The HS in the HS10's name stands for High Speed, so you'd expect the camera's overall performance to be pretty impressive, however the 4.2 seconds that it takes to start up and take the first shot is very slow even for a big super-zoom. In single shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.2 seconds, which is barely above average, however in continuous shooting mode it can shoot a burst of seven full-resolution shots at 10fps, or six shots in Raw mode.
The autofocus system is accurate and reliable, and operates well in low light, even in very low light thanks to a good AF assist lamp, but it's not particularly fast, taking nearly a second to focus even in good light. It takes the same time regardless of the zoom setting though. I've no doubt that the camera's overall performance is mostly limited by the speed of the AF system.
The lens is not only extremely powerful, it is also of surprisingly high quality. The edge-to-edge sharpness is much better than I expected, given the slightly lacklustre performance of some previous Fuji optics, and it produces none of the chromatic aberration that has plagued previous Fuji super-zoom cameras. Barrel distortion at wide angle is automatically digitally corrected, but without the corner blurring that this process usually produces. The level of recorded detail is very good, and the relatively low compression preserves most of it. Shooting in Raw mode produces even better results.
One of the claimed advantages of back-illuminated sensors is improved dynamic range, but to be honest I couldn't see much sign of this with the HS10. Dynamic range isn't bad, and is especially good at preserving highlight detail, but shadow detail is still lacking unless the dynamic range booster option is used, only available at ISO settings of 400 or higher. Colour reproduction is always a Fuji strong point though, and the HS10 produces superb results, with rich saturated tones, smooth colour gradients and plenty of detail.
Improved noise reduction is also a supposed benefit of a back-illuminated sensor, but again it's hard to see any advantage. The HS10 produces very good image quality at up to 400 ISO, but after that the quality drops off quickly, losing a lot of fine detail at 800 ISO and colour saturation starting to fade from 1600. The maximum 6400 ISO produces very poor results.
The Fujifilm FinePix HS10 is a technological tour-de-force, cramming as many features as possible into one camera. It is well made, pleasant to handle and offers the kind of versatility usually only possible with a DSLR kit. Many of its features are useful, but some are mere novelties. The lens is of good quality, but the slow autofocus and barely-above-average image quality make the high price off-putting.