Great and versatile bridge camera

Started Oct 22, 2011 | User reviews thread
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Dpreviewmember
Dpreviewmember Regular Member • Posts: 141
Great and versatile bridge camera
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This camera had been rated from 3.5 to 5.0 stars in most reviews. It all comes to the way it was advertised and people's naive expectations. It looks, feels and weights like a DSLR but it's not, so if you expect the picture quality of a 12MP 23.4x15.6mm sensor from a 16MP 6.4x4.8mm EXR sensor look elsewhere, sensor size really matters. Also if you expect the speed and accuracy of a DSLR dedicated phase auto-focus sensor forget it, HS20 gives you the performance of an entry level DSLR live view contrast auto-focus. But the HS20 is currently the best bridge camera out there considering build, features and image quality (did not try the Pana DMC-FZ150 or Canon SX40 HS). Don't be afraid of negative reviews out there, most didn't even bother to try all the EXR features, shooting the tests in AUTO using 16MP for most situations, which is not the way to properly use the HS20. The HS20EXR should be honestly advertised as a great 8MP camera that sometimes could be used in 16MP, not bad at all for this sensor size.

FEATURES AND BUILD QUALITY
Superb for a bridge cam. Solid, well made, lots of buttons like a DSLR leads directly to the important functions: WB, AE/AF lock, +/-, ISO, AF, AE, Manual Focus, REC, you name it it's there. The two dials are solid and smooth. Some reviews complained about the battery door, it works fine and is not worst than any other bridge cam on the market. Prefer Ni-MH rechargeable batteries and set the AUTO focus to center in video, don't use continuous focus for pictures or EXR AUTO if you want your battery to last longer.

MANUAL ZOOM LENSES :
Fantastic convenient manual lenses. Equivalent range goes from 24mm to 720mm, quite fast minimum F2.8 to F5.6, very low distortion at each end, almost none chromatic aberration. Super macro can focus correctly (automatic and manual) from 1cm. That's like having a DSLR with at least 4 lenses, only lighter to carry around and less expensive. The zoom barrel can take you fast and smoothly from 24 to 720mm, some reviews complained about it getting stuck, mine works without flaws. Maybe moving it back and forth it will be smoother over time for those problematic barrels. 58mm filters, adapters and converters can be directly used in this camera. If 720mm is not enough to get wild life close ups or need to get closer to the moon, attach an Olympus TCON 1.7x or Raynox 2.5x tele-converter with an adapter ring and you'll have a small telescope in your hands. This camera can focus sharp in good light, auto or manual, at this ultra-tele lengths. Try not to shoot at exactly 24mm or 720mm, use 28mm or 700 instead, reduces possible distortions and produces better quality pictures.

PICTURE QUALITY :
Want great picture quality ? ditch the AUTO mode, prefer "P" mode. HS20's AUTO produces over-saturated pictures in most situations, reducing the contrast and detail significantly. It can be avoided in P mode and other modes by setting the exposure compensation (+/-) button down a bit, -2/3 works in general. Set the resolution to 16MP only if light is perfect and shutter at ISO100 can be faster than 1/60 when hand-held. ISO200 gives some noise but acceptable. DON'T USE 16MP if ISO has to go over ISO200, more MP is not always better specially with the tiny sensor on this camera.
Always prefer 8MP for other cases, even with ISO100 or 200 when the difference between the darkest and lighter areas of the picture is large, shadows and strong light present (high dynamic range), the "DR Auto" will kick in stretching from DR100% to DR400% when necessary giving better quality. I also prefer VIVID and ASTIA film modes than STD one. Make sure you've got this camera with the latest firmware v1.03, if not download it from Fuji's web site. To be honest I'm not sure when or if I'll ever use 16MP on the HS20. Even A4 size prints 8MP look great and better than 16MP. Amazing pictures when shotting in 8MP, P mode or any manual mode, DR AUTO, for hand held photos up to ISO400 and shutter speed as low as 1/4, no blur at all, unbelievable. All your settings will be there next time you turn on the cam but you could also save them in "C mode". Pictures at ISO1600 are usable in 8MP, but if you really need good quality ISO3200 and over get an entry level DSLR like the Pentax K-r, perfect and quick auto-focus, 12.4MP big sensor, top of the class low light quality with low noise for a good price or go with the SONY NEX-5N, great quality/price choice.

VIDEO
Most reviews were hard on the HS20 video, especially on the auto-focus. Truth is, recording from 24mm to about 300mm you can zoom in/out with no problems if focus is set to “center”, videos have good sound, color and quality even in low light. Read below a trick to overcome focusing problems when changing the zoom.

Problems:

The “play” button is close to the place where your thumb's base is, could be activated unintentionally while using the camera, they should put it elsewhere.

Manual focus ring could be a problem. It is too thin and too close to the camera body. Zoom ring could be a little thinner and focus ring wider for the next model. Also the screen, which is very good, gets dimmer when in manual focus. Keep trying and quickly you will find it easier to use (if your fingers are not thick), it is accurate and shows a bar on the screen to help you reaching the right focus. The 3” screen should be fully rotating like most of the competition, maybe for the HS30EXR ? The eyepiece is crappy, to small, poor resolution, only useful for bright days in outdoors or when strictly necessary.

Video focus and white balance detection is really poor if focal range is changed too wildly during video recording, even when using “center auto focus”. The problem seems to be software related since a cool trick to go around this problem is to take a picture while filming after zooming in/out, which immediately gets the right focus and WB.

8MP images look great up to ISO800 and usable up to ISO1600, but 16 MegaPixels has little use (unless for cropping) is too noisy from ISO400 and lower dynamic range. Noise on the HS20 comes mainly from the blue channel, try this trick : put the lenses cover on and shoot a picture at P mode, ISO 3200, it should be pitch black but instead you get a blue starry night from the sensor's base noise. Maybe they should use the new 12MP 2/3" EXR sensor developed for the Fujifilm X10 camera in the next HS30 EXR, that will show Fuji's guys are getting serious about picture quality and away from the crazy mega-pixel race all mega-zooms are in.

 Dpreviewmember's gear list:Dpreviewmember's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix HS50 EXR Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Olympus 9mm F8 Fish-Eye Body Cap Lens +1 more
FujiFilm FinePix HS20 EXR (FinePix HS22 EXR)
16 megapixels • 3 screen • 24 – 720 mm (30×)
Announced: Jan 5, 2011
Dpreviewmember's score
4.5
Average community score
3.7
bad for good for
Kids / pets
unrated
Action / sports
good
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
excellent
Low light (without flash)
great
Flash photography (social)
excellent
Studio / still life
great
= community average
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