FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR, 30x Optical Zoom Camera Review [TheGamerWithKids.com]

The FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR is the 2nd travel zoom/super zoom camera from FujiFilm that I had a chance to take a look at. The first was the FinePix F770EXR which was a compact travel zoom camera and one that could fit into your pocket. The HS30EXR is not. This camera is more similar to that of a DSLR in both size and looks and is a camera that will require the use of a neck strap and/or a camera bag to carry. This camera is for those who want DSLR-like features and flexibility without a need to swap lenses or the care involved with owning a DSLR.

Note however that this is not a DSLR and as such also does not have the same kind of sensor you would normally find in a DSLR, such as an APS-C sized one found in the X-Pro-1. This would be really more of an advanced point-and-shoot camera than a slimmed down DSLR. With that said, the images are actually very good and much better than your average point-and-shoot.

Design of the Body & Features

If you want a detailed description of the body and what to expect from it, check out my hands-on preview of the HS30EXR here. It has very detailed information on where everything is located on the camera as well as how I thought about the build quality. If you don’t want to read it, I”ll just say that ergonomically, the camera is very good and after 2 weeks of using it, I still found the camera to be quite comfortable to hold and zooming the camera like a traditional DSLR is much faster than the point-and-shoot method of zooming found on the F770EXR. The build quality is excellent and still felt very solid after the 2 weeks of usage.

Overall, I really like how the HS30EXR is designed. Placement for all the buttons are excellent and I never felt like I had to over reach or hunt for a specific button to press. The use and placement of the command dial makes it very simple to adjust certain settings and when I am using the EVF, I never really have to leave it to adjust settings. I also love the fact that the SD card slot is located on the side of the camera and not at the bottom with the battery as this made removing the card with a tripod attached so much easier. On top of that, I really appreciate the fact that FujiFilm decided to go with a standard Mini-USB port for this camera instead of a custom port that would have required me to use another cable to sync with. Most of the buttons, doors, and dials are laid out almost perfectly in my opinion, all except for the AF-assist light.

The auto focus assist light is located between the hand grip and the lens. In this position,it can be obscured by either your hand, or the lens if you have the lens partially extended. The lens ends up casting quite a huge shadow which makes the AF-assist light almost useless. Your hand can also cover up bits of it as well. This was my only real gripe with the design of the camera.

Operations (Usage)

If you read the previous review on the FujiFilm F770EXR, then much of that review applies here. The HS30EXR works in a very similar manner when playing with the in-camera menus and it has many of the same features. This is no surprise seeing as both cameras are very similar in nature, even though they are miles apart in how they look.

Again, like the F770EXR, if you do not read the instruction manual, you can basically figure out most of the functions in the camera by just playing with the menus and going through all the available options. This is one thing I like about point and shoot style cameras, their ease of use. FujiFilm does a good job of making the HS30EXR relatively easy to use and the fact that you can select modes using the mode dial makes it infinitely more accessible to users. The more buttons and dials a camera has, the less a user has to fiddle through the software, and this camera definitely has a plethora of buttons to play with. Almost every important function can be accessed by using the hardware buttons which means you rarely really ever even need to go through the menu system.

For the most part, most users will probably want to keep the camera in EXR mode. This is FujiFilm’s advanced auto mode which will select the camera mode and settings based on what you are shooting. This differs slightly from regular Auto mode as you are also able to choose 3 other advanced shooting auto modes from the menu – Resolution Priority, High ISO & Low Noise, and D-Range Priority modes. These are actually 3 very handy presets to use. Resolution Priority is used to capture lots of detail, High ISO & Low Noise is used to capture night time shots with minimal noise, and D-Range Priority is like HDR mode where it will try to capture a whole range of tones to prevent washout.

In EXR mode, the HS30EXR does a relatively good job of choosing the correct scene mode for you. However if you’re the type who likes having control of which scene mode you want to use, you can switch over to SP (Scene Position) mode. I counted 18 different scene modes you can choose from and most seem quite useful and should be able to find a suitable scene mode for most situations you encounter.

If you want even more control of your shots, you can stick the camera into M, A, S, or P modes. These are standard “manual” modes that you find with almost all cameras these days. These modes are very easy to adjust on the HS30EXR thanks in part to all the buttons located on the left of the LCD screen as well as the command dial and it’s convenient placement near the thumb rest.

You’ll be happy to note that the HS30EXR does a pretty decent job of keeping blur to a minimum at full zoom thanks to its built-in image stabilization. I took quite a bit of photos at full zoom and for the most part, many of them were very clear. Some might have been a bit soft, but still acceptable considering that full zoom is equivalent to about 720mm and at that focal length, it can be very difficult to keep images steady without a tripod. The HS30EXR however did a great job of it with it’s built-in image stabilization.

As you know, the HS30EXR has both a rear viewscreen and an electronic viewfinder. For the most part, I used the electronic viewfinder the most, like I would with a DSLR but I did find the viewscreen handy at times, especially if I had to shoot at some rather weird angles. I love how easy it was to switch between the two and since the camera also has an eye sensor on it, it would switch automatically depending on if I had it up to my eye or not. The electronic viewfinder was very bright and really helped when using the camera outdoors as it was often difficult to see the LCD screen in bright sunlight.

