Fuji FinePix HS10 Review

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!

Photo Gallery

Check out our gallery to see how the FinePix HS10's photo quality looks!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.