Fujifilm FinePix HS10 at a glance:

  • 10.3 million effective pixels
  • 24-720mm (equivalent) fixed lens
  • EVF and 3in tilting LCD
  • Full HD (1080p) movie recording
  • Street price around £375

Looking at the specification of the Fujifilm FinePix HS10, it’s easy to see the attraction of a bridge camera. With a huge zoom range that effectively spans 24-720mm (30x), its fixed Fujinon lens is only really restrictive for true wideangle lovers, and there are two forms of image stabilisation (sensor shift and digital stabilisation) to help ensure images at the longest end are blur-free.

There are also a couple of useful features such as Motion Panorama mode for creating one-shot sweeping panoramic images and the unique Motion Remover option that is designed to remove moving objects, such as tourists, from photographs.

While novice photographers may appreciate owning a relatively advanced camera that has the comfort of a fixed lens, more experienced users will like the DSLR-style handling, the ability to save images as raw or JPEG files and the fact that it costs less than £400.

Build and handling

With its deep, comfortable fingergrip, the HS10 looks just like a small DSLR. As its 1/2.3in BSI-CMOS sensor is smaller than an APS-C-sized device, at its shortest point the 4.2-126mm lens, which has angles of view comparable with a 24-720mm optic on 35mm, is about the same size as a standard DSLR kit lens.

Although the grip provides a secure hold and the main body of the HS10 feels quite tough, the memory card port cover feels a little flimsy and it’s possible to wobble the lens barrel very slightly.

There are a few nice touches on the HS10, such as the mode dial on the top-plate, which is angled so that it is more clearly visible from the back of the camera. The shortcut buttons to the left of the LCD screen also work well in conjunction with the navigation controls when selecting the focus mode or white balance setting and sensitivity settings. However, there are also a few quirks.

The flash mode, for instance, cannot be changed in aperture/shutter priority or manual-exposure mode, and in program mode it can be changed only if silent shooting option is deactivated. I also find it frustrating that it is only possible to scroll through the four-page record menu one feature at a time and not jump from page to page. It is particularly annoying that the option to record raw files is buried in the set-up menu, as some functions, such as the dynamic range expansion modes, cannot be used if raw files are being recorded.

Although the HS10’s EVF isn’t up to the same standard as the units found in some Micro System Cameras, it is reasonable. However, it makes colours look very saturated, and even with the enlarged views I found focusing manually quite tricky because there’s not quite enough detail visible in either the EVF or the 230,000-dot LCD screen. On the plus side, I found that the LCD screen provided a fairly clear view of 
the scene even in bright ambient light.

Resolution, noise and sensitivity

Image: An effective focal length of 720mm is useful for tight compositions of small, distant subjects

My images and our resolution tests confirm that at the lower sensitivity levels the HS10 is capable of capturing a reasonably high level of detail for a camera with a 1/2.3in sensor and 10.3 million pixels. I would avoid using the highest sensitivity settings, though.

Its impressively wide focal range makes the HS10 a very attractive camera to take on holidays, day-trips and family days out, when a DSLR kit with a full selection of lenses is impractical. At 720mm (equivalent), the longest point of the lens also gives it great potential for shooting wildlife and distant subjects. Unfortunately, although the autofocus system performs reasonably well at shorter focal lengths, it is slower when the lens is used at its longest focal length.

Even in bright light and when there’s a subject with contrast under the AF point, the lens can hunt and fail to find its target, making it unsuitable for use with moving subjects.

Shooting Motion Panoramas with the HS10 is easy and quite addictive. Once the Panorama option is selected on the mode dial, the LCD screen display indicates the direction that the camera should be panned (left to right) and an arrow moves across the monitor tracking the progress of the movement.

I found it tricky to judge the framing at first as the height of the image can be shorter than what is visible on the screen, but after a couple of attempts I got the shots I wanted.

When scaled to fit on screen or to print on an A4 page the 720pixel-wide panoramas look good, but closer inspection reveals that some elements are ghosted.

Fuji’s Motion Remover mode works by taking a series of five images that the camera then merges to produce a single five-million-pixel picture, with any moving element, such as a tourist, eliminated.

Using this mode is easy, as it is simply a case of selecting the correct mode from the Advanced options and setting the total time (0.5sec-20secs) over which the images are shot.

Slower moving subjects require a longer time so there is more movement between the images, but the camera needs to be stationary so that framing remains constant.

I found the Motion Remover very hit and miss. On one occasion I took a sequence of five images, only two of which had a person in the frame, yet they still appeared in the final picture.

Chart: These images show 72ppi sections of images of a resolution chart, captured with the lens set to its 105mm point. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

Our verdict

Ironically, one of the challenges for the bridge camera genre stems from the fact that they look like digital SLRs, so some people expect DSLR-like performance from them. The Fujifilm FinePix HS10 is one of the best, if not the best bridge camera I have used, but it cannot match a DSLR for performance.

It can be frustrating trying to shoot a tightly composed wildlife image and discover that the lens doesn’t immediately snap into focus, but sharp, detailed results are possible at the lower sensitivity settings. It is clear that Fujifilm has made some headway with noise minimisation and reduction as low-to mid-sensitivity-level images make pleasant A3 prints. The Motion Panorama and Motion Remover modes are far from perfect, but they are a good start.