Originally Posted: September 3, 2010
Last Updated: September 5, 2010
The Fuji FinePix HS10 ($499) is an SLR-style super zoom camera with a whopping 30X lens, a back-illuminated, high speed CMOS sensor, large articulating LCD display, full manual controls, and Full HD video recording -- to name but a few features. As of this writing, it's tied with the Olympus SP-800UZ for the "biggest lens" award (though the Olympus has a more telephoto-slanted 28 - 840 mm zoom range), but knowing camera manufacturers, that's bound to change soon.
The HS10 has some tough competition from virtually every manufacturer, though its SLR-like design (complete with manual zoom and focus rings) makes it stand out in the crowd. How does Fuji's flagship super zoom perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix HS10 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find the following items:
- The 10.3 effective Megapixel FinePix HS10 digital camera
- Four AA alkaline batteries
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring MyFinePix Studio, FinePixViewer, RAW File Converter, and owner's manual
- 23 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)
As with nearly all of the competition, the FinePix HS10 has memory built right in, in lieu of having a memory card included in the box. The HS10 has 45MB worth of memory, which holds just three RAW or nine fine quality JPEGs. You know what that means -- time to buy a memory card! The HS10 supports both SD and SDHC media, and I'd suggest picking up a 2GB card if you'll be mostly taking still images, and at least an 8GB card if movies are your thing. It's worth spending the extra dollars on a high speed card (Class 6 or above) if you'll be taking a lot of HD movies.
The HS10 is part of a dwindling group of cameras that use AA batteries. It uses four of them, to be exact, though the alkalines that come in the box will quickly run out of juice after about 300 shots. I would pick up a set or two of NiMH rechargeable batteries (plus a fast charger) to use with the HS10. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect from the HS10 with a decent set of NiMH cells:
It's hard to really compare the HS10's battery life against the other super zoom cameras in that table, since Fuji doesn't actually tell you what strength of battery they used. Even if they used a relatively low capacity battery, the 400 shot per charge number is still above the group average. I should add that, in addition to alkaline and NiMH batteries, the HS10 can also use lithium AA batteries, which will let you take an impressive 700 shots before they're drained.
Fuji includes a sturdy plastic lens cap (with a retaining strap) in the box, to help protect that big 30X zoom lens from the elements.
There's just one accessory available for the FinePix HS10, and that's an AC adapter. Unfortunately, you have to buy two parts to make it work: the AC-5VX power adapter ($40), plus the CP-04 DC coupler (which I can't even find in stock anywhere).
Fuji includes two software products with the FinePix HS10, though only one of them is Mac compatible. The one that is Windows-only is known as MyFinePix Studio, and it's a flashy-looking photo transfer, editing, and sharing application. After you've copied your photos over to your PC, you'll end up at the screen above, which has a "3D" thumbnail view. Here you can filter through your photos in a number of ways (people, events, location) and create "Smart Albums", like in iTunes. Here you can also view a slideshow, print or e-mail a photo, or upload them to YouTube or Facebook.
Editing a photo in MyFInePix Studio
The editing features are fairly basic. You can do an auto image enhancement, or adjust the brightness, contrast, and gamma manually. You can rotate or crop a photo, and remove redeye. There are also numerous special effects, including classics like grayscale and sepia.
MyFinePix Studio cannot be used for viewing or editing movies recorded by the camera. QuickTime 7 is included, but unless you upgrade to the "Pro" version, you can't actually do any editing. The FPS software cannot edit RAW images, either, but thankfully Fuji includes another product for that.
RAW File Converter
Fuji's RAW editor of choice may look familiar to many of you. That's because it's based on SilkyPix, which is included by quite a few manufacturers with their RAW-capable cameras. SilkyPix will never win any awards for its user interface, but it's a powerful RAW editor that can tweak nearly any RAW property. Those include exposure, white balance, noise reduction, the tone curve, sharpening, color, and more. Both Mac and Windows versions of this software are included. You can also use Adobe Photoshop CS5 to edit the HS10's RAW images, as long as you have version 6.2 or above of the Camera Raw plug-in.
So what is RAW, anyway? RAW files contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's CMOS sensor. You'll need to process them on your computer before you can do anything else with them, but this allows you to adjust things like white balance, exposure, and noise reduction, without reducing the quality of the original image. In other words, it's almost like taking the photo again. The downsides to RAW include the much larger file sizes, longer write times, and being unable to use it with a few of the HS10's features (such as redeye reduction).
Fuji has unfortunately gone down the same road as many other camera makers when it comes to manuals. You get a basic printed manual in the box, but if you want the full skinny on the FinePix HS10, you'll have to load up the full manual on an included CD-ROM disc. As for the quality of the manuals, Fuji has done a fairly good job of making them user-friendly. That said, if you're looking for a lot of detail about a particular, you won't find it. The documentation for the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
Look and Feel
The FinePix HS10 is a fairly large super zoom camera with a distinctive SLR-style design. While the outer shell of the body is plastic, there may be some metal underneath, as it feels pretty solid. The camera has a large, rubberized grip for your right hand, and the lens barrel can easily be supported by your left. About the only thing I would've liked would have been a gap between the lens and flash, which would make operating the zoom and focus rings a bit easier.
