Fuji HS10 Review
The Fuji HS10 is a superzoom camera that ties the Olympus SP-800UZ for the largest zoom range currently available among consumer cameras. The 30x zoom range of the Fuji HS10 covers an equivalent of 24-720mm, which is the result of having a sensor about 1/6th the size of that found in a full frame camera like the Canon 5D Mark II.
In terms of ergonomics and usability, the HS10 performs much like an entry-level DSLR in many ways. While the flexibility afforded by the zoom range on the HS10 is the camera’s most attractive feature, the smaller sensor in the camera is a key limitation of what the camera can do. As a result, you should not expect to get DSLR-like image quality out of the camera’s inferior sensor.
With this distinction made, let’s get into the meat of the Fuji HS10 and who will get this most out of this powerful superzoom camera.
Fuji HS10 Key Features
- 10MP CMOS Sensor
- 30x Optical Zoom (24-720mm equivalent)
- Sensor-shift Image Stabilization
- ISO 100-6400
- 1080p Video Capture w/ Stereo Sound
- High Speed Video Capture (60/120/240/480/1000 fps)
- 3-inch Tilting LCD
- P/A/S/M Shooting Modes
- RAW Image Capture
- 10 fps Burst Shooting
- External Flash Hot Shoe
Fuji HS10 Handling, Ergonomics and Control
The Fuji HS10 looks and feels like a DSLR. The body size of the HS10 is on par or slightly bigger than many entry-level DSLRs. Additionally, the control layout and functions are more advanced than you will find on the typical point and shoot camera – and in a lot of cases entry-level DSLRs.
The HS10′s grip is a solid chunk with a well-placed groove for your middle finger. Atop the grip, you get a shutter release that has the on/off switch wrapped around it, which is much like Nikon DSLRs. Exposure compensation and high-speed burst buttons are situated just behind the shutter release for easy access with your forefinger.
The mode dial on the HS10 sits prominently on the top of the camera next to a selection dial. The mode dial gives you quick access to a number of shooting modes, which include SR Auto (for Scene Recognition Auto), Auto, Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority and Manual exposure modes.
There is also an Adv. position on the mode dial, which offers 3 specialized shooting modes: (1) “Pro Low-Light Mode” is supposed to enhance the clarity of still subjects in low light by taking several rapid shots and using them in combination to remove noise and make the image sharper; (2) “Multi-Motion Capture” lets you take up to 5 shots of a subject moving in a frame to create a multi-exposure composite; and (3) “Motion Remover” that removes moving subjects by composting multiple images.
SP1 and SP2 settings on the mode dial offer built-in presets for Portraits and Landscapes, respectively. The Motion Panorama setting on the mode dial works much like Sony’s Sweep Panorama function. Finally, a Custom setting rounds out the mode dial and allows you to create a predefined setting based on your own preferences.
The selection dial next to the mode dial allows you top make exposure compensation adjustments in Program mode when used with the exposure compensation button near the shutter release. When in A, S or M modes, you can use the selection dial to adjust aperture and shutter speeds when appropriate.
On the back of the camera, you get a number of other controls, including dedicated buttons for ISO, metering mode, AF focus mode, AF drive mode, and white balance settings. A dedicated button to the right of the EVF allows you to switch between the LCD and EVF displays.
On the right side of the LCD, you get a dedicated video record button for instant video capture operation. An AE/AF lock button is located directly below the video record button.
A 4-way controller gives you quick access to image deletion, flash, macro focusing and self-timer options. In the center of the 4-way controller is a Menu/OK button. When the menu is active, the 4-way controller serves a dual purpose as navigation controls.
Rounding out the controls on the rear of the camera is Display/Back button that allows you to cycle through info options for the rear LCD or EVF, or you can use it to back out of menu options. A preview button in the lower right brings up previously captured images and videos.
The HS10 fits quite well in the hand, and is very comfortable to use. Due to the size of the camera, however, you’ll want to grip it with two hands. The lens barrel zooms manually just like a DSLR lens. The lens is quite large – even for a superzoom camera. It feels about the size of many DSLR kit lenses in the 18-55mm zoom range. As a result, the camera handles much like a Rebel T2i or Nikon D5000 with their kit lenses attached. There’s a focusing ring on the back side of the lens next to the camera body that allows you to adjust the focusing manually (once you set it to the MF focusing mode).
The pop-up flash is activated by pressing a button on the left side of the flash housing. It springs up just like DSLR. Additionally, the hot shoe will accept an external flash that can be triggered with manual exposure mode. This hot shoe does not communicate TTL exposure information to the flash. Based on what I’ve been told by Fuji reps, the company has no plans to make any form of compatible flash for the HS10. Also, there is no approved list of compatible flashes; however, I managed to fire an old Canon 540EZ in manual mode without any hiccups.
Update: See Fuji HS10 Recommended External Flashes.
While I was also able to use a wireless trigger to fire studio lights with the HS10′s hot shoe, this seems like a bit of an odd fit on a bridge camera. I would have expected some form of compatibility with auto-exposure info as can be found in advanced compact cameras like the Canon G11.
Shooting with the Fuji HS10
Shooting still images with the HS10 was mostly an enjoyable process. The first downer that you’ll notice though is that it takes a little too long to move from shot to shot. This is a rather odd dilemma for a camera that touts itself as a speed king. With 10 fps numbers thrown around in the specs, you would think that it would be a little quicker.
And, while the HS10 can blow away entry-level DSLRs with a 10 fps burst – it only lasts for 0.7 seconds. That’s right. Seven frames and she’s done for around 10-15 seconds while it rights the files to memory. When hit with this sluggish performance, I decided to keep the camera out of the high speed capture mode unless there was a specific moment I was trying to catch.
