HS50 now available, but is it for you?


Whats in a name?

When we think Bridge Camera, we are looking to buy a camera that really is a transitional piece of equipment pitched between the super zoom compacts and the entry level DSLR’s.

For me at least there are two main distinctions when considering buying bridge cameras. One being that it needs to basically mimic the DSLR design cues and two it should ( read must ) have a manual zoom lens. These cameras are designed for the advanced amateur/prosumer who wants something that fits between compacts and DSLR’s

This can be simply be because a lot of people don’t want the extra lenses and their attendant weight, but do want the extra reach that the bridge-camera affords the user. It could be that the inherent Point & Click functionality that’s also available, for other family members who want a good camera but aren’t interested in the finer points of photography. Whatever the reason it is likely that the user who buys this camera will already have some idea of what they want from it.

Does Size Matter?

Yes, for me at least it does. I’m not talking about the sensor but rather the actual physical size of the camera. I have large hands (cant do much about that 🙂 ) so using a small compact of any sort is not going to happen. We have had them in the past and its always been a pain try to use them as they seem to be made for very tiny hands.

So yes size does matter as does weight. The camera should have a good heft about it as some of the areas I go need something that can take a knock or two and be able to stand up to some wear and tear. A good deep handgrip is essential, and this has been one of the bones of contention in regard to similar cameras from other manufacturers, although I’m pleased to see there has been some movement in this area in the last year or so. However Fuji for me has always provided the best handgrip /weight ratio of all the available bridge-cameras.

At least  with the HS series & XS1 they all have a good grip with well placed buttons and dials. And the HS50 follows in this manner too.

Just for a bit of a visual guide here is a comparison of three Fuji cameras HS20 , HS50, and XS1 with the Pentax K30 added with a reasonable walkabout lens. The K30 is there as its physically similar to the HS20 and shows that good top quality DSLR’s aren’t necessarily the huge behemoths that people sometimes think they are.

4way comparison

The Lens

Perhaps the other most important element with the Bridge-camera is the quality of the lens. There’s nothing like having good glass, and while the likes of the Fuji F900 and its competitors have usually got a reasonable lens, there’s no substitute for a good quality, full sized lenses.

I have to wonder though as to just how good a 1/2 sensor is really going to be at 1000mm, given that we know that the HS series had issues with softness and lack of definition, when used at full tele on distant subjects, a pet peeve of mine too.

Personally I think it’s a mistake, 660mm is more than adequate for most people ( other than the odd wildlife photographer) for most purposes. It could be that the HS50 could well have had benefited from improving the overall IQ rather than extending the zoom range. As ever time will tell.

The Sensor.

Still a 1/2 EXR sensor as were its predecessors, but with the added benefit of Phase Detect AF as well as the more standard ( for bridge cameras) Contrast AF. The sensor has be changed from a backside illuminated to front side illuminated sensor to allow for the new AF mode. Users are reporting that the camera when used in the HR mode seems to deliver increased detail when compared to the DR mode. Others disagree, so at this point it’s fair to say that the jury is still out on this issue.

The Price

Now here’s the bit that is going to make it hard to choose which camera is best suited to your purpose. You need to decide what your primary purpose for a camera such as these really is. For example if you are going on Safari then reach is probably the most important issues as is fast snappy AF. IQ most likely is secondary.

If you are looking to do Macro work and want a zoom-able lens with topnotch IQ, you may be better off with something else  The zoom and Macro is good on the HS cameras, but the IQ can be difficult to achieve. Trust me I know. It took hundreds of macros to get 20 keepers for the Bees Collection. I found myself time and time again wishing for IQ at least as good as the XS1 or DSLR.

The current price shown  $800.00 NZD. Pleasingly cheaper than I had imagined but not quite there price wise. For example a number of retailers have the XS1 available for $880.00NZD or there abouts as we all know the XS1 is by far best in class for bridge cameras.

Then there the likes of Sony’s Nex 5, currently on sale with an 18-55mm lens for $560.00. The Sony would be the better camera in every-way compared to the HS50. In this battle the only point in the HS50’s favor is the all in one lens and its reach.

Alternately you can get a :

Canon EOS 600D + 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS

Or:

Canon 1100d twin lens kit 

As an entry level DSLR these are a fairly good starting point, with IQ and performance that is going to be measurably better than the Fujis. Providing you can live with the two lens kit this is a pretty amazing price for a DSLR and if you look around there are sometimes better pricing than this, all for less than the price of a new HS50!

So no matter what you buy, make sure its going to do the job for you personally. Its no good buying a camera with inferior IQ if IQ is your primary criteria, so you need to give it a good think before jumping in. When you do purchase, make sure you have fun with the camera. If it isn’t enjoyable and easy to use it will become frustrating and end up in the second hand auction, which is always going to be a let down. Above all, Have Fun and take lots of photos.

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