BUILD AND DESIGN
A quick glance at the HS20 and Fuji’s references to “SLR” don’t seem so misplaced; the HS20 will fool a lot of folks into thinking it’s a DSLR on looks alone. The body has the obligatory deeply sculpted handgrip, a myriad of external controls – many of them function specific, and a body covered largely with surprisingly nice feeling, tacky rubber material. The camera’s overall dimensions are 5.1 x 3.6 x 5 inches with a weight (including battery and memory card) of 25.7 ounces. By contrast, Nikon’s D3100 DSLR measures about 4.9 x 3.8 x 5.8 inches (with 18 to 55mm kit lens attached) and weighs approximately 23.2 ounces without a battery. Materials, fit and finish are in keeping with the HS20’s price point.
Ergonomics and Controls
It looks like a DSLR and it feels like a DSLR – there is adequate space between the handgrip and lens barrel for the fingers of the shooting hand, and the forefinger of the shooting hand falls naturally on the the shutter button, albeit at the second pad of the finger. A conscious effort was required to move the tip of the shooting finger onto the shutter button. Despite the camera back incorporating no fewer than 11 buttons and controls on either side of the 3.0-inch monitor, the thumb of the shooting hand falls naturally into a padded rest area without overlaying camera controls.
Among those 11 buttons are controls for ISO, exposure method, autofocus and focus mode, white balance, one touch video capture and a handy RAW selection feature incorporated on one of the axes of the selector button. You can select RAW via internal camera menu and the feature stays enabled until you disable it – or, you can designate the camera to shoot in RAW on the spur of the moment via the selector button. The camera will stay in RAW mode until you take a first shot, then after it completes writing the file and presents the shooting screen again you have about 5 seconds to take another shot in RAW before the camera reverts back to the non-RAW mode you were using prior.
The command and mode dials are located in close proximity atop the camera body and I found when scrolling through shutter speeds or apertures by way of the command dial that it was often possible to nudge the mode dial out of the selected shooting mode. Resistance to turning seems about right on the command dial, but if I were Fuji I’d add a little bit more to the mode dial.
The zoom ring on the lens barrel requires a bit over 90° of rotation to take the lens from one extreme of the focal range to the other. The zoom action is a little uneven feeling, and if you begin the zoom from full wide-angle with the left hand from normal two-handed shooting position your thumb will contact the built-in flash housing and require you to reposition your hand to complete the zoom to full telephoto. The manual focus ring is narrow and located at the base of the lens barrel, where the proximity to the camera body makes manual focus a bit clumsy.
Menus and Modes
Menus are simple and intuitive and, as promised by the new processor, legible and easy to read. There are three primary menus – shooting, set up, and playback. Depending on the particular shooting mode chosen, menus can vary in length: the EXR mode – four pages; auto and scene modes – three pages; panorama mode – two pages; and manual modes – four pages. The setup menu is universally six pages in length; however, depending on the particular mode not all features may be selectable. The playback menu is three pages long.
Shooting modes are the typical compact digital camera mix of fully automatic and dedicated scene modes along with full manual control and nifty panorama capture mode.
- Auto: A fully automatic mode with camera handling most of the settings; user has limited inputs, primarily image size and quality, film simulation, and face recognition and detection.
- EXR Auto: An automatic mode with the camera handling settings for the particular scene and shooting conditions using high resolution, signal-to-noise, or dynamic range priorities as the base setting; the user has the ability to select from the same three image capture options manually via internal menu: resolution priority (HR), high ISO and low noise (SN), or dynamic range priority (DR). HR uses the full resolution of the sensor while SN and DR switch pixel configurations to accomplish their purposes, resulting in 8MP resolution images as a result.
- Advanced: The advanced mode allows the user to set one of two fully automatic shooting modes, pro-focus or pro-low light, via internal menu. The former takes up to three shots each time the shutter button is pressed softening the background to emphasize the main subject; the latter makes four exposures each time the shutter is depressed and combines them into a single photograph.
- SP1/SP2: Allows the user to pre-select or access any of 18 scene – specific shooting modes; user inputs in specific shooting modes are limited.
- Panorama: Allows the user to stitch together images to form panoramas by rotating the camera through 120, 180, or 360° during capture.
- Program AE: Fully automatic mode with the camera setting shutter speed and aperture; user can vary shutter/aperture combinations and has a wide variety of inputs.
- Shutter priority: User sets the shutter speed, camera sets aperture and the user has wide variety of inputs.
- Aperture priority: User sets the aperture, camera sets shutter speed and user has a wide variety of inputs.
- Manual: User sets both aperture and shutter speed and has wide variety of inputs.
- Custom: When shooting in the manual modes or any of the EXR modes except EXR auto, the custom set option in the shooting menu can be used to save current camera and menu settings, which are recalled whenever the mode dial is rotated to C.
- Movie: Capture video in full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution at 30 fps; HD 1280 x 720 at 30fps; 640 x 480 at 30 fps; 640 x 480 at 80 fps; 320 x 240 at 160 fps or 320 x 112 at 320 fps.
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor on the HS20 has approximately a 460,000 dot composition and is articulable: the monitor can swing away from the camera body and rotate upwards through approximately 90° – rotation downward is limited to about 40°. Rotating the monitor to the 90° up angle makes for a handy waist-level viewfinder, and I found the HS20 monitor relatively usable in outdoor conditions. Even with the ability to adjust angles on the monitor, there were times in bright outdoor conditions when the monitor was difficult to see for image composition or capture.
The monitor produced a 467 nit peak brightness and 993:1 contrast ratio in our studio measurements of its performance. The peak brightness value is a bit under the 500 nit threshold that generally delineates monitors that do better in bright outdoor conditions, but the contrast ratio is well above the 500 to 800 range considered desirable for outdoor work. The HS20 monitor’s 460,000 dot composition is twice that of its predecessor on the HS10 and may contribute to the outdoor performance as well. The monitor offers approximately 100% coverage.
The electronic viewfinder has an approximately 200,000 dot composition and offers 97% coverage. Composition of the viewfinder has actually dropped some 20,000 dots over that in the HS10. Somewhat annoyingly, the viewfinder seems to suffer from pincushion distortion on all four sides of the frame no matter what focal length is selected on the lens. I often found myself being briefly distracted during image composition as my eye was drawn to the inwardly curved sides of the frame. The viewfinder features an eye-activated switch that turns off the monitor and activates the viewfinder when your eye is brought to close proximity with the viewfinder; this feature proved at times to be a bit slow to make the transition.