Great value , but not easy.

Started Jun 8, 2012 | User reviews thread
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Michael Melb AU Contributing Member • Posts: 935
Great value , but not easy.

This camera stands out of the crowd of point-and-shoot DSLR lookalikes. It's different. To put it simply, in my 40 plus years in amateur photography I never held in my hands a camera so capable and puzzling at the same time. Unlike it's many competitors it has a character and is bound to be loved or hated.
It continues a long standing tradition of Fujifilm's DSLR lookalikes sans real DSLR quality. At first sight it is not stunning, and looks too much as a cheap entry level DSLR. So do many others - they just add a bit of metallic glitz over cheap plastic. But this camera a bit more honest - it essentially is a set of DSLR - like functions (and more) minus DSLR image quality. So how does it fare in it's own superzoom domain? Pretty well, I would say. It's backlit 16MP CMOS sensor in tandem with camera's image processor are capable of producing very sharp and reasonably clean images through all 30X zoom range. Colors of the image are traditionally good in Finepix series - this camera is no exception. Optics is decent, not much purple fringing, but geometrical distortions are quite obvious at both ends of zoom range - most pronounced on wide end. Despite absence of star looks, the ergonomics is quite practical. Camera sits in hands tight, almost DSLR like. Manual lens zoom also adds to that DSLR feel and is quite practical - unlike jump-a-step push-button zoom of some of it's rivals. Articulated camera screen is clear, large and quite fast. Mock optical (digital) viewfinder wants as compared to the real thing, but is usable.
So what's not as easy with the camera?
For me it's the camera's huge array well advanced but poorly balanced features. For the people who just wants to point the camera want straight point-and-shoot capability it may be simply confounding. Lets start with three possible automatic modes. As every other similar camera it has full AUTO mode, P mode that provides more control and the unique EXR mode. Which one to choose is not quite obvious even for the one who reads the manual - not supplied with the camera in printed form. While there's not much innovation in AUTO and P, and dizzying array of picture modes - i.e portrait, landscape, etc - EXR is pretty interesting one. Shooting in it for test purposes I found it work more than satisfactory in broad daylight. Pictures come sharp, well-detailed , with good natural gamma. Only thing - occasionally it misses to guess what the user wants. In difficult conditions EXR is better not to choose - as the camera starts to miss on white balance, focusing and exposure metering. And there's no way to correct it - as this mode is almost absolutely automatic one. In difficult conditions this camera need an experienced hand to deal with it. With proper use of P and manual modes, and proper moderation in zoom this camera is capable shooting very decent JPG images when many others simply give up. One of the features deserves special mention - as I find it simply stunning. In ADVANCED mode (yes, it has this one as well) camera can be set to PRO LOW -LIGHT setting. In it the camera takes four quick shots at high ISO and sort of stacks them together to get well illuminated, quite colourful and amazingly sharp, albeit visibly noisy picture. But it's usable - and I did not see it surpassed by any camera in this class.
All said above on image quality relates to JPG format. But camera also is capable of shooting RAW - RAF file format. This one is puzzling indeed. To start with, because of very authentic FUJIfilm diagonal pixel arrangement , many popular image management programs fail to open it. For example, LIghtroom 3. To get the image developed in it - the image must be converted to DNG first. It's relatively easy as latest version of DNG converter may be downloaded free from Adobe site.
First loaded in Lightroom, the image does not look pretty. The one who wants to process it this way must take time to fine-tune the camera import presets. Luckily, the RAW converter supplied with the camera on the disk is not bad at all. However, considering small sensor, benefits of large RAW image are rather doubtful. Unless absolutely unaviodable, camera better be left doing it's business in JPG format. It does it so well that you will be pressed hard to surpass it with your final result of RAW processing.
Let me sum up:
This camera is great and provides excellent value for money for the one who cares to read the manual and has adequate level of expertise to understand it. It is not for absolute beginners or people with professional ambitions. It is rather a happy holiday snapper and "sketchbook" for experienced enthusiast. This camera is not perfect or easy, but it has great capacity and character - and therefore cannot appeal to everyone.
I like:
Very good image quality(for 1/2' sensor)
30x zoom;
Solid ergonomics;
Decent optics;
Reasonable video;
3D capacity;
Articulating display;
Great battery life ;
Generous features

I am not fond of:
Inconsistent performance in low light (on par with competitors);
Puzzling RAF;
Some extra weight


Inconsistent low light performance (on par with competitors)
Difficult RAW processing;
A bit heavy.

Fujifilm FinePix HS35EXR
16 megapixels • 3 screen • 24 – 720 mm (30×)
Announced: Jan 7, 2013
Michael Melb AU's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
Studio / still life
= community average
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