The HS20 takes its design cues directly from a traditional DSLR and the overall dimensions are exactly the same as its predecessor. It’s not a particularly small or lightweight camera, and it’s even possible to find entry-level DSLRs that are about the same size. Of course to obtain the same kind of telephoto power on a DSLR that the HS20 possesses would require you to fit a fairly huge lens.
The finger grip is deep and rubberised, which allows you to get a firm and secure hold of the HS20, even with just the one hand. This is further aided by a contoured thumb-rest on the back. This thoughtful approach extends to the other side of the body where the body benefits from further rubberised finishing, allowing both hands to get a good grip.
Buttons are nicely spaced and it’s good to see a generous number of quick-access buttons for regularly used settings, such as EV compensation, ISO and AF mode. We also like the small operation dial (the one next to the shooting mode dial) that allows you to easily change settings with your thumb.
We’re big fans of the manually operated zoom too. Not only because it makes precise framing so much easier than having to fiddle around with a spring-loaded switch, but also because it’s far, far quicker going from one zoom extreme to the other. This quickness means you’ll be ready to frame and shoot in an instant, whatever situation you’re faced with.
Or at least you would be, if only the camera was a bit more responsive and a bit quicker. We timed the HS20’s start-up time – the time taken from being switched off to being focused and ready to capture – at a rather sloth-like 3.5 seconds, which significantly trails those equivalent DSLRs.
Autofocus performance isn’t particularly quick either, with a slight delay perceptible between the act of half-pressing the shutter button and the AF system actually kicking into gear. It’s not a huge delay – we’re talking tenths of seconds here – but it is noticeable, even when the camera is used in good light. Once the AF system gets past this small hiccup, however, it’s actually pretty fast to achieve focus.
Processing speed depends largely on the settings used and the complexity of the recorded scene. Regular 16MP JPEGs shot on the Fine detail option take a couple of seconds to fully process, although the HS20’s buffer will allow you to carry on shooting before this processing has finished. Shooting in Raw does slow things down though, and if you’re shooting JPEG and Raw simultaneously, then you can expect to be able to shoot about two images in succession before the HS20 locks up for around five seconds while the buffer clears.
The 3inch LCD monitor on the back of the HS20 sees a notable upgrade over the HS10, with the new 460k-dot monitor offering much better performance with sharper images and better punchier colours. Sadly though, the same cannot be said of the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF).
According to the Fujifilm website, the HS20’s EVF even sees a minor reduction in resolution from the HS10’s – down from 220k-dots to 200k-dots. In practice it’s really quite horrible to use – on the plus side there’s an eye-sensor that automatically turns it on and off, but otherwise it’s small and poky, all colour is completely washed out and the viewable image suffers from all manner of flickering and juddering, something that gets progressively worse as the available light deteriorates.
While we are willing to concede that the EVF could help out in bright sunshine where the LCD screen is hard to see, it really doesn’t add to the camera’s overall appeal. In fact, if this is the best that Fujifilm can do then they’d probably be better off removing the EVF altogether from the HS20.
Moving swiftly on to battery performance, the HS20 doesn’t come with a proprietary rechargeable Li-ion battery. Instead it uses 4x regular AA batteries that slot inside the chunky finger-grip (could this be the reason it’s so large? We think it might.). Battery performance will vary depending on the type and quality of battery being used, but we’d certainly recommend investing in a set of decent rechargeable batteries. During the course of our test we used 4x regular Duracell batteries – enough to leave us with power to spare after over 300 captures.