite images is this eastern Arizona power plant at sunset, make with the S200EXR in October 2011.
Another one of my favorite images is this eastern Arizona power plant at sunset, make with the S200EXR in October 2011.
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3 Comments

  1. Great stuff. I’m always interested in a report on cameras other than Nikon and Canon. I still try and adhere to the “less is more” approach to travel shooting. Was that a kit lens on the Fujifilm?

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  2. I was privileged to be on hand when many of these images were made. I can testify you took full advantage of that built in lens. I was changing lenses often while you were shooting. My favorite still is the couple dwarfed inside the giant rise as we hiked up the Peek-a-Boo trail.

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