Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fujifilm HS10 – Any good?

This question is being asked a lot on the Fuji Talk Forum from what I have seen. I peek in now and again to see what the topics are, but there is little real info on the site any more … still, the HS10 appears to completely dominate the forum now.

So the short answer to the question in my title above … your opinion of its image quality is *really* gonna depend on how wide your image quality latitude goes.

The good news is that it looks pretty excellent at tiny web sizes right up to 3200 ISO. Bravo Fuji!

The bad news is that its image quality does not stand up at all to close scrutiny. It’s just bloody awful when you zoom in, which means that printing above 5x7 is probably folly.

This, by the way, appears to be a property shared by all of these tiny (1/2.3”) BiCMOS sensors … the ones with the wiring in the back. They do a surprisingly good job at high ISO, where fine detail is obliterated by noise so expectations are low. But they make a hash of low ISO imagery, where expectations are justifiably high.

Now … in a compact like the WX1 this mess might just be tolerable. But the HS10 is Fuji’s new flagship bridge camera with a massive zoom, a hot shoe and serious controls for everything. It also shoots RAW. People are going to shoot birds with this thing and want to be able to print lovely 8x10s or even larger with very fine feather vein detail in them … well, good luck with that.

If I sound critical, Fuji have only themselves to blame. My opinion comes from examining their own sample images. I focused particularly on sample number 2 on their global web site.

Here is the image:


Remember to click on it to get a larger version. Here is my critique of each of the highlighted areas. Note that this image is not touched in any way and these inserts are 100% crops.

From left to right:

  1. Brick. With no texture. Really, all the bricks in the distance are total mush. Very heavy noise reduction is evident.
  2. Roof tile. Edges are a complete hash. No definition and absolutely no crispness.
  3. The umbrella shaped roof in the middle (just above the boat) appears to have tiles, yet a large area of it is simply smooth. I don’t think it is supposed to be.
  4. Boat pillar. Pure white. I mean completely blown. This is *not* an EXR sensor, and it suffers for it.
  5. Brick again. Mush again.
  6. Flowers. Even this close to the lens, and not quite into the corner, the blur is evident. This lens appears incapable of fine definition at 100%. Of course, what does one expect in a 1 billion x zoom …

Now, I’m not a candidate for one of these things anyway. If I’m going to carry something large and fairly heavy, I want a sensor larger than the pupil of my eye. But I was curious to see what the fuss was all about, and now I know. It’s about the lens and the feature. It cannot possibly be about the image quality.

So to revisit my answer to the title question. The answer is a simple no, not really. But I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun to fool around with.


archish said...

Kim I find most of the BiCMOS sensor to be still in developing stage as far as the image quality/detail. Although initially the Sony HX5V seemed good, on 1:1 100% crop comparison I found them lacking in detail. The imaged looked flat and they didn't have any 3D look which is usually the case in high ISO in normal CCD camera. ( I should thank you as I have learnt a lot after browsing your blog :D ) It was a big setback to me as the images were shot at ISO 125.

HS10 seems interesting with its 30X telescopic but for the weight and size unless the zoom/price is important I would personally pick up a DSLR for its size/weight/image quality.

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: Exactly. The first generation (or second, if that's where we are) has major issues. A big part of that is simply the high level of initial noise reduction. The chip continues up the ISO scale very well, it just starts with too much detail destruction.

Lili said...

Kim I was very attracted by this cameras form factor and specs.
The first Fuji I fell in love with was my old S5200 with the same size sensor. so that point was not an issue to me.
The colors are.
I am not sure how to describe what I am seeing but they are...odd.
On 3 different monitors no less...IMHO; horrid
and the IQ, viewing the samples I find on flicker at 100% are scary full of artifacts and edge effects.
I will be keeping my S6000fd and may well get the F80EXR to back up my F200.
I fell in love with Fuji colors and now on this camera they are gone.

Kim Letkeman said...

Lili: Being color blind, I can only see gross errors without loading the images into CS4, but it makes sense that Fuji would have given up their famous colors by adopting the Sony sensor for this cam. As I concluded in this post, this cam seems to be about features and zoom. But it's unquestionably a pretender ... nothing whatsoever like the S100fs in image quality. Of course, that won't stop the FTF leaders (who I note have all bought in :-) from shooting gobs of poorly exposed images and trumpeting this thing like the second coming. WHich I suppose it is ... the first coming being more about image quality :-)