The Bottom Line
The Fujfilm FinePix HS20EXR is a powerful ultra-zoom camera, offering an impressive 30X optical zoom lens. Its image quality is very good for the most part, and, while the autofocus works quickly, the HS20 does suffer a little bit from shutter lag, which does negatively affect some images.
The HS20EXR is a large camera, and it has some features like a DSLR camera, including several dedicated buttons for accessing specific manual-control features, such as ISO and white balance.
In my FinePix HS20 review, I thought it was a very nice camera, but its almost $500 price tag is probably a bit too high.
The FinePix HS20EXR's image quality, for the most part, is really good. In photos with really good lighting, the HS20EXR (which is called the HS22EXR in some parts of the world) offers great results and extremely sharp images. Colors are very accurate and bright with this camera.
If the lighting is a bit low, though, the camera will have some blurry photos, and the focus might not be quite as sharp. I would have given this camera a better star rating if its image quality was a little more consistently good.
However, the HS20's popup flash works very well, and it yields excellent flash photographs, but you must open the flash manually. If you aren't sure whether you should use a flash, the camera has a scene mode where it will shoot one photo with a flash and one without back to back. You then can select the photo that turns out better.
You can shoot at three different aspect ratios with this camera (16:9, 4:3, and 3:2), and you can shoot at three different resolutions within each ratio.
Several special effects are available with the FinePix HS20EXR, including black and white, sepia, vivid, and soft. It would be nice if a few more effects were available.
If you're looking for some manual control features in an ultra-zoom camera, the FinePix HS20EXR has plenty of them. The camera includes many specific buttons aimed at accessing specific manual-control features, but the buttons are really small and not well marked, which could be confusing for beginners. By contrast, the HS20EXR's four-way button is large, well-marked, and raised away from the camera body, making it easy to use.
One nice feature for beginners is the fact that as you turn the mode dial, an explanation of each feature appears on the LCD screen. The HS20 works extremely well in automatic mode, too, which is nice for beginners, and you can shoot in Auto or EXR Auto (where the camera selects the best settings as well as the best image size).
The HS20EXR includes both a viewfinder and an LCD for framing photos, which is a great feature. Even better, the viewfinder automatically turns on each time you lift the camera to your eye. The high-resolution LCD is extremely nice, too, as it can tilt and swivel away from the camera for framing odd-angle photos. You can select from 11 different brightness levels with the LCD, which is great for choosing between enhancing performance or conserving battery life.
You can use a dedicated movie button to shoot full HD video. The zoom is available when shooting a movie, but the autofocus is very sluggish when using the zoom, which will harm your movie's quality.
For an ultra-zoom camera, which is naturally larger than most point and shoot cameras, the FinePix HS20EXR is especially heavy, thanks in part to the fact that it uses four AA batteries, rather than a molded Li-Ion rechargeable battery. I don't really like this feature for an already large camera, although you can find batteries easily when traveling. I'd recommend using rechargeable lithium AA batteries with this model to save some money in the long run; only use alkaline, throw-away batteries when the rechargeable batteries are exhausted, and you need to shoot a few additional photos.
The HS20 does conserve some battery power, because its 30X zoom lens must be moved manually. If you're used to shooting with digital cameras -- most of which have an automatic, powered zoom switch -- using a manual zoom will seem odd, but you can move through the zoom very quickly this way.
As with most DSLR-like, ultra-zoom cameras, Fujifilm is only offering the FinePix HS20EXR in a black camera body.
Finally, one odd design feature places the power switch for the camera near the shutter button. It looks like and is located in a spot where most digital cameras have their automatic zoom switch. While testing this model, I found myself reaching for the zoom switch a couple of times, just out of habit, even though I knew this camera didn't have an automatic zoom switch, and I instead turned off the camera.