A DSLR-styled fixed-lens BRIDGE camera but, with a 30x zoom and a host of EXTRA features, could be the best yet
The HS10 features a new 10.3 MP 1/2.3in CMOS sensor, with Back Side Illumination (BSI) to provide better low-light performance. One surprise is that this isn’t one of Fuji’s EXR-type sensors as seen in its recent models, however sensor illumination has certainly been shown to be effective in other brands. The size of the sensor is also more in line with compacts, although a full APS-C size would have been nice. For low light, the ISO offers a range from 100-6400, and combined with the sensor-shift stabilisation and digital processing, boasts shooting capabilities in almost any situation.
The HS10’s biggest achievement though is its focal range. The relatively compact barrel offers a 30x range from a 35mm equivalent of 24mm-720mm, and an impressive f/2.8-5.6 aperture. It’s not shy at fast shooting either, offering a 10fps burst rate for up to seven shots at full resolution, making it ideal for action shots.
The shooting modes include the full assortment of creative PASM options for the more experienced photographer, as well as Auto and scene modes for quick use. The Pro Low Light mode, Motion Remover and Multi Motion Capture are accessed separately, as is the impressive Motion Panorama; this allows you to produce an instant panoramic image by simply panning the camera slowly across the scene, and the HS10 will produce a seamless vista.
The autofocus system is contrast-detect based and offers a choice of centre, multi-point, a selected area, and an AF tracking mode. Metering also offers a choice of Multi, Spot and Average settings, and an exposure compensation of +/- 2EV for correction.
The rear 3in LCD screen, though a fairly low 230k-dot in resolution, is mounted on a tiltable mechanism, which allows easy viewing from above or below. The viewfinder is an electronic screen, or EVF, which features a sensor for automatic activation when your eye approaches.
In addition to still images, the HS10 is fully adept to shooting video. The camera features Full HD 1080p video recording at 30fps, and can also shoot extreme slow-motion video at 240fps, 480fps or 1,000fps at reduced resolutions. Unusually for a premium compact camera, the HS10 uses AA batteries as standard, though will accept a range of Alkaline, Ni-MH or Lithium units, and is therefore easy to find spares for.
Design & Performance
In the hand, the HS10 feels solid and well made. Despite its size, the grip is deep and just long enough to get three fingers around. In terms of size it is comparable with Panasonic’s G-series models, or Samsung’s NX10, but for telephoto shots they would become significantly heavier and larger, and struggle to match the 720mm in terms of focal length. When zooming, the barrel extends to just over twice its length, but remains solid and focal lengths are marked along the barrel. Manual focus is possible using a smaller ring around the base of the lens and the screen provides a magnified view for accuracy.
The HS10’s top panel slopes backwards, making the dials easy to access. The rear is dominated by the 3in screen, with some handy function buttons to its left, and a d-pad to the right, with a couple of extra buttons, including a direct video record button. The tilting screen is a real winner; even in bright conditions the screen is easily visible. This is important as the viewfinder offers a very small viewing size that seems overly recessed into the camera, and the auto sensor is often slow to react or over-eager in turning off the main screen in bright light.
It would be easy to forget that we are talking about a sub-£400 compact camera, as in many ways, the HS10 performs like a budget DSLR. For a contrast-detect AF system, the focusing is rapid and accurate, and the focus tracking is impressive, though still requires additional time once the shutter button is pressed to obtain focus. The metering appears adept at coping with most conditions and, as is preferable, tends to lean to a slight under- exposure under trickier conditions. Write speed is around 2secs for a JPEG, which though a little slow, does not affect its ability to hit the stated 10fps burst but only up to seven frames. When switching to Raw files, this increases to 3sec or 4sec for Raw+JPEG, and allows just six Raw or five Raw+JPEG files to be shot, and can take over 15secs to clear the buffer.
General shooting is very good – if avoiding the EVF – and offers a wide choice of apertures from f/2.8 to f/8 (f/11 in Manual mode).
The LCD screen, despite its relatively low resolution, is very nice to use and the Motion Panorama is perhaps one of my favourite features on the HS10. The Motion Remover (removes moving objects, such as people, from your scene) and Multi Motion Capture (multi exposure effect) are quite clever but difficult to perfect and of less practical use. The HD video capture is certainly an added bonus, and the addition of the slow-motion (fast shutter) modes is great fun to use. It’s just a slight shame the resolution of the image suffers so much in these modes, especially at 1,000fps.
Images are bright and punchy straight from the camera, though artefacts can be seen on close inspection, due to the processing, even at low ISO. Image noise is fairly well controlled though, with signs appearing from ISO 800 upwards, though only the ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 settings showing heavy deterioration. Raw files are far more natural and detailed, and avoid the artefacting of the JPEGs. However, the RAF format of the files is currently only fully supported by the included Silkypix (PC/MAC) software that comes with the camera.
Value & Verdict
The HS10 is extremely good value, especially when you consider the equivalent cost of an interchangeable-lens camera with such a focal length range. The lens or lenses alone would cost at least double the price. Its current street price brings the camera to around £360, which puts it below the likes of the Canon G11 and just above rivals like the Sony HX1 and Casio FH20, though only by a small amount.
If you are after a bridge camera, the HS10 should be on your shortlist. The viewfinder is its only real failure and no camera in this class has perfected it. If this was solved, and the sensor enlarged to APS-C size, buying a budget DSLR would seem wasteful, but the HS10 is an affordable alternative