Fujifilm FinePix HS20: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (4,771)
Editor's Rating
7.75

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.75
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
Video capture in the HS20 is a simple matter of pushing the dedicated video button. Clip length for either full 1080 or 720 HD captures is 29 minutes; 640 x 480 resolution is 120 minutes and the three high-speed video modes are limited to 30 seconds each. Lens zooming and continuous autofocus are available during video capture but the camera will record the noise of either in operation.

HD image quality is good but the continuous AF option will sometimes hunt back and forth when it can’t decide which portion of the frame to focus on. Because the HS20 uses a CMOS sensor rolling shutter effect must be taken into consideration. I noticed a bit of rolling shutter present when panning at unreasonably high speeds, but overall the HS20 does a pretty good job of dealing with this effect, which causes vertical lines to take on a skewed appearance when the camera pans quickly across them. Sound is recorded in stereo but the camera is susceptible to wind noise and there is no wind cut feature.

Image Quality
Default images out of the HS20 proved to be largely color accurate and pleasantly sharp. Here are examples of full auto and EXR auto along with aperture priority with sharpening and contrast increased – there is not much to choose between the default shots and the manual mode.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Auto
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
EXR Auto
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Aperture Priority

Image quality was even more impressive when I started pixel peeping at 100% enlargements. Full resolution JPEG fine quality images out of the HS20 seem to have fewer non-noise related artifacts than many other compact cameras I’ve encountered. Couple that with low noise at the 100 and 200 ISO sensitivities and the HS20 has the potential to produce some nice still imagery. The ability to designate the ISO sensitivity is one reason I encourage compact camera users to get comfortable with the manual exposure controls if their camera has them.

I spent a day at the beach and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park shooting primarily auto and EXR auto to get an idea of what a user who never strayed from auto might expect in the way of images. It was interesting to note the camera selected the high resolution (HR) mode for the beach shot in bright conditions, and opted for dynamic range (DR) in the three zoo shots, which were taken in heavy shade or shaded areas. By going to DR the camera cuts resolution and ramps up ISO, and image quality takes a hit.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image

It’s fairly easy to handhold cameras at the wider angles without introducing camera shake (assuming an appropriately fast shutter speed) but with today’s super zoom class featuring lenses in the 600, 700 and 800mm range at the telephoto end users need to give serious consideration to some form of camera support if they plan to shoot extensively at long end of the focal range. With their narrow field of view, large telephoto lenses (even stabilized) can be very unforgiving of camera shake induced by a shaky hold, punching the shutter button or other motion imparted to the camera by the user during image capture.

I used a monopod extensively when shooting telephoto shots for this review, but other options include a tripod or something as simple as a beanbag that can be placed on an object to serve as a base and help stabilize the camera during telephoto shooting. And even if you’re not shooting telephoto, a tripod would have allowed for the zoo shots described in the previous paragraph to be made at 100 or 200 ISO with a longer shutter speed for better results.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image

The HS20 offers the user a color palette (film simulation) based on the image performance of various Fuji films, but for our purposes we’ll just refer to them as standard (the default), vivid, soft and black & white. There’s also a sepia option. Here’s a look at the colors and B&W:

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Standard
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Vivid
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Soft
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Black and White

I used auto white balance for all the images captured for this review and it performed well under a variety of lighting conditions, but I found it shot a bit warm under incandescent light. In addition to auto there is a custom setting as well as presets for direct sunlight, shade, daylight/warm white/cool white fluorescent and incandescent light sources.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Image exposure in the HS20 is accomplished by a 256 – zone system incorporating multi, spot or average methods. Multi is the default setting and uses a scene recognition program to adjust exposure for a wide range of lighting conditions. I used multi for all the images captured for this review, and in general it did a good job on normally lit subjects. Shooting high contrast scenes at the beach and in the wild animal park caused the HS20 to encounter more than its share of high contrast scenes. As with most compact digitals, the camera could and did lose highlights on occasion in some of these high contrast situations.

With resolution jumping from 10 to 16 megapixel, even considering a slightly larger sensor with backside illumination, it’s understandable that folks might hold their breath while waiting to see what sort of high ISO noise performance the HS20 produces. And that answer is: not too bad.

ISO 100 and 200 sensitivities are relatively clean and difficult to tell apart; 400 ISO shows some faint vestiges of noise beginning to crop up in shadow areas while 800 is clearly becoming impacted by noise considerations – more visible grain and increased loss of fine details in portions of the picture. ISO 1600 seems to trigger a fairly healthy dose of in camera noise reduction, as the graininess that became more apparent at 800 seems reduced at the expense of an overall fairly significant softening of the entire image.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 100
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 200
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 400
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 800
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

ISO 3200 offers increased graininess and image softness overall, but surprisingly is still retaining a few fine details in areas such as the AutoZone coin. For serious large print work 800 is about as high you’d want to go, while 1600 can probably be used for smaller prints and 3200 is best left for Internet or “when all else fails” type situations. There are 6400 and 12800 ISO sensitivities available, but at dramatically reduced resolutions. Here’s an example of each.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
ISO 12800

Once again, clearly ISO settings of last resort.

Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image
Fujifilm HS20 Sample Image


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