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Fujifilm FinePix HS10 review: Fujifilm FinePix HS10

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The Good Great feature set; excellent dSLR-like controls.

The Bad Poor photo quality above ISO 400; mixed shooting performance.

The Bottom Line Fujifilm's FinePix HS10 has the look, feel, and controls of a dSLR, with the photos and shooting performance of a common point-and-shoot.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

The Fujifilm FinePix HS10 looks like the ultimate bridge camera, given its wide-angle lens with a manual 30x zoom; large tilting LCD and an electronic viewfinder; direct controls for all major settings; and shooting modes that take you from fully automatic to fully manual. The combination makes the HS10 a good all-in-one fixed-lens solution. But there are definitely compromises to be made, and this camera's price tag doesn't make them any easier to swallow.

If you're expecting photo quality on par with a digital SLR--even an entry-level one--you're not going to get that here. The same goes for shooting performance. However, those who understand its limitations and don't mind doing some post-shoot editing will likely be pleased with all that the HS10 has to offer.

Key specs Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Price (MSRP) $499.99
Dimensions (WHD) 5.1 x 3.6 x 5 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 25.7 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/Electronic, 0.2-inch, 200K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 30x, f2.8-5.6, 24-720mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG, raw (.RAF), raw+JPEG/MPEG-4 H.264/AVC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life 4, AA-size (alkaline included), 300 shots (alkaline)
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC cards
Bundled software MyFinePix Studio (Windows only); RAW File Converter (Windows/Mac)

The HS10 is similar in size, weight, and appearance to an entry-level digital SLR. It might be a compact camera, but it's by no means small. A large, deep hand grip on the right allows you hold it securely, helped by a rubberized coating and a slight indent for your middle finger to rest in. (There's an ample thumb rest on back, too.) On top at the front of the grip is the shutter release with a ring around it for quickly powering the camera on and off. Just behind the shutter are exposure compensation and continuous-shooting buttons. Behind those are the ergonomically slanted Mode and Command dials; the angle puts them in easy reach of your thumb.

Similar to button layouts you'd find on a dSLR, the HS10 has a row of direct-setting buttons down the left side of the LCD. The set includes access to ISO, metering modes, autofocus areas, focus modes, and white balance. You simply press the button for what you'd like to adjust and spin the Command dial. Jumping to the right of the LCD is a discrete button for recording video; an AE/AF lock button; a four-way control pad with a Menu/OK button at its center; a Disp/Back button for changing shooting information onscreen and navigating out of a menu option; and a playback button for viewing photos and video. The control pad can be used for menu navigation and in lieu of the Command dial. It also changes flash, self-timer, and macro settings, and activates an Instant Zoom feature to help framing erratically moving subjects such as children, pets, and athletes. The control setup is excellent and certainly one of the best layouts I've seen on a megazoom camera.

The LCD tilts from the body so you can see what you're shooting with the camera above or below eye level. It does not swing out to the side or rotate, though, so you can't use it for shooting from the side or framing shots if you're in front of the camera. And despite this camera's price tag, the LCD resolution is a pedestrian 230K dots. It gets reasonably bright, but if the sun's out or you're trying to steady the zoom lens while shooting, there's an electronic viewfinder. It's not great and it blanks out when you shoot like all EVFs, but it's better than nothing. Fujifilm built in a proximity sensor to the right of it as well, so as you bring the camera to your eye, the view will switch from the LCD to the EVF. It works quickly, but in some lighting situations it would switch when I didn't want it to. In those cases, you can just shut the feature off and use the EVF/LCD button to the lower right of the eyepiece; to the left of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment. On top of the eyepiece is a hot shoe for adding an external flash. The camera can be used with units that provide aperture adjustment, external metering, and sensitivity control.

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. There is no motor for the zoom; it's manual, operated by rotating a wide lens ring. It's great for fast control when framing shots, and as the lens extends there are markings on the barrel and the lens ring so you can see your focal length. Since it is manual, you can use it while recording video, too. However, the built-in flash extends so far over the ring that rotating it smoothly requires you to have your fingers at the very front of the ring. (The movement will also jerk the camera a bit if you're trying to record and zoom at the same time.) At the back of the lens where it meets the camera body is a manual focus ring.

