9
Safari Guide Rating "Excellent"
Build Quality: 8/10
Features & Functions: 8.5/10
Zoom Control: 9.5/10
Focusing Speed: 8/10
Size & Weight: 7.5/10

The Perfect SuperZoom Bridge Camera for Safaris?

Announced in January 2012, The Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR is the Japanese company’s latest and highest specification superzoom bridge camera. The main feature of the HS30 is that it comes with a massive 30x Fujinon Optical zoom lens (24-720mm equivalent to a 35mm camera). It also offers a number of key improvements on the already very good HS20EXR model that I used all of last year on whilst on safari.

 

My First Impressions

My first look at the Fujifilm HS30 was at the Focus on Imaging Show 2012, where it was on display at the Fuji stand where my initial thoughts were just how similar it is to it’s predecessor, the HS20EXR.

This is actually a good thing as just like the HS20, you cannot help be impressed by the quality of the HS30EXR’s body – it feels and looks far more like a SLR camera and is less “plasticky” and more robust than many other superzoom bridge cameras currently available.

Of all the current superzoom cameras, the FujiFilm HS30EXR and it’s predecessor are pretty much the only ones that I would call full-on bridge cameras. I say this because the Finepix HS30EXR comes with full manual controls, an abundance of buttons and dials and has a proper zoom ring (as you find on a DSLR camera) – like the HS20, the HS30 is from a user interface point of view, firmly located in DSLR territory.

On top of this, I was really happy to see that Fujifilm have kept the filter thread on the lens on the Finepix HS30 – something that is sadly lacking on many of the other current superzoom bridge cameras on the market. This thread is really important if like me, you want to extend the zoom even further by attaching a teleconverter lens like the 2.2x Raynox teleconverter to the camera.

So from the outside the Finepix HS30EXR looks a lot like the HS20, but as you will see below where I take a closer look and compare the HS30 to the HS20, there are quite a few differences and improvements between the two but most are under the hood:

Main Features

The main reason to buy any superzoom digital camera is for it’s zoom. With the Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR you are not going to be disappointed with this or it’s many other features that I take a closer look at below:

 

30x Zoom on the HS30EXR

30x Zoom (35mm camera equivalent: 24-720mm)

The Fujinon 30x optical zoom lens gives you a huge focal range from 24-720mm (equivalent to a 35mm camera), which dwarfs, for example, the 18-135mm kit lens option on Canon’s dSLR line-up. Despite this, the Canon setup is longer and considerably heavier. This is one of the big advantages of using a superzoom bridge camera like this over a DSLR camera.

This focal range enables you to take almost any type of subject matter from sweeping African landscapes to the fine details on the wild animals you encounter on safari without having to change lenses.

Even More Telephoto Power

If you ever need an even more telephoto power, which is often useful for things like bird photography, there are two options available to you:

1) You could use the Intelligent Digital Zoom function, which doubles the focal range, delivering a massive 60x zoom with a maximum telephoto setting of 1440mm. Compared to many digital zoom’s on other cameras the Intelligent Digital Zoom function on the Fujifilm HS30 doesn’t suffer as badly from pixilisation problems. This is achieved through intelligent image processing where the HS30EXR boosts sharpness, enhances edge contrast and minimises digital noise. Even so, it must be said that using a digital zoom is a far from ideal solution to getting very close-up photos of your subjects as you will get some loss of image quality.

2) For me the best and only real way to boost your focal length is to attach a teleconverter lens to the camera. This is not possible with all superzooms, but thankfully the HS30 has a 58mm thread that makes adding one fairly simple. For more on this take a look at my section on Attaching a Tele Conversion Lens to the HS30EXR.

What Difference the Zoom Makes

The three photos below were all taken from the same location looking at my bird feeder:

Wide angle shot using the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR
Using the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR at 30x zoom (720mm)
SUsing the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR and a Raynox 2.2x Teleconverter at 66x zoom

Wide angle shot (24mm) using the HS30EXR

The HS30EXR at 30x zoom (720mm)

HS30EXR and the Raynox 2.2x DCR-2025PRO at full zoom – 66x

As you can see the 30x zoom (720mm) on the Finepix HS30 is pretty impressive in itself, but the 2.2x teleconverter does get you just that bit closer with almost no loss in the quality of the image, especially on sunny days where there is plenty of light available.

