Fujifilm HS25EXR

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I’ve been fascinated with photography for a long time. I did study it during college and I did own a Minolta SLR. I’ve been able to use a few DSLR’s from friends and family and I did own a few digital point and shoot cameras. This is the first time that I got something inbetween a point and shoot and DSLR cameras. This is the Fujifilm HS25EXR. Let’s see how it fares for me.

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I was never comfortable with how traditional SLRs felt like, it’s a lot of guess work. Before you can get a result, you have to develop the film first, which can take an hour or more. You can waste an entire film and never get a proper shot. I really wanted to learn photography which was one of the courses I went through in college and I even took a summer course for it. Also, my family and friends get tired of waiting for me to set up the camera.

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Of course during the following years I was able to own some point and shoot digital cameras. Which felt very comfortable because of the preview function, but I always felt so limited on what I can and cannot do. My most frustrating feeling is that most point and shoot cameras doesn’t have a manual focus. Because of this, it can get a little frustrating what you are focusing on. Another frustration I found is the flash, I don’t like using direct flash since it makes a lot of images flat.
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Now my brother sent me a new camera called the Fujifilm HS25EXR. This camera can be bought locally at around PhP13,000 to PhP14,000. This camera is not a DSLR, but it’s called a bridge camera. A basic DSLR camera can cost around PhP19,000 and higher (something like PhP150,000 or even higher). The price for this camera is a closer to mid range point and shoot, but the advantage of this is the extreme zoom function, manual focus and the flash attachment. Most point and shoot cameras don’t have those features and most bridge cameras don’t even have a flash attachment or even a manual focus.

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The HS25EXR with the EF-42 hotshoe flash.

