Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR review: What a bridge camera should be

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In place of the buttons, there's a Q button for controlling those settings. Press it, and up pops a whole screen of important settings, which still gives pretty fast access to the same stuff and more. Navigate to whatever you want to change with the four-way control pad and then change the setting with Command dial.

Next to the Q button is one for flipping between the electronic viewfinder (also 920K-dot resolution and it is really nice) and the LCD or turning on the proximity sensor next to the EVF that will automatically activate it when you bring it up to your eye (though the switch from LCD to EVF is just a little too slow for me).

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 programmable function button and a Menu/OK button at its center for accessing all settings and making selections; 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.

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The camera's battery compartment is on the bottom, and a little too close to the tripod mount; depending on your tripod, you may have to remove the camera to get the battery out. The SD card slot is under a sliding door on the right side of the camera, so at least you can pop that in and out without removing it from your tripod.

Key specs Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR
Price (MSRP) $549.99
Dimensions (WHD) 5.5x4x5.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 1.8 pounds
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2-inch BSI EXR II CMOS sensor
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/Electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 42x, f2.8-5.6, 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG, raw (.RAF), raw+JPEG/MPEG-4 H.264/AVC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 500 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC

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. Fujifilm has three of its own for use with the camera. Also available is a stereo microphone that can be plugged into the mic jack on the left side of the camera.

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It's there you'll also find a Mini-HDMI port and Micro-USB/remote trigger port and a switch for quickly moving from single autofocus to continuous AF or manual focus. At the center of the switch is a focus-assist button that, among other things, will give you a focus peak highlight to help with manual focusing. (Manual focusing, by the way, is done with a focus ring that sits behind the zoom ring. It moves a bit too freely for me, but it works.)

Then there's the lens itself that, again, goes from an ultrawide-angle 24mm with a maximum aperture of f2.8, out to a very long 1000mm with a maximum aperture of f5.6. That aperture range isn't bad, all things considered, but if you're going to be doing a lot of shooting indoors using the zoom, I would recommend going with the Panasonic FZ200 and its f2.8 aperture that's available through the zoom range.

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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. The movement, however, is not entirely smooth, so the camera may jerk some when using it and if you're not careful you'll hear a knock when the lens hits the 1000mm mark. Using the zoom for movies while on a tripod is better, but it still may stick at points depending on how fast you're moving the zoom ring (the slower you move, the more likely it will stick).

The lens is threaded, too, for use with 58mm filters, and a lens hood is included.

General shooting options Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Direct Sunlight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Custom
Recording modes EXR 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; Center, Multi, Area, Tracking
Macro 2.7 inches (Wide); 8.2 feet (Tele); Super Macro 0.4 inch to 3.2 feet
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Soft, Sepia, B&W
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 5 shots

There is no shortage of shooting modes on the HS50EXR including two Auto modes (with or without scene recognition) right up to semimanual and manual controls. 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 go from f2.8 to f11 at wide end, and f5.6 to f11 at the telephoto end. Again, because of the camera's control layout, using this camera outside of Auto is a pleasure; if you want fast access to settings, this is your point-and-shoot.

There are Fujifilm's EXR options as well, made possible by the camera's sensor. These consist of High Resolution Priority, D-Range Priority, and High Sensitivity & Low Noise Priority. The High Resolution Priority setting uses the full 16-megapixel resolution for photos, while the other two shoot at 8 megapixels to improve dynamic range in high-contrast scenes or reduce noise in low-light photos. (Fujifilm's site has a full explanation of the EXR technology if you're interested.) If you're not sure which to use, there's an Auto EXR mode that includes scene recognition and that can also recognize which EXR Priority option to use. It's effective and reliable as long as you're OK with the possibility that you'll end up with 8-megapixel photos if the D-Range and High ISO & Low Noise Priority modes are used for your shot.

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The Advanced mode gives you a few more tools to work with that take advantage of the camera's speedy sensor: Pro Low-light and Pro Focus. The Low-light mode snaps off several photos and then combines them into one lower-noise photo, while the Pro Focus creates a shallow depth of field by digitally blurring the background. (The former works better than the latter.) In this mode you'll also find a cool multiple exposure option that lets you layer one shot on top of another as well as eight advanced filters (Toy, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, Partial Color, High Key, Low Key, and Soft Focus). (You can see example of these in the slideshow in the photo quality section of the review.)

For video, you can shoot at resolutions of 720p or 1080p at 60fps. You also get high-speed movie movie capture at 480fps (320x112 pixels), 160fps (320x240 pixels), and 80fps (VGA 640480 pixels).

There are definitely a lot of megazoom options available -- from basic snapshot cameras to ones that are mostly point-and-shoots with a bit of extra control to those designed for enthusiasts. The Fujiflim FinePix HS50EXR falls into "enthusiast" group, but it's a very capable "family camera," with solid results if you just leave it in auto. Though its photo quality and performance still isn't that of larger-sensor cameras like dSLRs and mirrorless compacts, you're not going to get one of those with a 24-1000mm zoom lens. The Panasonic FZ200 still has a bit of an edge for its continuous shooting performance, better video quality, and its f2.8 zoom lens, but the HS50EXR does have a longer telephoto and some nice extras that will help you get better pictures in difficult lighting. I like having the manual zoom for shooting fast-moving subjects, too, because you can move in and out faster and more accurately than a motorized zoom; it's just not great for movies.

Shooting speed
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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