My HS20 is dying and it seems rather rapidly. Approximately 6 months ago I knocked it off my desk and it landed bottom corner down on a polished wood floor. Not good for a camera of any sort. It seemed to be okay and indeed I have taken a good many photos with it since then. It has travelled with me extensively in the last 6-8 months while I was working with the vegetation control contractors and it took many excellent shots. Over the past month or two however there seems to be a marked decrease in image quality compared to the pre-accident time.

The AF focus now seems to be slightly off in almost every image and there seems also to be a marked increase in noise even at ISO 100. On a recent trip to Auckland I had the time to get some shots of the CBD area of the city from the northern area of the harbour. At about 6 to 7 kms distance this should have been a doddle for the HS20, but none of the 30 or so shots demonstrated particularly sharp focus and decent IQ, no matter what settings I choose. Add to this the fact that I had left the White Balance set to incandescent did not help either, but should not have had much impact on resolution and focus. Below you will see the original and some reworked edits that have been corrected as much as possible for the wrong White Balance settings.

The question now becomes, do I wait until 2013 for the new Fuji models or buy something now. The current contenders would be the Panasonic FZ200 or the Nikon P510 or perhaps the new Pentax X5. The X5 I have previewed in an earlier post seen here.

There is currently a discussion about too very interesting cameras at Dpreview forums (click to go to the discussions)

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new camera these discussion are often informative and views of some very passionate photographers. The arguments can get quite animated at times and not always in a nice way, but there is a lot of good things that come from this sort of debate. The first link above is a very recent discussion with the FZ200 being compared with the Fuji XS-1 and is quite revealing as far as I’m concerned and backs up the misgivings I’ve had about Fuji’s production and design processes for the current crop of the “High end/prosumer “ camera stable.

It concerns me that Fuji have said very little about the likely new range of cameras that they intend to bring to market. Is there going to be a better version of the XS1, X10 and X-Pro1?

Do they think the new offerings in the form of what is basically a detuned X-Pro 1 and a no frills X10 style compact, in a retro format, going to be the way forward for the Fujifilm brand. Most of us will tolerate a little retro in new designs but do we really want something that looks like cameras from the 1940 & 50’s, after all this is the 21st century, so where are the new designs and technology? No announcements or even hints or rumours about new versions have come to light regarding current model upgrades, and yet again Fuji have been well and truly beaten to the market by Panasonic with the FZ200.

Now I would prefer a manual zoom camera, but if for example the FZ200 is a very quick zoomer, which apparently it is, then the next issue for me would be IQ. Image Quality is everything in the bridge camera, and designers are constantly trying to improve that given the limitations of sensor size versus focal length. The FZ200 isn’t the longest  zoom by far, that goes to the Nikon P510 at present at 1000mm equivalent, and while the Nikon isn’t bad at that Fl, it doesnt appear to be anywhere near as good as the Panny, due partly to an excellent f2:8 lens, and the shorter focal length. The constant F2:8 lens is a huge bonus as well for lowlight shooting. Cameras that have (like my HS20 & HS30) a F2:8 to F5:6 lens are now at a distinct disadvantage. At this point I have to concede that the FZ200 is looking very likely to be the replacement for the HS20. I will wait a few months yet to see how the FZ200 goes with new users and the same for the Pentax X5, but to date the Fuji HS30 doesn’t look to be able to compete in the image quality stakes and that’s a big worry for Fuji owners if all we see is an HS40 with slight improvements on the previous models.

Now as promised those less than stellar photos: Click the thumbnails for a full sized image.

Original image with wrong white balance.
Edited & Cropped
Black & White as an alternative. Doesn’t help much with IQ
A final resized version.

Corrected & sharpened, but still not as crisp as it should be.