I bought a new-to-me camera for my recent trip to Japan, a second-hand Fujifuilm HS30EXR bridge camera outfitted with what is termed a "superzoom" lens. It's the first digital camera I've had with a substantial zoom capability -- my usual pocket camera is a Panasonic LX-3 which takes wonderful low-light pictures with its Leica lens but it has a limited zoom range of about 2.5X and previous cameras I've owned were still under 6X. The HS30EXR as its name suggests has a 30X zoom range with a 35mm film equivalent focal length of 24mm through 720mm. Like most bridge cameras these days it has image stabilisation which helps a lot when using the further reaches of its zoom range making even handheld pictures possible with a little care in holding the camera, bracing the body and some attention to shutter speeds and ISO settings. The trade-off as with most superzooms is that the chip sensor in the camera is quite small, in fact it has a smaller sensor than my pocket-sized LX-3. This eats into its performance in low light and general picture quality despite its claimed 16 megapixel image size. So how did it turn out?
This is a resampled full-frame shot of the Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida, taken at a distance of about a kilometre with a zoom setting of about 40mm equivalent.
Here's a closeup at maximum zoom (720mm) taken from the same location. This is again a full-frame 16MP image, resampled.
This is a full-sized crop from the picture above showing a workman on the structure.
The further reaches of the zoom optics start to show up problems with chromatic aberration, noise etc. which isn't helped by the small sensor chip and somewhat overenthusiatic processing done inside the camera before a compressed JPG file is emitted. The camera does have a RAW mode but it only generates 3MP images. There's also the problems of shooting through a lot of air; it was a warm day when I took these pictures and some of the image degradation was due to mirage, haze and air pollution over a distance of a kilometre. It's still impressive given the range the glass has to work across as well as the "built-down-to-a-price" construction; the whole camera even new cost less than a midrange 70-200mm zoom lens for a DSLR.
I shot this picture hand-held at maximum zoom a few days later (ISO800 at 1/1640s, F5.6), manually focussing and guesstimating the exposure after the auto settings produced overexposed blurs. Not too shabby, I think for a sub-£200 camera.
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