The HS10 is definitely a poster child for button clutter. There are eleven buttons on the back of the camera (plus the four-way controller), and two more on top. While these buttons allow you to quickly change camera settings, it does make the HS10 a bit intimidating to new users (the fact that most of these buttons handle more that one function doesn't help matters, either). I wish the buttons were a bit larger, too -- there's certainly enough room for that.
Now let's see how the HS10 compares to other super zooms in terms of size and weight:
As you can see, the FinePix HS10 is a giant, with a size equal to that of some digital SLRs. While you won't be putting it in your pockets, it does travel well on your shoulder, or in a camera bag.
Let's begin our tour of the FinePix HS10 now, shall we?
The obvious highlight of the FinePix HS10 is its whopping 30X Fujinon zoom lens. This F2.8-5.6 lens has a focal range of 4.2 - 126 mm, which is equivalent to an incredible 24 - 720 mm. What does that kind of zoom range mean in the real world? Have a look at this:
|Full wide-angle||At full telephoto you can easily spot the people looking down at me from the top of the tower.|
The lens is threaded for 58 mm filters, so if you want to screw-on a neutral density or polarizing filter, go right ahead. One thing that you can't add is a conversion lens.
Behind the lens is a 10.3 million pixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor. This is probably the same Sony-designed sensor that has been making the rounds for the last year. The design of the sensor allows more light to reach the photo sites, which promises higher sensitivity and less noise -- in theory, at least. The CMOS sensor also gives the HS10 its high speed burst and full HD movie capabilities, which I'll tell you about later.
You absolutely, positively need image stabilization on a super zoom, and the FinePix HS10 uses a sensor-shift IS system. The tiny movements of your hands produce "camera shake", which can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. The HS10 detects this shake, and moves the CMOS sensor itself to compensate for it. The result is a much higher likelihood of a sharp photo than you'd have otherwise. Now, image stabilization systems won't allow for a multi-second handheld exposure, nor will they freeze a moving subject, but Fuji has put some other features on the HS10 to handle those situations (more on those later). For now, here's an example of the camera's IS system in action:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on (shooting only mode)
I took both of the photos at around the 70 mm position, with a shutter speed of 1/8. As you can see, the image stabilization system was able to produce a sharp photo at that setting. You can add digital IS into the picture as well (no pun intended), though it may degrade image quality a bit.
I'm not exactly sure if the sensor-shift IS system is used in movie mode. I say this because 1) I can't hear it, 2) it doesn't seem to work very well, and 3) your field of view is smaller when recording movies with IS turned on. I have to wonder if it's just an electronic system being used here -- Fuji doesn't say either way. Watch this sample movie and see for yourself.
Directly above the lens is the HS10's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The flash is quite powerful, with a working range of 0.3 - 8.0 m at wide-angle, and 2.0 - 4.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). If you want more flash power and flexibility, not to mention a lower likelihood of redeye, then you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a bit.
In-between the grip and the lens barrel is the HS10's AF-assist lamp. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
The final thing to see on the front of the camera are the stereo microphones, which are located to the upper left and right of the lens.
The FinePix HS10 features an articulating 3-inch LCD display. The screen can be pulled away from the back of the camera, and then tilted up (about 90 degrees) or down (45 degrees). While these kinds of LCDs aren't as handy as those that flip out to the side and rotate, they still allow for easy overhead or ground-level shooting.
Here you'll find the LCD in a more traditional position. As I mentioned, it's a 3-inch display, and it has 230,000 pixels, resulting in average sharpness. I found outdoor visibility to be just okay -- I've definitely seen better. Low light viewing was just average as well -- the screen could definitely "gain up" some more.
Right above the LCD is the camera's electronic viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF is essentially a little LCD that you view in the same way that you would an optical viewfinder. It can show the same things as the main LCD -- even the menus -- and it shares the same 97% coverage, as well. However, EVFs are never as sharp or bright as a real optical viewfinder, but this is all you'll find a super zoom camera. The EVF here is on the small side (0.2 inches), and its 200k pixel resolution results in somewhat fuzzy images. Outdoor and low light visibility was about the same as the main LCD -- average. Something that you might notice on this EVF is a sort of rainbow effect when you blink or quickly pan the camera -- this is a side effect of the field sequential technology used on this viewfinder. Another thing that bugged me is that the EVF does not protrude very far from the back of the camera, which leads to lots of nose smudges on the LCD.
Two last things about the EVF: there's a sensor to its right that knows when you put your eye (or anything else) up to it, which allows the camera to automatically switch between the LCD and EVF. There's also a diopter correction knob on the left side of the EVF, which you'll use to focus the image on the screen.
To the right of the EVF is a button that you can press to manually switch between the EVF and LCD.
Now let's talk about all those buttons on each side of the LCD. Let's start on the left side, with these five buttons:
- ISO sensitivity (Auto, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600, Auto 3200, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400) + playback zoom in
- AE metering (Multi, spot, average) + playback zoom out
- AF area (Center, multi, area, tracking) + face detection (on/off)
- AF mode (Single, continuous, manual) + info (toggles what's shown on LCD/EVF)
- White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight, shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent, cool white fluorescent, incandescent) + image search (discussed later)
Yep, I've gotta discuss some of those in more detail before we can continue the tour and talk about more buttons.
