Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR £469.99

6th Aug 2013 | 13:26

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR

Huge zoom range and 'world's fastest autofocus'

Introduction

The huge zoom bridge camera segment of the compact camera market is considered to be one area which is still doing well amid otherwise declining sales.

Cameras such as the Fujifilm FinePix HS50 EXR pack in an enormous zoom range, in this case a 42x optical zoom (equivalent to a pretty impressive 24-1,000mm in 35mm terms), but with the compromise of a small sensor.

Although the Fuji HS50 EXR has a 16 million pixel 1/2-inch EXR CMOS II sensor, which is larger than those found in some compact cameras, it is still much smaller than the sensors found in most compact system cameras and DSLRs.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

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Most standard bridge cameras, especially those that boast such large zoom ranges, such as the Canon SX50 HS, are only capable of reaching a maximum wide aperture of f/3.5 at the widest point of the lens.

The Fuji HS50 EXR, however, boasts a more impressive f/2.8 at the 24mm end of the optic. This rises to a still reasonable f/5.6 at the full 1,000mm end of the lens. This should give you some flexibility both in terms of lower light shooting and in creating images with shallow depth of field effects.

Fuji has also included Optical Image Stabilisation technologies on the zoom lens, which should be especially useful when shooting at the far end of the optic handheld. It also has a Super Macro function, for getting as close as 1cm to the subject.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

For those not quite satisfied with the 1,000mm zoom functionality of the camera, there's also a digital zoom that boosts the range up to 84x, or a massive 2,000mm equivalent.

The Fuji HS50 EXR, priced at £469.99 / US$549.95 / AU$519.95, has several other interesting features. Firstly, it has a fully articulating 3-inch 920,000 dot TFT LCD screen. This is joined by a 0.26-inch electronic viewfinder, which also boasts an impressive 920,000 dots.

Designed with enthusiasts rather than beginners in mind, the Fuji HS50 EXR not only boasts full manual control, but also the ability to record files in raw format. This gives photographers more flexibility when they want to make changes in post-production, and is relatively unusual for bridge cameras.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

That said, there are still some fun features included on the camera. A panorama mode is available for capturing ultra-wide angle shots and will probably especially appeal to those using these types of cameras for holiday photos.

There's also a range of digital filters, found in the Advanced mode of the camera and including Partial Colour and Toy Camera. Not only this, but like cameras in Fuji's premium X lineup, there are a number of Film Simulation modes that are designed to recreate the look of classic film stock, such as Velvia and Astia.

One of the key selling points of this camera at its launch was Fuji's claim that the HS50 EXR boasts the world's fastest autofocus speed for compact cameras. Fuji claims that the camera can manage speeds as quick as 0.05 seconds, something we'll be keen to see if the camera can deliver on.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

These high speeds are reached thanks to a new Intelligent Hybrid Autofocus system. Using both high-speed Phase Detection AF (as used in most DSLRs) and the more accurate Contrast Detect AF, the camera automatically chooses the most appropriate AF method depending on the lighting conditions.

As well as a speedy AF, Fuji also claims that shot-to-shot time is just 0.5 seconds, while in Continuous Shooting mode the camera is capable of shooting in bursts of 11fps at the full 16 million pixel resolution (for a maximum of five frames).

Fuji also claims that the EXR-Auto mode is designed to get the best shot possible, which includes the benefits of a high resolution image, with wide dynamic range and low noise in high sensitivity shooting conditions. Again, we'll be keen to put that properly to the test.

Build quality and handling

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Fujifilm HS50 EXR is a DSLR at first glance. Its large body and hefty grip make it roughly the same size (with a kit lens attached) as some beginner or enthusiast-level DSLRs, such as the Nikon D5200 or Canon 700D.

Of course, however, the Fuji HS50 EXR has the added advantage of an incredibly large zoom range. To zoom in and out, the camera uses a manual zoom mechanism, which is slightly unusual for a bridge camera and lends it even more of a DSLR-style air. A textured, rubberised grip around the lens barrel gives it good purchase, while it's neither too loose nor too stiff when you twist it.

Just behind the zoom ring is a much smaller ring that can be used to manually focus the lens if you wish. It's a nice touch for a camera such as this, but it would perhaps have been more useful if this ring was customisable, for instance enabling you to alter the aperture when you don't need or want to use manual focus.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

On top of the camera are two fairly large dials. One is used to change between the various modes the camera has, including EXR Auto (fully automatic), Panorama mode, Advanced mode (where you'll find digital filters, among other things) and PASM modes. Helpfully, there's also room here for two groups of user defined settings, which is useful if you often find yourself shooting one particular type of scene (such as low light or monochrome).

The other dial is used to alter aperture or shutter speed, depending on the shooting mode you're in. If you're in fully manual mode, you need to press the exposure compensation button to switch between aperture and shutter speed, then use the dial as normal.