This is a replacement for my Olympus Camedia 60 which is a point and shoot camera (originally priced at PhP20,000 when it was first released). I’ve owned the camera for like more than 2 years now and the camera was released in 2004. So, I’ll be comparing that more, although at a different category. I know it might be an unfair comparison, but I really don’t have that much cameras to play around with. I may even compare it to a Nixon D5100 since I was able to borrow that for a while (priced at PhP21,000).
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First thing, it does look like a DSLR. That’s the first thing you’ll notice. Anyone who sees it would think it was one. If you are a professional photographer, you’ll only notice that it’s not a DSLR because the lens is not removable. This is impressive since some bridge cameras don’t look as good. Another thing is that this bridge camera is capable of attaching an external flash which is generally uncommon with these types of cameras. The weight is pretty good, a tad heavy, but not as heavy as a Nixon D5100.
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The HS25EXR is very similar to a higher model which is the HS30EXR. The main difference is that the HS30EXR uses a rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries, a clearer view finder and has a lens hood. While the HS25EXR uses 4 AA batteries, a low resolution view finder and no lens hood. Also, they say that the HS30EXR has a faster response with the manual focus, but still not as good as an actual DSLR.
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First thing you’ll be playing around it is the manual zoom. It lens starts from 24mm to 720mm and it can get pretty amazing when you try it, especially with a good day light. The basic package lens for the Nikon 5100 is a 18mm to 55mm. While the Olympus C-60 has 38mm to 114mm. For DSLR’s getting a zoom lens similar to the HS25EXR can get really expensive, it might even cost you something like PhP50,000. That is what makes this camera amazing. For the price that you pay for, you get so much out of it. Yeah, it’s not a DSLR, but you still get a great zoom lens. You can get so much detail even if your subjects are pretty far from you. If you try using the zoom on a slightly dark area, that can get a little tricky, the view finder gets a little choppy making focusing a little harder especially when you keep trying to use EXR or Auto mode. Trying the zoom at night time can get difficult. The only problem using the zoom is that when you try the farthest zoom setting, it seems that processing takes a hit. Sometimes, some pictures looks like you used a digital zoom instead of actually using a real zoom lens. Although, if you can get used to using the manual settings at night, it’s actually pretty good.
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Okay, now we focus on using it. Well, this time it is so much better than my old Olympus C-60 since the old camera only does auto focus. I’ve also used some SLRs, so I’m used to using the focus ring. And I have used the Nikon D5100 before I was able to get the HS25. When you use the manual focus, the entire screen focuses on a small center portion of the image, which kinda blurs everything you see. You try to focus the image while turning the focus ring. What caught me off guard is that the focus on the HS25EXR feels like a hit or miss. It’s does feel like the focus is purely digital, but it doesn’t feel natural. If you want to get good focused shots at night, it will take some time before getting the shot properly. If you’re in a rush, it can get a little frustrating. Although the auto focus isn’t so bad, since the camera projects a light which it tries to focus on, but of course, if you want to get a certain effect, the auto focus is not the only option.
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The next thing I experimented was the EXR mode. The camera has a lot of similar settings as most cameras but the EXR is something that stands out for Fujifilm’s cameras. This mode is specifically made for automatic shooting and it chooses the best setting for any particular shot. Although, it still is a hit or miss, but it is so much better than my Olympus. My only problem with the EXR mode is that you really don’t have much options except for High Resolution, Wide Dynamic Range and High Sensitivity/Low noise. From then on, it can use almost any setting without your control. But I did notice that in daylight, results can be outstanding, at night time, it can be varied from good to bad. I enjoy the fact that it’s great to use for family pics indoor night time, since I don’t use the flash but still has great results. But ISO settings can vary, to the point that some pictures can get quite grainy. Still, the performance is still so much better than my Olympus C-60 even at night time. A lot of friends of mine were surprised that I was able to get a proper image without relying on flash.
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The problem with the EXR is that it doesn’t process large images properly. At an initial glance, it might look pretty good, but zooming in, it shows that the details are quite muddy. I read from another website that the EXR is having problems processing large sized images. So if you want to keep a better quality image, just keep it on medium instead of large. I also presume that since the HS25 can’t do RAW images, the camera’s post processing is making it worse. What ever you do, JPEG is the only output, which always produces some pixelation on images.
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I also experimented with taking pictures of fireworks during the new year. It was quite challenging actually. I tried taking pictures using auto mode first, and I checked the settings on how it did the shot. Then I experimented on my own using the auto as my baseline. As previously mentioned, taking these night shots, especially when the environment is pretty dark, it really has a hard time. I do suggest using a tripod at this point. I also noticed that the camera has a limit of long exposures. The lower the iso setting, the longer I can use the long exposure. The higher the iso, the shorter the long exposure. So it kind of limits the effects that I want to do.
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I also compared my pictures against the Olympus C-60 using long exposures up to 8 seconds. I focused on the shine on the Christmas balls. The shine was perfect on the C-60, but the HS25 had an effect that I really didn’t like. At first I thought there was something wrong with my shot, but after talking with some friends who knew more photography than I do, it seems that I did nothing wrong. The camera lens was just not the same quality. The C-60 has a slight advantage over the HS24 in terms of the lens alone. Also, lens flares can look a little off, which gives a little purple color. From what I understand, this is a protective coating, a similar coating used on the iPhone 5 (I might be wrong). So if you plan to use lens flares as part of you picture, you really have to take your time or you might not get the effect that you intended.
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An added feature of this camera is basically the video. I know video is not really that interesting since video recording has been around for so long since digital cameras were able to handle it. What made this stand out is that it can still take pictures while taking a video. So you can focus on taking a home video while you still want to take stills. Although you can do this in post processing while using a software called VLC on your computer, but it’s nice to have that option. Also, there is a priority setting for video or images. Remember, you can still use the zoom while recording video. Another interesting thing is that, you can set up the video to record in slow motion.
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I really enjoy the camera. It has it’s flaws like the effect of the lens, the limit on long exposures and such. But overall, the quirks are so minor especially when you compare the price range of the camera.  It’s great for taking pictures during the daytime, it’s quick and responsive and it has an amazing zoom. You do have to take some time to get the right effect at night, but most cameras are like that anyway. I even like the auto function even at night because if you just need an immediate shot, not for artistic uses, it can give you nice results. You can even take videos while taking pictures. For an all around camera and considering the price that you get for it, it’s a pretty good deal.
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The video below is a good example why I really like the Fujifilm HS25EXR.

References:

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