Saturday, April 17, 2010

HS10 – How long is too long? *updated*

The majority of people I’ve read who are willing to talk about such things as potential flaws in Fuji’s HS10 seem to be quite willing to admit that this massive zoom lens is quite soft at the long end.

I read a comment today:

I fully understand your statement about the long end not being spectacular but when I consider the range it is hard to be too critical.

Hard to be too critical. Why not, exactly? The vast majority of images I’ve seen at the long end of that zoom (that are *not* close-ups) are soft to the point of looking outright blurry. Close-ups tend to fare a bit better simply because the details are so large that they are at least visible, if not critically sharp.

So Fuji’s choice to put a massive, yet soft, zoom on what is being perceived as their new flagship bridge camera *absolutely* should be criticized.

By contrast, the 300mm zooms on the S9000 and S6000 and 270mm zooms on the F70EXR and F80EXR are *wicked* sharp at the long end and thus are used constantly.

DPReview probably said it best when they reviewed the S100fs, which actually has pretty nice image quality at the long end:

One of the main things that the S100FS offers that a DSLR would really struggle with is the shear reach of its lens. It's a 14.3X zoom but, more importantly, it's a zoom that starts at 28mm (equivalent), before stretching on to a slightly comical 400mm equiv.

If 14x was “comical”, then more than doubling the range to 30x must be downright hysterical :-)

Yet, the 450mm zoom on the S100fs and S5200 still seem to have been sharp at the long end, with few complaints on that score.

In my opinion, the almost silly range on the HS10 will prove to be the camera’s Achilles heel for those with discerning image quality standards and thus will not be all that useful. Which brings me back to my original thesis on this camera … it is a fun toy, surely a blast to fool around with when you just want to plink about and play with photography.

There is joy to be had in that …

But if you are serious about learning the craft and want to achieve critical sharpness in your images … please consider looking elsewhere. You simply cannot be satisfied with the HS10 in the long run.

Update: Credit where credit is due. Some of these cams, when shot correctly, get decent detail at 720mm. But only in the light. The dark sections are still mushy.

FTF user dickmaley posted a pointer to his interesting magnification slide show that uses Raynox add ons to go wider and longer. I think he even shoots through a telescope at the end for some serious magnification.

Here is his shot at 720mm (click through to see the original):


And here are two crops … one from the bright section, and one from the shadow section.



So you can make up your own minds. This is one of the best I’ve seen, and for web presentation it looks pretty cool. Much fun to be had with these magnifications.

Now … if you want some serious fun, get a telescope :-)


Of course, for that kind of magnification, some compromises are inevitable:


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