The new Fujifilm Finepix HS10 features one of the longest zoom lenses currently available on a point-and-shoot digital camera - a whopping 30x optic that goes from the 35mm equivalent of a 24mm true wide-angle to the equivalent of a 720mm super-telephoto.
Big zoom lenses are certainly hot now, and we've come a long way from the 2.3x Voigtlander Zoomar (introduced in 1959). It was the first commercially available zoom lens for still cameras, and it was expensive, heavy, and slow. Still, it was a big hit with photographers.
Stepping back into the present, the HS10 features a 30x zoom for those who want to really reach out, it saves RAW image files for those who want a digital negative, and it has a hot shoe for those who want to mount a separate flash unit. Users can opt for fully automatic exposure or fully manual exposure and everything in between, including a short but useful selection of scene modes, and finally (if all that wasn't enough) the HS10 is powered by relatively cheap and universally available AA batteries.
The super versatile HS10 aims to please, and it will truly do just about anything you might possibly want it to do photographically. Unfortunately, it won't always do it quickly, smoothly, or with grace.
BUILD AND DESIGN
With the introduction of the HS10 (and HS11), Fuji seems to be trying to build the ultimate bridge camera - that mythical all-in-one imaging device that camera designers have aspired to since the first photographers composed their static images upside down, under a dark hood, behind a very slow and remarkably heavy wooden view camera. The HS10 is designed to be the sophisticated, easily portable, feature-rich, optically well-endowed general-use photographic tool that those old time photographers (and those who followed them) dreamed about.
The FinePix HS10 is an attractive, relatively compact, slightly chunky digicam that looks and handles rather like a scaled down DSLR - until its big 30x zoom comes telescoping out of the lens housing. This digicam was designed to span the gap between point-and-shoot consumer digicams and entry-level digital SLRs - and in many ways the engineers at Fuji have succeeded in creating the ultimate all-in-one imaging device.
What's particularly interesting here is that the HS10 is a radical departure from Fuji's traditional line of Super CCD sensor driven digicams - the new BSI-CMOS sensor allows not only for faster processing, but also permits the incorporation of a number of features (1080p HDVT video at 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps and several high-speed movie options ranging from 60 fps to 1000 fps) that would have challenged the old Super CCD sensors that have graced Fuji digicams since the dawn of the digital age. The HS10 is robustly constructed, fit and finish are impressive, and the camera is tough enough to go just about anywhere.
Ergonomics and Controls
The HS10 has all the bells and whistles users have come to expect from high-end prosumer long-zoom digicams, but it also provides an impressive level of creative flexibility. In hand, the HS10's deep hand grip nicely balances the camera for right-handed shooters.
All controls are logically placed and easy to access, but the HS10's overly complex control array would give a rocket scientist a headache - this camera's user interface is complicated and most users won't experience a comforting sense of déjà vu while getting used to where everything is and how everything works.
The HS10 is powered up and down by a tabbed back-and-forth switch surrounding the shutter release button - this switch has a solid tactile feel and the two click stops inspire confidence, but it is easy to forget to turn the camera off when you put it away. Basic camera operation won't be a problem once the familiarization process is completed.
While the HS10's button, dial, and knob quotient is very high, more advanced users will appreciate having external controls for all commonly accessed features/functions. Many shooters (I'm one of them) like external controls better than menus and don't resort to the menu unless absolutely necessary.
Menus and Modes
The HS10's two tab menu system is logical, but it is neither simple nor easily navigated - this is a versatile and feature-rich digicam with lots of options and almost unlimited user input, so it stands to reason that the menus would be more complex than they would be with a more traditional point-and-shoot. The large, fairly bright 3.0-inch LCD and reasonable font size make reading the menus easy.
The HS10 features both an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and an LCD. The EVF's 0.2-inch 200k FLCD monitor provides approximately 97% coverage and is bright, sharp, fluid, and dependably hue accurate. I really enjoyed using the EVF and the HS10's old school style mechanical optical zoom to frame, compose, and capture images.
This is a very complex digicam and obviously lots of compromises had to be made. The HS10's $500 introductory price tag does not make those compromises any easier to swallow.
One of the most onerous of those compromises, in my opinion, was the 230,000 pixel resolution of the HS10's 3.0-inch tilting LCD. The HS10's screen is bright, fairly sharp, fluid, and dependably hue accurate. I just finished testing the Nikon S8000, an ultra compact digicam with a 10x zoom and a 920,000 pixel LCD that goes for less than half what the HS10 costs.
Fuji cheaped out on the HS10's LCD and the differences between the Nikon S8000's LCD and HS10's LCD couldn't be more graphic. I love the idea of a camera with a 30x zoom, but I can assure you that it is not at all easy to use the HS10's LCD to frame and compose an image with the lens fully extended. I used the EVF for framing and composition and the LCD for saved image review and menu navigation - making the LCD's tilt capability (in my opinion) somewhat redundant.
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