HS20 3 week review.

Started Apr 25, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Daniel Lowe
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HS20 3 week review.
Apr 25, 2011

I have had the camera for about 3 weeks now and I am starting to get a better idea of it's strengths/weaknesses, especially compared to the FZ35.

I have never owned an SLR and have always had small sensor cameras. My first superzoom was the Fuji S5700, and then it was Panasonic FZ18 and then the 35.
I also have a Panasonic LX5 compact.

The HS20 has significant hardware advantages over the FZ35 which I find very useful.

The obvious strengths are the wider and longer zoom, manual zoom ring, better manual control, higher res flip out screen etc etc. Overall it offers a much more comprehensive feature set.

At full wide angle, the output of the FZ35 seems to be slightly better for fine detail at 100%, I would give the colour and contrast to the HS20 though, the HS20 images seem to 'pop' more. There is evidence of the infamous 'watercolour effect' but it is usually not too bad and is limited to distant landscape detail, foliage smearing appears to be much better than the HS10.

As the zoom range increases the advantage seems to progressively shift to the HS20, this could be due to diffraction as the HS20 has a larger sensor area and probably a larger relative aperture as well. At full tele the HS20 appears to be quite a bit sharper than the FZ35.

The dynamic range is no contest, the FZ35 blows highlights and was always a problem for me, The HS20 is much better and does a good job of controlling highlights in DR mode as would be expected.

Noise.

The FZ35 is quite a bit noisier at all ISO, it is no contest when the HS20 is in 'M' size which generates the cleanest output I have experienced with a superzoom. When noise is visible it is a lot nicer to look at than the Panasonic noise which can get horrible yellow blotches, the HS20 noise seems quite fine grained and I have a hunch that it would be much better to work with in PP. The 'DR' mode is noisier than other modes (possibly due to ISO boosting) but it appears to be the mode to capture fine detail the best, I think this mode will be the favourite for those that like to PP.

Low light.

Once again, no comparison, in fact I would say that this is the HS20's strongest advantage over other current superzooms, with good results up to ISO 1600. Other low light modes boost this further (with certain limitations).

In 'M' size the HS20 has a pixel density of 26mp cm2 which is comparable to premium compacts like the LX5 (22mp cm2). The FZ35 is at 43mp cm2 and all recent superzoom releases are over 50mp cm2 (including the HS20 at full resolution).

Video.

The video is a lot better on the FZ35, the HS20 is clearly not going to be a good video camera with the manual zoom and the current AF hunting. Even if Fuji release a firmware update to improve AF, it is still really noisy and can be heard in during play back making chirping cricket type noises!! it is still usable however, but people that like nice video will hate it I am sure!

Battery life is awesome with over 600 shots a charge from Varta low discharge batteries.

Focusing and general speed is good, but still not quite as quick as the FZ35 which is lightning fast, over all though it doesn't feel limiting in any way (for me) and the IS works very well even at full tele, though I personally don't mind using a tripod and often do.

So that is my 3 week assessment, overall I am very happy with the camera and really enjoying the better manual control.

I am interested in what other HS20 owners think, especially about the DR mode and fine detail, do you reckon it's better than other modes?

Cheers

Daniel.

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