Fujifilm FinePix HS20 May 2011

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 first look

The new FujiFilm FinePix HS20 is a 16Mp super-zoom bridge camera that can be picked up for around £400. It has the same powerful 24-720mm zoom range of its HS10 predecessor, but sports a new 16Mp EXR sensor.

We haven't fully tested this model in our labs yet, but we've had a first look hands-on with the camera. Check out our first look video and sample photo gallery below.

The new FujiFilm FinePix HS20 has plenty of competition, with the Canon PowerShot G12, Nikon Coolpix P7000 and Panasonic LX5 well established. But, the FinePix HS20 has interesting features that those bridge cameras lack, including a massive 30x optical zoom and DSLR-style handling.

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 has the same body as its predecessor, the HS20, meaning it has the same impressive 24-720mm optical zoom, the same button layout and the same adjustable 3-inch LCD. The key differences between the HS10 and the HS20 are internal ones, such as an upgraded sensor and new photo settings.

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR first look video



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Check out our reviews of all the latest bridge cameras.

Differences between the HS10 and the HS20

First, we have a new EXR sensor that introduces a number of benefits detailed below. It offers up to 16Mp of resolution compared with the 10Mp available on the HS10, so photos can be blown up larger, or cropped down further, without so much worry about loss of detail.

The processor within the HS20 has also been changed, though the time between shots has actually increased. The HS10 could capture 10 frames per second (fps) at full resolution, while the HS20 can only manage 4fps. Bear in mind, though, that as the shots are of a higher resolution, the processor needs to work harder to process the images.

Conversely, Fujifilm says that the HS20's burst mode is quicker than that on the HS10. The HS20 can take 11.2 shots per second, however, you'll have to accept a lower resolution of 8Mp to achieve this.

See our review of the Fujifilm FinePix HS10, to see how the HS20's predecessor in our full lab tests.

EXR sensor and processor

We've seen EXR technology on more compact Fujifilm cameras, and it brings a few extra tricks to the camera's repertoire, namely 'wide dynamic range', 'high resolution' and 'high sensitivity low noise'. These settings are referred to as DR, HR and SN respectively.

The wide dynamic range setting (DR) attempts to allow users to take better photographs where there are both bright and dark areas within the frame - known as shadows and highlights. Usually cameras can only pick out detail in one of these areas, and the user often has to use the manual settings to choose which area is detailed - an automatic mode can also pick an area for the user depending on where it is pointed when focussing.

Sample photos taken on the Fujifilm HS20 using its key features

High dynamic range photography

The setting on the HS20 takes two shots at different exposure settings and then overlays them into a single image in an attempt to create a picture with a wide dynamic range. The two shots are taken at half the resolution so some detail is lost, but the effect is noticeable in some situations. Examples of where this may be useful is when the subject is in the shade and there's a bright background.

The High Resolution mode (HR) is designed for use when the subject is well-lit, while the high sensitivity low noise mode (SN) is designed for poorly-lit subjects. When the SN mode is used, pixels of a similar colour are merged to make a larger pixel that is more sensitive to light. This results in a lower resolution image but can be useful when the user doesn't want to use the flash.

Using the HS20

When we handled the Fujifilm HS10 we liked most of the controls, so are pleased that these remain largely unchanged. The zoom and manual focus are both controlled by rings on the lens barrel, which give the camera a digital SLR-like feel and allow users to use techniques such as a zoom burst photograph and a focus pull when shooting video.

The LCD tilts upwards and downwards to aid low-level and high-level shooting. The buttons to the side of the LCD, when held down, bring up the option to adjust the white balance or ISO setting. When the selection is made and the button is released, the on screen menu disappears. This is a really convenient way of quickly accessing key settings.

These buttons behave differently when in capture or playback mode. In the capture mode they allow users to change the settings, but in playback mode they allow users to zoom in and out of the photograph, see the settings used when a particular photograph was taken, or handily search through the library of photos saved on the SD memory cards. The images can be searched by date, by single portrait, by group or by a specific setting used - such as landscape or night.

One feature that we didn't particularly like on the HS10 was when selecting photographs to delete. If you scrolled back through several pictures to delete a shot, you would then have to scroll through them all again to delete the one taken before or after it, which could be a commonly carried out task. Fortunately, Fujifilm has rectified this issue, and when a shot is deleted, the preview remains on the shot adjacent to it on the SD card's memory.

Fujifilm HS20 first seen at Focus on Imaging 2011


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Film saturation

There are five film saturation settings (FS) on the HS20 that give users the ability to create a film-style effect on their digital photos. Most users will be familiar with the standard (provia), black and white (mono), and sepia effects available, but there is also a soft (astia) effect that can smooth skin tones and a vivid (velvia) effect that can ramp up the colour saturation.

Super macro mode

A super macro mode has been added to the HS20 and it performs very well. You are able to almost touch the subject with the lens and still get a detailed picture. The only thing you need to avoid is casting a shadow on your subject by being so close to it.

360 degree shooting and electronic horizon

The HS20 includes an electronic horizon that works akin to an electronic spirit level, and helps to ensure you are keeping the camera level to the ground. This comes in handy when shooting Full HD video (1080p) on the HS20, when it's perhaps a little bit easier to forget good composition than when you are carefully composing a still shot. Unfortunately there's still a lack of an external microphone socket to really aid those who want to capture good videos.

The HS20 has a 360-degree shooting function that is easy to use and provides some interesting scope for creativity.

LCD and viewfinder

There's an electronic viewfinder with a sensor so it switches on only when the camera's positioned up against the eye. When the viewfinder switches on, the LCD switches off - saving power and reducing the light that's bounced back in your face when you're trying to compose a shot.

Read our guide on how to buy the best bridge camera for easy to understand advice and tips.

Pros: Huge zoom, although weighty we found it comfortable to hold and use - the lens rings especially are a great feature, easy access to controls

Cons: Heavy at 730g, even for a bridge camera, EXR performance is a little hit and miss depending on the conditions

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