First, what are all those Auto ISO settings for? In some shooting modes, you just have "Auto", and nothing else. I believe this one tops out at ISO 800. The other Auto modes let you set the maximum sensitivity that the camera will use, ranging from 400 to 3200. Naturally, you can also set the sensitivity manually when you're using the manual shooting modes.
There are four AF area modes to choose from on the FinePix HS10. The center and multi-area modes should be self-explanatory. The "area' mode allows you to pick one of forty-nine possible spots in the frame on which to focus. Finally, there's the tracking option, which will follows whatever subject you've locked focus on as they move around the frame.
The single AF mode locks focus when the shutter release button is halfway-pressed. Continuous autofocus is always running, even when the shutter release isn't being pressed. This can reduce focus times, though it's at the expense of battery life. In manual focus mode, you'll use the electronic focus ring that is around the lens barrel. The camera shows a rather unusual focusing guide (you can see it about 2/3 of the way down in the screenshot) that doesn't give you any actual focus distances, but it does show you (via a yellow indicator) where it thinks you need to be for your subject to be in focus. The center of the frame is enlarged, as well.
The camera locked onto five of the six faces in our test scene
The HS10 also has face detection AF, as you'd expect in 2010. While the manual seems to imply that there are regular and "intelligent" face detection modes, I think they're the same thing. Whatever it's called, the face detection system works well, with the HS10 easily locking onto five of the six faces in our test scene.
Getting back to the tour now, let's talk about the additional buttons that can be found to the right of the LCD. Surrounding the four-way controller are the dedicated movie recording, AE/AF lock, display/back, and playback mode buttons. The four-way controller itself is used for menu navigation, reviewing photos you've taken, and also:
- Up - Instant zoom + delete photo
- Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
- Left - Macro (Off, macro, super macro)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, forced flash, slow synchro)
- Center - Menu/OK
The Instant zoom feature is a kind of digital zoom. Press the button once and a 2:3 aspect ratio frame appears in the center of the LCD. Press it again and you'll get the portrait version. Either way, when you press the shutter release button, the camera takes a photo, recording only the area within the frame. Keep in mind that image quality is reduced if you use this feature.
Okay, that's finally it for the back of the FinePix HS10!
The first thing I should point out here are the markings on the 30X zoom lens. The focal length is shown in two places, so you'll always know where you're at. If you didn't know any better, you'd think this was a D-SLR!
Right at the center of the photo is the HS10's hot shoe. This is what I'll call a "dumb shoe", which means that the camera doesn't share any information with the flash, other than telling it to fire. This means that you'll need to manually set the exposure settings on your flash to match those on the camera. Fuji recommends not using a shutter speed faster than 1/1000 sec with an external flash.
Moving to the right, we find the camera's mode dial, which is fully loaded. The options here include:
As you can see, the FinePix HS10 has a full set of manual controls, plus numerous auto modes. The only thing to mention about manual controls is that the full shutter speed range isn't available in shutter priority mode. Fuji has done this for quite some time, and I'm not sure why.
The HS10 has a regular auto mode, a second auto mode which picks a scene mode for you, plus two spots on the mode dial where you can pick a scene mode yourself. Some of the notable scene modes include:
- Natural light & flash: camera takes two photos, one with natural light, another with flash (I guess that one is self-explanatory)
- Portrait enhancer: retouches skin tones in your people pictures
- Night / night (tripod): one boosts the ISO to hopefully capture a sharp low light photo, while the second uses a low ISO and a slow shutter speed for a cleaner shot
To be frank, the HS10's Motion Panorama feature is basically a ripoff of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature. You first must put the lens at full wide-angle, then you pan the camera from left-to-right (or any other direction), and the camera will create a single panoramic image that is 5760 x 720 pixels in size. The camera is taking photos at a rapid clip those whole time, and then it spends a few seconds lining everything up. Below are two examples, though I stopped them a bit early, so they don't show the full area that you can capture.
The resulting photos are decent, though not spectacular. You can see some funny stuff in both of the photos, especially the bridge photo, though admittedly this photo is hard for even the fancy software on your PC to stitch together.
Finally, I want to mention the three options in the "advanced mode". The Pro Low Light mode combines four exposures into one, with the hopes of producing a sharp photo with less noise than you'd get normally. The Multi Motion Capture feature tries to capture a moving image multiple times in a single image. Finally, the one I couldn't wait to test, Motion Remover. This promises to remove moving objects from your photographs! Here's more on each of those:
Here's the official description of Pro Low Light mode, from Fuji's website:
Ideal for shooting non-moving subjects in low light, this mode automatically takes a series of four high-sensitivity & low-noise exposures and then combines them into an image with less noise than the single exposures.
Fuji isn't the first to have a feature like this - I believe Sony started it with their back-illuminated CMOS cameras that came out a year or two ago (though they use six exposures, rather than four). Anyhow, below are two examples of Pro Low Light in action. You'll first see an unprocessed photo (presumably one of the four shots the camera takes) followed by the image that results from the 4-shot burst.
