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Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Review

by Ron Risman -- April 2010

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Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Review

Page 2 (of 3)

In Field Usability Testing

This section of the review will focus on my experience using the camera out in the field. No matter how good a camera feels or looks, it's the handling and functionality out in the field that really matters.

Viewfinder and LCD
There is a lot to like about the 3.0" LCD display on the camera. Even in bright, direct sunlight, I was able to see the screen at least well enough to frame my shot and to playback and view the shot to check exposure. It is still very difficult to try to frame a telephoto shot using the LCD when shooting handheld. Reflections can wreak havoc with visibility, but the tilt function allowed me to tilt the screen down or up to reduce or eliminate reflections. Despite the quality of the LCD, reflections and outdoor brightness do make it difficult to determine detail and sharpness. In situations where I needed to view the scene with less glare I was able to use the electronic viewfinder by placing my eye up to it. A built-in proximity sensor automatically turns off the rear LCD and turns on the viewfinder as soon as you place your eye to it - a nice feature that can also be disabled if needed. Unfortunately, the electronic viewfinder is tiny (1/5" inch) and lacks a real eye cup, so you're forced to press the camera against you fairly tightly to block out light. For me, there's nothing like a true TTL optical viewfinder of an SLR. However, the electronic viewfinder IS nice to have especially when recording video, since pressing your eye to the camera will help to keep your hands from swaying while recording. This extra stabilization will make a big difference in the overall video production quality. Trust me, nobody wants to watch shaky home movies. Overall, I applaud the 3.0" LCD, but feel that the tiny electronic viewfinder is best used only when absolutely necessary.

Battery Life

The FinePix HS10 uses 4 "AA" batteries for power. Users will either love this or hate this, depending on their past experiences. The advantage of AA batteries is convenience. It's nice to know that if your batteries die prematurely, you can always run into a convenience store, virtually anywhere in the world, to buy additional batteries. The downside of AA batteries is that very few cameras, including the HS10, get decent performance out of them.

When the FinePix HS10 arrived I immediately threw a set of four AA NiMH batteries on to the charger. These were Sony 2700mAh batteries and are typically very good performers. Once charged I placed them into the camera and started to do some initial shooting of both stills and video. To my surprise the battery warning came on within 10-15 minutes to let me know my batteries would soon need to be replaced. I went back and checked the amount of photos I had taken and I was blown away to see that I had only shot 22 images and three very short HD video clips (1080p). This was unacceptable. Before totally dismissing the camera I thought I should do a bit more testing. This time I charged up a set of 4 "AA" Sanyo Eneloop NiMH batteries. These were newer than the Sony batteries but only 2000mAh compared to the Sony's 2700mAh rating - so normally these would provide for less battery life. This time around I was able to capture approx. 60 still images and about 8 or 9 short video clips before the battery low indicator appeared. Despite the warning I kept on shooting and ended up getting at least another 25 images and 3 or 4 video clips before the batteries died. Much better battery life compared to the first set of batteries, but still very poor performance. You also need to tell the camera which type of batteries you're using in order for it to give better accuracy with the on-screen battery gauge.

Since this initial testing my battery life has improved a bit, mainly because I started turning off some of the more power hungry features - such as continuous auto focus and continuous image stabilization. These two features really drain battery life so I would recommend turning them off unless needed for a particular shoot. By adjusting these settings to only function when the shutter released is pressed you'll get at least 50% more battery life, yet will still retain auto focus and stabilization when needed. For video users, you may wish to keep the stabilization and focus to continuous, but just keep in mind that your batteries will drain very quickly. Keep in mind that when shooting video at the 24mm wide setting, the depth of field will be so great and the viewing angle so wide you shouldn't need auto focus OR stabilization - so keep them off to converse batteries. It's only when you start to use to the telephoto lens to zoom in your subject that the continuous modes become important in video.

