Number 8 on the list is the Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR.
To be honest, I wasn't sure whether to put the F200EXR on the list. In a number of ways, this latest expensive subcompact from Fuji is a disappointment:
- No RAW mode
- No optical viewfinder
- Relatively slow f/3.3-5.1 5x zoom
- Below average battery life
- Limited aperture control (choice between two aperture settings)
- Confusing menu settings
In recent years, compacts from Canon, Pansonic, Fuji, and others have implemented in-camera underexposure and "push" tonemapping to increase the apparent DR of resulting in-camera JPEGs. This process, made possible by the increased power of modern in-camera processors, has largely been successful. However, Fuji takes things a step further with Super CCD EXR. This sensor gives one the option to allot half of the pixels to one exposure, and the other half to a different exposure. The two resulting images are then combined to form an image of reduced dimensions but increased dynamic range.
My own experience with the F200EXR is that the process works. One gets more gentle highlight transitions to clipping without the increased shadow and midtone noise which characterizes the underexpose and push approach. Colors retain good tonal separation. The results are not miraculous but represent a step forward for small sensors.
The Super CCD EXR sensor arrangement also offers theoretical color benefits when binning pixels for low megapixel output in low light, high ISO settings. With the F10/F30, Fuji led the way in small sensor performance at high ISO. The F200EXR is the first compact with which Fuji has exceeded the F30/31 in high ISO sensor performance. The 6MP output in EXR S/N mode is slightly noisier but significantly more detailed than the output from the F31. Overall, I find the character of the F200EXR high ISO output to be more pleasing, and one can always apply subsequent noise reduction if desired.
Unfortunately the F200EXR camera settings are confusing. When one chooses 400% DR in EXR DR priority mode, one is limited to 6MP output since only half the pixels are used at each exposure. Yet one can choose 400% DR with 12MP output in some of the other modes. How is that possible? It seems that Fuji is using the "old" F100fd underexpose and push method in those modes.
I keep it simple with the F200EXR settings. In good light, I use EXR DR priority with 400% DR. In low light, I use EXR S/N priority. Rarely, in low contrast settings, I'll switch to EXR resolution priority mode, which gives the full 12MP output.
I thought long and hard about buying the F200EXR. No RAW is generally a dealbreaker for me, and I value the presence of an optical viewfinder. Also, at $390, the F200EXR is priced in line with much more fully featured compacts. Finally, this is first generation technology. In the end, curiosity got the better of me and I had to see whether the implemented hardware DR approach would really be a step forward for small sensor compacts. Having used the F200EXR for now just over a month, I believe that it is.
Link: Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR at Amazon
I fell behind a day on this list, so later today I'll also get to Number 7.