Although it has a passing resemblance to the FinePix E500/E550 entry-level cameras launched by Fujifilm last year, the F10 is a much classier, sleeker camera with a very high standard of contruction and an all-metal exterior. In fact it has far more in common with last year's FinePix F450 and F455 and - aside from the fact it is designed to be held horizontally - is also an obvious descendent of the long-running F610/F601/6800 line of high class vertically-styled point and shoot models. It's not the slimmest, lightest or prettiest camera in its class, but the simple, box-like styling isn't without charm, and it does have a real 'quality' feel that is missing from some entry-level cameras. As befits what is essentially a point-and-shoot camera the external controls are kept to a minimum, though you still get direct access to the important everyday stuff (macro, flash mode, self-timer) and - via the 'F' button - you can fairly quickly change sensitivity and image size/quality using via a simple menu. For things like white balance and AE compensation you'll need to delve a little deeper into the main menu system.
In your hand
The FinePix F10 is by no means ultra-compact, but the protrusion-free design and barely-there grip mean it slips fairly easily into a jacket pocket.The combination of high quality body materials and thoughtful ergonomics mean handling is surprisingly good - the grip is small, but in combination with the small thumb 'indent' on the rear it works a treat. At around 200g the F10 is weighty enough to feel very stable even in one hand, without being too heavy to carry with you at all times. The only complaint - common to all small cameras with large screens - is that it is a little too easy to accidentally press one of the buttons (the 'F' button being the worst offender) when shooting with one hand.
The battery and card slots share a single compartment under a well-constructed hinged door. The large NP-120 Li-Ion battery is claimed to be good for approx 500 shots per charge (CIPA standard test conditions), which is pretty remarkable (and seems to be justified - using the camera extensively we were amazed at how long it went between charges). The battery is charged in-camera using the supplied adaptor (see below).
Like all Fuji's compact cameras the F10 uses xD-Picture Cards. We found getting the cards in and out a little fiddly because the slot is so far recessed (and it's not obvious which way round the card goes), but you soon get used to it. More troubling is the lack of a simple catch to hold the battery in place, meaning there's always a risk of it falling out when you change cards.
The F10 sports a large 2.5-inch screen that - as is increasingly common - doesn't have anywhere enough pixels (115,000), so it's a little less sharp than we'd like. That said, it is nice and bright with very little lag. Interestingly, the frame rate appears to roughly double when you half-press the shutter (which makes the display a lot smoother). There's no optical viewfinder but the screen is usable in all but the brightest direct sunlight, when you might as well be shooting blindfolded.
The F10's single port sits under a flexible plastic cover on the left of the body (looking from the back) and is used for all I/O functions (audio/video, USB, DC-in), via the included terminal adaptor (see below).
Now I understand the need to keep the size of the F10 down, but I cannot see how putting part of it into a separate plastic block is the ideal solution. Without this small widget you can't charge the battery, connect to a TV or use transfer images over USB.
The small built-in flash has an effective range of around 0.6 to 6.5 m (2.0 - 21 ft) at wideangle, dropping to 4 m (13 ft) at the tele end of the zoom (using auto ISO). If you're thinking this is a long way for such a small flash to reach you're not wrong - that's one of the advantages of an auto ISO mode that goes up to 800... The flash is fairly close to the lens, so red-eye is a problem in many shots, but it's no worse than 99% of the competition.
The 3x zoom lens retracts fully into the body when not in use and has a built-in lens cap. The range covered is equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm camera, and the maximum aperture goes from a respectable F2.8 at the wide end to a less impressive F5.0 at the long end.
There's no 'mode dial' as such, just a four position switch; scene mode, full auto, manual (auto with more overrides) and movie mode. In the centre of this switch is the large chrome shutter release, and to the left is the main power (on/off) button.
The rear controls are all clustered to the right of the large LCD screen. The four-way controller is used to navigate on-screen menus, and each 'arrow' has a secondary function in record mode (flash, macro, self-timer and LCD brighten). The up arrow is also used for deleting images in playback mode. Above the 4-way controller are buttons for playback mode and Fuji's standard 'F' button (used to quickly change ISO, image size and quality).
The zoom 'rocker' sits directly below the shutter release on the rear of the camera - perfectly positioned for operating with your thumb, even when shooting one-handed.