Overall I was very disappointed with the battery life on the FinePix HS10. Anytime I used the camera, whether to shoot, change settings, or playback previously captured images, I always felt that I needed to hurry through those tasks in order to converse precious battery life. I hope that Fujifilm moves toward a dedicated Li-Ion battery in the next upgrade of the HS10.

The Finepix HS10 has surprisingly good optical characteristics at all focal lengths. Distortion is very low through the entire 24-720mm focal range and vignetting is also very well controlled both at both wide angle and telephoto settings. This is NOT an easy feat for a lens with a huge 30x focal range, never mind one that was built for a camera that sells less than $500.

24mm Wide

720mm Telephoto

720mm Telephoto
The images in this group provides a glimpse at both the wide angle and telephoto ends of the focal length range. The top left image was shot at the 24mm wide setting. The other two photographs were shot from the exact same location, but using the 30x telephoto. Click on any of these images to view the full size version.

The 30x optical zoom is definitely one of the main selling features of the Finepix HS10. Not only did Fuji incorporate such an strong telephoto, they also gave the photographer a great wide-angle, two focal distances not normally found in a point & shoot or super zoom camera. The 24mm wide focal length in the HS10 allows for expansive landscapes and wide indoor photographs while at the other end of the focal range you have a mind-blowing 720mm zoom lens that allows you to get in tight and close to capture the detail in a scene. It's important to note that you have an entire range of focal lengths in between and hopefully you won't start zooming so close to every subject that the story in the image is lost. 720mm is a really long focal length and should not be your default 'stop' setting when using the zoom. I think it's best used to compress distance between two objects (person against a distant backdrop for example) or for close-up / macro photography.

Incredible Macro
That brings me to another great feature of the Finepix HS10 - it's great macro capability. The HS10 can focus as close as 0.4" from the lens, making this an ideal camera for both photographers and videographers who love to photograph small objects. The camera features both a macro and a super macro mode. The Super macro mode only works at the wide-angle setting and is designed to focus on objects from 0.4" to 3.2' from the lens. In standard macro mode you can capture subjects at wide angle as long as they're placed between 4" and 9.8' feet from the lens or from 6.5ft. - 16.4ft. in telephoto mode. There are very few cameras out there on the market that can compete with this kind of close-up capability - never mind a camera with a 30x zoom.

Tip: When shooting at full telephoto, use the macro mode if you want the camera to focus automatically on subjects closer than 16ft from the lens.

These three images were shot using the HS10's macro mode. The third picture of the iPhone's home screen was shot in Super Macro mode. Click on each of these to see the original, full size, photo.

Image Quality (Stills)
If there's one area of disappointment with the HS10, it's with the overall image quality of its images. The camera does feature both RAW and JPEG support, but the RAW format (.RAF) of the HS10 isn't yet supported in Adobe camera RAW, which means it is currently incompatible with Photoshop and Lightroom, the two applications I most often use for RAW file conversion. Fuji does include a RAW "develop" application called "My FinePix Studio 1.0" that will allow you to 'develop' your RAW images to export to JPEG or TIF.

The issue I have with the JPEG images captured by the HS10 is in the fine detail. Prints (up to 8x10") look pretty good, but when viewing images on screen at 100% (yes, 'pixel peeping') or enlarging them beyond 8x10" detail looks very smudged. This is surprising since the files sizes that the HS10 creates are actually pretty big. Large file sizes are normally associated with sharper images, since the files are not overly compressed.

When I compared the files sizes to the Canon Powershot G10, another 10MP compact camera that many professional photographers and enthusiasts like to use as their portable camera, I noticed that the Finepix HS10 actually creates larger files. On a 2GB memory card using JPEG fine mode, the HS10 can only store approx. 450 images, whereas the Powershot G10 can store 749 images. This means that the file sizes created with the HS10, at least in Fine mode, are about 40% larger.

