Fujifilm FinePix HS20 at a glance:

  • 16-million-pixel EXR CMOS sensor
  • 30x zoom (24-720mm equivalent)
  • 3in, 460,000-dot tilting LCD
  • Sensor shift stabilisation
  • ISO 100-12,800
  • Street price £360

Fujifilm FinePix HS20 review – Introduction

Photographers seeking a small camera for a day trip or weekend away have traditionally turned to the advanced compact or bridge camera. Although bridge cameras are still fairly large, they tend to offer long zoom lenses with magnifications you would struggle to obtain on any SLR without eye-watering investment.

For a lens with up to a 500mm focal length (750mm with 1.5x magnification) on a DSLR you would have to pay upwards of £850 (Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3). This would not only add extra bulk, but also almost 2kg of weight to your standard kit, where a bridge camera has at least 30x zoom built in.

Bridge cameras are styled more like DSLRs and offer similar handling, but on a smaller scale. Their lenses can be longer thanks to smaller sensor sizes (which create greater focal magnification) and also by withdrawing into themselves for storage.

The Fujifilm FinePix HS20 is the latest in a long line of bridge cameras from the company, and it is an area in which it has long excelled. This model is an update of the FinePix HS10 that was released late last year, and shares many of its features.

The one noticeable change is the sensor, which has been upgraded from 10.3 to 16 million pixels, although it still has the same 1⁄2in physical size, making it notably smaller than even the micro four thirds units.

Features and Build

The EXR technology seen in Fujifilm cameras, with the exception of the FinePix X100, works with a specially designed sensor that uses a unique photosite layout. This allows the sensor to be optimised for a range of shooting demands, including resolution, low light and dynamic range. In this latest advancement, the system uses a back side-illuminated EXR CMOS sensor with photosites in pairs of the same colour, each rotated by 45°, which the company claims increases both vertical and horizontal resolution. The pixels can then be used individually, in pairs or in blocks, depending on the mode selected, to optimise the signal.

The sensor outputs at 4608×3456 pixels, which produces an image of 15×11.5in at 300ppi, or roughly A3 in size. Images can be saved in either JPEG or Fujifilm’s RAF raw file format, or as a combination of the two. This raw control is found in the set-up menu rather than on the main menu screen, although the HS20 has been given a dedicated shortcut button to access it.

HD video is available at full 1080p resolution, in Quicktime MOV format with H.264 compression and stereo sound. The processor is a dual-core EXR unit to ensure that the data is processed quickly and efficiently. The ISO range is the standard 100-3200, although EXR modes can limit it to ISO 800 or 1600. There are also extended ISO 6400 and 12,800 settings, although these reduce the image size to medium (8MP) and small (4MP) respectively, to allow the camera to combine pixel information to reduce noise levels.

The lens is a Super EBC Fujinon unit with an equivalent focal range of 24-720mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8-5.6. This is a huge range, with a 30x magnification from wide to tele and a relatively bright aperture considering the focal length. Focal distance is marked along the barrel in both native and 35mm equivalents, and the zoom is operated manually by rotating the main ring. The focus can also be operated in manual mode via a smaller ring on the back of the lens barrel but, despite a magnification option, it can be tricky to fine-tune.

The 30x zoom allows a flexible range of compositions from wide vistas to extreme close-ups

The shooting mode dial is angled backwards for easier reading and offers a full assortment of manual exposure modes, including aperture and shutter priorities, a handy custom mode, plus program and auto selections. Additionally, there are sub menus for the EXR modes, advanced modes, 360° sweep panorama and 17 scene modes – two of which can be saved for quick access. Metering comes in a choice of multi, spot and average settings, and exposure compensation can be dialled in to ±2EV.

One criticism of bridge cameras is that the aperture selections available are fairly limited. The HS20 goes some way to correcting this by offering selections in 1⁄3EV steps from the maximum, but the minimum aperture reaches just f/11 and is limited further to just f/8 in aperture and shutter priority modes. Due to the smaller sensor, an f/11 aperture will produce similar depth of field to f/22 on an APS-C-format camera, yet a range of just 1 or 2 stops at longer focal lengths seems limiting.

For composition there is the choice of using the 3in rear LCD or the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The rear LCD has 100% coverage and is mounted on a tilting bracket that angles 90° up or 45° down, for waist-level or overhead viewing. An eye sensor switches between the LCD and EVF displays. The resolution of the EVF is just 200,000 dots, which is noticeably low when viewing and appears small in the frame.

The body of the camera isn’t much smaller than an entry-level DSLR with a standard kit lens and is bigger than some compact system models. This allows a decent sized grip and, despite the plastic construction, the HS20 feels solid in the hand.

The menu system is quite slow to navigate, as a large number of functions have to be scrolled through. It can also be slightly confusing when functions are only available in certain modes. It is also a shame that the EXR functions cannot be combined with manual or priority shooting modes.

Although burst shooting is possible at 3fps in full resolution, write times seem fairly slow; around 4secs for a raw file and 3secs for a JPEG image, using a Lexar Professional 64GB SDXC card. Start-up time out of standby can also be a little slow.

Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity

Dynamic range optimisation pulls detail out of the shadow areas and retains highlights, but produces a lower-resolution file

Images have a pleasant, natural colouring and appear well detailed. However, when viewed at high magnification a mottled texture is apparent even at ISO 100, which increases as the ISO is raised. It is best to keep the ISO under 1600, although due to the smaller file sizes at ISO 6400 and 12,800, the images are still usable. On our chart at ISO 100, the HS20 reaches just 20, which is closer to what we could expect from a 10-million-pixel DSLR. This falls to 14 by ISO 3200 and to below 12 on ISO 12,800.

With high-contrast scenes the camera begins to struggle to maintain a full range of detail, and therefore even bright landscapes can be left with an almost black foreground or bleached-out sky. The EXR dynamic range expansion does an impressive job of improving this, but it does reduce the pixel dimensions of the image.

Resolution charts: These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured with the lens set to its 100mm 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.


Focusing is relatively quick at wider focal lengths, but it struggles with lower-contrast scenes at longer distances. Although there is an AF assist lamp for low-light use, it is a white, fairly low-powered beam and is partly obscured by the lens and lens hood. The range of focus options is varied, from multi-point, face detection and tracking, to full selective control over the entire screen.

Our verdict

Despite the technology, the smaller sensor on the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 means it cannot match DSLRs or compact system cameras for image quality. However, for a bridge camera it offers impressive functionality and great-looking images. The manual zoom is a huge strength, but there are other areas that need some improvement for the HS20 to be considered ideal for creative users. The viewfinder needs to be larger and of a higher resolution, the aperture range wider and available in all modes, and the option to shoot above ISO 3200 available at full size. For anyone looking to get closer to their subject, whether wildlife, action or travel, there is no better way to get this kind of magnification for the money.