After nearly 3 weeks, I am returning the Fujifilm HS10 superzoom to Amazon. Although this camera has many interesting features I’d like to spend more time with, too many things make it unacceptable to me.
I bought the HS10 primarily for the 30X zoom, which ranges from a wide angle 4.2mm (24mm equivalent for 35mm cameras) to 126mm (720mm). In addition to that monster zoom, the many features that are exposed through buttons instead of buried in menus place this camera at the far edge of the bridge, just before the shores of DSLR.
I took hundreds of photos with the HS10. Too many were out-of-focus. I’ll accept responsibility for some of these, but not all. The camera has trouble locking focus accurately on a distant subject – precisely the subject you want 30X for. I have shots comparable to the three below but taken with a Sony HX1 that are wonderfully sharp. (And, yes, I have some blurry ones taken with other cameras, just a far lower percentage.) In the 3rd photo, that roadrunner wasn’t 15 feet from me and I took several shots varying the zoom – none came out.
In Auto mode, the HS10 allows for Center focus and Manual focus. Frustrated with Center focus, I gave Manual focus a chance. The Manual focus ring around the lens harkens back to old school cameras, although the flash housing limits how much of the ring you can touch. Oddly, the focus ring spins infinitely in either direction and the on-screen indicators don’t really help in determining in which direction or how far the ring must turn. The low resolution EVF further complicates using Manual focus.
Understand, I’m not returning the camera only because of Manual focus problems. If Auto focus were reliable, I’d be happy. I should add that I can’t be certain that what I see as focus issues aren’t actually problems with image stabilization (IS), although I experimented with that feature separately. It is a lot to expect to handhold 30X (720mm equivalent), but I have plenty of experience with 20X.
I refuse to use non-rechargeable batteries. I’d rather pay for rechargeables. Because the HS10 uses four standard format AA batteries, I’m happy to carry a pocketful of rechargeable AAs. However, the battery level indicator doesn’t appear until the HS10 determines the batteries are low (ie, there is no meter showing declining charge). Compare this to Sony cameras which guestimates the number of minutes you have left on the battery.
I use rechargeable NiMH batteries. If I used the camera menu to indicate I was using that type of battery, the low battery indicator came on ridiculously early and the camera shut down too soon. If I used the same batteries but identified them as Alkaline, it took much longer before the low battery indicator came on. Once the low battery indicator appears, it may actually be a long time (days) before you have to switch batteries. That uncertainty makes the indicator useless. More importantly, every time the HS10 shut down abruptly, my battery tester indicated the charge on the batteries was still good enough for most devices.
A small gripe: the latch on the the battery compartment is odd. It barely moves, making it feel very strange. A nit, but an irk.
Even at a wide angle, the lens requires a lot of light. Auto mode didn’t seem to handle stark contrast well, as these two photos indicate. On the left is the HS10, on the right is the Sony HX1. Of course, one can adjust either camera to produce a shot similar to the other. I’m interested here in what happens automatically. I realize someone might prefer the darker shot with the option to manually lighten it.
Moreover, the Sony spoiled me by enabling its exposure compensation (EC) feature in Auto mode, providing the easiest way brighten or darken a shot without using other manual settings. The HS10 limits EC availability to the manual modes and adjusting EC involves using two controls simultaneously with an on-screen indicator that is difficult to interpret.
DSLR fans will say ‘duh’ to this, as shutter lag is an issue with all non-DSLRs. The more time it takes between pressing the shutter release button and the actual capture, the more likely you are to miss a moving subject. That lag with the HS10 was, at times, painful and longer than I have experienced with other cameras.
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) problems
The EVF is very small and seems darker than other EVFs I’ve used. The HS10 has a sensor to the right of the EVF that can switch automatically between the EVF and the LCD. That seems like a great innovation, but that feature only worked sporadically. Something seemed to overwhelm the sensor, causing it to switch back and forth repeatedly, requiring me to turn the camera off. I disabled this feature after several failures.
The placement of the sensor on the right and an indicator light on the left of the EVF make me think this camera may be better suited to someone who uses the left eye instead of the right against the EVF.
Two Hands Required for Too Many Things
This is a large and relatively heavy camera. If size and weight don’t require two hands, too many of the features do. For example, selecting among options for autofocus, auto exposure, ISO, or white balance involves pressing and holding a button on the left and simultaneously turning a dial on the right. (I’m stunned you can’t just press and release the buttons.) With lots of experience, one might be able to do activate both controls while holding the EVF up one’s eye, but I had to use the LCD for most of these adjustments. (Further, many options are limited by other selections, and very few adjustments can be made in the Auto modes. That’s not terribly unusual, but it can be frustrating and makes learning harder.)
Although the HS10 has some innovative Burst mode (aka motor drive) variants, there isn’t a method to capture as many frames as possible. Instead, the Burst mode options all involve some processing or bracketing. Regardless, the available options take a long time to free the camera for continued shooting. (I have a similar gripe with the Sony HX1.)
RAW is only available in the manual modes (PASM), but that’s OK, because writing RAW to SD HC class 6 takes a long time.