Fujifilm scored a huge hit in early 2011 with the retro-inspired X100. Spurred by its success, Fujifilm is now trying to catch lightning in a bottle again with the X10, a compact digital camera resembling the X100, but with its own impressive specs.
While the X10 and the X100 both bring retro back, there are distinct differences between the two. For one, the X10 doesn’t sport the large APS-C sensor found in the X100; it has a smaller 2/3’ sensor, which still ranks as the largest sensor found among digital cameras currently in the market today. Unlike the X100’s fixed focal length lens, the X10’s lens has a 28 – 112mm focal length. Like the X100 though, the X10 has fast glass: f/2 at its widest and F2/2.8 when racked out.
The X10 also comes with a glass viewfinder, but unlike the X100, it doesn’t have an electronic display overlay. It is really just a glass setting letting you see straight thought with an approximate view of what you will be shooting. In use, the viewfinder feels too small for comfort, with a lot of squinting involved, and it’s mostly useless since you won’t know what settings you’re shooting at looking through it.
Built-wise, the X10 feels like a solid premium camera and looks like a work of art. Its matte black body and the lack of ornamentation of the front panel give it an understated air; this is one camera that would rather recede into the background that stand out in the crowd. But, the X10 isn’t just an imitation of its older sibling. It brings its own unique identity to the table with an innovative lens design. Whereas most compact zoom via a zoom toggle, you can manipulate the lens directly on the X10, twisting it to zoom just like the lenses on a DSLR camera.
You won’t find a power button on the X10 body either; the lens itself serves as a power switch. Twisting it all the way to the right locks the lens and switches the camera off, twisting it to the left powers the camera back on and unlocks the lens. In a single swift movement, you can be switched on and composing your image straight away.
Just like the X100, a dedicated RAW button appears below the d-pad. Review of the X100 have already bemoaned how much of a waste this button is – how many people are likely to switch between shooting JPEG and RAW on the fly anyway? Where the RAW button could have been an additional programmable Function button, we are given only one on the X10’s top plate, about the exposure dial. We would have loved to map that one Function button to ISO control, but instead, we had to map it to switch between AF modes, because like the X100, the X10’s AF system is fickle. When many instances when the X10 couldn’t find the proper focus point.
We have to warn you to prepare extra batteries if you’re shooting with the X10, because it uses a lot of juice. It’s officially rated for approx. 270 frames, and we ran the battery down after about 300-odd shots, or one day with lots of shooting.
Besides these drawbacks, the X10 feels comfortable in the hands and handles well with strategically places controls for quick access. Even though it’s a compact camera, the X10 should appeal greatly to photographers used to manual shooting. Were it not for the RAW button mystery and the inefficient AF, the X10 would rank up there as one of the – if not the best – designed digital camera with manual control and handling.
The Fujifilm X10 currently have the largest sensor among digital cameras, larger than its closest rival, the Canon PowerShot S100. Generally speaking, the larger the sensor size, the better the image quality, and you’ll certainly enjoy the images you get out of the X10, especially with its bright f/2(w)-f/2.8(t) lens, which will give you the beautiful background blue you usually won’t get with digital compact cameras, though you might find its 4x optical zoom lacking.
The benefits of a larger sensor shows, as the X10 manages to keep images noise to an impressive minimum while capturing fine detail, at a level that outshines most compact cameras, currently on the market. We’d judge the upper limit for balance between noise and detail to be ISO800, but we’d be willing to shoot up to ISO1600. The clarity found in ISO800 and ISO1600 shots is superb. Casual users who aren’t zooming into their images at 100% will probably find shooting at even higher ISO settings quite acceptable.
Where the X10’s image sensor really shines is how wide its dynamic range is. The X10 manages to squeeze in image detail in areas where a lesser camera would have either washed or blacked out. Another are where the X10 excels is its color reproduction; especially in the blues. We can’t emphasize enough how much pop the X10’s dynamic range and color gives its images.
The X10 scores a high 2000 x 2000LPH on our resolution chart. In the real world, this translates to images that are more detailed that you’ll normally get with standard digital cameras. Combine this together with the wide dynamic range and punchy colors, and you get some beautiful photographs coming from the X10.
However, we need to point out that the lens suffers from obvious vignetting and distortion at its widest focal length. While, vignetting can be a matter of taste and left in, distortion will require a bit of post-production work to fix the problem.
The Fujifilm X10 shares one defining trait with its elder sibling the X100. There’s much about the X10 that is excellent, from design to build and image quality. And yet, the X10 is flawed, with spotty auto-focus, image distortion, low battery life and that RAW button.
Still, there is no digital camera out there currently in the market like the Fujifilm X10. It certainly has character, but like any great character, its flaws offset the X10’s superior qualities, which are why even though we love this camera dearly, we hesitate to recommend it fully. The X10 really is a digital camera created for the enthusiast, because it takes an enthusiast to work with the X10.