Announced in January 2011 at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR (henceforth the "HS20") superzoom is the replacement camera for Fuji's HS10. What's with the extra letters? That designates a "brand new EXR CMOS sensor" working in tandem with a "newly developed EXR processor." More importantly, that sensor is of the backside illuminated (BSI) design that offers the promise of improved low light performance over conventional sensors of similar physical size. Resolution jumps to 16 megapixels from 10 in the HS10, but along with the BSI configuration sensor physical size is increased from 1/2.3-inch to 1/2-inch.
Ultrazooms are among my favorite compact digital cameras for the wide range of focal length they provide in a single, relatively light and compact package and the HS20 spec sheet made for some interesting reading. A 30x zoom covering the 24 to 720mm range in 35mm equivalents; a fairly fast f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide angle and a 1 centimeter/0.39 inch close focus distance in super macro mode.
That zoom is mechanical (manual), which offers the promise of increased accuracy and speed in framing over the powered versions found in most compacts. RAW/JPEG capability (!) and an 8 frame per second continuous shooting rate at full resolution (if only for 8 frames). If you're able to accept 8 megapixel resolution you can shoot 11 fps for about 32 captures. Write times for single full res JPEG fine images are on the long side - 2 or 3 seconds with a 16GB class 10 SDHC card. Writing bursts is time consuming as well.
With my photographic background built almost exclusively around film and digital SLRs the hardware of any camera draws my first attention, but the HS20 also provides the wealth of additional features we've come to expect in digital compacts - auto and manual shooting modes, face detection and recognition, auto release, cat/dog detection, a panorama mode and full 1080 HD video capability with a dedicated capture button. That cat detection mode could come in handy if any of our ten rescue kitties sit still long enough for a portrait. Fuji's website and press release for the HS20 speak of "no need to worry about slow auto focusing or shutter lag conspiring against you" and reports AF acquisition times as quick as 0.16 seconds.
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