Late 2011 I decided to buy myself a new compact camera, and after many considerations I ended up buying the new X10 from Japanese manufacturer Fujifilm. Since I know there are probably a lot of you out there wanting to know the pros and cons of this camera I have written this, my very first review ever, of this sexy little thing.
LAST UPDATE – May 21st 2012.
First off I just want to give you a brief insight on my background as photographer. I have been shooting photos for more than 15 years, and out of those I believe the last 10 have been digital. My first digital camera was the Olympus C-5050 and after that, high end compact models from both Canon (G-series), Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm followed. Since 2009 I have however more or less only been using my heavy and space consuming SLR gear in form of the Fujifilm F31D. I also own a Nikon D700 compact camera, but even though this little wonder from 2007 has served me well, there were simply better alternatives with updated technology out there for me. Photography is not my main occupation, but for the last 3-4 years I have had several jobs shooting mainly weddings, company events and portraits.
During the last couple of years I have tried to upgrade by replacing my old Fujifilm F31Dwith a never model. However each time I have been disappointed by mostly image quality and operating speed, and so I ended up returning the cameras to seller. I do not believe that I have unrealistic demands for a compact, but of course I am somewhat coloured by the high quality and speed delivered by a full frame SLR like the D700.
And why do I need a compact? Well like the most of you in the market for a digital compact camera, it was the need for a decent and more practical alternative to the heavy SLR gear. I know the limitations of a compact, so it is not intended to replace my SLR. However I still want the image quality to be of such a quality, that I will have no second thought leaving my SLR gear at home when travelling abroad or going for street photography.
In short these were my criteria when I went shopping:
- High Image Quality
- Decent high ISO performance
- Compact, but still big enough to fit my rather large hand
- Fast operations
- Good selection of manual controls
- Good macro performance
- Zoom and not fixed focal length
So how does the Fujifilm X10 perform?
Design and Ergonomics
In my opinion the Fujifilm X10is one of the nicest looking compacts on the market today. The retro styled magnesium body is very well designed and the buttons a placed in handy positions on both the back and top. As written earlier one of my criterias was to find a camera that would fit my large hand. The X10is a compact camera all right, but it is not small when compared to most other compacts out there. It is just a little bit smaller than the highly popular Fujifilm X100 and I am able to get quite a good grip on the camera. Of course I would get a better grib using a larger camera with better thumb support and a bigger battery box grib, but then again that would also compromise the compactness. The X10 is to big to carry around in the pocket of your jeans but still small enough to carry in the pocket of your jacket.
The camera is fired up by rotating the 28-112mm f/2-2.8 manual zoom lens and this actually works quite well. If you need to play back already recorded images or movies, you do not need to turn the camera on with the zoom ring, instead you just press and hold the “Play” button for a few seconds. The flash pops up when pushing down a small button right below the flash. The option to use fully automated flash without having to manually release the flash first would have been nice, but that said this works fine once you get used to it.
The camera has a clear optical view finder and before I bought the camera I actually thought that coming from the SLR, I would be using this more than the LCD. However I find myself using the LCD more than the viewfinder. It’s mainly because there is no info displayed in the viewfinder and I also feel the LCD gives me a better idea of what the final result will look like (only shows 85%). That said I will probably be using the viewfinder more when going street shooting – it is simply more anonymous and gives you better stability.
The X10features an image-stabilized, retracting 28-112mm equivalent F2.0-2.8 lens. The lens is manually zoomed, more like those on interchangeable lens cameras. The mechanically-driven lens design works great and it gives you a direct and instant control (rather than stepped) over your zooming. A small thing to notice is that when operating the zoom ring your hand could interfere with the view from the viewfinder, but this is simply a question of using the right technique and really not a problem.
I find all buttons and functions to be logically placed and the touch and feel of buttons and dials are of high quality. I have seen a lot of Fujifilm X100and X10 users that buy an additional shutter release button to mount on top of the original one. This should intentionally provide the user with a better feel, but I actually find the “original” shutter release to work perfectly as it is and it gives a good feel and control. The X10 even gives you the opportunity to choose from 4 different shutter sounds or you can turn all sound off and make it completely silent.
The camera comes with a black neck strap, but as you can see from the pictures below I have switched this to a wrist strap from Gordys. The reason why I am using a wrist strap is simply that when travelling or going for street photography the camera will be in my bag (with neck/shoulder strap) anyway.
Features and Functions
The X10′smenu interface is fairly simple and straightforward. It only has two main sections, a Shooting Menu and a Set-Up menu. Once the camera has been configured most of the settings can be done directly on the camera and you do not need to enter the menu (except when formatting).
The X10 has loads of great functions for both manual and automatic photography. Besides your normal P, A, S, M and Auto modes, you also have the possibility to choose from other cool settings. Examples of other features are the ADV mode that offers easy 360 panoramic shooting. Press the shutter button and start spinning around. When you reach 360 or less and release the shutter, the camera will automatically stitch the files together. Below you can see a shot made using the ADV mode (handheld in low light).
Another setting available on the mode dial is the EXR mode. EXR lets you choose between “Resolution Priority”, “High ISO & Low Noise” or “D-Range Priority”. So if you are not really sure how to set the camera for the optimal result, the intelligent EXR mode will do the job for you. Besides the already mentioned modes the X10 also offers 2 custom modes, full HD video recording mode and SP mode featuring 16 predefined settings for shooting like Portrait Enhancer, Landscape, Sport, Night, Fireworks, Sunset, Snow, Party and even Underwater.
