Fuji FinePix HS10 Review

Using the Fuji FinePix HS10

Record Mode

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:

Resolution Quality # images on 46MB onboard memory # images on 4GB SD card (optional)
Large (4:3)
3648 x 2736
RAW + Fine JPEG 2 188
RAW 3 248
Fine 9 784
Normal 19 1548
Large (3:2)
3648 x 2432
Fine 10 881
Normal 21 1749
Large (16:9)
3648 x 2056
Fine 12 1040
Normal 25 2046
Medium (4:3)
2592 x 1944
Fine 19 1528
Normal 37 3018
Medium (3:2)
2592 x 1728
Fine 21 1724
Normal 42 3354
Medium (16:9)
2592 x 1440
Fine 25 2046
Normal 49 4024
Small (4:3)
2048 x 1536
Fine 30 2414
Normal 58 4644
Small (3:2)
2048 x 1360
Fine 34 2744
Normal 66 5249
Small (16:9)
1920 x 1080
Fine 45 3659
Normal 68 5488

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:

DR 100%
View Full Size Image
DR 200%
View Full Size Image
DR 400%
View Full Size Image

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:

  • Date/time
  • Time difference (Home, travel)
  • Language
  • 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:

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

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.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

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!

ISO 800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

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!

Movie Mode

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.

Click to play movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 23.7 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Click to play movie (1280 x 720, 30 fps, 7.1 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Click to play movie (442 x 332, recorded @ 240 fps, playback @ 30 fps, 2.7 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

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.