One feature you’ll want to enable that I haven’t really seen on any other camera is the built in electronic level. When enabled, the viewscreen or viewfinder will show a centered blue horizontal line across the screen. There will be a secondary white line superimposed over it that will show you exactly how level you are. If you are perfectly level, the line will turn green. This really helps with framing and keeping the horizon straight in your photos. This is a very neat feature and one that I wished more cameras would have standard.

I also like the way the HS30EXR handles continuous photo shots. Basically the camera groups them all continuous shots together and while in playback mode, it’ll show the first shot of the set with a tiny animate thumbnail of all other shots in the set. It’s pretty neat to say the least. You can then view each individual images in the set after if you choose to do so. On the subject of continuous shooting, the camera is very fast when it comes to this in my opinion.

All-in-all, using the camera was simple and didn’t require too learning in order to start shooting. For the most part, you’ll be able to just right in and start taking photos. You may want to read up on some of the more advanced modes and settings, but for the most part, the HS30EXR does a good job of automating a lot of this for you.

There are a couple area which are kind of disappointing on the HS30EXR. One of which is the lack of any creative modes. You are limited to only being able to choose different kinds of “film” like black & white, sepia, or vivid color but there is nothing in the way of what I’ve seen with other cameras like Holga/Lomography mode, retro filters, miniature mode, or even black & white mode with specific color accents. This would have been a really nice addition to the camera and I think one that a lot of consumers look for, especially if they don’t do a lot of post processing.

Another disappointing area is the way in which the camera handles file names. I’m not exactly sure what is going on with the naming structure. There doesn’t seem to be any numerical order to them at all. When downloading all the images into  my computer, a lot of images were out of chronological order based on their file names which made it very difficult to view photos in order. I’m not sure if this was a glitch or something but resetting the camera seemed to fix that problem.

Photo Quality

These are samples taken with the HS30EXR. All photos here are unedited and are in Jpeg format straight from the camera. There has been no post editing save for resizing for web use and inclusion of the watermark using Lightroom 4. BTW, you can shoot in RAW format with this camera which I know is sometimes a big factor when considering a camera, but since most average consumers will only shoot in Jpeg format, that’s what I shot in for these samples.

In these sets of images above, you’ll notice that the HS30EXR takes generally good outdoor images. There is quite a bit of detail present, even at the different focal lengths and this is where the huge lens really shows its advantages. The images are very bright however and in my opinion, a tiny bit overexposed, but it’s nothing a little bit of post processing can’t fix.

Here are some more outdoor images where again, you’ll notice how much detail is present, even at full zoom. I’ll say it again, I’m very impressed with the huge range this camera has and it really comes in handy. I mean in order to do this with my Sony NEX-5N for instance, I’d have to carry around several lenses to get the same range.

Here are a couple of indoor shots taken with no flash and at different focal lengths. Like the F770EXR, it takes fantastic indoor photos without the use of a flash. I’m also amazed by how steady these shots are with little to no blur.

Did I also mention the camera takes really great macro shots? The HS30EXR boasts having a 1cm super macro and I believe it. You’ll want to make sure you have adequate lighting however as the flash will not help with lighting objects 1cm away and you may cast a huge shadow on them if not done properly. This camera is perfect for taking closeups of flowers.

All-in-all, I’m quite impressed again by what FujiFilm has to offer here. Image quality is very good, despite the smaller sensor but it’s not completely perfect though. There were times where images would be really under/overexposed and I’ve had instances where it just didn’t know what to do if what I was taking a photo of was in too bright of an environment. This was easily remedied however if I locked the exposure down to he correct setting so that the camera wouldn’t automatically keep changing it. I don’t think it’s something that would be very problematic though and most people probably wouldn’t even notice it. Again, I always urge people to take multiple shots of what you’re trying to capture as it’s really hard getting that perfect shot on the first try.

Final Thoughts

Some may question the need for a camera like this if you can just pick up a DSLR, but how many of us can really afford buying a DSLR with all the lenses needed to achieve what the FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR can achieve with just one lens at a fraction of the cost? Yes this is not a professional camera but how many consumers out there really need a professional grade camera to capture family memories or photos of their vacation? With this, you get the look and feel of a DSLR with the ease of a point-and-shoot. It has some rather advanced features for a point-and-shoot and I believe the image quality definitely outshines that of a normal point-and-shoot thanks in part to its advanced optics and features.

Yes the camera is rather large and at this size, most may just want to consider a DSLR, but again, the price of also purchasing the lenses needed to achieve a 24-720mm focal length would be quite outrageous once you price it all out, plus how many cameras out there do you know of that can do 1cm super macro photography? Not many.

Overall, I think the HS30EXR is a very attractive package and at the price, MSRP $499.95 (though I see it on Amazon right now for $395.00), is a fantastic deal for what you get. That is the price of some compact cameras right now and you don’t get the kind of features and flexibility like you would with this camera. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great inbetween camera for those who aren’t quite ready to commit to a full fledged DSLR and all the responsibilities and money requited to maintain and expand on one.

Shop Links

FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR - Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR Digital Camera

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*This review is made possible with my affiliation with G Style Magazine. It is also featured at the G Style Magazine website which is a tech blog that focuses on the fashion aspect of tech. Please visit their site for the complete review and more images.

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4 thoughts on “FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR, 30x Optical Zoom Camera Review [TheGamerWithKids.com]

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