As many of my readers know, my wife Abby and I love to travel, usually in the adventure playground of the American southwest. Over the years we have explored and photographed everything from the haunting slot canyons of southern Utah to the soaring 14,000-foot peaks of Colorado, from the pearl blue skies of New Mexico to the light show of the Las Vegas strip. All of those adventures are centered around photographing these amazing places.
As the years have passed, she and I have tried various solutions for carrying what we need, from basic survival supplies like food and water, to the cameras with which to shoot the landscapes. As time has passed, I have gravitated toward simpler, lighter, smaller solutions, including a one-camera shooting scheme, with cameras that have recently been dubbed “superzoom” cameras due to their increasingly large zoom range. This is particularly significant to me since I carry and shoot multiple big, heavy digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras every day in my job as a photojournalist.
In 2009, I bought the Fuji S200EXR with that in mind, and found that while I was mostly able to use it in most situations as my one-camera solution, it did pose a few drawbacks. (Follow this link and this link to trips that I shot exclusively with the S200EXR). Recently I was poking around the internet, half-heartedly looking for a replacement for this excellent but slightly limiting camera, and last week I decided I had found it: the Fujifilm Finepix HS30EXR, and after discovering that it was amazingly affordable, I ordered one for each of us.
My requirements for a travel camera are:
- A lens with mechanical zoom and focus rings (as opposed to the rocker zoom switches on most small cameras)
- An electronic viewfinder as well as the monitor on the back of the camera
- A fairly wide angle of view at the wide end, with at least some telephoto ability
- Lithium batteries (which was a deal breaker for the last two generations of Fuji cameras, which took AA batteries)
- Both RAW and JPEG file formats
- High-definition video, thus replacing the need for a separate video camera
- Image quality that, while it might not rival DSLR cameras, gives me something with which I can make beautiful images, even if it means a little more post-processing
- The handling and feel of a DSLR
The S200EXR came close to all that, particularly in terms of handling and image quality. Some of my favorite images in my recently produced travel book were made with that camera. Its drawbacks were the wide angle end, which, at 30.5mm equivalent, was never quite wide enough, and the standard-definition video quality. The HS30EXR addresses those failings and adds even more on the telephoto end of the lens, even more menu options and features, and is noticeably smaller and lighter than the already compact S200EXR.
The cameras arrived today, and my initial assessments of handling, feel, fit and finish are excellent. I’m sure I’ll make some test images as the next weeks pass, but the real test for this machine will be the next time I am on the trail, hopefully early this spring. Watch this space!