One of the cameras that I have fielded many questions and comments on recently has been the new megazoom, Fuji Finepix HS10. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with a preproduction model at PMA 2010.
The HS10 is a DSLR-like camera in terms of size and handling. What makes the HS10 so special though is the 30x zoom lens, which is equivalent to a 24-720mm lens on a 35mm camera. The zoom function is controlled by rotating the lens barrel, just like is done on a DSLR lens. The other superzoom cameras on display at PMA 2010 use an electronic, motor-drive zoom mechanism.
The HS10 is equipped with a 10.3MP backside illuminated CMOS sensor, which tend to provide less noisy images in low light and higher ISO settings. The HS10 can also capture a full resolution 7-frame burst at a rate of 10 fps. Additionally, the HS10 can be set to pre-record 3 frames in that burst so you can actually get shots that you missed.
The HS10 captures 1080p and 720p HD video at 30 fps. The HS10 will also capture VGA (640 x 480) resolution video and smaller, 320 x 240 resolution videos at 30 fps. All movies captured in this standard mode throughout the resolution settings are recorded with stereo sound.
The HS10 has a high speed mode for capturing video at 60 fps, 120 fps, 240 fps, 480 fps and maximum of 1000 fps. The higher frame rates will experience much lower video resolution. At 240 fps, you get 448 x 360 pixels; at 480 fps, you get 224 x 168 pixels; at 1000 fps, the HS10 captures a lowly 224 x 64 pixels. While Casio was really the pioneer of this high frame rate video capture in consumer cameras, several other manufacturers are jumping into this realm, which gives consumers more options and will, hopefully, spur more innovation in this area to bring higher resolution to higher frame rates.
The 240 fps setting can still produce a decent size video at 448 pixels wide, which is good enough for web use. To get usable footage for viewing on a TV, however, you’ll need to shoot at VGA resolution, which you can get at 120 fps and is the same as the recently introduced Nikon Coolpix P100. You can also shoot at 960 x 720 pixels at 60 fps in high speed mode, which is in addition to the 30 fps you get in standard 720p. No audio is captured at any of the high speed settings, which is typical for this feature among other manufacturers.
Unfortunately, Fuji would not let me bring back any footage from the HS10 because it was a preproduction model – although, the video and images looked solid on the LCD. If you want an idea of what the slow motion looks like from the high speed frame rates, check out my recent Nikon P100 Hands-On Review.
The Fuji HS10 has a rear LCD panel and control layout of what you might expect to see on an entry-level DSLR. About the only thing that’s missing on the back of the HS10 is an optical viewfinder. Instead, Fuji has included an electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor that automatically switches from the LCD when it is brought to the user’s eye.
The mode dial found atop the HS10 covers the typical DSLR settings, such as P, A, S and M. Additionally, the mode dial provides a quick access panorama setting, as well as auto and scene modes. Elsewhere on the rear of the camera, you get quick one-button access to ISO, metering, AF type, AF drive, white balance, macro, flash and timer settings. The HS10 provides a well-placed one-touch record button for starting and stopping video capture. A second dial, next to the mode dial, provides a means of adjusting settings and menu options on the display’s dialog. As a result, the HS10 provides a solid mix of point and shoot and DSLR control settings.
The LCD itself is a 3-inch screen that provides a lackluster 230k dot resolution. While it’s not a bad monitor, the standard for higher-end point and shoot cameras is leaning toward higher resolutions in the 920k neighborhood. The great thing about the LCD screen is the vari-angle functionality.
I’m a big fan of these vari-angle displays, particularly on point and shoot cameras and/or when video recording is available. It makes holding the camera a more comfortable task when shooting video, which can sometimes be awkward to hold the way you would hold a normal still image camera. Aside from the lower resolution, the LCD is very nice and bright. There are a number of display options available for providing you with a great deal of shooting information.
I’ve mentioned the incredible zoom range of this camera as a standout feature. And, it’s true – the 720mm zoom is a killer accomplishment. What really surprised me though was the effect of the image stabilization in the HS10 across the zoom range. Again, I could not bring back sample images from the HS10; however, I was able to shoot with it some and see the effects of the image stabilization when zooming in to 100% on the LCD.
I managed to put together a quick video shot on the back of the HS10’s LCD as I zoomed in to 100% to show the detail and lack of camera shake blur when shooting handheld at 1/80s and 720mm, which is roughly a 3 stop advantage. You can see the video of this example, along with a short intro that shows the lens zoomed to different focal lengths, below.
Because I want not permitted to bring back sample images, I will refrain from opining on image quality, other than to say that it looks promising from what I was able to observe on the LCD. Another thing the HS10 has going for it in the image quality department is the ability to capture images in RAW format. Fuji provides a RAW converter with the HS10, which is powered by Silkypix. Additional third-party programs will hopefully provide support soon.
The HS10 offers a built-in popup flash and also features a hotshoe adapter for external flashes. Unfortunately, Fuji does not currently provide a dedicated flash for the HS10, and Fuji reps at PMA could not advise as to whether there are any plans to do so in the future. Moreover, Fuji representatives could not offer any significant amount of detail on the functionality and compatibility with other brands. External flash settings are activated in the HS10’s menu settings. The HS10 manual provides, “The camera can be used with flash units that provide aperture adjustment, external metering, and sensitivity control. Some flash units that are designed specifically for other cameras can not be used.” I have reached out to Fuji follow-up questions concerning external flash usage on the HS10 and will report back as soon as I have more concrete info on this topic.
UPDATE: I have heard back from Fuji concerning the use of external flashes. The following info was provided by Fuji:
“Regarding future plans for Fujifilm branded external flashes, there are no plans to introduce Fujifilm-branded external flashes at this time.
In regards to the hot shoe question:
The hot shoe is not compatible with TTL Flash (operation in full auto mode). Flashes must be operated in manual control and have a hot shoe adaptor like Metz 36 C2. http://www.metzflash.co.uk/pages/metz8.htm
[T]he external flash can be used at P/A/S/M/C mode. The same aperture and ISO setting of the camera must be set manually to the external flash. The built-in flash can be used as a trigger only which has no adjustment for the power.”
The Fuji HS10 looks like DSLR, and talks like a DSLR, but it’s not a DSLR. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. There is no doubt that the HS10 is a powerful camera. However, even though it’s big, it doesn’t have a big sensor inside. It’s limited to the smaller 1/2.3″ sensor as is found in many other point and shoot cameras. As a result, the HS10 is not going to rival DSLRs in the overall image quality department.
That said, the Fuji HS10 looks to be a heck of a camera, and will be plenty enough camera for many enthusiasts, as well as soccer moms and dads. As noted above, the one thing that you get with the HS10 that you just won’t match with a DSLR is reach. Additionally, the high ISO settings look promising enough that, when coupled with the solid image stabilization, the HS10 may turn out to be a solid performer both indoors and outdoors.
For sure though, the HS10 looks to be a great camera for the sidelines of outdoor sporting events. The rotating zoom lens barrel means that your lens will be at the focal length you need when you need it, and there will be no waiting on a zoom motor to catch up with you. Your tastes may differ, but I’m a big fan of manually zooming to my desired focal length. I think the HS10 just might be a killer camera this year, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a full production model to delve deeper into this megazoom camera.
The Fuji HS10 carries an initial retail price tag of $499.95 and is expected to be available in March 2010. You can order the Fuji HS10 through Photography Bay’s trusted online affiliates and support this site by using the links below.
Stay tuned for more on the Fuji HS10.