Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fujifilm S1 versus HS50EXR – Review Part 1 – The Arrival and First Shots and First Impressions

Whew … what a long-winded title. Sorry about that, and now I am committed to using it for however many parts of this review I can get done in about 3 weeks.

Anyway, they arrived today and I was a bit stunned when I opened the door to Purolator and found the man standing over these …

20140827_122844_Android_SGH-I747M_3.7 mm_ISO 400_1-15 sec at f - 2.6

Wow …


Note the European plug … not sure what that’s about, but I had a Samsonite adapter to North American plugs lying around so no problem getting the camera charged. I could, of course, have used any other USB brick as well.


The HS50EXR was a bit of a mess, showing its age perhaps. Yet both cameras had the original neck strap still in the plastic. I took the liberty of putting the neck strap on of course since there is no way I want either falling to the ground due to lack of proper support.

The Fujifilm S1 is a weather sealed bridge camera with a spectacular reach out to 12mm equivalent and a fairly light and small form factor. It seems like a rather nice bit of kit and I must say that it seems to perform rather well for a 1/2.3” sensor.

The HS50EXR is of course the flagship and final entry in Fuji’s line of EXR based super zooms and is known for rather sharp results if you know what you are doing. But I suspect that this is going to be a very tough battle, because there are quite a few standard bayer superzooms and they are no slouches in the image quality battle in good light.

I plan to test these in all sorts of light, so I hope that we can answer the question that has been appearing more and more often lately in the Fujifilm Talk Forum at http://dpreview.,com … that being “Which of these two should I get?”

And by answer the question, I really mean provide sufficient insight and data for people to make up their own minds as to which one seems more suitable for their shooting style and their taste for ergonomics.

First Impressions

Well, technically this is my second impression of the HS50EXR since I have already had a go around last year when Fuji sent me this camera and the F900EXR. Those reviews can be perused at this link.

But it is definitely my first impression of the S1 and so far my impression is pretty favorable.

It’s tough to decide how to give my first impressions, by camera or head to head, but in the interests of my time and energy I will do it head to head for this first pass.

What do I like better about the S1?

  • Compact body
  • Smooth zoom
  • Closer focus at max zoom, higher magnification, more reach
  • Shoots at 6400, and is almost equal to the HS50EXR at 3200
  • OIS seems more reliable
  • AF seems faster and more sure
  • Menus have been trimmed

What do I like better about the HS50EXR?

  • Grip is angled better and proportioned better
  • Shutter is slightly angled, which feels a bit better to me
  • Comes with a charger (S1 only comes with a cable)
  • EVF is larger and clearer
  • EVF switching works better by quite a bit
  • Separate door for SD card which is not impeded by tripod
  • AF ring actually turns :-)
  • EXR dynamic range extension is available, but we’ll see how much that matters in practice

So yes, things are getting interesting. But none of these issues is dominant or fatal … they just are …

First shots. These are shot in my basement by the light of a compact fluorescent bulb. The exposures are brutal for tiny sensors … the S1 shooting the face of the gauges at 1/17s and f/5.6 at 6400 ISO. The HS50EXR cannot shoot raw at 6400 ISO so I got 1/8s at f/5.6 and 3200 ISO. And both came out reasonably sharp, indicating that the two of them have pretty decent OIS. Of course, I used the EVF to brace against my eye. As I was writing this, I realized how unfair this is to the S1, so I went back and shot them at 3200 as well.

These are not intended to be definitive … I just snapped them and thought I’d show them.

The HS50EXR looks ok at 3200 ISO, but the magnification is disappointing at max zoom. I had to roll the chair back to something like 7 feet or more.

DSCF9034_FinePix HS50EXR_185 mm_ISO 3200_1-8 sec at f - 5.6

The next one is in macro mode, which makes no difference at all at max zoom. Same focus distance limitation.

DSCF9035_FinePix HS50EXR_185 mm_ISO 3200_1-7 sec at f - 5.6

The S1 does as well or even better in my opinion, and the magnification is magnificent …

DSCF0014_FinePix S1_215 mm_ISO 3200_1-9 sec at f - 5.6

And in macro mode it actually manages to get almost a foot closer I found …


DSCF0015_FinePix S1_215 mm_ISO 3200_1-9 sec at f - 5.6

And how about 6400 ISO?

DSCF0012_FinePix S1_215 mm_ISO 6400_1-17 sec at f - 5.6

DSCF0013_FinePix S1_215 mm_ISO 6400_1-20 sec at f - 5.6

Can’t say I’m disappointed. This little sensor is pretty decent.

Bonus round: 6400 versus 3200 … ad hoc test just worked out that way …

S1 at 6400:

DSCF0011_FinePix S1_215 mm_ISO 6400_1-30 sec at f - 5.6

HS50EXR at 3200:


DSCF9032_FinePix HS50EXR_185 mm_ISO 3200_1-13 sec at f - 5.6

I can’t say that the S1 got spanked … because it didn’t …

Hmmm ….

More to come …