Fujifilm X10

12MP | 28-112mm (4x) Zoom | $499 (US) £320 (UK) €450 (EU)

The Fujifilm X10 is the company's first attempt at an enthusiast compact camera and a remarkably impressive one at that. Its styling sits about half way between a Canon G series and Fujifilm's elegantly retro X100 and X-mount mirrorless cameras, and offers all the direct control that its classic looks imply. It shares many of its features and much of its technology with the newer, smaller XF1 but features a longer and brighter lens, more direct control and an optical viewfinder.

Key Features

  • 12.0MP 2/3" CMOS EXR sensor (offering 6MP output with higher dynamic range or lower noise)
  • ISO 100-3200 (up to 12800, at reduced resolution, JPEG only)
  • 28-112mm (equivalent), F2.0-2.8 optically stabilized zoom lens
  • Clickable rear thumb dial, four-way dial and exposure compensation dial
  • 1080p30 video with stereo microphones
  • 3.0" LCD screen with 460k dots
  • 270 shot battery life (CIPA)
  • Optical Viewfinder
  • Hot shoe for external flash units
Like the XF1, the X10 is built around an unusually large sensor (at 8.8 x 6.6mm, the 2/3" type is 40% larger than the 1/1.7" sensors here) that offers three ways of creating images. The first is the HR high-res mode that is essentially the same full-resolution image mode as its rivals. However, thanks to the camera's 'EXR' sensor design, it can also offer 6MP images via either an 'SN' low-noise mode that helps average-out the noise in low-light images, or a 'DR' dynamic range mode that simultaneously shoots two different exposure times to capture extra highlight detail. There's a fuller demonstration of the capabilities of the EXR system in our full review of the Fujifilm X10, along with a more in-depth explanation of how it works.
The X10 is one of the largest cameras here - especially when you consider that the lens doesn't retract all the way into the camera body when it's switched off. Like the X10, the XF1 has a manual zoom - this means less battery drain and more precise control over framing, since it gives continuous, rather than stepped, control over the focal length.
The X10 is one of the only cameras in this class to have a dedicated focus mode switch - yet another feature you don't need to delve into the menus for. And, with Firmware v2, there's also a Function menu (accessed by pressing the RAW button) that allows key settings to be seen and changed quickly.

The X10 is an impressive addition to this class of cameras - combining a large sensor, bright lens, direct control and optical viewfinder to take the fight directly to the popular Canon G series. Indeed it's hard to see Canon's G15 without thinking of it as a response to the X10. Early problems with the sensor were resolved in a way that does Fujifilm credit, leaving a solid and likeable camera. Battery life is also towards the bottom of this group, despite the work required to move the lens being passed to the photographer.

The X10's focus speed is competitive in this class, though even in good light it doesn't stand out as exceptionally fast, and both speed and accuracy begin to fall as the light levels do. It's one of the few cameras in this group to have a focus mode switch and a button dedicated to selecting the active focus point, though, making it quick and enjoyable to use.

However the EXR system, while clever, has an impact both in image quality and camera complexity (there are two distinct methods of extending dynamic range, with no clear distinction made between them), which can't help but count against an otherwise excellent camera.

Performance and Image Quality

The X10's full-resolution images simply can't compete with the detail that most of its rivals are able to capture - a side-effect of its EXR design - and it's a disadvantage that carries-over into Raw as well as JPEG mode. Which is a shame because, beyond this, the camera performs well - its lens performs well with good corner sharpness throughout its range and its color rendition is very pleasant. It's also worth making clear that, in 6MP mode, the X10 does a good job of offering slightly cleaner low-light images or single-exposure captures with wide dynamic range - something even expensive compacts can struggle with.

Wide Angle (28mm Equiv.) Telephoto (112mm Equiv.)
These images give a good idea for how the X10 deals with outdoor photography. Neither image is bitingly sharp, as a result of the EXR sensor design, but the corners are consistent in both the wide-angle and telephoto image. Color reproduction is pleasant and there's still enough resolution to produce solid prints up to at least 10x8 inches.
The X10 does well in the portrait shot, producing a realistic skin tone. The background, meanwhile is nicely blurred without being too fussy - helping give an effective separation between the subject and the background. The flash test too is good, with excellent color rendition without the skin tones becoming too cool. Ambient lighting is well balanced with the flash to give a great overall result.
We may gripe a little about the amount of detail the X10 can capture compared to these rivals, but try printing this image and you'll see it's very capable. Even without using the camera's EXR feature, this ISO 400 image retains plenty of fine detail.

Video is another weakness for the X10 (just as it is for the G15), offering little in the way of manual control over exposure and none at all over focus. Video quality is also a little disappointing compared to the best of the X10's competition. It's clear that Fujifilm's priority with the X10 was to make a camera for photographers, not videographers. 

Summary

The X10 won our Silver Award thanks to its impressive feature set, bright lens and good build quality but a few imperfections kept it from getting our top award. The image quality is good, with a well-performing lens helping the X10 do well in a wide range of circumstances. The EXR modes add flexibility, giving the X10 an edge in low light or high-contrast conditions. However the downside of the EXR system is lower resolution compared to its peers. Despite this, the X10 is an enjoyable and capable camera.

Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)

Studio Comparison Tool Fujifilm X10 Samples (49 images)

What we like: Classy styling and build. Bright lens. Excellent stills feature set.

What we don't like: Sub-par resolution in 12MP mode. EXR files awkward for 3rd-party Raw converters. Disappointing video mode.

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