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Back in 2006, Fujifilm launched the FinePix F30, a six megapixel compact camera which quickly built itself a near-legendary reputation for its class-leading low-light capabilities and high-ISO image quality. Naturally Fuji wanted to maintain this lead, so later the same year it followed up with the FinePix F31fd, which was virtually identical but featured the then-new technology of face detection. The F31fd also won many accolades for its low light image quality. The secret of Fuji's success with these cameras was the sophisticated Real Photo image processor and relatively low-powered 6.3 megapixel Super CCD sensor, at a time when most of its rivals were fitting 10MP sensors.
Fuji maintained this trend-bucking approach in 2007 with the launch of the 8.3 megapixel F40fd, and had another success, winning more awards including a well-earned "Recommended" from me. However by the end of 2007 Fuji finally caved in and stuffed a 12-megapixel sensor into its next model, the F50fd, introducing the usual problems of image noise and poor dynamic range, and spoiling the one thing that made the F-series special. Last year's F100fd had the same problems, despite claims to the contrary.
Now it appears that people are finally becoming disillusioned with pointless increases in sensor resolution, and Fuji would very much like to reclaim the advantage in low-light image quality that it had with the F30, so we segue seamlessly into today's review of the new FinePix F200 EXR, an exciting new luxury compact camera that Fuji claims will outperform even the F31fd in low light image quality. It had better do, because at a current price of around £290 it's one of the most expensive compacts on the market.
The basic specification is exactly what one would expect from a modern high-end digital compact. It has a 12-megapixel sensor, a 5x zoom lens equivalent to 28-140mm with optical image stabilisation, a three inch wide-view LCD monitor with 230k dot resolution, and a strong metal and plastic body of the same design as the F100fd, coloured a slightly metallic slate grey. It's quite large by compact camera standards, but the build quality is excellent and it certainly looks and feels like you're getting your money's worth.