Regular photo (ISO 800)
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Pro Low Light mode
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The photos of Zoe (my loyal assistant) are not only crops of a larger image -- they've also been downsized to fit the page. So, view the full size images for a closer look. Even in these downsized photos you will notice that the regular image is noticeably sharper and, in my opinion, more appealing that the soft Pro Low Light mode picture. Let's try something in lower light now:
Normal photo (ISO 800)
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Pro Low Light mode
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Fuji's statement about Pro Low Light mode is correct: you do get photos with less noise than you would otherwise. That's at the expense of detail, though, as you can see above. The Pro Low Light photo is much softer, with noticeable artifacting from noise reduction. I don't know about you, but I find the original image to be a lot more usable, since there's more detail retained. I'll show you later than you can get even better results by shooting RAW and doing some basic post-processing!
Multi Motion Capture combines isolates a moving subject from a series of photos and puts them into a single image. Thus, you could show an entire golf swing in one photo. Now, I don't have any really cool photos like that, but I can give you an example of this feature with less exciting subject matter:
Two people walking, captured with Multi Motion Capture feature
The feature I most wanted to see was Motion Remover, mainly due to the seemingly miraculous (and simulated) photo on Fuji's website. The idea is that somehow, by taking a number of photos and then grinding away for 10 seconds, that the camera can take moving objects out of a photo.
Notice the woman walking
Here's the Motion Remover version... she's now cut into pieces
In short, this feature doesn't work very well, despite numerous attempts, both with and without a tripod. The example above is one of the better results I got with this feature. While part of the object is removed, there's usually some piece left, like a leg or part of an arm.
So there you have the advanced shooting modes, which are a disappointment to this reviewer. I should add that you cannot use the RAW image format for any of these.
The next stop on our tour is the control dial, which is located right next door to the mode dial. You'll use this to adjust manual exposure settings. Above that are buttons for exposure compensation and continuous shooting. The exposure compensation range is the usual -2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments. I should add that the only time you can ever see a live histogram is when you're adjusting the exposure compensation.
That brings us to the FinePix HS10's drive options, which includes one of the camera's top features: its high speed burst mode, which Fuji calls Top 7 (RAW 6). In this mode you can select a frame rate of 3, 5, 7, or 10 frames/second, though the two fastest options are for JPEGs only (not RAW). The camera will take up to five RAW+JPEG, six RAW, or seven JPEG images in a row, before stopping to save everything to your memory card. Do note that the time it takes for the camera to write a RAW+JPEG burst to the memory card will exceed 15 seconds, during which time the camera is locked up. In all cases, the HS10 met or exceeded the advertised frame rate.
Setting up Best Frame Capture feature
There are other options in the drive menu, some more useful than others. They include:
- Best Frame Capture - similar to the main burst mode, but you can set the camera to save photos that were recorded before you fully pressed the shutter release button (see screenshot); the camera doesn't actually choose the best photo for you, as its name implies
- Zoom bracketing - the camera takes three shots in a row: the first at the current zoom setting, a second at 1.4X, and a third at 2X; the resolution drops from large to medium to small as the zoom increases; image quality stays about the same.
- AE bracketing - the camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure; you can set the EV interval in the shooting menu
The last items of note on the top of the HS10 include its shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around it. I found it quite easy to inadvertently bump the power switch, turning the camera on when you had no intention of doing so.
On this side of the HS10 you can get a good look at its manual zoom and focus rings (left and right, respectively). The zoom ring is fairly nice, though it's too jumpy for professional use in movie mode. The focus ring is electronic, meaning that it's not actually moving any lens elements as you turn it.
Just below the hinge for the flash is the button which releases it. continuing to the right, you can see the camera's speaker. Underneath that are the HS10's I/O ports, which are protected by a rubber cover. The ports include HDMI and USB + A/V output.
The lens is at the full wide-angle position here.
On the opposite side you'll find the HS10's SD memory card slot, which is protected by a fairly sturdy reinforced plastic door.
The lens is all the way at the 30X position here.
Our tour ends in the same place as it always does -- looking at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo) and the battery compartment. The battery compartment door is sturdy, and includes a locking mechanism.
Using the Fuji FinePix HS10
It takes around 2.7 seconds for the FinePix HS10 to start up, which is on the slow side -- especially for a camera that doesn't need to extend its lens.
No live histogram here -- you have to hold down the exposure compensation button to see one
Autofocus speeds were average in most situations. To maximize focus speeds, you'll want to turn on the "high speed shooting" option in the menu, though do note you won't be able to take close-ups without turning on macro mode. In high speed mode, the camera takes between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds to lock focus at wide-angle, and about twice as long at the telephoto end. With high speed shooting off, you can add about 1/4 second to all of those focus times. While low light focusing is accurate, it's pretty slow, with delays typically hanging around the 1.5 - 2 second mark.
Shutter lag wasn't an issue at faster shutter speeds, though I noticed a tiny bit of it at slower speeds, where you should really be using the flash or a tripod anyway.
Shot-to-shot speeds vary considerably. When shooting JPEGs, you'll wait for about two seconds before you can take another photo. A RAW image will lock things up for about four seconds, while a RAW+JPEG takes nearly six seconds to be written to the memory card. Adding the flash into the mix increases the JPEG shooting time by maybe half a second. As I mentioned earlier, some of the camera's special features can lock things up for anywhere from five to nearly twenty seconds.
There's no way to delete a photo that you just took -- you must enter playback mode to do so.
