Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The basic camera operation of the Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR is strait forward. Although the number of buttons is high, advanced users appreciate having external controls for all commonly used features. The deep contoured grip provides a secure hold on the camera and is mostly comfortable.
The HS30 EXR is powered on by a rotating switch which surrounds the shutter release. It feels solid and has two well-defined positions with audible clicks. Every other button feels just as solid. This digital camera has an aggressive auto-sleep feature which turns the camera off after a period of inactivity. Unfortunately, waking the camera up requires moving the power-switch to the Off position and back to On. This makes it slower to wake up than most cameras which are woken up by a half-press of the shutter-release.
A pleasure of few digital cameras is a mechanical zoom lens. Fuji has equipped the HS30 EXR with a zoom ring which turns smoothly. Its small size and the position of the flash means that one has to be careful when turning to not bump against flash-housing. Regardless, this is infinitely better than not having a zoom ring.
Having a mechanical zoom ring means that zooming from 24 mm to 720 mm can be done in ½s and there are no zoom steps. There is also a fly-by-wire focus ring which also turns smoothly. The focus ring is responsive and sensitive enough.
The shutter release is pretty standard with a short travel distance. The two buttons behind the shutter, exposure compensation and drive mode are unfortunately indistinct and too far for comfort. Behind those are the mode-dial and top-mounted control-wheel. Both dials rotate easily and have gentle click-stops to avoid accidental changes. They are also set on a slant for easy reach using the thumb.
The back of the HS30 EXR is dominated by a large 3" LCD with 460K pixels mounted using a double-hinge for framing flexibility. The LCD always shows a bright image, regardless of exposure, so it is not Exposure-Priority, nor does it try to be on the half-press as previous Fuji ultra-zooms. There is an optional Live-Histogram which unfortunately shows the luminance distribution of the display instead of the scene being captured. The hinge appears to be solid enough that this is not much of a liability problem. Above it is an average-size EVF with an Eye-Start Sensor which switches between the LCD and EVF automatically. Once used to one of these, it is hard to accept anything else. The EVF is quite sharp with a good refresh rate. The only negative aspect of the EVF is that it has low contrast and often clips highlights before the camera does.
To the left of the LCD is a column of buttons to be used in conjunction with the control-wheel. All these functions require two handed operation, therefore letting go of the zoom ring. Unfortunately ISO is among those buttons, it could have been switched with drive mode which is not used as often in general. The remaining buttons are: AE, AF mode, AF drive and WB.
When pressed, the ISO button shows the list of possible ISO values and Auto settings for the current mode. The available ISO values can go from 100 to 12800 while Auto settings specify a maximum ISO sensitivity between 400 and 3200. Resolution and dynamic range are automatically adjusted for the chosen ISO when the current setting is incompatible. Note that neither fixed nor Auto ISO settings are available in all modes.
The AE button selects the metering mode. It is possible to do so in Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter-Priority, Manual, EXR-HR, EXR-DR and EXR-SN modes. Scene modes and Auto EXR always use the Multi-Segment metering mode. In Manual mode, the metering option is used to display an exposure-meter at the lower-right corner of the displays.
The AF button is for the autofocus point-selection. There are 4 options available in some modes: Center, Multi, Area and Tracking. Selecting Area lets the photographer choose between 49 AF areas. To change the area, simply press the AF button again and use the arrows to move it around. The AF C-S-M button selects between AF-S, AF-C and MF focus modes.
The WB button is for choosing white-balance. In the case of custom white-balance, the user can immediately set it by pressing the shutter-release or reuse the measured temperature by pressing the OK button. While-Balance fine-tuning is not available here, instead the menu must be used.
The rear of the camera also has a Record button, an AE-L button, a Display button, a Playback button and a 4-way controller with central OK/Menu button. The Record button starts and stops video recording. Movie recording starts one second after the Record button is pressed. One thing that Fuji did well is include a display mode which shows the HD 16:9 aspect-ratio framing.
The 4-way controller has a center button to activate the menu system and select menu options. The menu system is easy to navigate and most options are quite intuitive. The menu is divided into 2 main tabs. The camera menu is then divided into 4 pages and the setup menu into 6.
Each direction of the 4-way controller is also assigned a function in shooting mode. To the right, the flash mode can be set, but only when the flash is up. The choices available are Auto, Forced and Slow-Synchro. Down selects a 2s, 10s or Face-Detect self-timer. Self-Timers stay active after use, unlike previous models. This is a very welcome improvement. Left activates Macro or Super-Macro mode. Up activates activates a custom function such as Dynamic Range, Film Simulation, Electronic Level and plenty of less useful ones.
There is an off-center tripod mount at the bottom of the Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR. It is not aligned with the center of the lens which is problematic for panoramas. There are separate doors for the battery and memory-card. While shooting from a tripod, one can change memory cards but not batteries.
Overall, ergonomics of the Fuji HS30 EXR are top-notch. There are plenty of controls which make all important functions available without entering the menu system. Additionally there is one customizable Function button to access one more function directly. This is best assigned to Dynamic Range. One can also make the Electronic Level available with the Function button but it can also be activated permanently. Speaking of the level, it is very accurate, sensitive and updates quickly. The deep grip and lens barrel make this digital camera easy to hold steadily and securely.
Fuji HS30 EXR Facts
|16 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 100-3200|
|30X Mechanically Linked Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-30s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.26" Built-in EVF 920K Pixels||Custom white-balance|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Hot-Shoe|
|8 FPS Drive, 8 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 460K Pixels||Internal Memory|
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