High Quality Lenses 
Fujinon have used the highest quality extra-low dispersion glass to mold its high-precision aspheric lenses.

What does this all mean? Well an aspheric lens is simply a lens with a surface which is not perfectly spherical or not perfectly convex or concave or, to put it another way, you can find different areas on the lens with different degrees of curvature. The asphere’s more complex surface profile can reduce or eliminate spherical aberration and also reduce other optical aberrations compared to a simple lens.

Extra low dispersion glass is used to make lenses on high end cameras, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars. The Extra low dispersion glass prevents chromatic aberration because it concentrates and directs the wavelength of light more effectively onto the camera’s film. Lenses made from extra low dispersion glass have less air bubbles and glass deformities that are more likely to cause image distortion.

Manual Zoom Ring on the HS30EXR

Manual Zoom Control

I love the manual zoom ring on the Fujifilm HS30 and for me this give it a huge advantage over it’s competition in the superzoom bridge camera class. Not only can it be operated much quicker than a motor zoom, it saves batteries and zooming is also possible with a much higher level of precision. When shooting video, it also has the advantage of being silent, unlike motor powered zooms and the sound of the motor is often picked up and recorded on your video.

With just a single twist of the lens barrel, the manual zoom instantly takes you from 24mm wide-angle landscapes to super 30x telephoto close-up of distant wildlife.

Having used both the Panasonic FZ and Cannon Powershot superzoom cameras in the past that have an electronic zoom, where to zoom in and out you push and hold a button, I can say that the manual zoom on the Fuji HS30 does take a little to get used to, but one you have, it is far better and is a part of the camera that I have really grown to love.

Another huge advantage of this manual zoom over the electronic motor zooms is that you can have it set at a zoom level and then turn your camera off, when you turn it on again it will still be at the same zoom level. Meaning that if like me you often have your camera trained at a spot where you know a bird or something similar will land, but want to turn the camera off to save batteries until it comes back, when you turn it on again – you are all set to go.

1cm Super Macro

What is really impressive with a superzoom camera like the Finepix HS30EXR is that one minute you can be taking close up photos of a lion on the horizon and the next, you can be shooting close up photos of the flowers and insects right next to you, all without having to change your lens.

In normal Macro mode and with the lens set at wide angle (no zoom) you can focus on objects a close as 7cm (2.7in) away.

Change to the Super Macro Mode on the the FinePix HS30EXR and you can get as close as 1cm away which is incredible and far superior to most if it’s competitors.

Sample Macro & Super Macro Photos

To test the macro modes out, I took the three sample photos below of some flowers in my garden using the Macro and Super Macro Modes (click on the image for a larger version). The only editing that I have done is to reduce them in size and a little in quality to optimise them for the web.

Sample Photo using the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR
Sample Photo using the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR
Sample Photo using the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR

Using the Macro Mode on the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR

Focal Length:48mm
Exposure: 1/280 sec.
ISO-100
f/5.6

Using the Super Macro Mode on the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR

Focal Length:19mm
Exposure: 1/350 sec.
ISO-100
f/5

Using the Super Macro Mode on the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR

Focal Length:8mm
Exposure: 1/850 sec.
ISO-100
f/4.5

 

Sensor & Processor

16MP EXR CMOS Sensor

Whilst bridge cameras may not have as large sensors as you find on DSLR cameras, they have really come a long way and the EXR CMOS sensor on the Fujifilm is one of the very best:

The 16-megapixel EXR-CMOS sensor is Back Side Illuminated (BSI) and optimizes the best of EXR and CMOS imagining technologies and according to Fuji enhances both the horizontal and the vertical resolutions, as well as offering high dynamic range capabilities (up to 1600%) and low light shooting.

More about the EXR CMOS Sensor

Basically what the EXR sensor can do is to take two images simultaneously using different exposures to produce a single image. This has the effect of significantly enhancing the dynamic range, revealing subtle details in shadow and eliminating washout of bright areas.

Standard sensors are perfectly fine for the flat lighting for example what you find on overcast days, and in these situations the EXR sensor’s widest dynamic range would not be of an advantage.

But on a bright, sunny day, the dynamic range of most standard sensor cameras isn’t wide enough to simultaneously capture details in the dark shadows and the bright highlights, so something will be lost. If the camera uses a high enough exposure to capture shadow detail, highlights will be blown and where the sky should be blue, you’ll probably see only white.