The FinePix HS10 has a fairly short list of image size/quality options for a prosumer camera. Here they all are:
While I only listed it once, the HS10 is capable of taking a RAW photo along with a JPEG of any size and quality. I don't like how the RAW option is buried on the fourth page of the setup menu -- why couldn't hey just put it in the image quality submenu? I told you the good and bad points of RAW earlier in this review.
The FinePix HS10 has a rather antiquated menu system. Sure, it gets the job done, but it's not terribly attractive, a bit clunky, and lacking modern amenities such as help screens. The menu is divided up into two tabs, covering shooting and setup options. Keeping in mind that many of these options are hidden when you're in the auto or scene modes, here are the shooting options:
- Scene position (Natural light, natural light & flash, portrait, portrait enhancers, landscape, sport, night, night w/tripod, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, party, flower, text) - only shown when mode dial is set to SP1 or SP2
- Advanced mode (Pro Low Light, Multi Motion Capture, Motion Remover) - discussed earlier
- ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, Auto, Auto 400, Auto 800, Auto 1600, Auto 3200) - also discussed earlier
- Image size (see above chart)
- Image quality (Fine, normal)
- Dynamic range (100%, 200%, 400%) - see below
- FinePix color (Standard, chrome [vivid], black & white, sepia)
- WB fine tune (-3 to +3) - see below
- Color (Low, middle, high) - better known as saturation
- Tone (Soft, standard, hard) - better known as contrast
- Sharpness (Soft, standard, hard)
- Face detection (on/off) - discussed earlier
- Movie quality (Full HD, HD, 640, 320) - more on this later
- HS movie speed (60, 120, 240, 480, 1000 fps) - and this too
- Movie mode select (Normal, high speed)
- AE bracket EV steps (±1/3, ±2/3, ±1 EV)
- Flash exposure compensation (-2/3 EV to +2/3 EV, in 1/3 EV increments)
- External flash (on/off)
- High speed shooting (on/off) - speeds up focusing by increasing the minimum focus distance to 2 meters (at wide-angle)
- Custom set - save current settings to "C" spot on mode dial; only works in P/A/S/M mode
Fine-tuning white balance
The first thing I want to talk about are the white balance options on the HS10. I already showed you how to adjust the WB setting earlier in the review -- by using the dedicated button located to the left of the LCD. There you'll find the usual presets, plus a custom option which lets you use a white or gray card for shooting in unusual lighting conditions. If you need to fine-tune things a bit, you'll find that option in the shooting menu. You can adjust the white balance in the red-cyan and blue-yellow directions. One thing the FinePix HS10 can't do: set the white balance by color temperature.
The dynamic range feature attempts to improve the detail in highlights (bright areas) of your photos. Fuji's SuperCCD EXR cameras are pretty good at this, but let's see how this CMOS-based camera does:
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Not only does the dynamic range feature greatly reduce the amount of highlight clipping, it also removes moving subjects from your photos (okay, that part's a joke). Seriously though, it does work quite well -- look at the back of the truck and the light pole on the right. The downside is that the ISO goes up as you increase the dynamic range (DR 200% = ISO 200, and so forth), so there will be an increase in noise (view the full size images to see). In many cases, that trade-off may be worth it.
Now, here are the options that you'll find in the setup tab of the menu system:
- Time difference (Home, travel)
- Silent mode - you can also quickly turn off all of the camera's noises by holding down the Disp/Back button
- Reset - back to defaults
- Format - internal memory or a card
- Image display (Off, zoom, 1.5 sec, 3 sec) - post-shot review; the zoom option lets you enlarge an image to check for proper focus, open eyes, etc
- Frame numbering (Continuous, renew)
- Operation volume (Off, low, middle, high) - even at the low setting, the HS10 is LOUD
- Shutter volume (Off, low, middle, high)
- Shutter sound (1, 2)
- Playback volume (0 - 10)
- LCD brightness (-5 to +5)
- EVF/LCD mode (30 fps, 60 fps) - speed up the refresh rate at the expense of battery life
- EVF/LCD auto switch (on/off) - whether the EVF eye sensor is used
- Auto power off (Off, 2 mins, 5 mins)
- IS mode (Continuous, shooting only, continuous+digital, shooting+digital, off) - see below
- Redeye removal (on/off) - whether the camera digitally removes this annoyance from your photos
- AF illuminator (on/off)
- AE/AF-lock mode (Hold, memory) - whether you have to hold down the AE/AF lock button, or if the camera locks things until you press the button again
- AE/AF-lock button (AE only, AF only, AE+AF lock)
- RAW (Off, RAW, RAW+JPEG) - why this is buried here is beyond me
- Focus check (on/off) - center-frame enlargement when using manual focus
- Save original image (on/off) - whether unprocessed versions of photos taken using the redeye removal or "advanced" shooting modes are also saved
- Auto rotate playback (on/off) - whether portrait images are automatically rotated on the LCD/EVF
- Guidance display (on/off) - whether "tool tips" are shown in ceratin situations
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Custom reset - erases the settings saved at the "C" position on the mode dial
- Battery type (Lithium, NiMH, alkaline) - for a more accurate battery life display
- Discharge - drains installed NiMH batteries
The only thing I want to mention here are the numerous image stabilization options. Continuous IS has the system always running, which helps smooth things out when you're composing a photo. Shooting IS only activates the system when the photo is taken, which results in better shake reduction. You can also add digital image stabilization to either of those two modes, though note that images may be noisier. You can also turn image stabilization off entirely, which is advisable if you're using a tripod.