Just like choosing the ideal film for your creative look on non-digital cameras, the X10 lets you choose from different film simulations. The true-to-scene natural look of PROVIA, the vibrant tonality and saturated colours of Velvia, and the silky soft look and beautiful skin tones of ASTIA. The X10 makes it simple to take photographs with distinctive and great looking Fuji colours. To replicate the effects of monochrome film photography The X10 also lets you use Yellow, Red and Green filters. Below you can see PROVIA, VELVIA and ASTIA in action.
Autofocus and Speed of Use
Coming from the SLR world I have always found the lack of speed in start up and autofocus to be the biggest pain in a compact. The X10 is however very fast and so far I have only had minor challenges getting the right focus. Thanks to the integrated power switch in the zoom ring, you will be ready to shoot in less than a second. Autofocus is accurate and quick, and in most cases it will give you the right focus. The only missed focus shots I have had, has been in a combination of sudden movement and wrong camera settings from my side. I am also still learning and once I get fully acquainted with the X10, I expect the number of misfires to be very low.
Manual focus, on the other hand is a very time consuming thing to operate. It is done by selecting Manual Focus on the front of the camera and then you use the pad-wheel on the back to focus. However I just find this to be unreliable and way to slow, so I recommend leaving your X10 on Autofocus at all times.
Due to the high quality glass of the Fujinon F2.0-2.8 lens the X10 will provide you with excellent results in most lightening conditions. This is actually the first time where I really feel that a compact allows me to shoot low light sceneries with great results. Of course it has it limitations when shooting moving subjects in low-light and in these situations you will most likely need to fire the flash. However when shooting more still subjects the X10 will deliver some of the best high ISO results with a minimum of noise. The camera lets the photographer chose from four different auto ISO settings – max 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 ISO. If set to max 1600 ISO the camera will automatically find the proper ISO setting below 1600. This review do not include a direct ISO comparison to other models but below you can see a couple of pictures at various ISO settings.
Personally I find the build in macro functions of many compacts to be amongst the coolest features and best selling points in a compact camera. I have always been using the macro functions a lot, and I really like how an up-close photo can bring an alternative and new perspective to a photo. The X10 offers great macro shooting and you have the possibility to choose from “Macro” and “Super Macro” mode. Super Macro let’s you come as close as 1 cm to your subject and it can produce really great results. Here are some examples of photos I taken using the “Super Macro” mode.
Full HD video recording
The X10 lets you shoot video at 1080p at 30 frames per second, and the quality is quite good even in low light. It is possible to manually zoom while recording and the X10will automatically autofocus while doing so. Personally I did however not buy the camera for it’s video recording capabilities and I actually believe I would have bought it even if it did not offer this. I am not really a video expert so if you need an in depth review of the video functionality I recommend searching elsewhere.
The White Orbs problem
After buying this camera in November 2011, I basically stopped reading other reviews or forums debating the X10. For the same reason it also came as a bit of a surprise, when I after publishing this review, started getting a lot of e-mails asking me why I did not mention anything about the Orb problems with this camera. Trust me, I had no intention of leaving out critical information, but I simply had not experienced this phenomenon with my own X10. That was until a guest on my blog informed me about the presence of white orbs in some of the images posted in this review (crops from the images he refers to are shown below). And after 5 minutes of Googeling “white orbs X10” I soon found out that this seemed to be quite a big issue. However I still do not experience this with my camera, and I actually also do not believe that the images below shows the orb’s - the lights in the tunnel are actually round shaped.
The “White Orbs” is an unwelcome phenomenon in images taken in certain conditions. The problem describes a peculiar circular, hard-edged appearance of clipped specular highlights in some images taken on the X10. This is of course a problem for owners of the X10experiencing this problem. Fujifilm has also released a firmware update to address this issue. However test comparing the results of both firmware version (v 1.02 and v 1.03) show that this has not been fixed. For more insights on this I suggest you do your own search or start here at DPreview.
To address the white-orb issue Fujifilm has provided a modified sensor for the X10. I have not yet personally investigated my possibilities – but you can read more and see test results at DPreview. Apparently this modified sensor does the job and will leave you with what it is, a brilliant compact.
- 12MP EXR CMOS sensor
- 28-112mm F2.0-2.8 lens
- Optical viewfinder (85% coverage)
- 2.8″, 460,000 dot bright LCD
- Extensive manual control
- Raw shooting and in-camera Raw conversion
- Continuous shooting up to 7 fps at full resolution (10fps at 6MP)
Pros – What I really like:
- Great look and feel
- High Quality 28-112mm f/2-2.8 Fujinon lens
- Image quality is superb – great colours and sharpness.
- Great macro ability
- Autofocus is fast and reliable
- Manual operated zoom lens works smoothly
- Great high ISO performance with little noise
- The build in flash delivers well composed fill-in lighting – especially on portraits
- The LCD screen is bright and provides good image details and info.
- Loads of useful manual and automatic settings
- Ease of use
- EXR mode
- Ability to shoot RAW
- Full 1080p HD video recording
- Image play back mode offers up to 100 images per screen for fast browsing
- A lot of cool accessories
Cons – What could be better:
- Problems with White Orbs (on some non-updated models)
- The on-off functionality seems to sometime fail and simply not turn the camera on when needed.
- The viewfinder does not provide info and only shows 85% of the image
- Would prefer an auto extracting lens cap
- Battery time is low (however spares are available at low cost)
- Would prefer a non pop-up flash like on the X100.
- Manual focus (if needed)
- Provided software is crap