You can also use this dial on the Fuji HS50 EXR to scroll through various settings when in either the main menu or the Quick menu. Access to the Quick menu is gained via a dedicated button at the top-left of the back of the camera. In this menu you'll find all of the settings you're likely to use most often, including photometry (Fuji's term for metering), white balance, aspect ratio and Film Simulation modes. Use the directional arrow keys to switch between the various options, then the scrolling dial to make changes.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Doubling up as a customisable function button, the upwards directional key on the four-way pad is assigned to the digital zoom setting by default. However, you can assign something else to it, including most of the settings found in the Quick menu, if you find that there is one setting you use particularly frequently.

As you bring your eye to the electronic viewfinder, a sensor activates the EVF and switches off the back screen. This makes it a much more seamless transition than having to press a button to activate the EVF. However, there is also a button placed at the side of the EVF if you want to solely use either the screen or the EVF for any reason (for instance if you were shooting from the hip and wanted to avoid the EVF automatically activating).

Unfortunately, Fuji hasn't included a touchscreen on the Fuji HS50 EXR, which would have made changing the autofocus point much quicker. Instead, a slightly hidden button on the side of the camera (we had to refer to the instruction manual to find it, its location not being obvious), needs to be pushed and then the arrow keys used to navigate around the screen.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

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It's good to have a dedicated button for this function, but it requires you to use both hands to change the AF point, making quick changes fairly tricky. If you're attempting to capture an often moving subject, or don't want to waste time changing the AF point yourself, we'd recommend leaving it in the centre of the frame and focusing and recomposing.

Around the AF point button is a small dial for switching between manual, continuous and single autofocus. It's a fairly stiff dial so you can be reasonably assured that it won't accidentally switch between the various modes while it's in a bag.

As with many different types of cameras currently available on the market, Fuji has included a number of different digital filters on the Fuji HS50 EXR. These are accessible via the Advanced mode on the mode dial. These are an appealing extra, but it should be noted that you will lose the ability to shoot in raw format, as well as control over settings such as aperture and shutter speed.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

If you want to get creative but retain more control, perhaps a better option is to use the Film Simulation options, which are accessible via the Quick menu or the Main menu.

Options for different frame rates are available via a dedicated button on top of the camera. While playing images back, anything shot in sequential mode will show the first image taken, with others playing in a loop in a small thumbnail within that image.

This nifty idea enables you to get a good idea of the images that you captured, without necessarily having to scroll through a barrage of near-identical images.

Performance

As pretty much a veteran brand in the bridge camera market, we've come to expect good performances from Fuji's range. Given the promises that Fuji makes about this camera, such as its ultra-quick focusing speed and wide maximum aperture, we had reasonably high hopes for the Fuji HS50 EXR.

Happily, we have not been disappointed by the quality of its images. Colours are bright and punchy, without being overly saturated, and are a good representation of the real colours in a scene.

There's plenty of detail captured by the Fuji HS50 EXR's 16 million-pixel sensor, although if you examine images at 100%, smoothing starts to creep in from fairly low sensitivities, such as ISO 400. Viewing or printing images at normal sizes, such as A4 (US letter), shouldn't present too much of a problem in the majority of conditions.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

If you're finding that too much detail is being lost, it might be worth shooting in raw format and extracting more detail, or controlling the amount of noise reduction applied to each image, post-capture.

Out of focus areas are rendered well, while the drop off in focus is smooth. There's also some attractive bokeh to be enjoyed, especially when shooting at the maximum f/2.8 aperture at the widest point of the lens.

Of course the biggest selling point of this camera is its whopping 42x optical zoom lens. It's therefore important that this aspect of the camera works well, especially in terms of handheld stability. The Fuji HS50 EXR's Optical Image Stabilisation system does an excellent job of keeping images blur-free, even when shooting at the full reach of the 1,000mm (equivalent) optic.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

If you find you need even more reach, up to 84x zoom is available via the camera's digital zoom function. Although image quality is worse than when using the optical zoom (because it's essentially a crop into a full resolution image), images taken at this length are still more than usable at web and small printing sizes, making it a good option if you really need it.

General purpose metering (or photometry, as Fuji names it) does a good job of helping the camera to produce good exposures, even in scenes with areas of high contrast. Similarly, automatic white balance puts in an excellent performance, reproducing accurate colours even while under mixed or artificial lighting.

Fuji claims that the HS50 EXR has the quickest autofocus speeds for any compact digital camera, at just 0.05 seconds. Focusing is indeed very snappy, but there is a notable drop off in speed when shooting at the furthest reach of the telephoto optic, or if the light level drops. Still, for everyday shots, focus acquisition is very quick and the lens doesn't hunt around looking for the subject.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Super Macro mode enables you to get as close as 1cm to the subject you're photographing, with the lens element almost touching the subject in question some of the time. Although autofocus here is a little slower than when using the standard AF mode, it's still pretty quick and is helpful when you want to capture frame-filling shots.

Although there's not quite the wide range of digital filters available on the Fuji HS50 EXR as those found on some other brands - Panasonic perhaps most notably - those that are available are fun to experiment with. We particularly enjoyed Toy Camera mode.