Alright, let's hit those photo tests now!
The FinePix HS10 did a decent job with our macro test subject. While there's a slight greenish tint here, overall, colors are close to reality. The subject is quite sharp, as well. It's pretty easy to spot some grain-style noise on the figurine. A bit surprising to see at ISO 100, but it's better than seeing detail loss from noise reduction.
There are two macro modes on the HS10. The regular one allows you to be 10 cm away from your your subject at wide-angle, and 2 m at telephoto. If you want to get really close to your subject, switch over to super macro mode. First you'll need to zoom all the way out, but once you've done that, you can be just 1 cm away.
The night shot results are mixed. The camera took in a decent amount of light, as you'd expect with a camera with manual shutter speed controls (though note that you may need to be in "M" mode to get at the shutter speed you desire). As with all of my test photos that were taken under unusual lighting conditions, there's a color cast here -- green, to be exact. At first I thought "oh, maybe they had the buildings lit up in green" but I checked the photos from the other cameras I took out that night and nope, no green lighting. The buildings are a tad bit soft and there's some highlight clipping, but neither are horrible. Purple fringing levels were minimal.
Now, let's use that same scene to see how the HS10 fared at higher sensitivities in low light:
There's a gradual softening in the photos as the ISO increases from 100 to 400. All three are usable for midsize and large prints. Details start to get muddy at ISO 800, so I'd save this for small prints, and only if you're desperate. There's pretty substantial detail loss at ISO 1600 and 3200, so I'd avoid those two settings entirely.
Unfortunately I goofed and didn't shoot RAW+JPEG when I took the night photos, so I can't show you the advantages of the RAW format for that particular situation. I do, however, have a comparison using the City Hall night photo from earlier in the review:
Regular photo, ISO 800
View Full Size Image
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw) + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
View Full Size Image
The photo above was taken in RAW+JPEG mode at ISO 800. The crops have been downsized for easier web viewing. While you do get some detail back, the main improvement I see here is that colors are a lot better. The adornments near the top of the dome actually look gold in the RAW image, instead of a washed out grey in the JPEG. I'll do another RAW vs JPEG comparison in a bit.
It's always a pleasure to see a camera do well in our redeye test. I didn't even need to touch the HS10's digital redeye removal tool (in playback mode), as there was never any redeye in the first place!
The FinePix HS10 does a very good job of correcting for barrel distortion. As you can see above, there's very low distortion at the wide end of the lens. Keep in mind that if you're shooting RAW, there isn't any distortion correction, and you can see what the chart will look like by clicking here. I didn't find corner blurriness or vignetting (dark corners) to be problems with the HS10.
And now it's time for our studio test scene, which too has a greenish cast (at least the HS10 is consistent). Since this test is taken under the same lighting every time, you can compare the results between the various cameras I've reviewed over the years. Keeping in mind that viewing the full size images shows you a lot more detail than just the crops, let's see how the HS10 performed.
The first two photos (ISO 100 and 200) are very similar: a little soft, with some low levels of noise. At ISO 400 the image gets softer, and color saturation dips slightly. Still, good enough for midsize or larger prints. The ISO 800 shot is a bit duller in terms of color, and there's a bit more detail loss, so I'd make this your stopping point, and save it for small prints only. The ISO 1600 image has a lot of noise reduction artifacting, and ISO 3200 is a real mess.
Can we make those high ISO shots look better by using the RAW format and doing some easy post-processing? Let's use the ISO 800 and 1600 photos from above and find out!
As with my previous example, the most obvious thing that you get back by shooting RAW is color saturation. You also get back some detail, as well, with the post-processed photos having a much cleaner look than the original JPEG. I'm still not sure how usable the retouched ISO 1600 photo is, but it's certainly better than the original.
Overall, the FinePix HS10's photo quality is good, but not spectacular. Exposure was generally accurate, though on a few occasions the camera underexposed by about 1/3 stop. The camera does clip highlights easily, though I showed you that the dynamic range tool can reduce that, if you don't mind an increase in noise. Colors look good in natural light -- everything's nice and saturated. In unusual lighting the camera consistently had a color cast, so keep that in mind if you take a lot of photos in those situations. Photos are on the soft side straight out of the camera, and fine details and low contrast subjects can appear smudged (check out the plants, water, and bridge for examples). There is some visible grain-style noise at the base ISO of 100, in addition to the noise reduction artifacting that's smudging details. The HS10 can produce decent results through ISO 400, but don't expect anything wondrous above that. While purple fringing popped up here and there, it was generally not a problem.
As always, don't take my words as gospel. Have a look at our extensive FinePix HS10 photo gallery, and decide for yourself!
One of the FinePix HS10's other claims to fame is its Full HD movie mode. That means that you can record video at 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames/second, with stereo sound. You can keep recording until 29 minutes have elapsed (thank you obscure European tax laws), though that is quite a while at that resolution. If you don't need Full HD video, a 720p resolution is also available, with the same time limit.
Two lower resolutions are also available: 640 x 480 and 320 x 240. Both of these can record until the file size reaches 4 GB, which is quite a while.
