Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR Review
The Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR is an SLR-styled ultra-zoom with one of the most versatile zoom ranges. Its 30X optical zoom lens has an amazing 24-720mm equivalent range, starting ultra-wide and reaching beyond most super-telephoto lenses. The lens is mechanically-linked for smooth, quick and precise control. Like most ultra-zooms of a similar form-factor, the HS30 EXR has a complete of manual controls.
This camera is a refinement over its predecessor which gives it nearly identical specifications. The sensor however has been improved to diminish image noise and the EVF has been made bigger and much sharper with 4X the resolution. The only downside is that the HS30 EXR runs on a proprietary Lithium-Ion battery rather than standard AAs.
Externally, the HS30 EXR looks exactly like the HS20 EXR
Fujifilm Finepix HS20 EXR. Internally, it uses the same sensor as the much smaller F770 EXR
Fujifilm Finepix F770 EXR. It includes all the features of the F770 EXR except for the built-in GPS. Fuji also has the X-S1
Fujifilm X-S1 which is their flagship ultra-zoom with a bigger sensor in a larger weather-sealed body. Due to the larger sensor, the zoom range of the X-S1 is 26X instead of the HS30 EXR's 30X.
- 16 Megapixels EXR CMOS sensor
- ISO Range from 100 to 3200 at 16 MP
- ISO 6400 at 8 MP and ISO 12800 at 4 MP
- Auto or Set Dynamic Range up to 400% at 16 MP
- HD Video Recording at 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS
- High-speed Video from 80 to 320 FPS
- 8 FPS Continuous Drive at 16 MP, 8 JPEG / 6 RAW
- 11 FPS Continuous Drive at 8 MP, 16 JPEG
- 1/4000-30s Shutter-Speed
- Full Manual Controls
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighed & Spot Metering
- AEB Bracketing, 3 frames, 1/3-1 EV stops
- Auto, Preset and Custom White-Balance
- White-Balance Fine-Tuning, 2-axis, 7-steps
- Provia, Velvia, Astia, B&W, Sepia Film Simulation
- 360-Degree Panorama Sweep
- Multi-Frame Pro Low-Light & Pro Focus Modes
- 30X Ultra-Wide Angle Mechanical Optical Zoom
- Built-In Image Stabilization
- 1-Axis Digital Level
- Hot-Shoe for External Flashes
- Tiltable 3" LCD 460K Pixels
- 0.26" EVF 920K Pixels
- Eye-Start Sensor
- Lithium-Ion battery
- SXDC Memory Cards
Resolution Priority (EXR-HR)
- 16 Megapixels
- ISO 100-800
- Auto ISO up to 800
- Fixed 100% Dynamic range
- 4s Min Shutter-Speed
Dynamic-Range Priority (EXR-DR)
- 8 Megapixels, Two-Stage Read-Out
- Auto ISO up to 3200
- Selectable 100% to 1600% Dynamic Range
- Automatic Dynamic Range up to 1600%
- 4s Min Shutter-Speed
Low-Noise Priority (EXR-SN)
- 8 Megapixels, Binned Read-Out
- ISO 100-3200
- Auto ISO up to 3200
- Fixed 100% Dynamic Range
- 4s Min Shutter-Sped
- Automatic Resolution, Fixed 8 MP or Fixed 4 MP
- Full-Time AF-C Only
- Auto ISO Only
- Auto Dynamic Range Only
- Auto Exposure without Compensation
- Multi-Segment Metering Only
- 1/4s Min Shutter-Speed
Due to the extreme similarities between the HS20 EXR and the HS30 EXR, the majority of this review is taken from the HS20 EXR review. For image quality and performance differences, go directly to page 3.
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR is defined by its unique lens. The huge range with built-in stabilization allows it to cover a range of photographic subjects like no other. Ultra-wide is perfect for architecture, landscapes, indoor shots and monuments. At the other extreme, a reach of 720mm makes it suitable for wildlife and even birding. To reach a similar range on a DSLR would require the use of a lens weighing several kilos and costing thousands of dollars. Needless to say, all other photo applications are covered: portraits, street photography, sports and more.
The mechanical-link allows smooth and precise framing of subjects. Having no zoom motor not only saves energy, it also produces completely silent zooming while filming video. The Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR digital camera is designed for efficient access to its manual controls and offers a large number of buttons to directly control the camera without using the menu. This kind of efficiency that makes it usable in a hurry.
High-speed features such as 8 FPS drive mode and pre-capture makes it more usable that similar cameras for action. The low-light side of things is covered by its 100 to 3200 full-resolution ISO range which is suitable for most uses. At the extreme of low-light, the HS30 EXR stops being usable before its peers due to a slowest shutter-speed that is reduced by one stop for each ISO. At ISO 100, the HS30 EXR can take 30s exposures, at ISO 200 it gets reduced to 15s, by ISO 3200 the limit is a paltry 1s. We suspect this is the case because the noise-characteristics of the CMOS sensor would ruin images otherwise.
Pictures from the HS30 EXR can be printed nicely in sizes up to 20 "x15" thanks to 16 megapixels of resolution. Near the wide-angle end, the camera can focus as close as 1 cm using super-macro mode. The digital camera also allows control over the dynamic range it captures. Possible options go from 100% to 1600%, although these are not available at all modes and ISO settings. Increased dynamic-range may also reduce image quality in shadow areas.
