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HolidayBuyer's Guide

ISO comparison

Color

PASM modes

Bokeh

EXR D-Range

Continuous shooting

Bracketing options

Zoom range

Super Macro mode

Pro Focus mode

Motion Panorama

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/150th, ISO 100)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/250th, ISO 200)

Photos at 720mm (f8, 1/400th, ISO 100)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/250th, ISO 640)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/250th, ISO 400)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/250th, ISO 640)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/200th, ISO 100)

Photos at 720mm (f5.6, 1/300th, ISO 400)

As with most compact cameras, photo quality really comes down to expectations and what you plan to do with your photos. In general, the HS30EXR's photos are very good and it is capable of taking some excellent shots. However, it may take a lot of adjusting of settings, shooting in raw, or experimenting with its EXR modes to get the best results. If that's not something you're willing to do, this probably isn't a good choice. Its EXR Auto mode is very good as auto-shooting modes go, but even tweaking that mode's settings can get you better shots.

Basically, if you're considering this expecting digital SLR photo quality for this price with its lens and features, you're going to be disappointed. If you understand that this is essentially a point-and-shoot camera with a lot of control and a long lens, you'll probably be quite happy with what the camera can produce under the right conditions.

My main issue with the results is that there is a lot of visible artifacts when photos were viewed at larger sizes, and subjects look soft. The higher the ISO used, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, using the 30x zoom regularly requires the higher ISO sensitivities and the camera tends to jump right to them when in auto. Again, the best thing to do is take away some of the camera's control.

View larger.

Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
Color performance is very good: bright, vivid, and pretty close to accurate. Though, again, above ISO 400, colors look gradually more washed out. If you need to shoot at higher sensitivities, you should capture both JPEG and raw if possible.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
You get a fair amount of control over shutter speeds and apertures with this camera as well as other options like manual focus and color, tone, sharpness, noise reduction, and white balance adjustments. In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 30 seconds and go down to 1/4,000 second (though they're dependent on the ISO used); selectable apertures are f2.8, 3.2, 3.6, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.6, 6.4, 7.1, 8, 9, 10, and 11 at wide end, and f5.6, 6.4, 7.1, 8, 9, 10, and 11 at the long end.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The HS30EXR can produce nice hexagonal bokeh in the out-of-focus areas of photos.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Fujifilm's D-Range option continues to be impressive. Switching to EXR mode and setting it to D-Range Priority allows you to select the amount you'd like to use. The top left photo was taken at DR 100 percent, which gives you better contrast indoors or under overcast skies. This is the result you'd likely get from a typical point-and-shoot.

The bottom right is set to the maximum of DR 1600 percent and you can see what a difference it makes, completely rescuing details lost. The only disadvantages to using it really is that the ISO needs to be at least 400 and the resolution is a maximum 8 megapixels (the former being more important than the latter.)

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The HS30EXR has a lot of burst shooting options to pick from depending on what resolution you want to use. At 16 megapixels you get 3 frames per second (in raw plus JPEG, too), but if you're OK with smaller 8-megapixel images, you can get up to a fast 11fps.

Focus and exposure are set with the first shot, though, so for really fast-moving subjects all of your shots may not be in focus. This is typical of most burst modes on compact cameras. Also, although the camera can continue to shoot continuously up to 200 shots, the speed drops significantly after the initial burst. For example, at full resolution, after about four or five photos it gets much slower. It's better to release, let it store your images, and shoot again.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
In with the continuous shooting settings are a few bracketing options for exposure, dynamic range, and film simulation (standard, vivid, and soft). They're all nice to have, and since there is no option for artistic HDR photos on the camera, you can use the exposure bracketing to create your own.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The lens is, of course, the main attraction here, going from an ultrawide-angle 24mm with a maximum aperture of f2.8, out to a very, very long 720mm with a maximum aperture of f5.6.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The HS30EXR can focus as close as 0.4-inch from a subject. This is a 50 percent crop from the inset image, which in general is about as large as you can go without starting to see artifacts. However, you can do slightly better if you process the raw images yourself, keep your sensitivity to ISO 100, and use a support.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The camera's Pro Focus mode fakes an out-of-focus background look of a digital SLR when shooting portraits or macro subjects. This was taken with the maximum amount of background softening. The results are OK, but Sony's Background Defocus is slightly better.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Fujifilm's Motion Panorama mode works pretty well letting you create images up to 360 degrees simply by pressing the shutter release and slowly panning the camera.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

The following eight slides are included to give you an idea of the camera's image quality at full zoom and in general. I've included a link below each image to view them at full resolution. Be warned: These are large files and take time to download.

View this image at full size.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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