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Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR Ken McMahon, October 2011
 
   
 

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR verdict

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR is a 16 Megapixel Super-zoom with a 30x stabilised optical zoom and a 3 inch flip-up LCD screen. Announced in January 2011 it replaces the 10 Megapixel HS10 with a newly designed 16 Megapixel sensor sporting some cunning tricks to improve noise or dynamic range, a higher resolution 460k pixel screen, extended scene recognition, and new composite modes for shallow depth of field effects.

Rather than improve on the HS10's 10fps full-resolution burst mode, the new sensor adds a number of lower resolution options including 11fps at 8 Megapixels with a top full resolution burst speed of 8fps. Like its predecessor it can shoot Full HD 1080 video at 30fps.

At 730 grams including the 4 AA batteries that power it, the FinePix HS20 EXR weighs almost as much as some SLRs and the adoption of a manual barrel zoom in place of the more common rocker-activated motorised zoom takes the SLR analogy a step further. Its preference for physical controls along with PASM exposure modes and RAW support will appeal to photo enthusiasts seeking SLR-style functionality without the bother and expense of interchangeable lenses.

   
 

 

Compared to Sony Cyber-shot HX100V

     
 
 
     
     

There are several reasons you might decide on the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR as an alternative to the Sony Cyber-shot HX100V. You might prefer the manually operated barrel zoom and the wider field of view of its 24-720mm zoom lens.

The FinePix HS20 EXR can also shoot RAW, so offers more control over image processing and has a hotshoe for mounting an external flash. If you prefer AA batteries to a proprietary power pack, following Canon's decision to drop AA's in the PowerShot SX30 IS,Fujifilm is one of a dwindling number of manufacturers to provide this option.

Then there's the HS20's unique EXR modes which improve noise levels or dynamic range, albeit both with a drop to 8 Megapixels. From a handling perspective the FinePix HS20 EXR has lots of physical controls so if you like to experiment with different settings that could be an advantage.

In my view though, the Cyber-shot HX100V is a better designed camera: it's smaller, lighter, faster, and its image quality, at full resolution at least, proved superior to the FinePix HS20 EXR in both our real world resolution and high ISO noise tests. If you're prepared to drop to 8 Megapixels, though, the FinePix HS20 EXR's Pro Low-light and High ISO & Low Noise (SN) modes produce much better reults.

See my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V review for more details.


Compared to Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

     
 
 
     

In terms of specifications, the FinePix HS20 EXR has some advantages over the PowerShot SX30IS. It has a higher resolution 16 Megapixel sensor, superior continuous shooting (because the PowerShot SX30IS has none worthy of the name), Composite modes for low light, HDR and shallow DoF and support for RAW shooting.

Then there's the HS20's unique EXR modes which improve noise levels or dynamic range, albeit both with a drop to 8 Megapixels.

It also has pretty good high resolution panoramic shooting and if you were disappointed by Canon's decision to drop AA batteries on the SX range, you'll be pleased to know that Fujifilm still likes them. Lastly it has full HD video at 1080p compared with the SX30's 720p.

On the other side of the score sheet the SX30 IS's killer feature is its mammoth 35x optical zoom which matches the HS20 EXR at the wide angle end and outreaches it by a significant margin at the telephoto. Like the Cyber-shot HX100V, the PowerShot SX30 IS is more compact, lighter and better designed than the FinePix HS20 EXR. Lastly, the SX30 IS image quality in both our real-life resolution and high ISO tests proved superior to the FinePix HS20 EXR, at least when each was set to its maximum resolution.

Once again, though, the HS20 EXR's 8 Megapixel High ISO & Low Noise (SN) mode produce better results at equivalent ISO sensitivity settings than the PowerShot SX30 IS at full 14 Megapixel resolution so, providing you're prepared to sacrifice image resolution, the FinePix HS20 EXR enjoys the edge in low light conditions. Added to which, if you can't live without RAW shooting, are a fan of manual zooms, physical controls and AA battery power, the FinePix HS20 could prove the more attractive option.

See my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS review for more details.

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR verdict

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR is one of those cameras you can quickly decide whether you love or hate. It's a camera with real personality, not like any other super-zoom on the market. In terms of handling, the manually operated barrel zoom really defines this camera. If you like to be in control, and able to frame your shots rapidly this could be the super-zoom you've been waiting for. If you want to be able to use the zoom during video recording it probably isn't.

While the FinePix HS20 EXR's image quality wasn't on a par with the Sony Cyber-shot HX100V or Canon PowerShot SX30IS at their maximum resolutions, the HS20 has the unique advantage of its EXR modes which reconfigure the sensor pixels to improve noise or dynamic range - albeit with a drop in resolution to 8 Megapixels. This is the compromise you have to decide upon. If you want the best quality images at the maximum resolution, the competition will beat the HS20, but if you're willing to effectively lose half of your total Megapixels, then the HS20 will comfortably out-perform its rivals on noise and dynamic range. And it's important to note you can't match this performance on other cameras by simply reducing their resolution, as Fujifilm is doing cleverer pixel-grouping on the HS20.

Ultimately the FinePix HS20 EXR has plenty going for it: there's those unique EXR modes, the manual zoom ring, lots of manual control, 1080p movies, and some clever composite modes, in addition to being one of the few super-zooms to provide support for RAW shooting. If you feel you can exploit the EXR modes and don't need to zoom smoothly while filming, it's a compelling model which comes Recommended, but those who want a more traditional super-zoom will arguably be better-off with the competition.



Good points
24mm wide angle and manual zoom ring.
Unique EXR modes reduce noise or boost DR.
1080p HD video.
RAW shooting.
Wide range of burst shooting modes.

Bad points
Manual barrel zoom not ideal for movies.
Sluggish autofocus.
Relatively large and heavy.
Poor High ISO quality at full 16MP resolution.




Scores

(relative to 2011 super-zooms)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
17 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20

82%


   

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