Ease of Use: 3.5 / 5
Pricing: 3 / 5
Video Quality: 2.5 / 5
Photo Quality: 3 / 5
Features: 3.5 / 100
I had high hopes for the HS30EXR, as the previous camera I reviewed from Fujifilm, the S4200, was simply atrocious. It felt finicky, plastic, only worked when it wanted to and the results were shoddy. Thankfully, this camera addresses most of the issues I had with the S4200. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
This is a big camera as far as non-DSLRs go. It’s about the same size as a Nikon D7000/Canon 600D. But it just doesn’t have the bulk the DSLRs have. This might be either good or bad, depending how you’d want to interpret that. It does feel more plastic than a DSLR, even though it does have rubber coatings around the grip and at the back (wherever fingers would rest during shooting). The lens also has a rubber coating to help grip. Overall the ergonomics of the camera were really good. The sheer size of this camera, meant that the engineers could really figure where best to put all the necessary buttons. And it does pay off. The camera handles rather well.
The screen, although a big step up from the S4200, is still not on par with rivals brands in terms of resolution. However, it does give a fairly correct representation of what the photos will look like. A nice touch is the eye sensor mode, that detects whether you are holding the camera like a point-and-shoot camera, or whether you’ve got your eye against the EVF, à la DSLR style. Once you get close to the EVF, the screen shuts off and the EVF takes over, and then when you are done taking the shot, and pull the camera away, the screen turns on again for you to check the shot. Very nifty.
The LCD screen is tiltable and came in VERY handy when shooting things at low or high angles. The mechanism felt solid and tilting was smooth and precise.
On that matter, the menu system has no frilly bits and although it’s not the prettiest, like Sony’s, it is very functional. It’s easy to find your way around and to set the camera up the way you want.
The HS30EXR has a built-in flash, as well as a hotshoe if you’d want to use a proper speedlight type flash.
The camera also has its own dedicated battery, which worked quite well. I easily managed a day’s photography/video on a single charge and for the most part, you should too.
The lens is big. And boy, does it zoom. The focus mechanism is very noisy. This isn’t a problem with photography, but in the recorded video it was clearly audible and could mess up shots. The one piece of hardware that I found frustrating was the focus ring. Fuji added a proper focus ring, allowing you to be accurate in manual focus mode. The only problem was that I could not get the focus ring to work properly at all.
The heart of this HS30 is the new EXR CMOS chip from Fujifilm. In some ways it is very impressive (11 shots per second burst rate anyone?) and yet also unimpressive (way too much noise, even at low ISO’s). The performance also seemed erratic. Put the camera into Panorama mode and it lets loose around 30-50 shots in VERY quick succession. Put it back into EXR mode and it takes a few seconds to save a single RAW file.
The EXR mode is like an Auto mode on steroids. It will, apart from choosing the F-stop, shutter speed and ISO, also choose the photo mode it thinks the photo should be taken in. And it performed quite admirably. It got most of the scene modes right.
The photos also have quite a lot of detail and seem sharp at most focal lengths. The main problem is that the photos are noisy. And unacceptably so. Even at ISO 100.
At ISO 400 the noise is already overbearing and from ISO 800 onwards, the photos will only be usable when printed to jumbo size, or used for the web. At ISO 400 details are being lost in droves and colours are starting to mush. It really starts getting messy from ISO 400 onwards. This doesn’t really make sense when the camera is rated to be able to go up to ISO 12800.
The lens also disappointed. Sharpness is quite decent at wider angles, but does decline quite a bit at the telephoto ends of the lens. Also, at full 30x zoom, I struggled immensely to get focus lock. From about 24x-30x zoom the lens gets very finicky about when it wants to focus.
To its credit though, it is an incredible amount of zoom to fit into a single lens.
The video resolution is 1080p at 30fps, and records to the now standard H.264 codec. The video is a low bit-rate though and unfortunately it shows. The video lacks detail, and at faster movement a lot of detail gets lost. Exposure and colour on the video is good though. And although a bit steppy, the exposure compensation works very accurately and fast. The video showed almost no moire.
Unfortunately, although the optical stabilisation works decently for the photo side of things, the zoom is just too much for the stabilisation. If you are going to zoom on this camera in video mode, it had better be on a tripod. Telephoto footage is shaky at the stabilisation does weird things (not visually pleasing wobbling) to the footage.
Autofocus in video mode is relatively fast, but it is also accurate.
The HS30 is good evolution from the HS20 and has a lot of great features. The camera is quite solid and offers most of the things you’d need. Ultimately when it comes to photo and video it is still lagging behind its main competitors in terms of quality. The EXR sensor is clever and a good foundation for FUjifilm to built from, but they would need to step up their game to keep up with competitors.