You could use any camera to take two or more photos with different exposures and combine them in post processing to get a similar effect. This is known as HDR processing, but there will be a time interval between the photos, and depending on the length of the time interval and if the scene contains moving objects, combining the images can create problems. With a camera that has an EXR sensor, this isn’t a problem since both images are shot at the same time and combined automatically.

To go into the technology in further detail on this page would be overkill, but I have listed it’s main advantages. It is also worth taking a look at the video below:

  • The very high resolution (16 Megapixels) images it captures
  • Wide Dynamic Range 1600% – The DR mode stores two images at the same time which it makes a single image from which has the effect of enhancing the dynamic range, to reveal small details in shadow. In bright areas it also eradicates washout.
  • High Sensitivity & Low Noise – This SN mode uses the high-sensitivity to store smooth textures as well as natural brightness, but with a minimum of noise levels.
  • The CMOS circuit enables fast data signal readout, which in turn makes the new high speed movie possible along with the high speed continuous shooting functions.

EXR processor

I guess what you could call the brain of the FinePix HS30EXR is it’s EXR processor that controls every part of the camera’s operation, including turning the data that the sensor captures into viewable JPEG and Raw files.

The HS30 has Dual CPUs, a powerful EXR core and a reconfigurable processor that work together for more power and speed.

Just like the processor on your computer, what all this means is that the camera can perform even complicated tasks that use plenty of processing power like taking Full-HD video or fast continuous shooting with ease.

Start-up time is also quicker, focusing is faster and the time it takes to write full resolution images to memory card is also significantly reduced. Operations like Auto Focussing and intelligent scene recognition are also all achieved faster than on cameras with slower processors.

Image Stabilization (CMOS Shift + High ISO)

One of the biggest problems with taking long telephoto shots is that your images will often suffer from camera shake and subject movement which can ruin photos by producing blurred results.

A tripod (see: Tripods for Travel & Safari) will help to rectify this, but even so even the slightest movement caused by your finger pressing the shutter button can and does move the camera.

To help, the FinePix HS30EXR uses a very effective CMOS-shift and Digital Image Stabilization to help ensure that your shots stay extra-crisp and clear, even at the full 30x magnification.

As well as this, if you are taking photos in low light or when using the zoom in EXR AUTO mode, the camera uses what Fujifilm call “Advance Anti Blur” that uses the power of their EXR CMOS sensor and Multi Frame technology that combine 4 frames into a single, sharp blur-free image with remarkably low noise.

In my opinion the image stabilization is as good as any other camera that I have used in this class and improves on the HS20. I could even take half decent hand held photos with a 2.2x teleconverter attached to the HS30 at full zoom (66x) – although with this amount of magnification, I do recommend that you use a tripod for better and more consistent results. For more information and sample photos take a look at the section on attaching a Teleconverter to the FujiFilm HS30.

LCD Screens

Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR with 3.0-inch Tilting LCD Screen3.0-inch Tilting LCD

Like the HS20, the 3.0-inch LCD monitor on the Finepix HS30 is excellent and is a part of the camera that often gets overlooked in many reviews, which to me is surprising as you spend a lot of time looking at it!

At 3 inches (measured diagonally across), the Fuji’s LCD is as large as any in this class and with a 460,000 dot resolution that covers 100% of the image you really get an excellent view.

The quality of the image it produces and the high resolution graphics that it displays as you navigate through the menu is fantastic and is far better than all others I have tried and tested so far.

Whilst it cannot rotate a full 360° like the Cannon SX40, you can rotate it to 90° and I do like the way that it comes away from the body of the camera making it easier to take photos from above the camera and other awkward positions.

The screen itself and how it is attached to the body of the camera also looks really well made and a just feels a lot more robust than many of it’s competitors that I have tried out.

Electronic Viewfinder

Another feature that I really like is the Electronic Viewfinder comes with an “Eye Sensor”. What this means is if you put your eye to the EVF the sensor automatically switches display from the LCD to the highly responsive viewfinder. Saves time as well as batteries. The quality of the image produce through the image sensor is about average for cameras in the bridge camera superzoom class.

High-speed shooting at 11fps

According to research carried out by Fujifilm, the HS30EXR can focus in just 0.16 seconds which helps to ensure that every photo that you take is in focus including where you are taking shots in burst mode.