As you probably guessed, you have full use of the optical zoom while recording a movie. You can zoom in and out all you want, and the camera will refocus as needed. Unfortunately, the lens doesn't move very smoothly, making the transition from one focal length to another pretty jerky-looking. As I mentioned back in the tour of the camera, I'm not entirely sure if the sensor-shift image stabilization system is active in movie mode -- my guess is no. I should add that the noise from the focus motor is easily picked up by the camera's microphone.
There are no manual controls of any kind in movie mode. It doesn't even seem to pay attention to whatever exposure compensation or white balance setting you may have chosen (the last sample video below is proof of that). There is no wind filter or external mic support, either. What really drove me nuts was that substantial lag (2+ seconds) between the time you press the movie record button and when recording actually starts. I should add that the field-of-view is not the same for movies as it is for stills, at least with image stabilization turned on. Thus, you're not really getting an accurate preview of what your movie will look like when the camera is in "standby" mode.
Like many other CMOS-based cameras, the FinePix HS10 can also shoot at very high frame rates. These movies are played back at 30 frames/second, giving them a slow-motion effect. The frame rates range from 60 to 1000 frames/second though, as with the competition, the resolution drops as the fps go up. For example, at 120 fps, the resolution is 640 x 480. At 1000 fps, you're down to a postage stamp-sized 224 x 64. Sound is not recorded in high speed movie mode, and the recording time limit is 30 seconds.
I've got a trio of sample movies for you. The first is Full HD, the second 720p (and a little short), and the third is a high speed cat-drinking-milk sample.
The FinePix HS10 has a pretty good playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, voice captions, thumbnail view (showing up to 100 photos at once), and playback zoom.
|Image search feature||Searching by date|
In addition to viewing photos one at a time or as thumbnails, you can also search through them by date, face (close-up, couple, or group), scene, or file type (still, burst, or movie). Photos taken in the high speed burst mode are put into "stacks". An animated thumbnail of all of the photos in the burst is shown, and you can then dive into the stack to review each frame individually.
The camera allows you to rotate, resize, or crop photos. The only editing tool for photos is redeye removal, though it only works if the camera detected faces in the image. Movies can have unwanted footage "trimmed" off, and you can also join two separate clips into one.
By default, the HS10 doesn't tell you very much about your photos. Pressing the Info (AF C/S/M) button gets you the screen you can see above-right, which offers a bit more info, plus a histogram.
The camera movies from one photo to another instantly.
How Does it Compare?
The Fuji FinePix HS10 is an SLR-style super zoom camera that has plenty to offer, though it has some frustrating flaws. It has a solid body, a huge 30X zoom lens, sensor-shift image stabilization, an articulating 3-inch LCD display, full manual controls, high speed continuous shooting, and a Full HD movie mode. It also has more than its share of annoyances. Some of these include soft and somewhat noisy images, color casts in artificial lighting, disappointing "advanced mode" features, and a sluggish movie mode that lacks even the most basic manual control. If you're not too serious about movie recording and shoot mostly in natural light, then I think you'll like the FinePix HS10. Those of you looking for a hybrid super zoom powerhouse may want to continue your search.
When you first glance at the FinePix HS10, it's hard to tell that it's not a real digital SLR. But you can twist that lens all day -- it's not coming off. The SLR styling is fairly unique in the super zoom world, and it works pretty well here. The body is well put together, and easy to hold. The manual zoom and focus rings are especially nice, though the former does not move very smoothly. The HS10 does have more than its share of buttons, most of which are small and multi-function, so it can be intimidating to new users. As of this writing, the HS10's 30X optical zoom lens is tied for being the most powerful on the market, with a focal range of 24 - 720 mm. Naturally, you'll need image stabilization to steady this beast, and the sensor-shift IS system works well, at least for stills. The camera features a powerful flash and, if you need more flexibility, you can add an external flash via a hot shoe on the top of the camera (though it won't sync with the camera in any way). On the back of the HS10 is an articulating 3-inch LCD with 230k pixels and just average outdoor and low light visibility. It's joined by a relatively small and low resolution electronic viewfinder, which had a pronounced "rainbow effect" (at least to my eyes).
The FinePix HS10 is packed with features for both beginners and enthusiasts. The camera features an auto scene recognition mode, which worked well from my experience. If you're looking for more control, you'll find full manual exposure controls and support for the RAW image format (though I don't like how it's buried on the fourth page of the setup menu). The HS10 has a number of features that take advantage of its back-illuminated CMOS sensor. My favorite is the panorama creation tool -- essentially a copy of what's been on Sony cameras for a while now -- that lets you create a panoramic image simply by panning the 'camera. The three "advanced mode" features were disappointing. Pro Low Light mode layers four photos on top of each other to reduce noise -- which it does -- but I think the regular "noisy" photos look better. The Motion Remover option sounds too good to be true, and it is -- it just doesn't work as advertised. The advanced feature that works the best is the Multi Motion Capture option, which can capture a moving subject over multiple frames and put them into a single image. A feature that I found much more useful is the dynamic range enhancement option, which reduces clipped highlights, if you don't mind an increase in noise.
