Well, although there was no mention of the white-balance control in the instruction manual, and the people at Fuji made no complaint about my assumption, one or two readers were quick to write to me to tell me where the white-balance menu was to be found - deep in a layer of sub-menus.
OK, I was wrong, but the camera still came with an underwater housing that made it impossible to fit an ancillary wide-angle lens, and unfortunately the same applies to this latest offering, the F200 EXR.
A wide-angle lens is almost essential for good-quality pictures under water, because it allows you to get closer to your subject without cropping into it, thus eliminating as much water between you and it as possible. Luckily for me, I was using the camera in the clear summer waters of southern Egypt, so I had a chance of obtaining clear, sharp pictures without one.
The white-balance setting control of the F200 EXR is relatively easy to find. You press a button, select white balance from the menu, click on the custom setting and press the shutter release while pointing the camera at something in a neutral colour.
The F200 EXR is a 12-megapixel compact camera with a Super CCD sensor (remember that megapixels are not as important as the size of the sensor, but for a bigger sensor you need to stretch to a DSLR camera). It uses both xD and SDHC memory cards.
The 5x optical zoom lens is not particularly wide at its widest setting, but can go as close as 5cm with macro. It can be used with ISO settings between 100 and 3200, or up to 12,800 ISO in conjunction with reduced picture sizes.
What this camera has that makes it unique is the EXR mode. This promises to cause the camera to optimise settings for the current subject, or to improve clarity, reduce digital noise when using high light-sensitivity settings, or enhance the dynamic range of the pictures you take.
You can select a setting to prioritise which of these three aspects are more important to you, or you can leave it up to the cameras software to know whats best. It automatically analyses the contents of the scene to distinguish the differences between a human portrait, a landscape, a night landscape, a macro shot, a backlit portrait and a night-time portrait.
Alas, I feel that the software writer for the EXR feature had probably never been under water, but there is an underwater setting that can be chosen from the white-balance preset options.
I used the camera shallower than 10m in combination with a colour-correcting filter, and assisted only by its on-board flash. This gave a little fill-in light under the tropical sun of the Sudan.
I seemed to get very reasonable results, despite being hampered by the usual problem with compacts - the time delay between writing to the LCD display and taking the shot.
For example, it was useless at grabbing an in-focus shot of a fast-moving jack as it came close.
Again in common with most compacts under water, it excelled at macro pictures but was less good with the big scene.
I managed to get some shots of a silky shark passing around me while I waited out my safety stop in blue water, but was never really able to frame the picture properly, despite several attempts.
On the other hand, schooling spotted sweetlips and massed goatfish seemed to be subjects made for this camera.
The housing is in dire need of a soft rubber hood to help with viewing the large LCD while in bright sunshine, and some of the buttons are identified by engravings adjacent on the plastic housing. These engravings tend to disappear under water, so you need to be very familiar with the operation of the camera.
Watertightness of the housing is assured by the presence of both an O-ring and a large rubber gasket. The flash sensibly has a diffuser mounted alongside the front lens plate, so that it doesnt cast the shadow of that part of the housing that contains the extended lens.
The lens barrel itself is in very shiny metal, and there were occasions when it reflected in the back of the flat port. This meant that I couldnt afford to shoot towards the sun.
The camera itself slots into the housing without too much ado, and the housing back is closed via a rotating and lockable cam-catch.
One of the options for the LCD display is for it to contain all the information such as the shutter speed, lens aperture and chosen ISO. These can be chosen manually, if you prefer.
I lent the camera to Steve Wood of Wakefield, a fellow-passenger on Royal Evolution, and he took some very reasonable pictures, simply by using it in automatic underwater mode.

Sea&Sea DX-1200HD, £365

PRICE £430 inc housing
LENS 5:1 optical zoom
CONTACT www.fujifilm.co.uk
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