Friday, September 9, 2011

Reviewing the HS20EXR.....Update.

Build Quality & Sensor

Having now had the Fuji HS20EXR for a little over four months I have grown to like the performance and output of the HS20.
Initially I had reservations ( large ones) when the HS20 first came onto the market. The biggest worry appeared to be overheating and build quality. This has since be rectified with a firmware update and the overheat warning and its attendant sensor warning has been re-calibrated with the new firmware.
My HS10 was built in Malaysia and was very well put together. Like the HS10 the HS20 zoom barrel was a little stiff and had that little bump feeling at about the halfway point. That has now eased with use and I'm happy to say the zoom is nice and smooth in operation now. My HS20 was built in China with a serial number starting at 1AAQ, so its an early model, but the build quality was every bit as good as my HS10. The battery cover as reported by others has never been anything other than a snug and tight fit. No complaints there.

My biggest worry was more to do with the sensor and the amount of noise created by 16 megapixels on small (albeit not a small as the HS10's), sensor, and the amount of noise created. I'm happy to report that the noise isn't as big a factor as I had first imagined. In its native 16mp mode noise starts to show up from ISO 400 upwards, but depending upon mode and conditions isn't as overwhelming as it sometimes was in the HS10. At base ISO & ISO 200 images are crisp and noise free. For a 16mp sensor on such a small footprint its far quieter than I originally expected it to be. Shooting in full frame at 16mp yields very nice imagery and resolution.
Photo information
Shot @16mp EXR Res Pr (HR) mode.
Image size 4:3 Large fine.
Cropped to suit PP work.
Little noise evident at this resolution.
Printed at 5" x 7 "

Sep 6, 2012
1600×1555 pixels – 1167KB
Filename: DSCF4788.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 100
Exposure: 1/220 sec
Aperture: 5.6
Focal Length: 54.6mm
Flash Used: No

Switching to other modes in the EXR range yield even quieter images as well as good low light performance. The low light performance (SN mode)  was a major feature of the new sensor, so has it lived up to the hype. By and large yes it has. I would always suggest using the lowest  ISO that is appropriate for the conditions to maintain good noise control. If you want improved dynamic range though you need to decide if the lift in ISO and noise is going to detract from the shot. When the HS20 is used in the EXR modes, Auto, SN & DR to my eye at least there is a small trade-off in image IQ (detail resolution) when compared to images shot in the sensors native 16mp mode. These differences are slight but do on occasion  appear in higher ISO shots. The tradeoff for increased dynamic range above 400% and a quieter image is the slightly less crisp result from shooting in these modes. Does it detract from the overall look of the image. Generally no, you would in a lot of cases have to pixel peep to see the differences.
If you are Pixel_peeping then its likely that the image you are intending to print is a poster. Prints at A3 and A4 from the HS20 are usually crisp and clean and noise free. I doubt that the image printed larger than this would always hold up. At this point you need to be thinking about a good DSLR.

Next we will update some of the shooting modes and settings.


  1. Ralph,
    thanks a lot for all of your in-depth analysis of the HS20. Looking forward to your mode and settings updates. As a fellow HS20 owner, I have been keenly monitoring your blog to help me get the best out of it. Of course, out shooting on the day I can get confused! (Ideally, I need one blog (printed out and with me) from you that has a quick guide to settings for a variety of shot types!) I have kept it almost exclusively in 8M resolution in A but I too have found that on a couple of 16M shots outside in good light, the quality is still excellent.. So thanks again for sticking with it, those early reviews would have put a lot of people off! Looking forward to more of your posts (and the HS30!).


  2. You are most welcome Michael.
    One of the things that started me off on doing this blog was the absolute pounding the Fuji HS10 took when it first came out, and I wanted to show what these HS series cameras can actually do with a bit of effort.
    As far as this stand at the moment if they bring out an HS30 the only thing I would really see needing improvement over the HS20 would be the video performance and I would like to see a more DSLR like response in the auto focus. Other than that I cant see too much needing changing from the HS20, I think Fuji got it pretty close to spot on this time around.

  3. Hmmm, HS30 improvements...
    Let me see, I suppose the video could be improved (I don't really use it). I came from a Canon 450D and it didn't have video!
    I think I'd like to see the foldout screen improved. Only because if you are shooting portrait rather than landscape, you lose the advantage of the fold out screen as it only folds on the one axis. However, that is nit picking and I felt the same when I had the S9600! People also complain about the evf, but to fair I only use it when I can't see the back screen, so it does it's job for me.
    Focussing yes, auto focus could be improved in some cases. However, I also find the manual focus tricky - perhaps because it isn't explained too well in the manual. I will eventually get the subject in focus but I usually don't understand how or why it worked!
    Keep up the great work Ralph. Have seen your next blog on your most used settings (I'm assuming that the word "medium" in the image size should actually be 'L' 4:3 @ 16MP). And I'm eagerly awaiting your SN and DR settings...

  4. Oik!! You are right it should read large for the image size. Nice spotting and thank you, its now been edited.

  5. My Pentax KX DSLR has a 12MP sensor,and has had some great reviews,particularly for image quality,particularly at higher ISOs.
    Although my HS20 can't compete above 400ISO,at lower settings,comparing them on my computer,there's very little difference,and the HS20 colours seem better,straight from the camera,which says a lot about the Fuji sensor.

  6. Hi Doug.
    Yes the more I use the HS20, and the more care I take in getting the shot, is proving that the HS20 may well be a very good match for some of the entry level DSLR's. I've been loathe to say that before, but after printing some of the stuff I've shot at A4 sizes, color and clarity aren't an issue. And I love Fuji color.
    The HS20 might just be the quiet achiever in the Fuji stable. Its a little overshadowed by the X100 but the x100 is proving to be less than than the silver bullet some hoped. IQ and optics are great but it seems that build quality in the x100 is problematic.

  7. I am a proud owner of the HS20, still experimenting and probably will forever.Your comments and coverage of the camera have been indispensable.
    Thank you.
    Jon Marsh.

  8. Happy to be able to help Jon.
    Enjoy the camera its a good unit.