By Josh Fate
As one of Fuji's first camera's to sport the new EXR CMOS imaging sensor, the HS20 EXR combines the quality of Fuji's EXR system with the speed and quality of the back side illuminated sensor to produce outstanding image quality and amazing performance. EXR Auto chooses between 3 sensor modes and 27 scene shooting modes based on your current shooting conditions. This allows for anyone to capture the best possible images, even in the toughest situations. These features are paired with the Extra-Low Dispersion Glass lens to provide the best optics possible to complete the EXR system.
With the same shape and feel of a small dSLR camera, the HS20EXR is comfortable to hold and easy to operate. All of the camera's controls are easy to use and easy to find when you are out shooting. The only difficulty with the operation comes from the zoom lens which is a little hard to turn, causing it to not work as smoothly as it could. This could be an issue if you need to zoom while recording movies or making fine adjustments for your composition. To frame and view your images, you have the option between the 3.0-inch LCD screen or the EVF. With a 460,000 dot resolution, the tilting LCD is your best option for screen quality. With 100% frame coverage you will be sure to see everything that the camera will capture. If you are usually more comfortable with an optical viewfinder, then the EVF will be your preferred choice for framing. With a resolution of approx. 200,000 dots and 97% frame coverage, the quality isn't going to be as good as the LCD screen; however, it is easier to see in bright and direct light.
Looking at our outdoor sample images, you can see a good overall exposure, vivid colors and an overall sharp image. In the cannon shot, some of the white areas are overexposed, which happens often in this shot. There are also some minor instances of aberrations throughout the outdoor samples, along the sides of buildings and power lines. Framing and composing your images is made easy with the 30x Fujinon optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 24-720mm, its versatility is amazing. This means that you will never find yourself in a shooting situation thinking that you wished you had a different lens.
Our indoor samples show the exposures are excellent, but the auto white balance is on the warm side. The lower ISO settings show very little noise and a great deal of detail. As the ISO increases so does the noise, making ISO 800 and above unacceptable for large prints. Assisting with your low-light and indoor photography is a small, built-in flash unit. With a range of up to 23.2ft. (W) at ISO auto, you will be able to fill a mid-sized room but with some image noise. Fuji's super-intelligent flash correctly lights the image while allowing your background to stay as you see it, adding a great deal of background detail to your images.
Shooting portraits is easy with the HS20EXR as the camera not only detects any faces within the frame, it can also recognize them. Since the camera knows that it is taking pictures of people, it automatically adjusts all of the camera's settings for the faces over the rest of the image; depending on the mode you are using. The camera did very well in this area, but the amount of noise that appeared in our sample image is a little disappointing. At just ISO 400, you would expect a little more detail in the image. There is enough noise here that it will become noticeable in larger prints. This means you will need to shoot your portrait images outside or use a more powerful external flash unit with your camera.
With Fuji's EXR system built-in, the HS20 is capable of some advanced shooting modes as well. It uses the system to capture multiple images quickly and combines them within the camera. This allows for the Pro Focus and Pro Low Light modes. After multiple images are captured, the camera combines them to lower noise and blur the background behind the subject. This also works for the Motion 360 Panorama mode. It captures multiple images and stitches them as you pan the camera, allowing you to see your image just a few seconds after capturing it. You can also play it back on the camera and watch it rotate as you did.
Another great feature available on the HS20 is its ability to capture full 1080p HD videos with just the push of a button. Its dedicated video recording button allows you to start recording instantly, no matter what shooting mode you are in. Our sample shows that the video is a little bright, as is tried to compensate for the dynamic range, dulling the color a bit. Auto focus worked well, keeping the subject in focus, but if you watch closely you can see it working. Since the zoom is manual, the entire 30x optical zoom is available, but it will throw off the auto focus if you zoom to quickly. Recording sound for your movies is a stereo set of microphones that are built into the body of the camera. While these are very sensitive, they did very well outside at not picking up any wind noise.
The HS20 is powered by 4 AA-sized batteries, allowing you to find a spare power source almost anywhere in the world. During our tests, we used Energizer 2450mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries which allowed us to capture approx. 300 images and several short videos before they needed to be replaced. This came up a little short of Fuji's claims for any type of batteries, but with such a readily available power source, you should have plenty of spares on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - FujiFilm's FinePix HS20EXR is an incredibly powerful and versatile digicam. It's loaded with appealing features, sporting Fuji's 16-Megapixel EXR CMOS imaging sensor, EXR processor and a 30x optical Fujinon lens. Its full auto modes make it easy enough for anyone to use, while the fully manual settings allow even a professional to be creative with it. It does lack a little on the performance end, and the images show a lot of image noise, especially at the mid to high ISO levels. With a MSRP of US $499 US, you are entering the price range of an entry-level dSLR. However, with the HS20's 30x optical zoom lens, and it vast array of exposure options, you will receive comparable features and versatility.
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