Fujifilm FinePix HS10 review:

Fujifilm FinePix HS10

A big attraction for the HS10 is its movie abilities. There are two Movie modes: one for normal video at resolutions up to 1080/30p and high-speed movies at up to 1,000fps, but at low resolutions. The 1,000fps setting for example is just 224x64 pixels; stepping down to 240fps gets you a more useable 442x332-pixel resolution, which is good enough for examining your golf swing, tennis serve, or kickflips. To start recording, you simply press the dedicated record button on back and a couple seconds later it starts recording. Press it again and it stops. Unfortunately, to switch between the two modes is a pain as you have to go into the menu system and dig down past all the still-photo options.

Along with the specialty shooting modes and high-speed movie capture, the high-speed CMOS sensors allow manufacturers to include several burst shooting options; the HS10 has two. There's a standard burst that captures at up to 10 frames per second while the shutter release is pressed, saving the final seven shots (six if in raw capture) once you release the shutter. Another, Best Frame Capture, lets you bracket shots by prerecording up to six images with a half-press of the shutter release. For example, if you're trying to capture a runner before and after he crosses a finish line, you can set the HS10 to grab three shots before you fully press the shutter release and then three shots after. You can choose how many shots get taken before and after the button is pressed all the way down.

Unfortunately, these burst modes use the focus and exposure taken with the first shot, so the final shots may not be in focus or properly exposed. Also, once the photos are taken you have to wait while the camera stores the images to your memory card, generally 2 to 3 seconds per shot. These things are regrettably common to compact camera burst modes, though.

For such a high-end compact camera, fast shooting performance is not an unreasonable request. However, the HS10's abilities are pretty average and far from matching an entry-level digital SLR. From off to first shot is 2.2 seconds. Its shot-to-shot time without using the flash is decent at 2.4 seconds; with the flash is actually fairly quick at 2.8 seconds. In our lab tests, the HS10 actually bested its quoted burst speed of 10fps, snapping off six shots at 15.5fps. (Again, once they're shot, you'll be waiting a few seconds per image while they store to the memory card.) The major hiccup is its shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--which is long at 0.7 second in bright lighting and 1.1 seconds in dim conditions. The camera's autofocus felt slow in use, too. Whether you're able to capture anything in motion such as an active child, a pet, or an athlete comes down to the burst mode and/or your abilities to predict action.

For a camera that costs nearly $500, its photos are fairly disappointing. Details are soft and smeary from the get-go, but photos taken at ISO 100 or 200 should be usable for 5x7-inch prints or smaller with light cropping. Quality nosedives at ISO 400, which is generally the starting sensitivity if you're shooting under dimmer indoor lighting. Photos taken at ISO 800 might be OK for Web use with no cropping, but you'll have to be OK with washed-out color and yellow blotching and nearly no fine detail.

The last three sensitivities aren't worth using unless you really just need a picture of a subject. A firmware update was released prior to finishing this review; it seems to have made a slight improvement to sharpness, most noticeable at ISO 400-1,600, which is really where it needed the most help. It doesn't turn it into an entirely different camera, but the update is worth doing. All of that said, this is based on results straight out of the camera or with minimal processing of the raw images. If you're willing to do post-processing of your photos, you'll be able to get very good results at and below ISO 400. Of course, a lot of people will just want to buy the HS10 for the flexibility of the lens. Though a lens with its reach does have certain stalker implications, it does have noncreepy uses such as getting an across-the-field shot of an athlete or a bird high up in a tree, or even for astronomy hobbyists.

There is surprisingly little to no barrel or pincushion distortion from the lens. Maybe some slight pincushioning when the lens is fully extended, but really nothing worth worrying about. There is also little fringing in high-contrast areas, and what is there is difficult to see until photos are viewed at 100 percent. There are some visible halo artifacts, however.

Color performance is very good: bright, vivid, and reasonably accurate. Plus, there are controls to fine-tune them to your liking. White balance is particularly good outdoors, but indoors was a little green. Again, there is an option to fine tune. Exposure is good, but highlights do have a tendency to blow out, which is common for compact cameras.

As mentioned earlier, the video abilities of the HS10 are a large part of the package. The quality of both the 1080/30p and 720/30p movies is no better or worse than what you'd get from a pocket video camera. The bonus here is that you get use of that long zoom lens. There are left and right mics for stereo sound, too, one on each side of the lens. The audio is good, but it could really use a decent wind filter. The high-speed video looks less than stellar, but it's there to play with if nothing else.

For me, the Fujifilm FinePix HS10 was ultimately very frustrating. The long lens can be a lot of fun and you're not going to get that lens and a dSLR body for its sub-$500 price. The problem is that because the camera is as large and as heavy as an average consumer digital SLR with controls to match, it's hard not to expect the photos and the shooting performance to be at that caliber. But for the HS10, its photos and performance are more in line with an ordinary point-and-shoot.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Nikon Coolpix P100
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35
Olympus SP-590 UZ
Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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