Review: Two Fujis

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Two reviews for the price of one! That’s because the the FinePix S200EXR and F70EXR digital cameras both use Fuji’s EXR sensor technology, so there’s a lot in common between the two models, even if they are significantly different in form and fuction.

In typical male fashion, I picked up both cameras and began to use them without reading their manuals. It’s a testament to the state of the industry that you can do that and get great shots right out of the box. It also tells you the cameras are dead easy to use. And doggone nice to boot.

s200EXRThe S200EXR is a “bridge” or “crossover” camera, having the look and feel of a DSLR, but using a single, fixed, zoom lens. That lens delivers an impressive range of 14.3x, the equivalent of 30.5-436 mm in a full-frame camera. The lens alone is a winner.

Fuji says the S200 is aimed at advanced photo enthusiasts looking for excellent picture quality without the expense or bulk of a DSLR system. It does deliver on the image quality, but it isn’t a small camera (partially because of its formidable lens) and you might quibble about it being less expensive than a DSLR. It is significantly less expensive than most DSLRs, but there are some that do squeak under Fuji’s suggested retail of $599.99. Mind you, to cover the S200’s zoom range would probably require a couple of DSLR lenses, and that adds up. And bulks out the camera bag.

The S200EXR’s zoom range pretty much covers most photo eventualities for the average photographer, especially on the telephoto end. I’d like to see a slightly wider bottom end, pushing to a 26 or 28 mm equivalent. The company’s old S9100 had the equivalent of a 28-300 mm lens (10.7x) which to me was a superb range.

The lens of the S200 has been matched to the EXR sensor, says Fuji. It’s a 12-megapixel sensor, with three switchable modes. High Resolution (HR) mode uses all the pixels, and is gives the finest detail when light is full and even. Wide Dynamic Range (DR) mode (up to 800 percent) captures different exposures with two sets of 6 million pixels, which, when combined, gives an excellent level of detail in highlights that would otherwise be lost. High Sensitivity and Low Noise (SN) mode joins two adjacent pixels together to produce 6 million large photodiodes, big enough to absorb light in the darkest of conditions, producing better quality low-light shots with minimal noise and grain.

I will admit I didn’t use the EXR Priority Mode or EXR Auto Mode in any kind of an organized manner. With the former you get to decide which of the above-noted sensor settings is preferred. The latter, a very sophisticated set of program modes, offers Portrait, Night, Macro, Landscape, Night Portrait and Backlit Portrait; the camera “recognizes” the scene and not only optimizes focus, colour balance, exposure, flash and sensitivity, but also automatically switches the sensor to HR, SN or DR mode depending on the lighting conditions of the scene. Pro Focus Mode combines two or three burst shots, producing a crisp shot of the subject against a defocused background and foreground. Pro Low-light Mode is . . . well, interesting, especially if you’re going to be using the camera at full tele and in lower light levels. Normally, when you go to the higher ISO levels – like 1600 – image noise is pretty much a given. Using Pro Low-light Mode, the camera shoots multiple high sensitivity images in quick succession using Pixel Fusion Technology. The multiple images are then overlapped to create one image for significantly reduced noise.

Also in the camera’s bag of tricks is the ability to shoot both RAW and JPEG simultaneously.

The S200EXR offers five film modes: Velvia/Vivid mode for rich and lush landscapes; Provia/Standard mode for sharp, standard photography; Astia/Soft mode for soft, fine, smooth tonality; Black & White mode; Sepia mode with a warm brown tone. In Velvia and Astia modes, the dynamic range can be be set to 800 percent to improve highlight detail further.

The camera offers Optical Image Stabilization and High ISO to kill a significant amount of image blur.

And how about three bracketing functions? Film Simulation Bracketing automatically sets Film Simulation to Provia, Velvia and Astia for simultaneous capture of three frames; Dynamic Range Bracketing automatically sets dynamic range to 100, 200 and 400 percent for simultaneous capture of three frames; and AE Bracketing automatically sets exposure range to even, under and over for simultaneous capture of three frames.

Oh, yes. video. The S200EXR can record movies in 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second. Manual optical zoom can be used during shooting.

FinePix F70EXR
This is Fuji’s first long-zoom compact digital camera, sporting a 10x optical zoom (27-270 mm equivalent) and the 12-megapixel EXR CCD. It’s a little thing (22.7 mm thick), with a radically improved flash control system, dual image stabilization.

F70EXRThe F70EXR features EXR Auto, as described above, recognizing the scene and optimizing focus, colour balance, exposure, flash and sensitivity. And it has EXR Priority, Pro Focus Mode, Pro Low-light Mode, five film simulation modes, video (minus the manual zooming) – all as noted for the S200EXR above. Then it adds Face Detection technology to track up to 10 faces simultaneously, at 360 degree angles to the camera. The system instantly corrects red-eye and then saves both the original and the corrected image file automatically.

I think this is a first for me: There’s one aspect of this camera that’s almost too good, its high contrast, 230k, 2.7 inch LCD. My gosh but it’s bright, so much so that in low light it makes the image look like broad daylight, so when you end up with a high-ISO image, you wonder what happened. Okay, no kidding: I love that LCD.

Both cameras use SD/SDHC memory cards, not xD cards.

I did find startup times for both cameras to be too long for my liking, and I missed some shots waiting for the camera to “boot up.” It’s the kind of thing that can make the difference between grabbing a kid’s first steps, or a fleeting intereaction between mother and child, or missing them altogether. On the other hand, your shooting patterns may differ and this is a non-issue.

In summary, Fuji continues to make really good compact and bridge cameras; these two are no exceptions.

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