This long-zoom bridge camera features the new 16-million-pixel EXR CMOS sensor and offers a real alternative to a compact system model. We put it to the test
Features and Build
The EXR technology seen in Fujifilm cameras, with the exception of the FinePix X100, works with a specially designed sensor that uses a unique photosite layout. This allows the sensor to be optimised for a range of shooting demands, including resolution, low light and dynamic range. In this latest advancement, the system uses a back side-illuminated EXR CMOS sensor with photosites in pairs of the same colour, each rotated by 45°, which the company claims increases both vertical and horizontal resolution. The pixels can then be used individually, in pairs or in blocks, depending on the mode selected, to optimise the signal.
The sensor outputs at 4608×3456 pixels, which produces an image of 15×11.5in at 300ppi, or roughly A3 in size. Images can be saved in either JPEG or Fujifilm’s RAF raw file format, or as a combination of the two. This raw control is found in the set-up menu rather than on the main menu screen, although the HS20 has been given a dedicated shortcut button to access it.
HD video is available at full 1080p resolution, in Quicktime MOV format with H.264 compression and stereo sound. The processor is a dual-core EXR unit to ensure that the data is processed quickly and efficiently. The ISO range is the standard 100-3200, although EXR modes can limit it to ISO 800 or 1600. There are also extended ISO 6400 and 12,800 settings, although these reduce the image size to medium (8MP) and small (4MP) respectively, to allow the camera to combine pixel information to reduce noise levels.
The lens is a Super EBC Fujinon unit with an equivalent focal range of 24-720mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8-5.6. This is a huge range, with a 30x magnification from wide to tele and a relatively bright aperture considering the focal length. Focal distance is marked along the barrel in both native and 35mm equivalents, and the zoom is operated manually by rotating the main ring. The focus can also be operated in manual mode via a smaller ring on the back of the lens barrel but, despite a magnification option, it can be tricky to fine-tune.
The 30x zoom allows a flexible range of compositions from wide vistas to extreme close-ups
The shooting mode dial is angled backwards for easier reading and offers a full assortment of manual exposure modes, including aperture and shutter priorities, a handy custom mode, plus program and auto selections. Additionally, there are sub menus for the EXR modes, advanced modes, 360° sweep panorama and 17 scene modes – two of which can be saved for quick access. Metering comes in a choice of multi, spot and average settings, and exposure compensation can be dialled in to ±2EV.
One criticism of bridge cameras is that the aperture selections available are fairly limited. The HS20 goes some way to correcting this by offering selections in 1⁄3EV steps from the maximum, but the minimum aperture reaches just f/11 and is limited further to just f/8 in aperture and shutter priority modes. Due to the smaller sensor, an f/11 aperture will produce similar depth of field to f/22 on an APS-C-format camera, yet a range of just 1 or 2 stops at longer focal lengths seems limiting.
For composition there is the choice of using the 3in rear LCD or the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The rear LCD has 100% coverage and is mounted on a tilting bracket that angles 90° up or 45° down, for waist-level or overhead viewing. An eye sensor switches between the LCD and EVF displays. The resolution of the EVF is just 200,000 dots, which is noticeably low when viewing and appears small in the frame.
The body of the camera isn’t much smaller than an entry-level DSLR with a standard kit lens and is bigger than some compact system models. This allows a decent sized grip and, despite the plastic construction, the HS20 feels solid in the hand.
The menu system is quite slow to navigate, as a large number of functions have to be scrolled through. It can also be slightly confusing when functions are only available in certain modes. It is also a shame that the EXR functions cannot be combined with manual or priority shooting modes.
Although burst shooting is possible at 3fps in full resolution, write times seem fairly slow; around 4secs for a raw file and 3secs for a JPEG image, using a Lexar Professional 64GB SDXC card. Start-up time out of standby can also be a little slow.