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PMA 2010: Battle of the 30x ultrazooms
by Allison Johnson -  2/24/2010

PMA kicked off with the announcement of not one, but two 30x ultrazoom cameras. The Fujifilm Finepix HS10 and the Olympus SP-800UZ both offer massive telephoto ranges in fixed-lens, DSLR-like compact cameras. We took a hands-on look at both cameras in Anaheim.

The Fujifilm HS10 is a little more DSLR-like than the SP-800UZ. The lens is manual zoom-only, and the samples we played with were fairly smooth in extending out through the focal range. The top of the lens is marked with actual and equivalent focal length measurements. The unit is surprisingly light, even loaded with AA batteries.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

The first images we saw of the HS10 gave the impression of a heavy, nearly DSLR-sized camera, but I was surprised at how compact and light it was given the specifications. Putting the weight difference aside, everything else about the HS10 is styled like a DSLR. The camera powers on via a small ring around the shutter button. A line of control buttons are stacked to the left of the tilting LCD.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

The Olympus SP-800UZ takes the 30x ultrazoom in a different direction. It feels even more compact, and I could easily fit it into my hand. The HS10 is all buttons, while the SP-800UZ offers a cleaner exterior with a plethora of functions available under the quick menu. The handgrip is narrow and probably not built to suit anyone with large hands, though it was fairly comfortable in my own hand.

Olympus SP800UZ

Olympus SP800UZ

Our video below demonstrates the wide-to-telephoto zoom action as seen on the camera's LCD. The image is quite shaky - apologies - as I zoom to the full telephoto focal length, and when the camera locks focus (on the third try) stabilization kicks in and does a wonderful job of steadying the image. Don't throw any stones at the autofocus just yet, the conditions were much less than optimal and Olympus may have not had a full-production model on display.

Another video demonstrates the same action with the Fujifilm HS10. We were impressed with the camera's face detection program as it correctly identified the scene as a portrait. Fuji's show floor HS10 samples were definitely not production-ready, so don't make any assessments about the quality of the image capture just yet. However, you can see the massive telephoto zoom range in action to get a better sense of what 30x optical zoom looks like.

The 30x zoom is ambitious, and we're eager to see how well image stabilization will counteract the inevitable camera shake at full telephoto. For now, it seems that there's enough room in the market for both cameras. Their aesthetics and feature sets are different enough to attract slightly different consumers to each model. And we'll be more than happy to put them to the test in a full review once they reach production. For now, click over to the image gallery for a couple more hands-on photos.