Fuji was among the first camera manufacturers to bring out what is commonly termed a ‘bridge’ camera. Back in 1998, when we first tried out a chunky zoom camera that mimicked the looks of an SLR camera, we almost certainly termed it ‘pseudo-SLR’. Such cameras are these days characterised by having a slightly-smaller-than-SLR frame, a large zoom and the use of disposable batteries rather than rechargeable lithium-ion.
The dimensions and the use of four AA batteries means the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 is a rather heavy camera for one that doesn’t have an interchangeable lens.
However, it’s nowhere near the weight of, say, a ‘proper’ Canon DSLR and, at £325, is a lot less pricey than a Nikon or a Canon EOS 550D – the entry-level digital SLR cameras it’s pitched against.
Nor should the 30x optical zoom be discounted from these considerations. While technical wizardry is in even greater evidence on complex SLR cameras, here Fuji squeezes a 720mm zoom into a frame not even 18cm deep with the zoom fully extended.
We didn’t get superb results when using this superzoom at its maximum extension – a magnification of hand judder applies, for a start – but we’ve certainly found a lot worse big-zoom camera results.
In fact, we had more issues with ISO settings on this camera. The standard range from 100 up to 400 was fine, but above this a fair amount of grain appeared. The HS20 offers support for up to ISO 3200.
There is a plethora of features on this camera that works very well indeed, though. Twist the top dial away from the auto settings and there’s a panorama mode that can be invoked separately and that can create a sweeping effect through 360 degrees.
As with so many photos, having a well-lit scene or landscape is thoroughly repaid here; we got some rather disappointing results from low-light conditions. If you wish, there’s a ‘film effect’ you can apply to this or any of the other 25 scene modes. This comes into its own if you choose the B&W option. Most such scenes are selected via the EXR option on the dial.
Other dial selections include A (automatic with user’s choice of aperture setting), P (program auto exposure), S (auto mode but with the shutter speed up to the user) and M (manual settings for both shutter speed and aperture).
A C for custom and two Sp (special) options make it easy to jump to landscape and portrait scenes or a custom setting you’ve saved. Dynamic range and high-contrast/low-noise options are found via the menu system, along with the self-timer, while continuous shooting is invoked by a separate button on the top of the camera.
You can also select shutter speed, ISO, white balance and focal length via the vertical buttons to the left of the tiltable 3in LCD. As is common, you can switch between viewing and reviewing photos on the electronic viewfinder or this screen. The 460k dot display provides a good indication of results and offers onscreen light metering and ISO adjustment previews.
Video can be shot at 1080i and 30 frames per second. Yet again, there’s a dedicated button on the back of the camera for this. There’s no slow-mo mode, but you can choose between the soft focus, film simulation and dynamic range options found on the stills camera.