Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR review
Excellent ergonomics and superb image quality in low light, but also a few issues regarding performance and video capture
Review Date: 27 Jun 2012
Price when reviewed: £302
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Fujifilm is currently the only company producing ultra-zoom cameras that take their operational cues from SLRs. While other ultra-zoom cameras use levers to zoom in and out, on the HS30EXR it's done by twisting the lens barrel. There's another lens ring for manual focus, and the camera is littered with single-function buttons for direct access to drive mode, ISO speed, exposure compensation, white balance, exposure mode, focus mode and focus area. Adjusting any of these simply involves holding down the button and turning the command dial. This is the kind of control that's normally reserved for upmarket SLRs, and it's fantastic to find it on a competitively priced ultra-zoom camera. The HS30EXR's credentials as a serious camera continue with raw capture, a hotshoe and an articulated LCD screen. It's a little bulkier and heavier than its rivals, but with its large, textured handgrip it's extremely comfortable to hold and use.
All of these features are shared with the outgoing Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR. The two cameras use the same lens too, and to look at they're virtually impossible to tell apart. There are some welcome changes tucked away inside the camera, though. One is the move from four AA batteries to a single lithium ion battery. AAs are an additional expense and cumbersome to charge; the new battery is much more practical and elegant. It's a big one, too, with enough capacity for 600 shots. Lithium ion batteries are normally quicker to charge the flash than AAs, but in our tests the HS30EXR only shaved a second off its predecessor, at seven seconds between shots at full flash power.
The electronic viewfinder has been upgraded, too, from 200,000 to 920,000 dots. This makes a huge difference, transforming the viewfinder from something we'd only use when forced to (when very bright conditions made the main screen unusable) to one we'd happily use routinely. With the help of the lens ring and a momentary digital magnification function, manual focusing was easier than on an SLR.
The HS30EXR also introduces manual focus during video capture, although this wasn't so easy to adjust accurately. The momentary magnification is unavailable while recording, which is hardly surprising as it would ruin the shot, but the button to switch from screen to viewfinder stopped working too.
Video capture is one of the camera's weaker areas. Details were blocky and, despite the 1080p resolution, closer to what we'd expect from a 720p video mode. The focus motor interfered with the soundtrack, regardless of whether we selected auto or manual focus. This video mode is by no means a write-off but it's not up to the standards of other ultra-zoom cameras.
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