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Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Review
by Howard Creech -  6/6/2010

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.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10


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.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

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.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

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.

Fujifilm HS10

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.

Fujifilm HS10

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.

Display/Viewfinder
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.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

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.

PERFORMANCE
The moral of this story is that the Fujifilm HS10 may have more warts than a bullfrog, but that doesn't mean it isn't an incredibly impressive camera. What the HS10 does do especially well is to inspire your inner photographer and put some of the fun back into photography.

Shooting Performance

The Fuji HS10 is a complex camera and users shouldn't expect the same level of performance they might get with a smaller, simpler imaging device. The HS10 is slower, across the board (with the exception of its continuous shooting rate) than most of its competition, but it isn't substantially slower and for most applications it is fast enough. I took the HS10 to our local extreme park twice and it is quick enough to freeze skateboarders and BMXers in mid air, but it wouldn't be my first choice for shooting action scenes.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS 0.01
Nikon Coolpix P100 0.01
Olympus SP-590 UZ 0.03
Fujifilm FinePix HS10 0.06

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Nikon Coolpix P100 0.44
Olympus SP-590 UZ 0.57
Fujifilm FinePix HS10 0.64
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS 0.68

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Fujifilm FinePix HS10 7 12.3 fps
Nikon Coolpix P100 6 11.3 fps
Olympus SP-590 UZ 6 1.2 fps
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS 0.8 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The HS10 sensor shift image stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting the image sensor to compensate for minor camera movement. Image stabilization allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without it and can also be useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate. The HS10's IS system does a very good job - stabilizing a 30x zoom is a major league challenge, but the HS10 delivers consistently accurately focused and relatively sharp images.

The HS10's multi-mode pop-up flash provides an adequate selection of artificial lighting options, including Red-eye removal OFF: Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye removal ON: Red-eye Reduction Auto, Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro. Fuji claims the maximum flash range (ISO 800) is about 26 feet. Unlike the vast majority of fixed-lens cameras, the HS10 offers a dedicated hot shoe for mounting auxiliary flash units.

Fujifilm HS10

The HS10 is powered by four AA batteries. I went through two full sets of OTC alkalines in the slightly less than two weeks I had the camera and based on my experiences (about 150 exposures per set of four AAs) this is one power hungry camera. Standard alkalines are fairly cheap and available anywhere - which is good, but AA rechargeables or AA lithiums are probably a better choice.

The HS10 saves images to SD/SDHC memory media and provides 46MB of internal memory.

The HS10 offers numerous focusing options including Area, Multi, Center, Tracking, Continuous AF, and Manual focus (One-push AF mode included). Overall, AF seems a bit slow.

Lens Performance
The Fujifilm Finepix HS10 is a fixed-lens ultrazoom that looks like a compact DSLR. Its 30x optical zoom (f/2.8-5.6 4.2-126mm) has an astonishing 24mm ultra-wide to 720mm super-telephoto (35mm equivalent) zoom range, and equally impressive is the minimum focusing distance (in Super Macro mode) of one 1 cm or 0.4 inches. The manual zoom is mechanically-linked (not by-wire) for smooth, quick and precise zooming.

Fujifilm HS10

The HS10 is a truly feature-rich and genuinely useful camera, but in the final analysis this camera sinks or swims on the performance and image quality of its seriously long lens. Ultrazooms allow photographers to get much closer to their subjects and cameras in this class are a good choice for shooting semi-tame urban/suburban fauna and taking pictures at concerts, events, and festivals.

As a zoom lens gets longer, additional surface coatings and more elements (in more groups) are required, not only to get to super telephoto territory sharply, but also to correct for ghosting, flare, hue accuracy, barrel distortion, pincushion distortion, and chromatic aberration (purple fringing) - the longer a zoom lens gets, the more optically complex it becomes.

Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
24mm Wide Angle
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
100mm
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
500mm
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
720mm Telephoto

Ultrazoom cameras are capable of generating high-quality images, but due to their inherent optical complexity, lighter/cheaper materials, and the super tight tolerances of their miniature (when compared to full sized DSLR zooms) multi-element construction, they are normally not up to the rigorous quality demands of professional photography. Both miniaturization and optical complexity can adversely affect sharpness, color accuracy, and contrast. While it may surprise some folks, the HS10's monster zoom is actually pretty good.

Video Quality
The HS10's movie mode is another confusing area - in many important ways this camera can actually compete with a dedicated video camera - way beyond simple email video attachments for friends and family and YouTube videos. The HS10 has a one-touch video button and (due to the nifty mechanical zoom) can be zoomed while in video capture mode.

The HS10 captures 1080p HD videos at 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps (and several lower resolution options) plus several high-speed movie options ranging from 60fps to 1000 fps - all with stereo audio. What's truly weird is that when you push the one touch video button, the LCD screen blacks out for one to two seconds before filming starts. The video that accompanies this review is a decent example of just how good the HS10's video capture (once it starts) actually is. The clip was filmed in a dimly lit store (mixed window light, tungsten, and fluorescent lighting) but colors are good and skin tones are accurate.

Image Quality
Images from the HS10 are detailed and surprisingly sharp, but in bright contrasty lighting, highlight detail was occasionally blown out. Overall, the HS10 image quality is about average for cameras in this class.

Fujifilm HS10 Test Image

However, if you expect the HS10 to generate image quality on par with even a modestly priced (kit lens equipped) DSLR or a premium point-and-shoot, you are going to be disappointed. Image quality isn't bad; colors are vibrant (especially when the chrome color option is enabled) and hue accurate. Apparent sharpness is not a problem - images look great when viewed on a monitor and I'm sure that prints up to 8x10 will look just fine too. But at full size it becomes obvious that images are a bit fuzzy, chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is above average, and contrast is a little flat.

The HS10 provides users with a decent selection of white balance options, including Automatic scene recognition, Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light, and Custom.

The HS10's auto WB system does a good job, but like all of Fuji's consumer cameras, the auto setting produces colors that are slightly warmer and brighter than real world colors.

Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

The HS10 provides a decent range of sensitivity options, including auto and user-set options for ISO 100-6400. At ISO 100, images show bright colors, slightly soft default contrast, and very low noise levels. ISO 200 images are also very good, but with a bit less pop. ISO 400 images are surprisingly good with lots of detail and vibrant colors.

Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 100
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 200
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 400
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 800
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 1600
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 3200
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 6400
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

At the ISO 800 setting noise levels are noticeably higher and there's a perceptible loss of minor detail. Above the ISO 800 sensitivity setting images are very noisy, but they should be OK for VGA email images and 3 x 5 inch or 4 x 6 inch prints.

Additional Sample Images
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image Fujifilm HS10 Test Image
Fujifilm HS10 Test Image Fujifilm HS10 Test Image


CONCLUSIONS

Up to the point where FedEx delivered the HS10, the Canon SX10 IS was my favorite long zoom digicam. Having now spent some quality time with Fuji 's newest ultrazoom, that's no longer the case. Budget and space constrained photo enthusiasts looking for a point-and-shoot that competently substitutes for a DSLR and a bag of lenses could do much worse than the HS10.


The HS10 presents a couple of frustrating missed opportunities in the design process, and it's a poor choice for those who like to shoot primarily action or video. For just about everyone else (in my opinion) this camera stands above most of its competition.

Pros:

Cons: