At its heart the HS20 uses a 1/2.3-inch, 16-megapixel EXR CMOS sensor – exactly the same one that’s used in the Fujifilm F550 EXR travel compact. This chip benefits from being backside-wired, an arrangement that allows more light to reach the individual photo diodes, thereby increasing the performance of the sensor in low-light. In addition, it also benefits from Fuji’s EXR sensor technology that employs a triple-layer pixel array, which allows the sensor to optimise for resolution, sensitivity or dynamic range, depending on the scene it’s faced with.
Still images can be recorded at a maximum 4608 x 3456 pixels in the default 4:3 aspect, with further options to record at 8MP and 4MP at 4:3. Other aspect options include 3:2 up to a maximum 14MP resolution of 4608 x 3072 pixels and 16:9 up to a maximum 12MP at 4608 x 2592 pixels. In addition to Fine and Normal JPEG quality settings the HS20 can also be set to record images as lossless Raw files (.RAF format) or even Raw JPEG.
This 16MP EXR sensor is backed up by Fuji’s multi-core EXR image processor that allows for some seriously speedy shooting in both stills and video mode. Indeed, high-speed shooting has become something of a trademark of Fuji superzooms in recent years, and while the HS20’s more densely populated sensor prevents it from reaching the dizzying speeds of its predecessor (owing to the larger files it generates) it’s still capable of an impressive 8fps continuous shooting at full 16MP resolution, rising to 11fps at 8MP.
Movies get the same high-speed treatment too, with the ability to record VGA-resolution movies at 80fps, QVGA-resolution movies at 160fps, or even 320 x 112-pixel movies at 320fps – all of which will play back in varying degrees of slow-motion on a computer or compatible device. If you’d prefer to opt for quality over speed then the HS20 duly obliges with a maximum 1920 x 1080p Full HD movies at 30fps, or 720p HD movies at 60fps.
As per the Taking advantage of this speed, the HS20 offers an above average range of bracketing options – from standard exposure bracketing to film simulation and dynamic range bracketing too.
As is the norm with advanced superzoom models, the HS20 offers the regular quartet of semi- and fully manual shooting modes: Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual (PASM). Looking further around the dial there’s also an Automatic (scene recognition) point-and-shoot mode, along with 17 individual Scene mode options – two of which can be assigned direct-access points on the shooting mode dial.
In addition to these standard options, the HS20 also offers two Advanced shooting modes, along with three EXR-specific modes. While these modes do have their benefits they all produce images at a lower overall resolution than the standard shooting modes, up to a maximum 8MP.
Turning first to the Advanced shooting modes: the portrait-orientated Pro Focus mode and the noise-reducing Pro Low-Light mode. Both options take advantage of the camera’s high-speed shooting abilities by taking multiple exposures in quick succession with a single shutter press before combining them to produce images with a shallower depth of field (Pro Focus mode) or less noise (Pro Low-Light mode).
On the other hand, the three EXR shooting options – High Resolution, Dynamic Range Priority and High ISO & Low Noise – all exploit the characteristics of Fuji’s proprietary sensor to achieve their goals.
The first of these, High Resolution, uses the full 16-megapixels to deliver images that can be blown up to poster-sized prints. The Dynamic Range Priority option, meanwhile, optimises the camera for better results in high-contrast scenes, while the High ISO & Low Noise mode offers greater sensitivity and improved results in low-light conditions. If you’re not sure which one to use, the camera can be set to choose the right setting automatically.
Rounding off the HS20’s range of shooting modes is the Motion Panorama option that allows you to create 120, 180 or 360-degree panoramas with a single button press by simply panning the camera in a preset direction. As far as panoramic technology goes, we find the Fuji option to be only slightly behind Sony’s excellent Sweep Panorama in terms of overall image quality and ease of use. These two are currently way out in front at the moment – other manufacturers have some distance to make up.