I was also expecting better image quality from the HS10 since it uses a 10-megapixel sensor rather than a 12 or 14-megapixel sensor. Less megapixels on a sensor of equal size usually produces sharper, more noise-free images, yet this wasn't the case with the FinePix HS10. While on the topic of reduced noise, the HS10 uses a new Backside Illuminated Sensor (BSI-Sensor) that claims lower noise at higher ISO settings. While the sensor does offer slightly better control over noise when shooting up to ISO 800, the improvements are washed away due to the lack of sharpness.

Image Quality (High-Definition Video)
Beyond the 30x optical zoom, another big feature of the FinePix HS10 is that it records full 1080p video at 30fps. Video quality is pretty decent and the camera automatically focuses while recording. You can also use the manual zoom while recording, but I found the lens too sticky for smooth zooms. Of course zooming in and out while recording is right up there with shaky, jerky video - so that might be a good thing.

While the FinePix HS10 allows for full manual control when shooting stills, in video mode the camera is strictly automatic. While this isn't ideal for video enthusiasts it does make shooting video much easier for novices who just want to capture short clips here and there. Exposure gets fooled quite a bit and some of the video clips I recorded had blown out highlights. Others looked pretty good. The 24mm wide angle lens also helps to keep everything in focus, which makes it a smart idea to turn off auto focus while recording to save on battery life.

The microphone does a good job picking up audio, but it will also pick up the clicking sound of the aperture opening and closing and any excess handling noise.

For the heck of it, I even mounted the FinePix HS10 to the Steadicam Merlin, a stabilization device that allows you to walk or run with a camera while keeping fluid motion. I "flew" the camera in both in 1080p @30fps and 720p @ 60fps and the results were pretty decent. Sure, image quality doesn't quite match true HD resolution, and I wish the HS10 allowed for manual exposure controls in video mode, but then again, the HS10 wasn't designed for professional video use.

The FinePix HS10 allows HD recording at either 1080p resolution at 30 frames-per-second (fps) or 720p resolution at either 30fps or 60fps. By capturing video at 60fps and then playing it back at 30fps, the TV standard here in the U.S., you are essentially creating a slow-motion video. The video below is an example of the HS10's HD video recorded at 720p / 60fps.

Video recorded with the FinePix HS10 at
1280x720 @ 60fps on a Steadicam Merlin (View at full 1280x720)

Video recorded with the FinePix HS10 at 1920 x 1080 @ 30fps
on a Steadicam Merlin (View at full 1920x1080)

The FinePix HS10 also features higher-speed video modes that allow for some super slow-motion effects. To use these higher frame rates you need to turn on the High-Speed Movie mode and then select one of the high-speed shooting modes. Selecting a higher frames-per-second decreases resolution in half with each selection. The two usable options are shooting in HD at 60fps or shooting at VGA (TV-Quality) at 120fps. Once you get into the higher frame rates resolution drops to a point where its usefulness becomes questionable.

  • 60fps @ 1280x70 resolution (View at 1280x720)

  • 120fps @ 640x480 resolution (View at 640x480)

  • 240fps @ 442x332 resolution

  • 480fps @ 224x168 resolution

  • 1000fps @ 224x64 resolution
    The 1000fps high-speed mode is basically a novelty. It gives Fujifilm the ability to claim 1000fps, but reality this is the resolution. Pretty useless.
High ISO Capability

One of the benefits of the new backlit-CMOS sensor used in the FinePix HS10 is improved noise control at higher ISO settings. While the camera does a pretty good job controlling noise up to ISO 800, I didn't see the improvement I was expecting - or at least hoping to see. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the camera's overall image quality is a bit 'muddy,' so adding any noise on top of an already soft image can only make matters worse.

In the ISO samples below take note that there was slight camera shake at ISO 200, which is the reason it's a bit blurred. This is not a result of the ISO setting.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

Continue to Page 3

Buy the Fujifilm FinePix HS10 from B&H Photo

Full Disclosure

We purchased the FinePix HS10 from a retailer for the purpose of this review. However, there are times when we get products to review directly from the manufacturer. In either case, our views and opinions are based on our findings during testing and not based on whether we get the review unit from the manufacturer or purchase it from a retailer.

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