I've been a photographer for a long time, long enough to see photography/imaging technology evolve through nearly four decades of unrelenting change, refinement, and improvement. I love the changes wrought by the digital imaging revolution, like being able to review each image immediately after I shoot it rather than having to wait from two hours to two weeks (depending on what kind of slide film I was shooting that day) before I was able to see if I got my shot. My latest photographic adventure stars the new Fujifilm Finepix HS10, a DSLR-sized 10.3 megapixel ultrazoom point-and-shoot with a 30x optical zoom.
The HS10 combines most of the convenience of a fixed-lens digital camera - a large tilting LCD screen, Auto mode ease of use, 1080p and 720p HD video, and lots of popular consumer features like face detection AF and in-camera red-eye correction - with much of the creative potential of an inter-changeable lens DSLR.
It has a real wide-angle to extreme telephoto mechanical zoom, an eye-level electronic viewfinder, hot shoe, direct access controls, RAW image files, and full manual exposure capability. My last 35mm kit fit into an airline carry-on sized camera bag that weighed about 25 pounds. The HS10 weighs 22.5 ounces and its 30x zoom (equivalent to 24mm - 720mm) actually has more reach than the six lenses (even with the 2x teleconverter) in my old camera bag.
The HS10 seeks to be the ultimate bridge camera - the mythical all-in-one imaging device that does everything for everyone. Serious shooters will either love or hate this camera depending on whether they believe the compromises Fuji was obligated to make to get this lumbering behemoth working are too onerous to accept or whether they feel an exceptional level of creative capability packed into a single reasonably sized device outweighs its innate limitations.
I've only been working with the HS10 for a couple of days, but I've really enjoyed using the EVF and old school style mechanical optical zoom to frame, compose and capture images - just like photographers used to do in earlier times. On a negative note - The HS10 is going for five hundred bucks so the 230,000 pixel LCD screen seems a little chintzy.
I love the idea of a camera with a 30x zoom, but I can tell you right now that it is not easy to use this camera with the lens fully extended. Finally, the HS10's overly complex control array would give a rocket scientist a headache. If you're expecting HS10 to generate image quality on par with a (modestly priced kit lens equipped) DSLR or a premium point-and-shoot you are going to be disappointed, and you shouldn't expect the same level of performance. The HS10 is slower across the board than most currently available point-and-shoots.
What the HS10 does do especially well is to inspire your inner photographer and put some of the fun back into photography. So far, it actually does a pretty good job in the image quality department and at least an adequate job in the performance department. Watch for our upcoming full review of the HS10 for more on the Nikon Coolpix P100's chief competitor.