Fujifilm FinePix HS20 Hands On First Look Review

The new Fujifilm FinePix HS20 updates the popular HS10 model. What Digital Camera has an exclusive hands-on first look preview of the Fuji HS20 superzoom camera at Focus on Imaging 2011…

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 updates the previous HS10 superzoom model. In a similar vein to the Sony HX100V, the Fuji HS20 has a 30x optical zoom that ranges from a wideangle 24mm through to a 720mm telephoto equivalent (the same as the HS10 model). As well as a manual zoom ring, the HS20 also has a manual focus ring. However, the latter is tucked right back towards the base of the ring, and does, as per the HS10, feel a little frustratingly close-up to the camera body itself.

Design-wise and the HS20's body is more or less a carbon copy of the HS10. One sleek new look is a stylised red ring that runs around the outside of the lens barrel that successfully brings together the overall design.

The Fuji HS20 has a brand new back-side illuminated, 16MP CMOS sensor that's optimised for the latest EXR processor. Although the sensor isn't an EXR build as such, the square pixels are rotated by 45° on the sensor itself in order to allocate more light directly into each photo diode. The results should mean a significantly higher dynamic range and better overall image quality as the back-side illumination removes the wired-part of the sensor from the light path for increased clarity - although the HS20's increase to a more densely-populated 16-megapixel sensor may cause some potential quality issues. As the HS20 is still a pre-production model and there are some six weeks more for the engineers to tweak the processing, Fuji did not permit any sample images to be taken away. We will, of course, bring our image quality verdict as and when we get our hands on a final version of the HS20...

The HS20 has a one-touch movie button on the rear that quickly jumps into 1080p Full HD capture at 30 frames per second using the H.264 compression coded (saved directly as MOV files). It's perhaps a bit of a shame that multiple frame rates or a 24p option haven't been made available, but the progressive capture is certainly the right direction and the manual zoom and focus can be utilised during capture too.

One common complaint of the HS10 was that it was awfully slow to capture Raw files - something that Fuji has been quick to rectify. The HS20's buffer is faster and larger, able to more quickly snap Raw shots and can even shoot at 7.6fps in burst mode (SDXC and UHS-1 cards can now also be used). This is admittedly slower than the HS10's 10fps, but the increase in resolution explains this shortfall. And once you've captured your Raw shots they can now be opened in a full version of Silkypix that's included in the box - something the HS10 had lacked.

Although the HS20's shooting modes remain the same and full manual controls also feature, the Panorama mode sees an increase in total resolution. Panoramic images can be takes through a full 360° and the increased height of the files makes for a larger image. Flicking through the various modes on the top dial is easy and the thumbwheel-like dial next to this is a simple and effective way to adjust settings such as aperture and shutter speed (depending on the selected shooting mode).

The FinePix HS20 features the same 0.2in, 200k-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with a 97% field of view. This was perhaps another sticking point with the HS10, and it's a shame that the HS20's body hasn't been able to accommodate a larger, more detailed option - but for such a change to be made would require an entire body shape/design adjustment, so could well be something for the next generation of models. In truth having the viewfinder available is a definite benefit to shooting as it helps in keeping shots steady when at the longer telephoto focal ranges and for quick-review in brighter sunlight. The 3in, 460k-dot LCD screen is also mounted on a tilt-angle bracked for shooting at waist-level or overhead and an electronic level also features to assist in shooting a level-horizon.

The HS20's standard hotshoe fitting has now also been updated to accomodate TTL (Through The Lens) metering for external flashguns. There are two forthcoming flashguns available - the EF-20 and EF-42 - that have Guide Numbers of 20 and 42 respectievly (at ISO 100). In addition, those with the Fuji RR-80 external release can now fire the Fuji HS20 using this cable release method. 

Overall the HS20 isn't actually drastically different to the HS10. The sensor improvement may make for better quality, but the rather unnecessary rise in megapixels is a race we thought had seen its day - but manufacturers continue to increment total resolution. For current HS10 users the HS20 may not provide a fix to every issue, but the increase in Raw capture may be enough to convince some users to step up. For first-timers, however, the HS20 does offer among the best, if not the best, of 30x superzoom solutions. It's rather impressive indeed.

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