Still yet, shutter response is quick. Focusing is quick. Zooming is as fast as you want it to be thanks to the manually zooming lens barrel.
Image stabilization impressed the heck out of me with the HS10. I found myself using slow shutter speeds that I wouldn’t dream of using at long telephoto settings. You really have to be way out of the ball park to get a blurry photo from camera shake with the HS10.
While the EVF serves the camera well as a superzoom point and shoot, it doesn’t compare to an optical viewfinder. The LCD, on the other hand, is great. While it’s a lower resolution than I would have expected Fuji to deliver on such a high-spec’d camera, the tilting function is great for low-angle and over the crowd shots. The one downer about the LCD is that it only tilts on the horizontal axis, which means you’re stuck with a flat view when shooting vertically. A swiveling, vari-angle screen would have been more appreciated here.
Shooting video with the Fuji HS10 has its own ups and downs. The continuous autofocus does a good job when filming. However, zooming in and out can be challenging. Other cameras have noisy motors that effect your audio recording. While the HS10 has a manual zoom ring (and, as a result, no noisy zoom motor), it is nearly impossible to move in a smooth manner suitable for video capture.
There are a number of video options with regard to resolution and frame rates: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / 1,280 x 720 pixels / 640 x 480 pixels / 320 x 240 pixels all at 30 fps and with stereo sound. The High Speed Movie mode does some cool frame rates at declining resolutions: 60/120/240/480/1000 fps. Once you get past the 240 fps frame rate though, the resolution becomes practically unusable. At 480 fps, you get a resolution of 224 x 168 pixels. At 1000 fps, you get 224 x 64 fps, which you may as well not even waste the memory with.
When the rubber meets the road, the Fuji HS10 offers some serious versatility. I took the HS10 with me to one of my son’s school musicals. Normally, I would pack a DSLR with a rather long lens on such a trip; however, that’s really overkill for grabbing a few snapshots of my son up on the stage, which will ultimately result in 4 x 6 prints or just being shared with family in an online gallery.
Even with a 70-200mm lens on a DSLR, the reach is nowhere near what you get out of the HS10. Using the HS10, I was able to lean against a support column near our seats at the back of the auditorium and snap several shots at 720mm, ISO 3200 and 1/100s (thanks to the great image stabilization).
Granted, these images are noisy and nowhere near the quality that I would have gotten out of $3000 DSLR and lens combo but, as I said earlier, that’s not what you should expect out of this sub-$500 camera. As a point and shoot camera though, the Fuji HS10 helps you capture images that other cameras in the same price range just can’t get for you.
Fuji HS10 Image Quality
I’ve already let the cat out of the bag somewhat. The Fuji HS10′s strong suit is not image quality. Remember, it’s still a compact camera’s image sensor inside that DSLR-looking body.
In good light, the HS10 does fine. You can shoot up to about ISO 800 without worrying too much about noise. Once you hit ISO 800 and beyond though, you need to understand that your image noise will limit your acceptable printing and display sizes.
As I alluded to earlier, images at ISO 3200 will be acceptable for most casual user’s family album and web gallery standards. I have no qualm about throwing some ISO 3200 images from the Fuji HS10 as 4 x 6 prints into my own family album.
The biggest concerns about image quality will come from enthusiast and advanced amateur users. If you fall into this category, I encourage you to take a close look at the full resolution samples provided below and on other sites. Unfortunately, I think most advanced users will agree that the HS10 does not deliver the kind of image quality that they are looking for in a camera. In such cases, I recommend looking into an entry-level DSLR (Sony A330, Nikon D5000, Canon Rebel T1i) or interchangeable lens camera (Olympus E-PL1).
Below you will find a sample of images captured across the ISO range from the Fuji HS10, along with a number of images captured in various settings and environments during my review of the HS10. All images were captured in JPEG format. I have noted the basic shot info below each image, including the approximate 35mm format equivalent focal lengths. Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
Fuji HS10 Accessories
Rechargeable AA Batteries – The HS10 comes with 4 AA batteries, which are required to power the camera. If you don’t have any, it would be a good idea to pick up some rechargeable batteries to help out your wallet and the environment. Otherwise, you’ll be shelling out a lot of money on alkalines.
Memory cards – I used a number of different speed cards with the HS10 and couldn’t tell a difference in performance between SanDisk Extreme cards and basic Kingston SD cards. Cheap cards from reputable brands should work just fine. The HS10 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.
Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the HS10. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.
The Fuji HS10 is in a unique position as it has the look, feel and operation of a DSLR camera; however, it still delivers the image quality of a compact camera. For most casual users, this will be a perfectly acceptable trade-off. The zoom range is truly astounding on the HS10, and will be enough to seal the deal for many.
For some advanced users, however, the Fuji HS10 will leave you wanting a bit more out of the final images. In those cases, you will be better served with a DSLR or other interchangeable lens camera.
Those who appreciate the Fuji HS10 for what it is will come to love it. The HS10 is a not-quite-do-it-all camera, but it’s close.
I truly enjoyed using the Fuji HS10 every time that I took it out. I have continued putting off this review because I wanted to take the HS10 out on a trip “just one more time” on several occasions. I haven’t even covered all of the features and options of the camera (like the amazing 1cm super macro mode) but, alas, I have to end the review at some point.
The Fuji HS10 will suit a wide range of users – from true beginners (thanks to the Auto modes) to advanced shooters. It has enough power and features to let the user grow with the camera for quite some time.
If you are in the market for a superzoom camera, the Fuji HS10 deserves a spot high up on your list.
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