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Fujifilm's 2013 lineup of 'bridge' cameras brings extreme telephoto capabilities to the masses

Fujifilm's 2013 lineup of 'bridge' cameras brings extreme telephoto capabilities to the masses

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Fujifilm HS50ESX
Fujifilm HS50ESX

Fujifilm has just introduced a fleet of new "bridge" cameras at CES, with planned availability this March. All of these cameras lack interchangeable lens, but offer functionality and flexibility closer to what you'll find in a DSLR or mirrorless camera than a point-and-shoot. The flagship model in this new crop of shooters is the $549.95 HS50EXR, a camera that focuses on speed and an incredible zoom range that looks essentially like most entry-level DSLRs on the market, but without the benefit of swappable lenses.

The lens you do get sounds pretty impressive, at first glance — it features a huge 42X zoom range, good for an equivalent 24mm-1000mm focal range in a DSLR. Users will be able to focus manually, but the camera also boasts autofocus speed of 0.05 seconds. We haven't tried this out for ourselves yet, and we doubt the camera will achieve that quick autofocus lock under all circumstances, but we're looking forward to finding out for ourselves on the CES show floor this week. Other lens features include built-in optical image stabilization, a maximum aperture range between f/2.8 and f/5.6 (depending on focal length), and a macro mode that allows for shooting at distances as close as 0.39 inches throughout the full zoom range.

Fuji is giving the bridge segment a lot of love this year

The HS50EXR also features a new CMOS II sensor and processor that help speed up the camera's performance. While the sensor features the same 16-megapixel resolution as last year's HS20EXR, this new combo speeds things up significantly — the camera has a 0.5 second startup time, a 0.5 second interval time between shots in standard mode, and 11FPS continuous shooting speed at full resolution — though that only lasts through the first five frames.

Users will find both a 920,000 dot rear LCD that can swivels out from the camera body as well as a 3-inch, 920,000 dot electronic viewfinder with a switch to seamlessly transition between the LCD and viewfinder. Fujifilm touts the swiveling screen as a major boon for video shooters, who should also appreciate the new external mic jack. The HS50EXR features the now-standard 1080p resolution at up to 60FPS.

How does a 50X zoom lens strike you?

Fujifilm will also be offering a very similar but more affordable model, the $399.95 HS35EXR. It includes most of the same features as the HS50EXR, but it "only" has a 30X zoom lens (good for 24mm-720mm). It's also not quite as enticing to video shooters — it can only reach 30FPS in 1080p mode, lacks the external mic jack, and the LCD doesn't swivel out like the one on the HS50EXR. Users will have to make do with tilting action and a 460,000-dot resolution. For those uninterested in shooting video, however, the camera will offer a lot for its price point compared to its more expensive sibling.

While the HS50EXR attempts to offer a combination of manual controls, huge zoom range, and speed, the new SL1000 goes for broke on one specific feature: a built in zoom lens with a whopping 50X range. That's good for an equivalent range of 24mm-1200mm, the type of lens you'd never find for a DLSR and is unavailable on other bridge-style cameras as well. The SL1000's lens is a "power zoom" model, so it won't offer the DSLR-style manual focus and zooming controls, but it does offer dual zoom controls — you can zoom using the power controls on the side or the more standard barrel-controlled zoom.

Fujifilm's HS50EXR and HS35EXR 'bridge' camera press photos


Given the lens's extreme focal range, it's a good thing that optical image stabilization is included, and the lens also features the same 0.39-inch macro focusing distance as the HS50EXR. We're also pleasantly surprised to find that this camera includes an electronic viewfinder with the same 920,000-dot resolution as its more expensive counterpart. Other features like the 16-megapixel sensor (which is a smaller BSI-CMOS sensor compared to the version in the HS50EXR), 3-inch tilting LCD, and 1080i movie mode are competitive with other cameras in the SL1000's $399.95 price point, the real draw here is the extreme zoom — if you want an affordable camera with unheard of telephoto ranges, this camera fits the bill.

Fujifilm is also offering affordable versions of the SL1000 that lack the extreme zoom range — the S8200 and S8300 feature 40x and 42x power zoom lenses with focal ranges of 24mm-960mm and 24mm-1,008mm, respectively. They both use the same 16MP sensor as the SL1000 and feature autofocus and startup times, but nothing that should be a significant issue for its target market.

Befitting their position as less expensive options, the LCD on these models is fixed in place with no tilt or swivel features and has a lower 460,000-dot resolution compared to the 920,000-dot resolution in the SL1000. The electronic viewfinder also takes a significant hit - its resolution is only 200,000 dots, compared to the 920,000-dot viewfinder in the higher-end camera. The S8200 and S8300 will cost $299.95 and $309.95, respectively. For only 10 bucks more, it seems a no-brainer to go with the S8300's extra zoom range — in fact, we're hard-pressed to understand why Fujifilm is even bothering to offer two different models.