If you want to keep more flexibility, it's a good idea to shoot in the various Film Simulation modes available, which include old favourites such as Velvia (for a more vivid look) and Astia (for a softer look). As standard, the camera shoots in Provia, but it's also worth experimenting with the different styles available.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Various monochrome options are also available, and of course the advantage of shooting Film Simulation modes, as opposed to filters, is that you can shoot in raw format and keep a clean version of the image to work with at a later date, should you decide against the Film Simulation you've chosen.

The articulating screen doesn't suffer too badly from glare or reflections in all but the brightest of sunlight. Looking at images played back on the screen is a treat, thanks to the high resolution (920,000 dots).

Similarly, the electronic viewfinder is very good - especially for a bridge camera, which haven't been known for high performing EVFs in the past.

Although the viewfinder isn't particularly large, it does have a very high resolution (also 920,000 dots), making it pretty easy to use and certainly an improvement over EVFs of the past. It's also much better than the device found onboard the Canon SX50, perhaps this camera's biggest competitor.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR is capable of resolving up to around 16 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 100, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 200, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 400, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 1600, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 3200, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 6400, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 12800, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 100, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 400, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 1600, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 3200, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Plenty of detail is captured by the Fuji HS50 EXR's 16 million pixel CMOS sensor.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours are represented well straight from the camera, being bright and punchy without going over the top with saturation.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

You can use Super Macro Mode to get extremely close to the subject you're photographing, for frame-filling shots.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Optical Image Stabilisation does an excellent job of helping to keep images blur-free, even when shooting at the far end of the telephoto optic (1,000mm equivalent).

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The lens offers a 24mm angle of view at its widest point, making it versatile for shooting different subjects, such as landscapes.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Here we can see how close you can get with the 1,000mm (42x) optical zoom at its full reach.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

If you need to get even closer, you can activate a digital zoom, which gives you an 84x (or 2,000mm equivalent) reach.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Using Film Simulations is a more flexible way of being creative than digital filters, since simulations can be shot in raw format, leaving you with a clean version of the image to work with if you choose.

Digital filters

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

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Despite the emergence of compact system cameras, which many people predicted would dent the sales of bridge cameras, models similar to the Fujifilm HS50 EXR continue to sell well, offering a huge zoom range that is far beyond the realms of a budget DSLR/CSC and standard kit lens.

These types of cameras are ideal for those who want to travel relatively light while still having the flexibility of being able to shoot a wide range of subjects.

Over the years, bridge cameras have improved measurably. And while they still typically feature small sensors (although the Fuji HS50 EXR's 1/2-inch sensor is larger than some), other features - such as the ability to shoot in raw format, an articulating screen and the variety of modes available - tend to make up for the cameras' other shortcomings.

Fuji remains the top seller in the bridge camera market, and is clearly keen to keep hold of that position, producing another excellently performing camera that should appeal to a wide range of users. It has enough advanced features - the ability to take full manual control, raw format shooting and so on - to appeal to the enthusiast, while also containing an excellent fully automatic option that will also attract beginners. This could be a good option for those looking to learn about photography.

Luckily, we've not been disappointed by the image quality of the Fuji HS50 EXR, with detailed and bright, punchy images in the majority of conditions. It's also excellent at keeping the image free from blur even while shooting at the full reach of the 1,000mm (35mm equivalent) telephoto optic.

We've also been impressed by the build and styling of the Fuji HS50 EXR, with its large body making it appear as a DSLR. The lens, roughly the same size as a kit optic on a DSLR, but containing a much more impressive reach, makes this a much more suitable alternative for those who don't want the bulk of a compact system camera.

The articulating screen, although disappointingly not a touchscreen, is still very useful when you want to shoot from awkward angles, fold the screen away for protection, or when shooting movies.

Using the camera's menu system, including the Quick menu, is also pretty sensible. It's a shame there's not more customisation to be enjoyed, especially with the manual focus ring, which is redundant when using autofocus. It's also true that this camera very much needs two hands to operate, and you'll struggle to make changes when shooting one-handed.

Electronic viewfinders still have a bad reputation, despite the progress that has been made in the past few years in terms of quality. The Fuji HS50 EXR's device is a solid performer, and while it's incredibly unlikely that you'll forget you're using an EVF, it's a definite improvement on those that have come before it, and it also beats the offering on its closest rival, the Canon SX50.

We liked

There's plenty to like about the Fuji HS50 EXR, but our favourite thing has to be the incredibly versatile 42x optical zoom range and the fantastic Optical Image Stabilisation technology that means that images captured at the far reach remain blur-free.

We disliked

Perhaps it's a little picky, but we'd like to see even more technology squeezed onto bridge cameras. A touchscreen and Wi-Fi, for instance, would have elevated this camera from very good to excellent.

Final verdict

For anybody looking for a high-zoom bridge camera with plenty of bang for your back, the Fuji HS50 EXR is an excellent option. Although it has a shorter zoom range than the Canon SX50 (which boasts a 50x optical zoom lens), the 24-1,000mm range should be more than enough for most users. It bests the Canon SX50 though in terms of the electronic viewfinder, so we'd be inclined to recommend this over it.

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