Capability - What can it do?
Beyond taking pictures in a large variety of conditions, it packs some useful and interesting features. Below is a list of its most useful features, followed by explanations, when required.
- Dynamic-Range: 100%-400% at 16 MP, 100%-1600% in EXR-DR mode at 8 MP
- White-Balance: Auto, 6 preset and custom, all fine-tunable in 7 steps on Red-Cyan and Blue-Yellow axis
- Metering: Multi-Segment, Spot and Average
- Focus Control: Single Autofocus (AF-S), Continuous Autofocus (AF-C), Manual Focus (MF)
- Autofocus Modes: Center, Multi-pointCamera chooses a point to focus on, AreaUser selects an area to focus on or Tracking
- Drive Modes: Single, First 8 Frames, Best-Frame, AEB, Dynamic-Range Bracket, Film-Simulation Bracket
- Self-Timers: 2s, 10s, Face-Detect
- PASM Exposure Modes
- Exposure compensation: +2 to -2 EV, in 1/3 EV increments
- Flash compensation: -2/3..+2/3, in 1/3 EV increments
- Exposure Bracket: 3 shots, 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV increments
- Flash Modes: Auto, On, Off, Slow-Sync
- Face Detection: With or without redeye removal, optional face-recognition
- Sweeping panorama, 120°, 240°, 360° or Cylindrical 360°
- Pro Low-Light Mode, Multi-Frame Noise-Reduction
- Adjustable Color, Tone, Sharpness, Noise-Reduction, 3-steps each
- AE-L: Toggle or Hold
The Fuji Finepix HS30 EXR offers two methods of dynamic range expansion:
One method is often called Highlight Correction and is available at all resolutions. The magic happens using the camera's processor to adjust the tone curve while actually exposing at a lower sensitivity. The consequence is that only a normal dynamic range is obtainable at ISO 100. One can boost the DR to 200% at ISO 200 and up to 400% DR can be captured at higher sensitivities. This gives two more stops of highlight headroom.
The other method, Dynamic-Range Priority (EXR-DR), is unique to EXR sensors and is available only at half-resolution (8 MP). In this mode, the sensor uses pairs of adjacent pixels of the same color - which is possible by a special arrangements of the color-filer array - to form a single output pixel by reading one photosite partway during the exposure. This lets photosites be read before they saturate. This is clever trick needs a constant flow of light during exposure and therefore would not work with flash. With this approach the HS30 EXR can capture up to 1600% dynamic range, although we suspect it actually does Highlight Correction too to reach 1600%.
Color is controllable using Film Simulation and traditional Color (Saturation), Tone (Contrast) and Sharpness parameters. There are only 3 steps on each scale, so flexibility is limited. Film Simulation lets the photographer choose between five traditional film looks: Provia, Velvia, Astia, B&W and Sepia. The most natural results are obtained from Provia with Velvia and Astia giving over-saturated and under-saturated results, respectively. White-balance is very flexible. These is an automatic setting, 6 presets and a custom option. All these settings can be fine-tuned along 2 axis in 7 steps.
Best-frame-capture is a sophisticated mode to capture an ideal frame from continuous action. It starts working as soon as the shutter is pressed halfway, continuously capturing images of which only a few are stored, then adding more images after the shutter is fully pressed. The speed at which it does this is controllable between 3 and 8 FPS at 16 MP or up to 11 FPS @ 8 MP. The number of before and after frames is selectable, as long as the total is 8 images at 16 MP or 16 at 8 MP. So one can get 5 images before, 1 image during and 2 image after or 3 images before, 1 during and 4 after, or any other combination which adds up to 8. There is a small but noticeable lag in this drive mode but it is clearly better than with most fixed-lens cameras. At least the display keeps up reasonably.
The 22 scene modes are divided into a set of 17 and a set of 4 and Sweep Panorama. Any of the 17 can be accessed by any of the to SP positions on the mode-dial. The next 4 are called Advanced Scene Modes:
- Pro Low-Light takes 4 images to combine them into one image with reduced noise. This is similar to what image software call stacking or multi-frame noise-reduction.
- Pro Focus combines two shots to simulate the background blur associated with fast lenses.
- Multiple-Exposure blends two shots to simulata taking two shots without advancing film.
- Individual Shutter 3D makes a 3D image from two images taken one at the time and merged into an MPO file.
The Sweep Panorama mode is designed to capture a panorama continuously in any direction. The sweep angle can be set to 360°, 180° and 120°. A second 360° option is there to produce a panorama which can be wrapped into a cylindrical view. Fuji greatly improved this mode since its early beginnings and the camera is capable of producing a panorama easily. The output can look impressive from a distance but is often full of stitching errors. Moving elements such as people and vehicles are very problematic. Close by objects also give it great difficulty.
Now, while Sweep Panorama has its issues, most people do not bother properly setting up their camera to manually stitch using a computer later. The trick is to have the patience for a lot of trials and errors. Movement must be done steadily and the camera kept level. If that sounds easy, it is not. At least the HS30 EXR stitches whatever it good up to the point where it could not go on. This means that the panorama may stop before the chosen angle-of-view has been swept. For some reason, it is also possible to do more and sweep around more than 360° which the camera happily stitches anyway. Note that ISO is always Auto in Sweep Panorama and in low-light it can go up to 3200.
Fujifilm 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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