Using the burst mode, the HS30EXR can capture images in the highest resolution (16 megapixels) at a pretty good eight frames per second (fps), or at 11fps with a resolution of 8-megapixels. In the superzoom bridge class this is pretty good and at the time of writing amongst it’s main competitors only the Panasonic FZ150 is slightly better at 12fps at 12.1-megapixels.

What I really like is that in playback mode, you can view each frame individually or together as a group with the rest of the burst in its own window.

Best Frame Capture Mode

Another mode that I really liked on the HS20 that I am glad to see also included in the HS30 is what Fujifilm call their Best Frame Capture Mode.

This really helps when taking photos of birds and other fast moving subjects as all you have to do is push the shutter release button half way down and the FinePix HS30 will automatically begin to record photos at 11 frames per second at a maximum quality of 8 megapixels.

When you decide on the correct moment and fully press the shutter button, the HS30 then records up to a maximum of 16 frames, which includes the pre-recorded frames that were stored when you had the shutter half pressed. Thus this enables you to choose the best photo from the whole 16 frame sequence and so really helps to ensure that you don’t miss any of the action.

Best Frame Capture Mode

 

Built-in Social Networking

When I first read the headline that the camera had “Built-in social networking” my initial thought was that the camera had built in wi-fi or something and that it could connect to your network and upload your images without the need of a computer. Sadly it is not quite as exciting as this and you still need a computer, but even so it is still a pretty cool feature.

How it works is you can start organising your videos and photos in camera by tagging the pictures you want to share and upload automatically to YouTube and Facebook within the camera playback menu.

Then the next time you connect you FinePix HS30EXR to a PC that is connected to the internet, your tagged images are uploaded to your designated sites like Facebook or youtube automatically using MyFinePixStudio – a free Windows only piece of software from Fujifilm.

RAW Image Format

High resolution pictures are captured in 4:3 format (4608 x 3456), 3:2 format (4608 x 3072) or 16:9 format (4608 x 2592) and can be stored on the camera in either JPEG or RAW formats (or both).

There are still some superzooms that don’t offer you even the option of capturing your images in RAW format, with this Fujifilm FinePix camera, not only can you do this, but you can preset the camera to record images in JPEG, RAW or both formats as default. But if you only select one format, you can record in both when necessary just by pressing a single button on the back of the camera.

For those that don’t know, Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image.

The purpose of raw image formats is to save, with minimum loss of information, data obtained from the sensor, and the conditions surrounding the capturing of the image.

Main Specifications

Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR Specifications

Street price: $499 • £399
Zoom tele (T): 720mm (30x)
Wide-angle: 24mm
Digital Zoom: Yes, 2x
Image stabilization: Sensor Shift
Aperture range: F2.8 – F5.6
Continuous Drive: 11fps
Min shutter: 30sec
Max shutter: 1/4000sec
ISO rating: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (6400 and 12800 with boost)
White balance presets: 6
Max Res: (4:3) 4608 x 3456 / (3:2) 4608 x 3072 / (16:9) 4608 x 2592
Other Resolutions: (4:3) 3264 x 2448 / (3:2) 3264 x 2176 / (16:9) 3264 x 1840 or (4:3) 2304 x 1728 / (3:2) 2304 x 1536 / (16:9) 1920 x 1080
Effective pixels: 16 million
Censor Type: EXR CMOS
Sensor size: 1/2″ (6.4 x 4.8 mm)
Metering: Multi, Average, Spot
Exposure compensation: 
±2 EV (at 1/3 EV steps)
LCD Size: 3″
LCD Dots: 460,000
Built-in Flash: Yes, Pop-up
Flash range: Wide : Approx. 30cm – 7.1m / Telephoto : Approx. 2.0m – 3.8m
External flash: Yes, Hot-shoe
Max Movie: 1920 x 1080 (FHD 30 fps)
Format: MPEG-4, H.264
Microphone: Sterio
Speaker: 
Sterio
Storage Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC
Onboard Storage: 20MB
Dimensions: 131x 97x126mm
Weight (+ batteries): 687g (24.23 oz)
Battery: Li-ion NP-W126 battery and charger
Thread to add Telephoto Lens: Yes, 58mm
Accessories included: Li-ion battery, NP-W126 Battery charger BC-W126 Shoulder strap, USB cable A/V cable, Lens cap and Lens cap cord, CD-ROM Owner’s manual, Lens hood

 

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Where To Buy:

US Shoppers
US Shoppers
Buy in the USA:

Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR on Amazon.com






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