Compact Camera Group Test: SLR-like 'super zoom' cameras
10.3MP | 24-720mm (30X) ZOOM | $440/£380
Fujifilm is pretty much the only manufacturer these days to offer a full-on bridge camera in its line-up. With its full manual controls, an abundance of buttons and dials and a proper zoom ring (all other cameras in this group test use a button-controlled power-zoom) the HS10 is, from a user interface point of view, firmly located in DSLR territory. Only Fujifilm's own S200EXR comes close to this concept (albeit with CCD instead of CMOS technology and, partly due to the slightly larger sensor, a much shorter 14.5x zoom). A tilting screen, high speed stills and video recording and (together with the Olympus SP-800UZ) the longest zoom range in its class mean the HS10 scores top marks in the specification and features department.
- 10.3 effective Megapixels back-illuminated CMOS sensor
- 24-720mm equiv lens with 30x optical zoom
- Zoom ring (rather than buttons)
- 3.0 inch tilting LCD with 230,000 dots resolution
- Electronic Viewfinder with 97% field of view
- 1080p HD movie recording
- High-speed video capture up to 1000fps
- RAW format
- 10 frames per second high speed continuous shooting
- Dual Image Stabilizer
- ISO sensitivity up to 6400
- 11 shooting modes, 15 Scene Modes including Automatic Scene Recognition
- Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Mode
- AF-Tracking and Face Detection
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The Fujifilm has the dimensions and weight of an entry-level DSLR and it handles like one. Like all cameras in this group test the body materials are all plastic but thanks to the reassuring weight, the pleasant surface texture and the rubberized hand grip the HS10 feels more like a quality product than some of its rivals. It's also one of only two cameras in this test with a hot shoe for an external flash. Its screen can be tilted for shooting at waist-level or above your head.
With its large number of external buttons, the top dial and the zoom ring the HS10 operates like a DSLR. Many essential parameters such as ISO and white balance have a dedicated hard button which has made the 'F '-menu - found on most Fujifilm compact cameras -surplus to requirements. Pressing the relevant button and turning the top dial is a quick way to change settings, and the dedicated record button means you don't need to turn any dials or press any buttons to put the camera into movie mode. However, the camera's only two menus are a little longwinded and not entirely intuitive. To set the HS10 to RAW shooting mode for example you have to journey deep into the Setup menu. While we're talking negative points, we'd recommend that you disable the LCD/EVF auto switch function as - in our experience - it can sometimes behave a little erratically.
Overall the Fujifilm HS10 is bigger and heavier and therefore a little less portable than its rivals in this test but what this means is that you get handling and operation similar to that of a DSLR including the advantages of a manual zoom ring.
Apart from high speed movie capture (up to 1000 fps) the HS10 also offers a 1080p full HD video mode with stereo sound (matched in this review only by the Nikon P100). However, despite having the joint-highest video resolution in this test, control over video capture is very basic and there is no opportunity for manual intervention. You cannot even apply exposure compensation which makes the camera most suitable for 'snapshot' type videography.
Image quality and performance
Like the Casio EX-H25 and the Nikon P100 the Fujifilm HS10 features a back-illuminated CMOS sensor. This technology allows for very fast video capture and continuous shooting but the HS10 feels quick and snappy in most other areas as well. At 1.7 sec it powers on quite quickly and 2.0 sec shot-to-shot time is a very good result (2.3 sec with flash). Image browsing and magnification works swiftly enough and with its manual zoom ring the Fujifilm offers a distinct advantage over the competition in this group test. Not only can it be operated much quicker than a motor zoom but zooming is also possible with a much higher level of precision. Only when shooting videos the camera can feel a little sluggish. There is a lengthy delay between pressing the video button and the actual start of the recording.
There's no reason to complain about the Fujifilm HS10's AF system in good light either. At 0.3/0.5 sec at the wide/tele end of the zoom it's one of the quicker systems in our group test, but things go slowly downhill in low light. In our dimly tungsten-lit test scene it took the HS10 1.1 sec to lock focus at the wide and at 1.7 sec at the tele end of the lens - not ideal for spontaneous social snap shots.
The HS10's pixel level image quality is better than the Fujifilm S2500HD's but still not quite up with the best in this group test, at closer examination images show quite a lot of noise and sharpening artifacts. Exposure and focus on the other hand are reliable. The color response is a touch on the cool side but still natural looking. Auto white balance did a decent job even in difficult artificial light situations and the camera's output is at all focal lengths virtually free of any type of fringing. This strongly suggests that Fujifilm is eliminating it digitally.
There is a hint of corner softness to be found at most zoom settings but it's within acceptable limits and would only be visible at fairly large magnifications. At higher sensitivities the HS10 employs a lot of noise reduction which results in a loss of fine detail but is not any worse than most of its rivals (only the Panasonic and Canon are noticeably better than the rest at higher ISOs).
Flash exposure can be on the brighter side but is usually well within acceptable limits. In our flash test the fill-flash balanced the ambient light well and produced neutral skin tones. However, the Fujifilm's Auto mode selected ISO 400 which results in fairly soft output and a loss of fine textures.
The 1080p HD movie footage is impressively detailed, especially when watched on a large screen, relatively free of artifacts and, as long as your computer and viewing software are capable enough, quite smooth.
The Fujifilm HS10 is at currently $440 the most expensive camera in this group test but looking at the spec sheet the premium over the competition seems justified. You get the longest zoom in this test (30x), 1080p full HD video, high speed video and stills capture plus DSLR-like controls (including a manual zoom ring) and build quality.
However, despite the DSLR looks and controls the HS10 (like all of the other cameras in this test) still captures its images on a tiny sensor that inevitably requires you to accept certain compromises in terms of image quality. The HS10's output is, viewed at a 100%, not too pretty, showing a mixture of noise, noise reduction and other sharpening artifacts. Again, this should not make you worry too much if you don't usually produce large prints of your pictures. Things inevitably get worse at higher sensitivities but none of the cameras in this test produce decent results at ISO 800 and higher and again, the difference to the best in class will only be visible at large magnifications. Luckily the the crucial stuff, such as focus and exposure, is usually spot on.
With its impressive feature set and abundance of external controls the HS10 is almost in a different class of camera than the rivals in this test. If pixel-level image quality is not on top of your list of priorities, you want proper DSLR-like controls and are likely to use the high-speed capture modes the Fujifilm might, despite its high price, just be the camera for you. However, it's worth having a look at the Nikon P100 as well. the Nikon offers slightly better image quality and a similar feature set in a smaller package with fewer controls for almost $100 less.
- We like: Longest zoom range, 1080p full HD and high speed video, reliable focus/exposure systems, many external controls, manual zoom ring, DSLR-like operation, efficient IS, flash hot shoe, articulated screen, 10 fps continuous shooting at full res
- We don't like: Image quality in low light, some highlight clipping, focus slows down in low light, slightly longwinded menu system, no control over video capture, long video shutter delay
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
- 3 Casio Exilim EX-FH25
- 4 Fujifilm FinePix S2500HD
- 5 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
- 6 Kodak EasyShare Z981
- 7 Nikon Coolpix P100
- 8 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 (FZ38)
- 9 Pentax X90
- 10 Samsung HZ25W (WB500)
- 11 Movie modes
- 12 Studio comparison
- 13 Studio comparison
- 14 Studio comparison
- 15 Image Stabilization tests
- 16 Image Stabilization tests
- 17 Real world comparison
- 18 Real world comparison
- 19 Conclusions and ratings
- 20 Samples Gallery