On September 3rd, I boarded a Lufthansa Airbus A380 from Frankfurt to Miami to meet a few friends and spend 12 days on a road trip covering more than 3000 miles though several southern states. 12 days are a short period of time, 3000 miles are a long way and 4 companions with no or little understanding of photography are a combination straight from hell, meaning there would be no time for me to wait for better light, for a particular situation to unfold (aka "the right moment") or to move the camera to a more effective place. It basically meant that I would have to "work" like any simple tourist, shooting pictures spontaneously, without much planning, mostly on the go, usually just taking quick shots while passing by a random subject. Sounds horrible, right? However, isn't this is exactly the situation the vast majority of "photographers" (aka normal people who own and use some kind of camera to take snapshots) will find themselves in when they are going on a trip? Those "normal people" typically don't use sophisticated and expensive camera equipment. They prefer simple (and cheap) compact cameras or "all in one" solutions. Most of them buy cameras to point and shoot, with tiny sensors and enormous zoom range. Cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR, most certainly a "serious compact", yet also a pretty cheap one given its impressive spec sheet: Amazon USA currently lists brand new HS20s for USD 375. Though I also brought a Fujifilm X100 along for this trip, I quickly realized that it wasn't quite appropriate for this particular endeavor and that the HS20 would be more effective. However, I really didn't have much experience with the HS20, though I also own a HS10, which is quite similar. But similar is not the same, especially since I had spent most of the year working with a Fujifilm X100 (which is an altogether different beast) under completely different conditions that didn't even remotely resemble a vacation. Hence, I needed to master a steep learning curve in order to find out how to make the best use out of the HS20, what to do and what to avoid. The HS20 is an EXR camera, using an EXR CMOS sensor featuring modes to enhance image quality by either reducing noise (SN mode) or enhancing dynamic range (DR mode). In both modes, the sensor resolution drops from 16 MP to 8 MP, which is just fine. In order to take advantage of one of the EXR modes in every single shot, I preset the camera resolution to "M" (aka 8 MP), hence automatically activating the EXR functions not only in the camera's dedicated EXR setting, but also in all PASM modes. Interestingly, this particular feature/behavior is not well documented in the user manual and also quite often neglected in reviews of the HS20 and other Fuji EXR sensor cameras. To keep things real and realistic, I only shot in JPEG mode (no RAW, period) and didn't use any accessories such as external flashes, tripods, filters etc., just the plain camera as it came out of the box. Post processing was limited to Apple's iPhoto and, for a few shots, to a simple but effective program called FUNtastic Photos that specifically caters to amateurs who would never dream of using anything resembling Photoshop. I also used several iPhoto compatible plug-ins of Topaz (which are less elaborate than the NIK suite) for black and white conversion and color effects of several shots and for some minor sharpening or denoising. Finally, I didn't allow myself vast amounts of time to post process my pictures. Instead, everything had to be completed and published for my friends on Facebook on the very same day (or night) it was shot. While I had no clue how this experiment would eventually turn out, I was quite pleasantly surprised with the usability and quality of the HS20, given its really tiny sensor. But let's take things one at a time and start with my very first day, just a few hours after arriving in MIA, renting a Ford Expedition from Alamo and driving it to our Westin beach resort hotel in Hollywood.