As for power, the right handgrip houses the camera's four, AA-size batteries. The camera comes with alkaline, which it promptly chewed through. Your best bet is to get some rechargeables, which will last you up to 400 shots, or lithium cells that will take you up to 700. Of course, using things like the high-speed video feature, burst modes, or constantly switching between the EVF and LCD will eat into your battery life. Batteries are accessed through a locking door on the bottom of the camera. The camera's SD/SDHC memory card slot is behind a sliding door on the right side; a panel on the left side lifts to reveal Micro-USB/AV and Mini-HDMI ports.

The HS10's menu system is broken into two tabs: Shooting and Set-Up. The shooting options change with the mode you're in, going from nine in Auto mode to twice that in Manual. The result is a lot of scrolling, especially if you want to make changes to movie settings, which come after all of the still-photo settings. There should really be separate photo and movie tabs. The Set-Up menu is no better. Important features like raw image capture and image stabilization modes are buried toward the end of more than 30 settings, whereas your choice of operational language is at the top.

General shooting options Fujifilm FinePix HS10
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, 6,400
White balance Auto, Direct Sunlight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Custom
Recording modes SR Auto, Auto, Advanced, Scene 1, Scene 2, Motion Panorama, Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Custom, Movie (Normal, High Speed)
Focus modes Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, Macro, Super Macro
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Standard, Chrome (vivid blues and greens), Sepia, Black & White, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 7 (6 in raw)

Shooting modes range from the very automatic SR Auto to semimanual and manual controls. In manual mode, available shutter speeds start at 30 seconds and go down to 1/4,000 second; 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. ISO sensitivities are selectable from 100 to 6,400, though for some reason Fujifilm doesn't give you an Auto option in the semimanual and manual modes. If you don't want to mess with shutter speeds and apertures, there is a Program AE mode that will set exposure automatically; however, you can choose the combination of shutter speed and aperture used. Oddly, there are more ISO options in Program AE, with an Auto that uses the full available range as well as Auto with ISO limits at 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200. These manual and semimanual modes have available options for fine-tuning white balance and adjusting color density, contrast, and sharpness. Dynamic range can be enhanced, too, but it requires using ISO 400 or higher to use all of the settings. Lastly, there is a Custom spot on the Mode dial that will store a single profile to the camera with just about any setting you could want except for shutter speed and aperture.

Of course, if you just want to point and shoot, there are modes for that, too. There is a standard Auto mode designed for use in most situations. There is also an SR Auto that does scene recognition, but for only six scene types: Portrait, Landscape, Night, Macro, Backlit Portrait, and Night Portrait. If the camera can't fit your subject into one of these categories, it defaults to Auto. As fully automatic modes go, they're both good enough for when you don't want to think beyond framing your shot.

There are 15 selectable scene types with two spots on the Mode dial that can be used as presets, which is nicer than having Fujifilm decide which ones you'll use the most. Options include Portrait, Portrait Enhancer (in-camera smoothing of blemishes), Landscape, Sport, Night, Night with Tripod, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Beach, Party, Flower, and Text. There is also a Natural Light mode for indoors and low-light shooting without the flash, and a Natural with Flash that takes two pictures, one using available light and one with flash.

There is an Advanced shooting mode that "combines point-and-shoot simplicity with sophisticated photographic techniques." The options include Pro Low-Light, Motion Remover, and Multi Motion Capture. The first is the most successful, rapidly capturing four images and then combining them into one image with reduced blur and noise (the subject has to be static to work effectively). The last works by capturing multiple shots of a moving subject and then puts them into one image. It seems very dependent on having a side-view of a subject that's moving in a straight line, but it does work. The Motion Remover option is supposed to remove moving objects such as cars from photos, and it does. The resulting image, though, isn't useable for much because the processing creates a lot of artifacts and distortions. And that's when it works properly. When it doesn't, you end up with the moving objects looking like they're disintegrating.

Similar to these modes, there is a Motion Panorama option. Press the shutter and pan the camera slowly in the direction of your choice--horizontally or vertically--and the HS10 captures a series of photos and then stitches them together in camera. The processing isn't as fast as it is in similarly featured models I've tested from other vendors, and the results aren't as good. It does work, though, and as long as you're not expecting to make full-size prints, the photos are satisfactory.

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