2009 has been a bit of a thin year for super-zoom cameras. With digital SLRs becoming ever more popular and accessible, and pocket-sized compact cameras sporting lenses with up to 12x zoom, the traditional SLR-styled super-zoom bridge camera is in danger of becoming something of an anachronism. There have been a few good super-zooms launched this year, such as the Canon SX1 IS, the Panasonic FZ38 and the Nikon P90 as well as one or two that have been merely average, such as the Pentax X70, the Olympus 590UZ or the Casio FH20, but the general impression I'm getting is that nobody seems to be that interested in them anymore. While a couple of years ago most camera manufacturers would have three or four super-zoom models in their range, today most have only one.
One company does still seem to have faith in the format however. Fujifilm has a long and successful history with super-zoom cameras, producing some instant classics such as the FinePix 6900Z, the S5700, the S8000fd and of course the brilliant S9600, still one of my favourite cameras of all time. This success was followed up last year with the S100FS, a large advanced super-zoom camera featuring a high quality f/2.8 - f/5.3 manual zoom lens equivalent to 30.5-436mm.
Fujifilm is also well known for its innovative sensor technology, and earlier this year launched the F200EXR featuring its new SuperCCD EXR. This revolutionary sensor has three modes of operation. In normal mode it operates like any other 12-megapixel CCD. In low light conditions however adjacent pairs of photocells can be combined to effectively produce a 6-megapixel sensor with double the light sensitivity. It uses a specially designed RGB filter with pairs of adjacent same-coloured filters, rather than the usual Bayer pattern. This obviously improves low light performance, but in the third shooting mode it also vastly improves dynamic range. The F200EXR won awards all over the place, including a well-deserved "Recommended" from us, so now Fujifilm has done the obvious thing; it has put the sensor from the F200EXR into the body of the S100FS, and the result is the S200EXR, unquestionably the most exciting new super-zoom camera to appear this year.