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I first came across the Fuji HS30EXR when I began researching specifications on what would soon be my next camera.
Previously I had been using the s1000fd, one of Fuji's older bridge cameras so I was by now familiar with the menus and build of their models, which always helps when upgrading to a shiny new piece of kit.
So, what is a bridge camera? To those of you used to automatic compact point'n'shoot cameras, the first thing you will notice is that bridge cameras often look more like larger professional DSLR models. And yes, the size of the lens on bridge cameras often mean that their housing takes a step up. The lens itself is fixed and the better bridge models have an impressive range of zoom available, this often means that they can offer the same range as expensive DSLR lenses. In this case, the HS30EXR definitely performs closer to that of a DSLR, especially in its Auto EXR mode. Those with little or no experience of manual photography settings will still be able to use the camera as a point'n'shoot in this mode, producing really great shots. Its 30x optical zoom has a manual barrel operation so instead of pushing a button to zoom in, you twist the barrel of the lens to get in close to the subject. At the top end of the zoom, I would always recommend using a tripod as even with the most professional cameras, shaking will occur and spoil those fantastic super-zoom images. The HS30EXR also hosts a focus ring closer in to the body of the camera which you can turn until you get the perfect crisp focus once zoomed in on a subject. I'd say this is the only thing that annoys me about this camera as it can be awkward to get a grip on the focus ring when using a tripod. Nonetheless, still a very useful feature to have. In brief, the zoom range is 24-720mm.
When shooting you have a variety of viewing options, the 3inch LCD screen is ample enough to get a decent preview of your shot, there is an electronic viewfinder which can be used when sun glare obscures the screen, or you can tilt the LCD screen out from the body of the camera. The electronic viewfinder has a sensor so when you put the camera up to your eye, it shifts to the viewfinder which removes the need to change settings. A nice touch and can save time. The tilting screen flips down and up, sadly not to the side but gives you the option to shoot at waist level or overhead shots without guesswork.
Now to the menu options and various functions available. As mentioned, the Auto EXR mode is very intuitive and the cameras sensor picks up the information it needs from the environment you're shooting in to alter the settings for your perfect shot. This is where bridge cameras really come into their own. A good model like the HS30EXR can produce some really great shots, less successful models struggle to judge the environment correctly and images can be grainy or overexposed.
As your photography skills improve, you will want to utilise the manual settings on the camera - after all, isn't that the main reason people opt for bridge cameras? I'm so glad the Auto function works well on this camera as it would be a shame to have such a great piece of kit lacking in the basics. There are some helpful features on this camera, including the ability to 'bracket' shots. The camera will take three shots simultaneously, each at a different exposure so when your guesswork is a little off, there will be three images to choose from.
Other intelligent modes on this camera include modes which cater for low light, portrait, depth of field - there is even a dedicated mode for taking photos of your dog! On the thumb dial you will also be able to flick between modes where you take control of one aspect such as exposure. It really is a great camera designed with amateurs in mind but with the necessary spec that will ensure you will be taking manual shots with ease.
The panoramic mode is fun to use, enabling 360 degree views simply by shooting and panning the camera round to take in the view. Very nice images produced using a tripod in panoramic mode. At the other end of the scale, we have a nice macro/super macro function, allowing you to get within 1cm of subject for nicely detailed images. Most of the fun I've had with the HS30EXR has been pushing it to these creative extremes: macro, long exposure and super-zoom.
Movie mode allows you to zoom in and out in 1080HD and produces some really nice footage, an added bonus in my opinion as I'm not always fond of the movie modes on digital cameras.
16mp images also mean plenty of detail and image quality. Another thing that influenced my decision to upgrade is the option to shoot images in RAW format. Shooting in RAW is ideal if you plan to tweak the image in programs like Photoshop, it produces an unprocessed image to enable you more creative control over your snaps. Not everyone will need it but in keeping with its other spec, it's aimed at the amateur who wants more out of their kit.
Nice extras include decent strap, lens cap and hood and you also have an option to add filters onto the lens (58mm thread). When purchased, it also included Li-ion battery and charger, AV and USB cables to hook up and transfer to your computer or tv. The camera also boasts a hotshoe on top of the flash, the ability to expand with this camera is really appealing and definitely places it at the upper end of bridge cameras.
I had been using a small Canon digital camera for the past few years and whilst it took great holiday snaps, I started to crave more creative control with my pictures and also wanted to increase their overall quality. The HS30EXR is perfect in this regard, as it is not as expensive or complex as a DSLR and so will not overwhelm anyone who is familiar with digital photography of any sorts. At the same time there is fantastic scope for creative control with settings that allow for manual control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and so this allows for progression as you photography becomes more of a serious hobby!
The standard Auto mode takes fantastic photos straight out the box and there is a plethora of scene modes for no-nonsense automatic adjustments to suit the subject matter in hand. This is particularly useful in EXR AUTO mode which senses what the scene is and adjusts the settings to suit! A step up in quality from other Auto modes.
The zoom on this camera is also fantastic, allowing you to get a lot closer to wildlife than you would be able to with a smaller camera. Of course with this extra zoom and image quality comes size, but the included neck strap is a very useful addition and allows for portability not to become too much of an issue!
Overall a fantastic camera, and one i would thoroughly recommend!