One of the big selling points of the FinePix HS10 its its Full HD movie mode, and it was a real letdown. Not so much for the video quality -- it was pretty good -- but for the usability. The camera is capable of recording up to 29 minutes of continuous video at either 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720, with stereo sound. You can use the zoom lens to your heart's content, with continuous autofocus. Unfortunately, there's a two second delay before movie recording starts, the field-of-view isn't the same as the live preview, and the lens movement is too jerky for anything remotely professional-looking. And I'm still not sure if the sensor-shift image stabilization is active in movie mode -- my guess is no. The movie mode is fully automatic, with even exposure compensation and white balance locked up. Bottom line: if you're looking for a camcorder replacement, this is not it.
The HS10 can also record high speed movies, at frame rates as high as 1000 fps. The movies are played back at 30 fps, giving them a slow-motion effect. As with other cameras that can do this, the video resolution drops as the frame rate goes up, so that 1000 fps movie will be the size of a postage stamp. Another "high speed" feature is the HS10's burst mode, which can shoot at 3, 5, 7, or 10 frames/second. If you're shooting JPEGs, you can take up to seven photos in a row at any of those speeds. If you're using RAW or RAW+JPEG, you can take 5 or 6 photos, respectively, and you're limited to 5 frames/second (not that I'm complaining).
The camera isn't so quick when it comes to its startup speed, taking 2.7 seconds to prepare for shooting. Focusing speeds are average, though you can improve things a bit by turning on the "high speed shooting" option. Shutter lag was usually not noticeable. Shot-to-shot speeds ranged from two seconds without the flash (and 3 with it) for JPEGs to four to six seconds for RAW and RAW+JPEG. Some of the camera's other functions can lock things up for even longer. The HS10 is one of a very small group of cameras that uses AA batteries, and it manages to get above average battery life when equipped with NiMH rechargeable or lithium batteries.
Photo quality is good in most situations. The HS10 generally exposed things accurately, though once in a while it underexposed by about 1/3 stop. Like nearly all compact cameras, the HS10 does clip highlights, though the aforementioned dynamic range tool can really help reduce that. Colors are nice and saturated in natural light, but nearly all of the photos I took in artificial light had a noticeable color cast. Photos are on the soft side, and fine details can appear smudged, courtesy of the camera's noise reduction system. There's some regular grain-style noise at the base ISO of 100, as well. Noise and detail loss don't become a significant problem until you pass ISO 400, which seems to be typical of cameras using this CMOS sensor. There's definitely an advantage to shooting RAW at the middle ISO settings, though you'll get back more color than detail. Purple fringing levels were low and, in a pleasant surprise, redeye was not a problem.
There are a few other things to mention before I wrap up this review. First off, the only way to see a live histogram is to hold down the exposure compensation button. I'm not a fan of the unusual focus distance meter when manually focusing -- some real numbers would've been nice (though the "assist" feature is handy). As with many other Fuji cameras, the full shutter speed range is only available in "M" mode. And finally, the full camera manual is found in PDF format on an included CD-ROM, and while it's easy to read, it's lacking in detail.
The Fuji FinePix HS10 gets a mixed review from yours truly. I like its design, monster lens, manual controls, dynamic range enhancement, and use of AA batteries. I'm less enchanted with its poorly designed movie mode, mediocre LCD and EVF, disappointing "advanced" features, and color accuracy in artificial light. For most folks, the FinePix HS10 is worth a look. If you do a lot of shooting in artificial light or want a first-rate HD movie recording experience, then the HS10 is probably not for you.
- Good photo quality in normal lighting
- Well built, SLR-style body
- Monstrous 30X, 24 - 720 mm zoom lens with manual zoom and focus rings
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- Articulating, 3-inch LCD display
- Full manual controls, with RAW image format support
- Auto Scene Selector mode (plus plenty of other scenes you can choose yourself)
- Continuous shooting as fast as 10 frames/second (5 fps in RAW mode), though buffer fills quickly
- Effective dynamic range enhancement feature
- Impressive face detection, panorama creation features
- Full HD movie mode records at 1920 x 1080 (30 fps) with stereo sound, use of optical zoom and continuous AF
- Can also record high speed movies for cool slow-motion effects, though resolution is reduced
- Redeye not a problem
- Powerful built-in flash; hot shoe available for external flash (though there's no TTL metering)
- HDMI output
- Uses AA batteries; above average battery life (with NiMH rechargeables)
What I didn't care for:
- Photos are a bit soft straight out of the camera; some detail loss due to noise reduction; visible (but not horrible) noise at base ISO
- Occasional underexposure and highlight clipping; Poor color accuracy in artificial lighting
- Movie mode annoyances: delay before recording, change in field-of-view, no manual controls, possibly no image stabilization
- Lens does not travel smoothly, which makes zooming in movie mode very "jumpy"
- LCD and EVF outdoor and low light visibility is just fair; EVF is small, not terribly sharp, and has pronounced "rainbow effect"
- Sluggish startup speed; long RAW and burst write times
- RAW option buried in setup menu
- Live histogram only shown when adjusting exposure compensation
- Awkward distance guide in manual focus mode
- Lots of small, multi-function buttons can be confusing
- "Advanced" modes mostly a disappointment
- Full manual on CD-ROM, not very detailed either
Some other super zoom cameras that you'll want to consider include the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS, Casio Exilim EX-FH25, Kodak EasyShare Z981, Nikon Coolpix P100, Olympus SP-800UZ, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100, Pentax X90, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the FinePix HS10 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our gallery to see how the FinePix HS10's photo quality looks!